Part One: Two Days (in Thunder Bay)

I once saw two gentlemen loading large equipment into a box truck that was parked in the loading zone at the Regina International Airport. There were three words emblazoned on each piece of equipment: Great Big Sea.

This weekend I experienced a tipping point, a music biz badge of honour; I did a fly in show to Thunder Bay Ontario - 10+ hours from most places of note here in Canada. Sure, it was somewhat out of necessity given the nature of the tour: i) a rental car would have been a huge cost and a general nightmare ii) I was travelling with only my guitar tech case, and hockey bag of LPs and t-shirts (just shy of needing a box truck): but it happened! And that is that. Take note Great Big Sea! (Call me)

As it turns out, we had a great night with an incredible crowd, and I would hope to do it again.

We have done fly in shows before, but never to a place quite like Thunder Bay. It was a new experience and that is the aspect of this experience that never gets old to me.  

New scenery. New faces and settings. New humour. New stories.

Multiple first impressions:

I remember at the beginning of performing as Northcote, the goal was to travel to places and share my music. At the start there isn't much that dilutes that goal. 'Get me out of this town, get me out of the graveyard shift at the south Shell station and get me to a show.' I have been very encouraged to observe that even an artist as accomplished as Frank still values that original goal many of us share when we start playing music. Example; getting a New Brunswick tattoo and flying to Thunder Bay (a bit off the beaten path) for one show. There are many musicians I have met that view touring as a type of scavenger hunt - Thunder Bay Airport coffee - CHECK.

At the time of writing this there is a woman next to me on the plane headed to a birthday party in Winnipeg. She sees my ring and asks me if we have kids... "I couldn't god-damn fucking imagine having kids in my thirties. I had so much more energy for mine in my 20s." She's pretty funny and equally drunk. And a psych nurse. She tells me that she was in labour for four hours with her daughter and about the time she fired a 300 lb man because he kept showing up to work under the weather. She likes to start every sentence with 'not gonna lie....' I like her. 

List of things I did in Thunder Bay:

  1. Coffee from Espresso Joes 
  2. Played the show (CHECK), met some cool people. Had a great time! 
  3. Saw Library Voices perform (first band to ever take me on tour)
  4. Worked on 2 songs with Nick Sherman
  5. Had dinner at Growing Season (vegan) and Dominos (not)
  6. Went swimming at the Travelodge. (Obscene tour trick/belief: getting into the hotel pool after some stretching and a few sit-ups rejuvenates a tired tour body to 100% as if I was bathing in ancient mineral waters of the Black Forest. In reality, I throw on shorts that closely resemble swim attire and try and do a few laps until the birthday party shows up, and it is my time to exit the pool.) 
  7. 30 minute Walk from downtown to Travelodge
  8. 45 minute walk to and from an RBC 
  9. Watched 2hrs of the new Netflix tv series 'Love'
  10. Paid the dog walker
  11. Wrote out this TS Elliot poem in my journal. 
  12. Wrote this note to myself - "Worst: a smart ass who doesn't help.  Best: someone who cares who isn't stuck on a cloud". 
  13. **The rest I don't remember or don't find interesting right now.

PS - for those reading perhaps in Europe or Kitsilano who don't know about Great Big Sea: Here is their biggest hit, "Ordinary Day".

Part 2: The Secret, the Personal. (die twice)

'Aren't you tired of towing the line? Doing time; with no one to look up to.'

Your intimate experiences and the traits that you have picked up along the way are your power. No one knows the world like you do and can tell it like it is - the way that you can. 

There are things about ourselves that we have decided could never be interesting or helpful to anyone else, but I believe those are the most important things about us.  

When we express our Secret and Personal - it is the light of world. 

My best friend used to say: 'Matt, just level with me'. I was often trying to be perfect, interesting, with depth, when in reality I was being a big nothing. No one likes a walking breathing infomercial for the big nothing. 

These days, I am still learning to level with others. We need our work to have a spirit of openness and rebellion. I'm not talking about trashing hotel rooms or prime ministers, but rather trashing the big nothing - Matt, level with me. We all need someone real, someone tangible that is here with us, who has walked these same streets. 

***The big nothing is useful to no one in the end***

Death happens. 

Relationships, business endeavours, education etc etc, won't always end like a fairy tale. But if we can level and avoid the big nothing we can survive almost anything. 

I am as guilty as anyone.

In my work there have been times when I have been disingenuous. I never meant to: but I lied. We can deal with failure when We are being sincere, but failure when we are being disingenuous is like dying twice. Here are some ways it may play out for us....

#1 Be the big nothing and succeed = one death 

#2 Be the big nothing and fail = two deaths 

#3 Level with me and fail = one death. Best scenario

#4 Level with me and succeed = Best scenario 

Loosing is never a catastrophe until you lose yourself in the process. I also know what it's like to want to run and hide. There is a feeling of safety in the big nothing until you die twice. 

Matt, Level with me.

*I stole most of this from David Lynch's 'Catching the Big Fish'

Goals for the week:

  • communicate with tour mates, Ian/manager, be organized, prepared
  • Be present on and off stage. Ask questions. 
  • Get away to write in journal. Each day at lunch. 
  • sleep a bit more;) have fun more. Laugh at dumb things: like songs about whales and French fries

Favourite song this week: "I Am Disappeared" - Frank Turner

My cover of Strand of Oaks  'Plymouth'



Let me know what you think of these journals, shoot me a tweet @northcotemusic