Queens of the Hootenanny Part I
The Cast: The Queens of the Hootenanny Tour featuring
The Queen of Hearts Miss Jenny Whiteley (guitar and
vocals) and The Queen of Clubs Miss Carolyn Mark
(guitar,wurlitzer, shaker and vocals),
accompanied by The Ace of Diamonds Miss Diona Davies
(violin and vocals).
The Vehicle: My Mother's 1989 Toyota Camry
The Mission: The funnest easiest tour ever.
I was standing near the taxidermied bobcat and
Stampede buffalo display waiting for Jenny when I
heard the announcement.
They are holding a 'seized items' sale on the third
floor. Ah these post 9-11 times...
I've had so many cork screws taken from me, I'm
starting to feel like a terrorist myself. And now the
liquids. Oh. Get this: According to certain fashion
magazines, dry shampoo is making a comeback. Yeah. Now
that no liquids are allowed on planes, guess who's
waiting in the wings? That's right. Dry shampoo. Wanna
make a bet that dry shampoo is behind the whole thing?
To totally digress for a moment, The Spinach Ban is
more troubling to me. I mostly just use conditioner
anyway but spinach is my formula man!
I wonder what really happened. Did Arugula have a nude
picture of a spinach executive with a goat or
something? Is it a Pee Wee Hermann/ Micheal Jackson/
George Micheals type of fall from grace/publicity
spin? Does Earth Bound Farms control all the spinach
in the world? God. After years of flawless
nourishment, one old lady keels over and now spinach
is jerking off a small boy in a public toilet and
can't get a gig. You work with wood your entire
Do I have to find a dealer?
Where was I? Oh yeah. The airport. Seized items sale.
A room full of lighters. A room full of Swiss army
knives. Drawers full of lap top memory chips. Boxes of
polar fleece vests and gortex jackets. Half a bottle
of tequila. Acres of cork screws. (I think I
recognized some of them). Diona was in heaven filling
her pockets with knives and leathermans (leathermen?).
We got so into shopping we almost forgot our original
mission-picking up Jenny.
Luckily her plane was late.
Much hugging and jumping up and down and waiting for
luggage and then out to the practise ranch. Twin
Butte. Near Pincher Creek.
Since we're ladies it, of course, took ages. Supplies
were needed-guitar strings, a capo, food, that hat
she'd seen at the Le Chateau in Toronto and then well,
it was dark which makes the ranch hard to find. "Have
we gone too far or not far enough?"
"Jeeze I don't remember this part at all."
I know that the sign for Spread Eagle Road is gone on
the one side but if you pass it there used to be one
on the other side. Not no more. Huh. I think it's this
one but is it the second right or the third after
Eventually we found it and pull into Burns and Lucy's
drive way and the door opens and the eleven fucked up
healer/Australian Shepard dogs pour out and surround
the car and I can tell from the way Lucy is standing
that we've arrived a day early and she's not expecting
us but we have beer and the store's closed on Tuesdays
so we are told to come in and pull up a stump
(literally!) around the kitchen table by the wood
stove. Burns and Lucy, the daughter, the guy from up
the road, eighty dogs and the cat recovering from two
broken legs are pouring over a dictionary looking up
the word 'snort'. Apparently Lucy makes this noise
when she laughs that the family calls a snort. Lucy
claims that a snort is an INHALATION, which is NOT the
noise she makes when she laughs. That is an EXHALATION
and therefore NOT a snort. This is kind of exactly
how I grew up so I don't think it's weird at all in
fact I kind of like it a lot.
But we had come to practise and make dinner and be
together away from worldy distractions and it was
boiling beside the wood stove so we started making
shuffling off motions but Lucy wanted to make the beds
for us and the daughter was making clam chowder that
we just had to try and since we were a day early they
held us hostage for a little bit which was not the
least bit unpleasant.
Also it turns out that the reason there's no sign for
Spread Eagle Road is that it gets stolen every '"May
long" because drunk people think it's funny.
We loaded into the ranch house and set up the
Wurlitzer on the table and plugged it in and got out
the guitars and the fiddle and started making a set
list. I'm totally in love with Jenny's new record so
it was a treat to get to play her songs. I hoped I
wasn't butchering them or that I wasn't too loud but
when there's nobody else to rely on you just have to
keep going. I detected no murderous looks being shot
in my direction and figured that Jenny would be the
type to say what she wanted if she wanted anything.
It was really fun and Diona was fabulous of course and
by the end of the night we felt kind of like a band.
We debuted the next night at The Twin Butte General
Store and Bar. Grabbed the P.A. from the community
hall down the road where they were having 'Bitch and
Wine' night -a dog training/wine tasting class(!) Felt
like I'd stumbled upon something so heart-explodingly
perfect for me that I couldn't even speak.
Farmers and ladies came from all around. Stella from
Beaver Mines brought a whole posse which was sweet but
I don't think she got the part that Jenny and I were
sharing the show because every time Jenny would sing,
Stella would dance over towards us, kind of lean on
the speaker, wave her free hand in a conducting style
motion and yell 'Come on Carolyn! Sing something!'
And Jenny would finish the song, a single tear rolling
down her left cheek.
Met an Australian cow hand outside who said he'd been
surprised by a 'joyant ilk' earlier in the day.
The friend who'd been at Burns and Lucy's set up his
drum kit and played with us for the second set and was
mercifully tasteful. At the end of the night the big
man who was buying everyone shooters passed out on the
bar. Everyone was poking at him until he lifted his
head, releasing a small puddle of drool. All in all a
Dinner at The Allens. We had booked an early show in
hopes that all our school teacher friends would come
out to see us. I wrangled a guarantee out of the
notorious promoter with the caveat that if no one
showed up he could kill me! The fact that I am typing
this now signifies that I lived to tell the tale. And
this is the tale I'm telling:
We were shorted a hundred bucks and the walls smell
like cocaine. There. I said it.
Fun show though. Our friend Dianne came and played
bass with us and was awesome. I was feeling
adventurous and tried this crazy organ they have there
that has all kinds of buttons and lit-up tubes and a
volume control you operate with your knee like a
sewing machine but it made the hugest farting sound
during Jenny's quietest song and gave me a massive
electrical shock when I put my lips to the microphone
so I stuck with The Wurlitzer. I knew the bands who
played after us - Chet and Away Rio. It always feels
good to meet up with friends from back home on the
road. Stayed with Shawna The Horny Hairdresser and her
awesome new boyfriend. Watched surf videos, ate
guacamole and fell asleep on the floor. Someone
removed me and I drifted off right when the doorbell
Fuck. The other bands.
I know what it's like to be desperate and from
Victoria so of course I did the honourable thing and
avoided their eyes all night, dodging the 'So where
are you staying?' question, but someone must have said
something. Ah well. I had a bed and that's the
Woke up and the house was snoring and covered in men.
Got our hungover hosts take us out for Vietnamese
food-(for Jenny, the woman loves Asian food and hates
breakfast) which was, of course, a mistake. I mean
come on! It's Lethbridge. And then later, while Diona
checked out the motorbike and knife store, Jenny and I
almost got tickets for J-walking whilst seeking
peppermint tea. The cop said, 'Next time girls, wait
for the light!'
We muttered smart ass retorts as soon as we figured he
was out of earshot.
'Next time? With any luck that'll be never, ass
Obviously, it was time to leave this town. Found Diona
hemming and hawing over a pair of leather chaps. Told
her to buy them but she left them there saying
something about how the only way to know if you really
want something is to walk away.
I said I already knew I really wanted to leave so we
Successfully located and roused the Notorious
Promoter, extracted the key to the club, got our gear
back and got the rock out of there.
A couple of hours later, down a back road in the
middle of nowhere, we passed some sort of
factory/giant round silver refinery thingy.
Jenny asked me if I knew what it was and because I'm
from Out West and feel like I ought to be the tour
guide, I started to answer, not for a second letting
the fact that I had no freaking idea stop me.
'Oh well Jenny, it's obviously some sort of....
er... giant...uh... Uranium Ball!'
I could feel Diona's eyes rolling even before I heard
And so uranium ball became the catch-all answer for
any unanswerable question for the rest of the tour.
'Sound check? Oh yeah. I just talked to the guy and he
said it was at...uh... uranium ball o'clock!'
* * *
Stopping for cheap gas out on the res. All a little
loopy. Diona kept flipping the open trunk switch
instead of the open gas switch while the guy pumping
gas waited patiently in that calm Indian way. I got
out of the car and tried to put on my coat but it
caught the wind like a sail and the arm holes kept
blowing away from me. I was making some Pee Wee Herman
type of 'Woah Woah Woah' sounds and the guy just looks
at me in that calm Indian way and says 'Windy.'
Thus another tour catch phrase was created.
Two in one day! What a great tour.
The Palomino - Calgary, AB
Headed to Diane's house. It's very nice and she's a
fab hostess. I like to torment the cat (Snowball the
Midnight Yowler) and bounce on the nubbed yoga ball.
Got all whored up and headed to the club. To drive or
taxi? That is always the drinking girl's nightly
question. Too late to taxi and it's Friday night and
the chance it might might not come so into Diane's
father's mini van! Get to the club and there's no
parking. I mean there's parking if you have a credit
card but that seems so unglamourous, to have to pay,
when you're playing. I went in and talked to someone,
the bartender, and he said it's a problem with the
OWNER OF THE BUILDING, not the BAR and all this crap
but there's some signs for STAFF PARKING and well,
we're PRACTICALLY like staff and they make Lance move
his car and we have to give our keys to this sketchy
dude and if Diane's father only knew he'd have a
heart attack, any of our parents would, but what the
fuck else are you gonna do? So we give the sketchy man
our keys and some money and now I'm mad at the bar for
having live music but not working out the details
because sometimes a half-assed job is worse than not
doing it at all so we follow Lance up the alley to an
old man bar where his other country band is playing
and it's pretty awesome and Dianne and I have a heart
to heart and drink a zillion vodka sodas, which isn't
really like drinking, and some weird old man offers me
a hundred and fifty dollars for my raccoon hat which,
coincidentally, is what the promoter has already told
me she's going to rip us off but no freaking way mack,
I love my hat. The band is awesome and we start to
calm down. We dance a dance and kiss Lance on the
cheek and wave good-bye and head back to the club. We
pass the sketchy parking guy and he doesn't seem so
bad and now I feel embarrassed for freaking out so we
pet his pit-bull for a while and go inside.
The Palomino. It's not perfect, they blast the music
upstairs and downstairs in between bands and the
sound's brutal, but the promoter girl is a sweetheart
rock-a-billy china doll so we do it for her.
There are seven bands tonight and we're on last. Fuck.
Two of them are our friends from back home again, Chet
and Away Rio (They are DEFINITELY not staying with us
tonight.) and I've never heard of the others.
The sweet rock-a-billy china doll has double booked
the night or done us a favour and let us play with not
a lot of notice, depending on how you look at it.
Anyway, I'm wiped and cranky and it's loud and there's
nowhere to sit and the wine's skanky and there's fruit
flies in it but finally we get to play and there's
people to play to and Lance brings the drummer from
his other band and he's perfect and so now we're a
five piece band and the sound's not so bad and the
songs are coming together and it turned out to be an
awesome relaxed show maybe because we'd already gone
through every emotion before we even started.
Maybe it was the little white pill Lance gave me...
* * *
The Powerplant - Edmonton, AB
They've changed the road to Edmonton. There's this new
diversion if you're coming in from Red Deer that takes
you to hell and back with no place to turn around. No
signs or nothing. Why?
Made our way to the University. If you're playing you
get to drive over the lawn and through bus only zones
which is always a good time. 'What are they gonna do
to us TAKE AWAY OUR LIBRARY CARDS? hahahah!' It's that
little bit of power that can make your whole day.
Sound check. Jenny, Diona and I meet up with Phil from
The Shiftless Rounders who now lives in Edmonton who
is the Best Guitarist Ever and Dianne calls because
she took the diversion thing too so we set up and the
sound man's a lady and the manager's a lady so it
feels awesomely take back the night.
And we get a hotel too! Jenny and I go back and watch
Bridget Jones' Diary and get ready and ditch the car
and take a cab back and as we come in I hear the
familiar sound of John Guliak's voice. I played in a
country band with him for four years and played his
wedding and all and so now he lives in Edmonton and so
by special request he is our opening act. As I come
around the corner and look on the stage, my brain
actually turned on its axis. That was John on stage
all right only in honour of the whole 'Queens of the
Hootenanny' thing, he was wearing a little black
cocktail dress edged with marabou feathers and a
'Oh my god!' I kept saying holding my hand to my
'Is your friend a drag queen?' asked Jenny casually.
'NO! This is a man who wore the same brown sweater for
seven years! You don't understand how WEIRD this is!'
Garb aside, John is playing great. I look around the
room and people seem completely unphased. Oh these
Modern times get kind of weird because now that it's
2006, everybody's so worried about being politically
incorrect that they basically don't laugh at anything
anymore in case it's offensive.
It's like it's easier to be weird now but it has less
of an effect.
I kind of liked it as a social experiment and John is
a bit of a prankster. His banter was really cute too:
'You know I thought, with the whole spaghetti strap
thing that when they fell off, you girls were just
being coy but I can see now that it's a real concern.'
Saw my friend Marc from Vancouver who said he was here
on tour with another band playing drums.
'Well you better go get them from the car then...'
Awesome show. Killer band. Everybody played great and
the sound was clear. Sort of hard to 'ignite' the
audience when they're all sitting down like that and
some of our older friends didn't show but tried not to
let it get me down.
Our friends The City Streets left us a care package in
the band room which is so sweet I can't believe it.
Didn't get ripped off, sold some cds and lived to do
it all over again and tell the tale.