Road Blog: Saturday April 14, 2018 - Windsor, ON
April 14, 2018
We left our Airbnb and drove into the Toronto city center in a freezing downpour through poorly timed lights and careless pedestrians darting in and out of traffic, trying to get to their destinations as quickly and dry as possible. We were a little groggy without our morning coffee (our AirBnB only had tea) and we left united in the steadfast declaration that we will not be caught unprepared in that horrendous situation again. The temperatures toggled back and forth between just below and just above freezing as the rain turned to sleet and back to rain again. It was truly miserable.
We met Woody at a little café downtown called The Grapefruit Moon. The hostess Elyssa was super nice and took an immediate liking to my `Heavy Metal Heart` leather heart lapel I got from Vanessa Jean Speckman. We had a good breakfast and Woody made sure the bacon on my plate was out-of-frame when he took a pic of his vegan scramble. On the way out I gave Elyssa the lapel and she really seemed thrilled, so that made me really happy. We took a photo and had a nice chat about our show, Vanessa’s art, and the Toronto music scene. From there it was off to Sonic Boom Records, a store I’d not been to before. It’s a great place – nice and clean and a fantastic selection. I got out with just one record and some novelty gifts. We got some caffeine to go and took a leak in an adjacent coffee shop, walked back to the van in the sleet, said goodbye to Woody, and hit the Gardiner Expressway out of town.
I was at the wheel and we kicked things with off with the new The Juliana Hatfield Three (JH solo) record of Olivia Newton-John covers. Now, we’re a band with few rules – no beachwear on stage, don’t say “no” to Vinnie, and no Olivia Newton John in the Van. The last one is a Gabriel rule, and I am not happy about it, but I respect his needs. I took advantage of the cover-album loophole though, and the boys tolerated it ok. It’s easily my record of the year so far.
Conditions were mostly rainy and not quite frozen as we headed towards Windsor, but there were cars in ditches everywhere and a couple really bad accidents that slowed us down. Around Hamilton the temps dropped a couple degrees and we were skating across slush for the next two hours. My driving makes the boys a little nervous in ideal conditions, and these conditions weren’t ideal, so I tried to leave a little extra space. Patrick only had to scold me once for getting too close to the car head of us, so that was a small victory in itself. After London things transitioned back to rain and it was a little smoother from there to Windsor.
Our first stop was The Beer Store, an Ontario government-run beer depot, where we picked up a couple cold ones to kill some time before the show. We grabbed dinner at Pho Maxim Vietnamese Noodle House, which was recommended by some friends, and it was a good meal to warm the bones on this cold, wet night. We could see Detroit across the river, and I was looking forward to my own bed and warm house as I called home. From there, we went to the venue and loaded in.
The Windsor Beer Exchange sits on the edge of downtown, a few blocks off from the city center. There’s a bigger venue upstairs, but we play in the tavern/lounge downstairs. It’s got a smaller stage in the corner with a small PA, but the logistical shortcomings are made up for by a great walk-in, edgy crowd and super nice staff. By now it was a sparse drizzle, which made load-in a bit more tolerable. We back-lined our drums and bass rig for the other three bands to use, set up merch, and ordered beers.
The Trudys played first – great tunes, mostly about food, that they dubbed ‘cuisine core’ - mixed in with some choice covers, my fav of which was Paranoid by Black Sabbath. These girls kicked ass with pounding drums and great vocals, a light-up bass and a guitar strap with poop emojis up and down. Next up was Lonewolves, an alternative band that wouldn’t have been out of place in the mid-90s, and at times recalled the PIXIES. They played a longer set and were tight and well-rehearsed. We played third to a nice crowded room that I think at times weren’t sure what to make of us. I think we lost a few in there, but most people were really receptive and the response was great. We had a couple dancers, and plenty of hooting and hollering from all sides. I had a little trouble finding my groove but Gabriel and Patrick carried the set and we had a good time. Last up were The Tyres who played some good pop rock until 2am.
We had a great time chatting with the other bands and it’s good work to man a busy merch table. Tim, TrooperGirl22 and Debbie showed up from across the river, and it’s always nice to see familiar faces walk in. There was no shortage of wasted people coming in and out of the bar, and watching these people navigate through their Saturday night was pretty entertaining on its own.
One dude, a big guy, was particularly concerned with showing everyone his hand stamp every time he went out to have a smoke, even though they weren’t really watching the door or collecting cover by this time. I started acknowledging him on my own, with no authority or necessity whatsoever, just to assure him that his efforts weren’t in vain, and to keep things moving, with a nod of approval that he had in fact paid cover and was ok to proceed to the bar. It was funnier every time it happened, and it went on over and over again for what seemed hours.
Another dude, this one tall and skinny, in a long trench coat and Chuck Taylors, was wandering around with a pen in hand and a determined look, finally approached me. “I wrote a poem about your set. Wanna hear it?” Abso-MF’n-lutely!
White Embroidery on black satin shirts
Matchless amps, turned up `till it hurts
One more band left, two more songs first
While he retunes, he says “buy some merch”
He shout-out the drummer, dancers shake the floor
Soaring vocals and a low slung guitar
He name checked Clevelend, Ohio ain’t far
They got the van, they been on tour
(Transcribed verbatim from a beer-stained coaster.) Thanks buddy - that was a first!
By 2:30am the rain had thankfully stopped and we loaded out into a cold wind. We headed towards the bridge and were pretty much the only vehicle driving over the Detroit River back into the USA at that time. We pulled into customs, answered two quick questions, and were on our way. It was probably the quickest, most painless border crossing we’ve ever had. We unloaded at Gabe’s house and Pat headed to Ann Arbor and me to Plymouth, Michigan, where I was thrilled to arrive at a cold house with no power, thanks to the wind and ice, and probably a sub-par power grid that exploded last summer and has been running off of a temporary system since. TrooperGirl22 was awake but not for long, and within a few minutes the power kicked back in. By the time I brought my stuff in, showered, had a quick bite, and checked in on the internet, it was about 4am. I crawled out of the tomb around 10am this morning, just as the power went out again. What a drag.
Thanks again to everyone who was a part of our Ontario run this weekend. We were thrilled to leave a pretty good pile of CDs, shirts and records in your capable hands, and look forward to playing those songs to you again next time we hit London, Toronto and Windsor! We met a lot of good people on this run – not only at the venues and merch tables, but at the record stores, restaurants, and other stops as well. Canada is a mixed bag for us – not always our best shows – but these were pretty good, and it feels like we’re building a pretty good foundation there.
Thanks for reading. Three weeks and we’re back it it. Xo - JPT