USA Canada Japan

(August 1999)

We just played a House Concert In Portland. Casey Neill a songwriter, who first heard me play in Cork 3 years ago, opened up his house and garden for us to play a gig, on the wooden deck, flowers lined the edge of the stage. The deck also served as a tap dancing board and gave me more freedom than my portable piece of square yard! Publicity was spread over the community radio station. where we also sang songs and were interviewed live earlier in the day. 30 people showed up some with kids, paid there $10 each and chairs had been borrowed and placed in the garden. Blankets were also laid out. some folks brought their own drinks and picnic.

We started at 7 pm. twilight. The acoustics were great outside, with fresh air, sky, trees, and shrubs. An inquisitive dog barked at my harmonica next door, (dogs always become excited/disturbed by reed instruments i.e. bagpipes, mouth organs etc.) kids played on the slide in the neighbours garden on the other side and a young teenager started hosing the flower bed near the fence, which started to wet one of the guests, (Casey leaned over to ask them if she could avoid watering the plants there for this evening, we all shouted out "thankyous" "Love thy neighbour" etc. all hilarious and welcome distractions. We took a break for water and homemade cookies, Candles and torches were lit for our second set as the sun went down, which gave a magical ambience and listening atmosphere for the songs, stories and overall focus of our performance. we were all lucky with the weather, rain kept away. I stopped myself from playing my loud fat fretless bass kazoo (trombone) We finished around 10 pm.

Played In Corvallis in A small old wooden courtroom, and played in a cafe called Soakers in Gold Beach on the southern coast of Oregon, which Kath, Laurie, and Dave promoted. The drive up to our next gig, a house concert in Florence took us through the largest dunes, following sea and river on the way. Tired from driving and having no days off, a hired car down from Vancouver BC, which we had to return and fly from back down again to North California our next leg of gigs. Things are mad as its 4.58 am and I am just going to bed at the end of the Edmonton Festival, Jamming, party for musicians and volunteers, A rich weekend, but very long days, big names were Joan Armatrading, Joan Baez, Jimmy Cliff, Irma Thomas and Loudon Wainwright, and The Mcgarriggle sisters, Nancy Griffiths etc and hundreds more. We went to visit a Hudderite community Near Bassano, 2 hours away from Calgary in Alberta, called "Clear View" There are at least seven colonies in the area.

We drove down a gravel road through a flat landscape of wheat fields on either side into a farm through a gate which had a "No Trespassing" warning sign up. There were blocks of white single-floor houses in rows in the farm community area. we parked and a door opened, a woman of 50+ dressed in a dark long dress and spotted bonnet came out to welcome us. We met her, her name is Rachel and Annie there are two sisters, who have a daughter called Rachel, David their nephew, was the Chicken man. "David Chickenbox" or "chickenpox" you can call me. He is a father of three. He wore a cotton mauve checkered shirt, with braces and a hat. Aimee's cousin Andrea told us that some amount of inbreeding might happen, nowadays they might travel further away i.e. to the U.S.A. Hudderite colonies to find partners. The woman would go with the husband's family. This colony had 95 people. "We speak Low German and read high German," David told me.

Their religion is Lutheran, their forefathers came from a part of Russia way back originally. They aren't allowed to travel for pleasure they can only be flown to see a specialist Doctor, and they have strict dress codes too, The women wear bonnets and tie their braided hair up tightly so that it can't be seen, and they wear long dresses. They make everything they own, their clothes from fabric that they buy outside, make their hats, shoes, knotted rugs, wine, and bread, all except for Tractors and trucks and specialised farm machinery i.e. computerised milking machines. Rachael had an electric fan, clocks etc. Small Rachael was asked by her mum to sing, she wasn't too shy and she sang us a song about wanting to go to heaven and a folk song called "Little boxes", instruments aren't allowed but they all sing. Some rules are not strictly adhered to, I'm told they might drink the odd beer now and again, and a keyboard is owned and gets played. Andrea told us that she saw a couple of Hudderite men in a bar in town, and asked them if they wanted to drink a beer, they did, and she surprised the two men when she paid for the beer, a week or two later the men came looking for her with a bottle of homemade wine they had brought with them to repay her for the beer she bought them. They are a very proud people, and very self-sufficient.

Aimee and I played and sang a song on the Mouth organ and Bodhran they enjoyed it and kept asking for another. It seems that the mouthy was allowed. Rachel gave us fresh peas to pop and munch, some homemade root beer, oranges, and coffee. Dave had to walk using crutches because he had a metal knee. Which slowed him down a little. Dave showed me his domain, thousands of battery chickens, feathers everywhere three hens to a hutch, rows and rows of hutches some 50-100 yards long. all egg layers, and their environment is controlled by a computer which sets times and temperatures for 24 hours. Lights turn off to simulate nighttime so the hens can sleep, routine hours, chicken feed is fed from a huge funnel cone from outside. There's a conveyor belt to which the eggs roll as they are laid, and collected at the end in another room by a boy or man and checked and put into egg boxes and sent to supermarkets like Safeways. David showed me the blacksmith's workshop, machines made for tube bending, 2" lathes, showed me the woodwork carpentry shop where furniture etc is made. I asked Dave he told me that the men must grow a beard when they marry but a moustache is not allowed. It was a hot day I started to take off my shirt as we walked across the farm, Dave told me. "That's a no-no, you must wear a shirt here" I had consciously brought a shirt for that purpose and a waistcoat. the Kids are taught a normal Canadian curriculum in the community, Government teachers come in from outside. They don't have their own Doctors. The dairy, Dave led me to, was brand new, the cows were brought in by a young boy in traditional braces, a shirt, and trousers. The cows were led through the mechanical stile and stood in their place as their teats/udders were wiped by a hygiene wipe and attached to the sucking hoses milk bubbled out into the hoses. I was told that the cows were kept inside, that they were given silage to feed and didn't graze in fields. A controlled cool temperature was kept to recreate the outside climate.

David's brother lived here too, his parents had moved to another community. Another farmworker asked me where I was from and was curious to know what we grew in Scotland. He hated Sheep! Back at Rachael's house, we were asked to play and sing more songs, David admired my Mouthorgan. "You gotta a lot of breath he said to play that thing. He sang "The Wreck of the Old 89" acapella but mimed the strumming of a guitar as he sang. The 2 teenage girls wouldn't sing for us as they were missing two other voices. Rachael gave Aimee some hand-knitted socks and a baby's quilt she had embroidered and made for her daughter. She started loading up a bag full of bread, chocolates and a bottle of homemade root beer and some cut and sugared fresh strawberries. Andrea told me afterwards that the women thought I was a film star, at first they thought I was a woman as I didn't have very short hair and was shaven.

Japan. We were picked up by a minibus and driver and driven straight through Tokyo on the way from Airport to the Festival site. 5 hours drive from Tokyo the fest was in the National Parklands of Naeba, a ski resort in the winter that functioned as a hotel, etc for the fest in the summer. Thousands of Japanese youth came by bus and bullet train to see and hear rock music heroes of theirs. A youthful crowd, dyed hair, shaven heads, tattooed, pierced, all kinds of looking, Japanese folks. The festival is based on the Glastonbury festival idea and is described by the promoters as a way of helping to break or bend Japanese society's rigid life routines and patterns, the structured work ethic bringing folks together to realise the other worlds that are possible to live, some kids were witnessing live music for the first time, some of their heroes were playing, songs they know the words to, so they were singing along with the rest of their "Tribe" raising hands, celebrating, positive energy.

The frustration and aggression created by city stress could be released here in the beautiful countryside, with towering mountains surrounding the festival, sounds reverberating off the green forested hillsides, the kids could see their icons idols in the flesh who came to play and sweat under the hot sun and spotlights. A hot Sun shone at 33 degrees! Aimee and I camped high up on a hill on the festival site in tents outside, most performers stayed at the hotel. A London posse of friends were working at the festival who work for promoters "Smash" in London also camped out together, friends I hadn't seen much since we moved up to Scotland were working on site, decorating it with Huge Dragon fly, drawings ribbons etc. The whole parkland area was a breeding ground for thousands of dragonflies, they landed on people's hats, knees, shoulders, and guy ropes. all kinds of beautiful insects were sighted, also a snake was sighted and a few lizards. A cold river ran through the sight fed by mountain waters falls. In Japan, there's a mixture of Buddhism and Shinto which is not so religious but more part of people's spiritual life every day. I was amazed by the nobility and respectful behaviour of the Japanese there. Also their honesty, I saw people leaving video cameras, computers, bags, and belongings in places and they were always left there, untouched, there seemed to be little or no thieving at all. Perhaps because of the affluence and high standard of living for most people, there is little need to steal or pilfer. At this huge festival, litter was dutifully separated by everyone into burnable rubbish, plastic, cans etc. Dog ends were even picked up.

To name a few only, ZZ top heavy blues rock played and stepped like cartoon figures, two men with long Rip Van Winkle beards and dark sunglasses, mate Joe Strummer and the Mescelaroes, Ray Davies without the Kinks played his sing-along hits, my favourite was Skunk Anansie, black girl punk singer from London with shaved head jumped like a cat around the mainstage licking her band and looking cheeky, Blur played, a band called Underworld played techno music and performed with a singer and back projection show. Big video screens showed close-ups, long -shots, crowd shots, and vision mixed on the spot with many different cameras all over the stage on dollies and way back for the long shots. Big Production! The main stage was a Huge high stage, speakers stacked some 20 meters high. U.S.A. Marines based in Japan were hired and used for security, to assist crowd surfers and spray crowds with water to cool them down and feed water them against dehydration. Every one of the three days was a burning hot 33 degrees and everyone needed to drink water and wear cold wet towels around their necks. Some slept under shade in the afternoons.

Other stages were the white stage and a dance tent which played dance music all night till 5 am. Which kept waking us up, difficult when we had to rise early every day to play first on stage at 10 am. Aimee and I Played 10-minute slots or two songs each morning to open the main green stage (where lots of young Japanese kids awaited to hear their rock heroes play their power chords.) and 30-minute slots in the "Field of Heaven," which was a more low key, organic kind of music stage, each day. There was some arrogance noticed from Rock Stars ZZ Top, sheltered and protected from the public. Maybe that's what happens when you tour the world, get famous and too many people to know you and want bits of you. You hide away. Not speaking a country's language Japanese can make you feel like a child, ordering food and reading signs etc. I felt like this the short time I was there, unable to talk and to meet everyone there, though a few folks spoke and understood English and everyone seemed patient and pleased to help.

I got a journalist Koichi to translate for me a couple of times to let people know what my songs/stories were about. It took a year to plan, and book everyone. There are still some things that need to be changed improved and evolved at the festival as they are realised and as they are needed. As always by getting feedback from people. ie mugs would be better than styrofoam throwaways. Food tickets that can be used at any food stall, as we never had time to go to the specified hotel to eat, as we were too busy playing. Back in Tokyo on Monday before we had to depart Wednesday. We stayed in a big flash hotel, took baths and slept between fresh cotton sheets and ordered room service food. It felt like a honeymoon holiday suddenly, spoiling ourselves after a long, busy weekend! I tried to get to see and eat Sushi at the Tokyo fish market at 4 am but after playing at Solomans Blue Nile restaurant for the post-fest party, I was too tired and sore throated, I just had to sleep before the next jet lagged or bed-lagged journey! we get home on sept 7th.