Category Archives: Tours

Touring Italy (pt. 3)

I wake up the first day, which wisely was a planned day to adjust and not perform, I make my way to buy food after Stefano tells me he hasn’t any. That is of course totally fine, it is best I take care of myself and not worry about whether things in his cupboards work with my whacky diet. The first store I find is run by an old man and an older woman dressed in black and they cannot speak any English. We speak sign language but he moves my hand away when I try to feel a pear. The rules are he gets to select whichever fruits or vegetables I want. I bought some tomatoes, pears, a ready-made salad and pink lady apples not just because of their name. A little further down the street there is a larger grocery store. I would rather buy from the little people but I would also rather feel the food and select it.
I forgot how much I love being in strange places watching locals do their business. Way less interested in medieval churches, much more keen on neighbourhood life. This food store is remarkable for at least two crazy vegetables, a small clover cluster which I bought, (tasted spinach-like) and a crazy white lettuce with purple swirl patterns in the leaves. I didn’t try it but I might have bought it to frame it on the wall. The customers weigh everything in advance on scales that have miniature pictures of the items. It’s a game where you put your item on the scale and after you punch the corresponding picture an automatic price is printed for you to stick to your bag.
It’s so fortunate to have a booking agent. 50% of the situation is an agent like Monica believing I’m worthwhile. If the work I do ever became larger and profitable I would reward her with loyalty and bonuses. I would send other artists to her that she might love.
As it is I’ve approached at least 20 others in Britain, Germany, Netherlands and Scandinavia. They tell me to get lost by not responding or bluntly pointing out if I have no major support go away and besides they don’t like talking directly with artists, there are too many applicants. It’s down to who can pay them the most. Not unusual in the mean lean capitalist world but still heart breaking. I try to alert them to why my background might make their job easier. Previous records on both major labels and indie labels. Is it not helpful some famous people have been guests on my records? Daniel Lanois, Edie Brickell, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Jane Sibbery, Eugene Chadbourne. Even though they don’t know me doesn’t that give them something to talk about when they try to sell the show? Of course that’s the wrong reason but they just want any reason right?
More silence.
If there are still agents somewhere who might take a chance on me they are hiding really really good.

Touring Italy pt. 2

I was feeling sick, lack of sleep, so much cigarette smoke, Stefano scaring me to death with his driving so I thought I would pass on dinner but now the crowd has left and Natalino again asks if I’m sure I don’t want anything so I decide to eat – was that ever the right decision.

Sylvia, Natalino’s fiancée and Guido (the sensitive body builder and bouncer), put together three tables and make a respectable looking dinner table for the 5 of us, then Gino leaves. Natalino can’t speak very much English but makes it clear he is opening a special bottle of wine. Italians take pride in wine knowledge and this one he explains is a locally made combination of two grapes, red and white. It’s beautiful, we sit and drink and eat bread drizzled in olive oil. Gino returns with trays of breaded zuchinni, carrots, onions and polenta made by his mother, fantabulous. We talk about movies and his video store and their upcoming marriage.

He heard political ideas in some of my songs and he’s excited eager to ask me questions and Sylvia and Gino try to translate for us.

  • why did you start making movies?
  • why do you write songs with political messages?
  • how do people react in Canada to it?
  • will you get into trouble?

I explain some trouble I already got into and how I wrote a play called Actionable about Lawyers and lawsuits (and me). They want me to translate the play into Italian, not sure that will ever happen. I explain that in Canada people either like me or hate me, generally no in-between. As for making films that I accompany it’s because the extent to which people feel entertained relates highly to how far I can go saying something simultaneously that’s serious.

Answering why I write whatever I write is the hardest to translate. In the world of song you can repair things that probably never will be repaired, about the heart or about politics. That’s a big pay off for me about the “why” of songwriting. He gets me and now he’s on fire wanting me to view the video Il Divo directed by Paolo Sorrentino because it’s a shocking political film about basically an earlier incarnation of Trump. I take it with me upstairs to sleep. Tomorrow our first day off in 2 weeks.

Every interior is made of stone, rarely any wood except doors and veneers otherwise stucco and plaster construction. Even though it looks exotic to my Canadian eyes it is disappointing that no one considered colder weather when they built these places made more humiliating by having the radiator heat sucked quickly out from window and wall cracks. My very cold nose tonight under 4 blankets reminds me of failed winter camping in Lake of The Woods when I was 19.

In the morning I make a salad with corn and red onions, ginger and garlic. Their local olive oil is perfection. Make another batch of kasha and shells for tomorrow’s traveling and then try to find the “internet point” the Italian expression for an internet cafe. Outside the window I hear the doppler effect of loudspeakers.  Megaphones strapped ad hoc to automobile rooftops driving round town blaring info about an upcoming election and announcing the platform of one candidate. His picture plastered on the outside these cars. Am I projecting or does he actually look just like Giancarlo Giannini.  Feels about as close as I’ll ever get to being in a Lina Wertmüller film like The Seven Beauties or Love & Anarchy.

Later loud church bells are ringing but not at regular intervals to mark the time of day, maybe it’s for mass. Youngish guy who owns a small grocery store tells me there is no internet point but he has wifi and I can use it while I’m in the store so I get to call home, check my messages and generally walk up and down an aisle selling chocolate , alcohol or toilet paper while talking too loud into a smartphone like all the other nut-bars do in public in Canada. Later that night I’m alone. Stefano stays out all night long each night and I use the opportunity to work on new songs.


Touring Italy 2009 pt. 1

Touring Italy (pt.1)
I am very pleased with my situation now as I sit upstairs from the “video-bar” owned by generous Natalino – my brother.
“Buono sera my brudder” he said for good night.
Centobuchi, the city of Natalino’s video-bar, is east of Rome and the coolest show of the tour. Better still the next day will be our day off here. We arrived around 8:30 to a full house, kind of an odd piece of theatre to set up the show in front of the crowd. A scrunched tiny space that doesn’t accommodate my video screen but we make makeshift solutions.
Coolest part is the French guy asking if I parlez-vous and realizing I can communicate more things in French than in Italian and successfully inform him about the lights, about being vegetarian and about the draft from the door. He’s on the case.
The audience freaks out, the Italian subtitles are working, they laugh they cry. I do 2 encores – we’re definitely not in Hamilton. When it is over and I’m packing up some people buy cds each asks same question – “weach juan ease bitter?” Natalino waits patiently to ask. “Can I ug you Bob?” Sure you can hug me Natalino…brudder.