We’ve been in the UK for ten days now and it’s been a whirlwind and a half. Before our first show, we took a cab through central London. The driver was a genuine Cockney—‘Ooo does he fink ‘e is?—and he gave us a history of the city from the inside, introducing us to the accent, the culture and finally allowing us to make sense of British Postal codes.
James did an in-store in Denmark Street, London's Tin Pan Alley and the musical heart of London, where Paul Redfern of the PUKES gave us a tour, including where the Stones recorded their first album, where Elton John met Bernie Taupin, and the Sex Pistols' first squat. Included was also the place where Pete Townshend 'woke up in a Soho doorway'. The futuristic Hackney Cinema, has three bars and two full restaurants, and Tony and James were interviewed by the BBC, which you can hear here.
The second London show was in Clapham Common. Earlier in the day, we’d been to the Covent Garden market which was nice in an uber-tidy Disney kind of way, so when we got to the Clapham Saturday Market, we were glad to see local retailers and farmers selling handmade goodies, including spectacular Brownies and a whole pig as well as a bagpiper on goat-leg stilts. This little theatre was right off the market and full of spirit right down to the staff, one of whom was a filmmaker working on a doc about the steel pans. Keep your eyes open for that one, we wish him luck.
Next was the Lexi, an independent theatre in Kensal Rise near Notting Hill which gives part of their earnings to South African schools. We met Lorraine Bow of Ukulele Wednesdays, and saw Paul Redfern and Mary Agnes Krell again- great to see some familiar faces so far from home. Another excellent staff here, volunteers all and very interesting folks.
Brighton was next, and before the show, Mary Agnes asked us to give a class in independent film making and distribution at the University of Sussex, where my sister went. It was quite an thrill to lecture at your older sister’s alma mater. Brighton’s Duke of York is the oldest theatre in UK, so they say, an honour purportedly shared by quite a few cinemas I’m told. I’d been here before while my sister was studying. It’s a beautiful town, but it was quite a surprise to find the Palace pier gone, but I could see how it happened, considering it was so windy I thought I’d flap like a flag if I held onto anything.
Southampton... Louise, the manager is the best in the business, if anyone wants to know. She was welcoming and hilarious and immediately got the spirit of the event so that when asked if the Southampton Uke Club could open, she agreed without our even asking, so when we arrived, the joint was in full swing, jumping, rocking and bouncing for the camera and jamming nearly till morning. Many thanks Louise and the Southampton Uke Club!
Lovely drive through stunning countryside with fluffy cows and sheep by the seaside, cliffs and hills and crashing surf, all the way to the beautiful historic town, which includes and guild hall built over 600 years ago.
Bath: we left in the morning and got to Cheddar by noon where we bought five kinds of cheese and some cider, before diving to Bath and soaking our aches away. In one day, we ate cheddar in Cheddar and had a bath in Bath!
Norwich: was a surprise. Did you know it used to be the second largest city in the UK? Me either, and it’s beautiful and full of music and arts. Our most especial thanks to Liam, Catherine and Jack for their hospitality.
I hardly ever think of Ghent, or Belgium at all except that there was a treaty there at some point, although I forget what it was about and what it solved (if anything), but when we got to town I realized what I've been missing. This town is uniquely lovely: big town squares surrounded by massive cathedrals and stone gingerbread houses in a combination that seems almost magical. People say that Bruges is like a dream, well this place looks like a fairytale, all twinkly lights and Hans Christian Andersen, if he were Belgian instead of Danish. The theatre is right off the main square, which is flanked by two huge medieval churches, a river and a castle. It's an small cinema that only shows independent films like ours; small, but containing 5 screening rooms each seating up to 150 people, and downstairs is a pub where Ukulelezaza and the lovely Frederic played a ripping set afterward. We met Ukulelezaza in Rotterdam a few days before and hadn't met Frederic till that night so we couldn't know what to expect, but we were thrilled to find that together they were sublimely entertaining consummate musicians. At one point during the strum-along a young Belgian lad jumped up and started in on the Twelfth Street Rag, as Tony gamely leapt in to assist, and down front, a row of teenage girls gazed up admiringly at the performers. A delightful evening all round, thanks to Ukulelezaza and Frederic.
That left us with a week in Paris to endure before the show there at the end of the week. A tribulation we weathered with, shall we say, pluck? Among the many things we did not know about Paris is the tradition of the Beaujolais Nouveau. We knew about the wine, of course, it's been making press for quite a while. What we did not understand is that the release of the Nouveau wine is like the descent of a minor deity, greeted with giddiness and massive crowds throughout the city. Take a look at the scene outside our window on the Rue Montmartre! About 10 PM, I walked past our shuttered window and heard what sounded like hundreds of people in the street. Now that street is noisy on an ordinary night, so I figured it was nothing unusual until I peeked out and saw, well, hundreds of people and the penny dropped that it was the third Thursday of November, which I had recently read was the release of the new Beaujolais, and sure enough, they were all drinking their fresh new wine! Not everyone managed to do justice to their aquisitions, though, leftovers appeared in the street in the morning. Leftover Beaujolais. Ah Paris!
When I was four years old, my family lived in Paris for a year. I don't remember a lot, but there are some things that have stuck with me: one is looking down at the Seine from a bridge at the glass-topped boats below, and the other is gazing up at the Nike of Samothrace in the Louvre and wondering why people put old broken things in such a nice big fancy house, so Tony indulged me as we retraced my steps of decades ago and looked again at the sights I saw when I was small(er). These places are still powerful, and while I didn't really understand what was affecting me at the time, I think there is a reason these memories have remained with me all these many years.
But our adventures were not over yet! There was still the Paris show at the end of our stay. Our old Parisian friends Bertrand St. Gullain, Lionel Hubert and Antoine Ladoue met us for dinner before the show and when we arrived at the theatre, we found the previous show running overtime. Not to worry, music immediately broke out on the street in front and an impromptu jam entertained the line till movie time, and then came the most multi-cultural and original set so far. Lionel and Antoine play South Asian-inspired music, Antoine on tablas and Lionel on a tenor Koaloha and they really get the feel of the sub-continent, while Bertrand is a consumate classical uker who plays traditional Hawaiian and Spanish music. We traveled the world in an evening in Paris. Our most sincere thanks to all the musicians, and especially to Lionel who worked tirelessly finding a Parisian venue. Thank you!
And now, on to do some uking in the UK!
So, it's been a few days since last I blogged and they have been unusually action-packed days. After the Marseilles show we took a couple days down in Auxerre, which I'd never heard of, but it's just two hours' drive from Paris and our flights to Finland. Imagine our surprise to find that Auxerre is spectacularly beautiful, kind of Tudor-Medieval castley with loads of cobbled streets and massive gates, and, thank you thank you, fantastic coffee.
We got an extra day in Helsinki, allowing us to see the town and hang with our host Juha and his pixie-daughter, Wilma, who spent most of the day devising games like high catch, which (as you probably know) is played to a billion; some form of hide and seek that involved as much squealing and running as hiding or seeking; and futbol, which I lost by two goals and one basket. Next morning we left for the Helsinki airport with just an hour to spare, much to my own discomfort, although assured by our host that it was enough time, and indeed we hit the gate less than ten minutes after leaving the car, a record, for me, and a welcome one. Thank you Helsinki, Juha, Toula, Wilma and the Finnish Ukulele Network (FUN)!
We arrived in Stockholm at the same time we left Helsinki, due to the time change, making this the most efficient flight of my life, and we had time to see the city before the show. The old town is LOVELY! Full of winding cobbled lanes and broad avenues with ornate stone buildings- mile after mile of it, filled with original crafts and styles, much of it flagrantly and unapologetically Goth and some of it just goofy. It was a welcome relief from the chain stores we've seen in every city from Tokyo to Tel Aviv.
The Stockholm show had an almost 100% ukulele turnout rate, the best so far in Europe. And the band, Fagersta Ukulele Klubb (FU*K) was fantastic! Queen, Nirvana, and, as they introduced it, a song by that famous British ukulele artist…Lemmy. And then they pumped out the rockingest uke set ever (double click below for a clip of Ace of Spades). The opening act was our old friend, Elvira Bira, now a kindergarten teacher, still cranking out the hard Punk tunes we fell in love with years ago at the NYC Ukefest. Special thanks are due to Robert Hultman for going above and beyond the call of duty.
The last of our Scandinavian dates was in Gothenburg, where we stayed with the graciously hospitable Pelle and Anne, who made us Swedish meatballs before the screening, after which the Best Before Ukulele Band rocked the house and then we chatted into the night. Thanks very much for the hospitality, Pelle and Anne, and for the wine, conversation and friendship.
At the airport, we shared a flight with Bill Bruford, who Tony thanked for the years of spectacular music and gave a copy of MIGHTY UKE. He was very gracious.
And now, on to the Netherlands!
Here's a radio show we taped here (semi-live, so they say). It's mostly in Dutch, but you'll get the idea. Here's the link: http://soundcloud.com/rtvrijnmond/ukelele-special-in-live-uit
The Rotabs Style Centre where we screened is a reclaimed industrial building lined with studios and workshops with a large gallery at the end. The whole neighbourhood is like that: deco factories with stained glass windows and clean cool lines, all repurposed into boutique shops and studios where artists and crafters work and sell their wares. We screened MIGHTY UKE in the gallery and then spilled out iinto the open area for jamming. We had Aaron Lee's plaintif, punning ballads, then Pauline and Frederic who rocked the snot out of Kung Fu Fighting, and then the Big Dam Ukulele Band who funked the house till the wees. Special thanks the Shelly and Marcos and the whole Big Dam band as well as to Brian.
We're having a bit of downtime, recovering from some award-winning Italian hospitality. Aix is lovely, just as everyone says, and the food is fantastic.There's a market in every square every day where you can buy fresh fruit and veggies, chicken rotisserie-roasted over potatoes so that the fat drips down sizzling (be still my Irish heart!).
The squares are beautiful, even without the food, and the town is relentlessly picturesque. All my reading life, I've encountered references to 'avenues lined with Plane Trees' but I've never seen one. They really have them in Europe, all over, long lines of gnarly, khaki-coloured shade trees that make anything they grow near look ancient and venerable.
And did I mention the food? Everywhere you look, down every narrow alley, there are boulangeries with long baguettes and pastries that you could only imagine given 400 years and the best food on Earth. Yes, that is a chocolate sandwich.
And around the town there are mountains so lovely they gave Picasso and Cezanne woodies, with vineyards and miles of history harkening back to a time when people my size were normal, or at least average.
It's good to know that all this awesome food, history, architecture, art and literature isn't squelching the humour of the Aixois... Have a look at the vending machine in the Town Square.
Tony: --It has been very nice to stop for a few days in Aix en Provence and cook some of our own meals in the studio apartment we rented on the outskirts of town. It’s a converted garage that’s part of a lovely retreat in the hills of Aix, shaded by aromatic cedars down a narrow country lane. Every morning Marg and I head into town for a croissant and a stiff french espresso and then hit the open air markets for the amazing local tastes and treats that we then conjure into an exotic dinner. Of course every meal had to include some of the 5 pounds of Asiago cheeses we bought in Italy. On Thursday we met our friend Yan Yalego for lunch on the beautiful ancient Cours Miribeau, certainly one of the most beautiful streets in the world. He is a ukulele troubadour we had filmed in Paris in 2008 and he had arranged a screening and concert for us in nearby Marseilles.
The genteel ambience of Aix did in no way prepare us for the full-throttle growl that is the port city of Marseilles, or Marselhes, as they say in the Occitane language (of which I had never heard before arriving). Occitania is the region stretching across the whole south of France and into Espanha and Italia. The language, related more closely to Catalan than French, was stomped out by the French government after WWII, but the people who speak it didn't give up that easily and still meet in clubs like the Ostau dau pais Marselhes, where we screened the French version of MIGHTY UKE last night. This is a working theatre, so sound check lasted only a few seconds and we were left with two hours till the scheduled start time to chat with the members and learn about their history through a haze of poorly remembered verb tenses, cigarette smoke, wine and good will. The show was scheduled for 8:30 with the caveat that time might mean nothing whatsoever to the audience, as proved to be the case.
Tony-- By 9 PM the place had filled up and MIGHTY UKE was ready to roll. The audience was magnificent! These folks, many of whom had never heard of the ukulele were full of laughter and joy. By the time Yan hit the stage for his wonderful mix of American blues and French swing, the audience were fairly pickled, cheering, clapping and singing along. By midnight the evening was wrapping up. Or so we thought. After the place cleared out, and according to the traditions of this region, we were served an awesome feast of sausage-stuffed tomatoes and 8 kinds of cheese, accompanied by great stories and much merriment. What a fabulous evening in Marseilles, an unexpected treat for two Canadians. We got home at 3:30 and slept like fat drunken babies.
Thank you Marseilles and all the people of the Ostau. We won't soon forget your welcome, hospitality, food, history and culture.
Back in France for some more R&R before our Friday show in Marseilles. Italy took all our energy, but we were glad to give it. Due to unforeseen internet issues, I haven't been able to blog for a few days, but there has been so much happening it's hard to know where to start. We left Vicenza two mornings ago and, after a few hours on the Autostrade, indulging in the fine Italian tradition of driving arm's-length apart at half the speed of light, we arrived at the outskirts of Avigliana and promptly got lost in the serpentine medieval streets as our GPS nattered away in her urbane British tones, urging us up impossibly narrow cobbled lanes and, finally, unbelievably, past a small knot of ukers who had spilled out into the streets after a workshop. We knew we had arrived. The first person we met was Mateo, who escorted us across the town square to a converted 14th Century convent with timber ceilings and stone walls a metre thick, but all the mod cons like radiant floor heating.
After loading out, we returned to the bar, which turned out to be a fine restaurant belonging to our new friend, Giancarlo. We sat down to chat with the organizer of the festival, Luca "El Bastardo," and immediately a plate of fine pasta, the 'primi' in a three-course meal, appeared in front of us. And that was the way it was all weekend: fantastic food, good wine, and some of the best company anywhere. The Ukulele Jamboree, run by Luca's Honky Tonk Music School, was held mostly in the massive arched stone celler, perfect venue for our movie and the music and jamming that followed. In Italy, things happen later than in Canada, and when the movie ended around 11:30 PM, I didn't think I'd be able to stay up for the music. Then Veronica Sbergia and Max Di Bernardi hit the stage and sleep lost all interest as they rocked the joint with their hard-swinging Blues stylings and unique repertoire. But, we weren't done yet. At the end of the set, Proprietor Giancarlo opened the door to the holy of holies, the Italian wine cellar, and set on the altar a large bottle of Barolo. A hush fell over the Italians present. "It's the king of wines," someone intoned with reverence, "Let him breathe," and the wine was dispached with tenderness and respect. Long live the king.
That was Saturday. The next day we managed some sleep before finding the local caffe and some stellar capuccino, and then the jamming began. Our most especial thanks to our hosts, Daniela and Mimmo from Aquila Corde, Luca and Marta from the Honky Tonk Music School, and to all the lovely people we met and chatted with, like Bianca, Alessandro, Giancarlo and his restaurant, Santa Michele, and the Ostello Conte Rosso where we stayed. The ukulele has found a good home in Italy.
So, we were in Venice yesterday soaking in the history, architecture and culture with a double shot of urbane Venetian contempt when we decide maybe we should spend our tourist day somewhere off the beaten path. On inspection, our map provided the perfect solution... our favourite cheese-
Venice is spectacular, but it's not the only fantastic sight. Have a look at the views and sights up the mountain on the Altaplana:
So we spent the day wending our way through the switchbacks and donkeys, past the Snoopy Snack-dance, to the high plane, and toured around the town of Asiago before making our pilgrimage to the holy cheese shop 1000 metres above Vicenza.
We had no idea what was waiting for us down below. The venue for our screening was a veritable palace for the arts, built in "Fifteen something," according to our host. The walls were covered in fresco paintings, reportedly the first ever frescoes of musical instruments, and the crowd was fantastic. Ukulollo put on an ingenious, energetic and entertaining show, and we would both like to say thank you so much to him, Daniela, Mimmo, Luca and everyone there!
There may be a few other "firsts" here too...
Vicenza! First, I'll just say this:
Then, I'll tell you about our day yesterday. In fact, Tony was so moved by the whole experience that he set it down on paper.
In one’s life there are a few particular days that stand out. Perhaps it’s because of a birth, or a wedding, or the day you saw that double rainbow over the mountains. Yesterday was one of those days for me. It began with an awesome cappucino made by Nazareno, the owner of the Marco Polo Hotel in Caldogno, Italy, where we are staying for a few days before the MIGHTY UKE ROADSHOW in Vicenza.
Then we travelled a few kilometres to the musical string factory called Aquilacorde. Mimmo and Daniela own the place, and we soon discovered some ukulele kindred spirits. Originally a place that produced gut strings for historical musical instruments, today Aquilacorde uses hi-tech gadgetry to produce millions of ukulele strings for uke manufacturers from China to... well, China (nearly every uke these days is produced there). I’ve heard of gut strings but I will tell you it is a little unnerving to see Memo actually reach into a bucket of guts (either sheep or cow will do), and begin the slow labourious process of cutting up the guts (lengthwise) twisting them over and over and over again, letting them dry under strict circumstance, and then sanding them until they are just right. The amount of work that goes into making strings the old way is exponentially greater than modern manufacture, but for classical music performers they are a must.
In fact, both Mimmo and Daniela are classical musicians, Mimmo a lute player and Daniela a Viola player. After a short walk through the lovely city of Vicenza, we followed Daniela to Venice. She had invited us to see her perform with the Virtuosi di Venezia, playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Ateneo San Basso just off the Piazza San Marco. Travelling the Grand Canal at night, arriving at the Piazza San Marco was breathtaking and the performance was magical. I could close my eyes and travel back in time, imagining Vivaldi himself in the very room, nodding approvingly at the wonderful virtuosity. Today we travel to Asiago up in the mountains so I can gorge on my favourite cheese. Then tonight we turn from the classics to the ukulele, looking forward to another magical evening.
Here's a little clip of Mimmo making round-wound ukulele strings
Cue the scenic vacation/promo snaps:
We left France (reluctantly) early this morning for the long drive through the Alps to Vicenza, Italy. And when I say 'through' I don't mean between the mountains, I mean under them. I think we travelled somewhere near 30 kms under tons and tons of rock, including the awesome Mont Blanc. (Warning gratuitous use of ridiculously beautiful scenery shot follows, -ed)
This is how I spent my day
We've just arrived in Vicenza, so I haven't seen much yet, but already I can see that they do things differently here. Check out the Truck Stop bathroom...
We're taking a little break just because, well, it's too beautiful to pass up. There's no Roadshow news, but just look at the view from our room!
We landed on Wednesday, a little worse for the trans-Atlantic wear, but very excited to see my sister in Oxford for a few days before we hit the road with the Roadshow. Oxford is beautiful, as always and we had sunshine every day before we had to move on to Sudbury, Suffolk.
Sudbury is lovely, but has some of the most odd and quirky attractions, such as these below, which were found in our hotel:
Apparently, builders of our many-centuries old B & B subscribed to the ancient and (now mercifully lapsed) belief that a cat should be entombed in new buildings to keep out witches. During renovations, so they say, the cat was removed twice and twice the building immediately caught fire, so they buckled to superstition and reinstalled the mummy in the lobby, keeping it safe for a few more centuries. Below is the view from the hotel and some local entertainment:
The town has a lot more to recommend it, don't get me wrong, not least of which is its enthusiastic denizens, people like Alli Burke, Rufus and co. and, most especially, the enchanting Quay Theatre, a real gem. Thank you Sudbury, I wish we could have stayed a little longer.
Many thanks to Bijoux Toots and Rufus Yell for their rollicking sets, and to Peter Long for the photo below.
Next...On to Vicenza and Turin. Italia here we come!
In what world can you say ONLY 500 ukulele players? Well, on September 26th at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, we tempted fate and tried for a world record number of ukulele strummers. What we got instead was a magnificent event with clubs and people from as far away as Santa Cruz, busloads of people. We filled the ground floor of that fabulous venue and strummed pure happiness into the sunny afternoon. I'd like to personally thank everyone who was there, especially Naomi, Rachel, Maia, Chris, Andy, Uni and Emily, Dick and Jayme, and the entire staff of the Castro Theater, especially Walt, Don and Bill.
Here's a photo montage of the Castro show
And here are a couple other takes on the story
This one is from the SF Weekly
This one is from the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz. In the first four minutes, the UCSC shows us how to do a road trip ukulele style, followed by generous clips of the show.
Crazy few days! The show in Portland, ME, was fun - super-enthusiastic crowd. Great to be there, and to see Joel and Donna. Joel opened the live portion of the show as the tall half of Dos Eckies, along with Kris Eckhardt, rocking the house with Johnny B Goode (he could play the ukulele like ringing a bell, don't you know.) James wove his usual magic and the strum-along was, well, so ukulele.
Next day, we got a peek into Joel's shop, Earnest Instruments, where he is concocting uke mayhem with his usual skill and wit, then, peddle down to the border and a cute little place by the seaside in New Brunswick.
The next morning, we set out early for Halifax to get James home in time for the annual fundraiser at the Maitland Primary School. The show was a sold-out barnraiser. We played Truro the next night, a hometown crowd for James and Anne Davison, who enriched our roadshow for these three Nova Scotia shows. We got a great taste of Nova Scotia hospitality and send thanks to everyone who hosted us, folks like Myles and Martin of the exquisite Morton House Inn, Liverpool, NS.
From Liverpool, we mosied up the coast through Lunenburg and Mohone Bay, on our way to Halifax. After the rolicking Company House show, we got one last night in Truro, then left our fine companion, James, back in the Nova Scotia wilderness, hit the road hard and made it all the way to Ontario before nightfall. We learned that the roads are excellent in New Brunswich, forrest fire-smog is eerie and teenage moose are just not that bright. Now, we're back, catching up, making plans and getting ready to launch our online store!
Boston today, and another fine event, this time at at The Magic Room Gallery, a venue usually reserved for rock bands. The Tubes are coming shortly, the Mothers of Invention were there recently, you get the idea. Every screening is different, and this one was made special, in part, by the presence and fine strumming of our new friend Greg Hawkes of the Cars (dang I loved that band back in high school) and his partner in music, Tim Mann. Greg brought his wife and son for the film and then played a little set with James afterward. A goofy good time was had by all concerned. Thanks Greg and Tim! And, in conclusion, can I take a moment to say what a great pleasure it is to be traveling with James Hill. Many thanks to him too, for being an all-round good guy with an excellent sense of humour, and for helping to make this roadshow surprising, delightful and exciting. Thanks, James!
What a time at the American Film Institute in Washington DC! This is the premier documentary screening house in the USA, a national institution promoting excellence in film, and they showed ours, preceeded, as they all are, by a clip of all the finest directors saying that the AFI is the best place in the world to screen a film. What was maybe even more fun was the jam afterward. Dozens of uke fans brought their ukes, as they usually do to our screenings, but the jam spilled out into the lobby for an hour-long strum-along, until the cleaners moved us all toward the door, ending one of the most entertaining and exciting evenings of this tour. Nice also to see my old buddy Brian as well as my good friend Naomi's parents, Judith and Leon.
Back on the road again! We played the New York Ukefest and met loads of fine people, including Greg Hawkes from the Cars, one of the most favourite bands of my misspent youth. Super-special thanks are due to my good buddy Naomi for her very, very fine hospitality. We really couldn't have done this without her. From New York City, we headed up to Woodstock for a reprise screening to benefit the film program at Onteora High School and the Killian Mansfield Foundation, which promotes alternative therapies for sick kids. All the lovely people we met when we premiered six months ago were there, and we met many more who were equally delightful, notably Anne-Marie Johansson and Chet Karwatowski who run the Ashokan Dreams Bed and Breakfast. Check THIS place out!
So we're getting ready for bed last night in our favourite Seattle motel when we hear a bullhorn right outside the bathroom window opening out on the alley behind: "step OUT of the vehicle and put your hands on the top of the CAR!" Tony looks out of to the alley and there are half a dozen police cars, lights a-flashing, and a Merc parked in the middle. VERY dramatic. I was extremely curious, so I checked the police reports this morning and found this: Seattle 911. Looks like our favourite low-end Seattle motel is just a little more marginal than we thought!
Weeeeeee're back in Seattle again, da dum duh da da duh dum... Well, one thing I know now that I didn't know before is that the North West does SPECTACULAR flowers in the spring- azaleas, rhododendrons, crabapples... on and on, fantastic colours. It makes hours of driving considerabley more pleasant, I'll tell you. That and puzzling products for sale at dodgy truck stops; products such as "Unisex Synthetic Urine: warms easily to body temperature"! Wha?! And 25 bucks a box too! But I digress. Since Victoria, we've been through Washington State down to Oregon, where we got some pronunciation lessons which I will pass on to you: "Eugene, Oregon" is pronounced Eu-GENE ORigun, and the Willamette Valley, in which it is located, is WilLAHmet. Rather goes against the grain for a Canadian, but when in Rome... Anyway, diction aside, you can't fault them on hospitality. Most especial thanks are due to Marcia and David in Eugene, and Margaret in Salem, as well as Janet and Ron and SUSA. In Eugene, we screened at the David Minor Theater, a little gem with a KILLER sound system. Brook Adams and the Swinging Marmalukies rocked the party across the street later, then Brook alone jazzed the sold-out crowd in Salem. Folks in Eugene warned us "don't expect too much from Salem, they're very conservative." However... When we arrived an HOUR early, there were already ukers jamming in the lobby and their ranks only swelled as the hour passed until it was standing room only. Thank you Origun!!!
Following the US leg, we landed in the tiny community of Bowen Island where they've got the welcoming thing right down. I can't thank Sylvain and family enough for their kindness and hospitality. They threw us a big party, showed us around their beautiful island and generally gave us an awesomely good time. Bowen Island is where it's at!
On the road again! After a week and a bit back home, we're hitting the West Coast again, beginning with two nights in Victoria, BC. Larsen's Music shop (to whom, many, many thanks) has declared this Ukulele Week in Victoria and MIGHTY UKE was part of it.
We spent two days on the hospitality of Larsens and screened at the Cinecinta at the University of Victoria which, I am glad and charmed to say, is covered with bunnies. I don't know why, but there are bunnies as far as the eye can see, grazing and hopping and doing the things bunnies do best. Beautiful campus!
So, we did three screenings at The Cinecenta, and then got up Friday morning at 5:00 (as the daybegins, silently closing the bedroom door...) caught the 7:00 ferry and the drove six hours to Portland, OR, where we are now. We had a great screening last night at the Film Center in the art gallery. Loved the crowd. Thanks Portland!
The final leg of this part of our tour was a fitting conclusion. We screened at the Honolulu Academy of the Arts, and many of the performers from the movie came: Kimo Hussey, Jarrett Kahookele, Leimomi Mookini, Chris Salvador, Daniel Nakashima and Byron Yasui. Great to see you all! The crowd was wonderfully enthusiastic, applauding after every performance, just as if the performers were there, which, in many cases, the actually WERE. Special thanks to Gina Caruso for her support, and we'll be back there for a WEEK in July! I can't wait.
Next stop on the Roadshow is, well, here in Toronto. MIGHTY UKE will screen at the Royal on April 9th at 8:00 PM, followed by a performance by James Hill and his partner, cellist extraordinaire, Anne Davison. This is something you've likely never seen before, sublime uke- and cello-playing of original classical music by the composers!
Then, it's off again to the West coast for screenings in Victoria, Bowen Island, Portland, Langley and more!
Hey, and thanks for coming to my blog.
We've spent the last week flitting about, and finally managed to spend a few days in one place, on lovely, peaceful Molokai.
The Molokai screening was held in an open-air venue near the ocean, with crickets, birds and whales and loads of aloha.
After a few days of R and R and music on Molokai with our friends, Stephen, Caroly and Ruby, we regretfully hopped a tiny 9-seater propeller plane. Many, many thanks to all the folks on Molokai for their hospitality! Dan and Carol, Kim and Richard, and all the aunties and uncles who shared kanikapila with us. I didn't wantit to end.
But, now we're back on O'ahu for our screening at the Academy of Fine Arts, but first, we get a couple of days with my brother in Waikiki, and Burritos from the International Market.
The venues on the Big Island were on opposite sides, so we crossed that island three times by three different routes. Fantastic views every time! The middle way crosses lava flows that still look liquid and, possibly, openly hostile to life. I'm calling this one "Still Life with Goat Skulls," I mean, really, there is still some life!
The road across the top of the island goes along the coast and then through cowboy country.The coastline is some of the most dramatic I've ever seen, rough and rocky as only volcanic coast can get.
Do not park your boat here!
Crazy couple of days- we left San Francisco two days ago and flew to Hilo then, yesterday, which was Tony's birthday, drove across the Big Island to Kona for the screening tonight. The local weekly chose us as "Pick of the Week". Thanks, folks! The drive along the edge of the caldera of Kiluea yesterday was unreal, literally- lava fields as far as the eye can see, sometimes with, like, one tree per acre. Peculiar. The vog (volcanic fog) makes the sunsets spectacularly orange, but it sure looks strange.
The place we stayed in Hilo, The Dolphin Inn, was on a river and had a fantastic garden.
I did NOT know that bananas were so sexy in the wild!
We stopped in at the theatres in Hilo and Kainaliu only to find that they are unspoiled beautiful deco buildings with lots of wood and original detail. I love these places, they're like a combo of theatre, museum, library and time capsule. Thanks for not turning them into googolplexes.
The screenings last week went extremely well- The Museum of Making music show was completely full and people started showing up hours early to jam together. Mike DaSilva's was full beyond full. Glad no fire-marshals came! And what a crowd! True ukers all, and as receptive as we could hope for. Off to the Islands tomorrow!
We're back at Kassy and David's for a day off before we head up to Grass Valley and then back to Mike DaSilva's in Berkeley. It was great to see Bill Tapia come out to the Carlsbad show. Great to see everyone. People started arriving two hours early with their ukes!
This is our last day with James Hill on this leg of the tour. The show in Carlsbad, CA at the Museum of Making Music has been sold out for weeks and will be a fitting sendoff for James, who gets to go home for a short spell, before he flies up to Labrador. Yesterday we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping in Big Sur for the view and San Luis Obispo for a fine meal at the Cornerview, and then some much-needed sleep. Met with our distributor in LA, who is slightly shocked and very pleased with the tour so far. Started planning the East Coast leg of the Roadshow.
Tonight; Carlsbad CA...sold out show at the Museum of Making Music with Bill Tapia in attendance!
But first, we will be sitting in a bar in SOCAL this afternoon, cheering Team Canada for the gold.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to James for now, but hope to see him soon for the Eastern leg of the tour. Great traveling with you, James!
If Hawaii is the Mecca of the ukulele, Santa Cruz is the Medina. This was proven beyond any doubt at this screening: over 500 people showed up, many in top hat and tails or gowns and feathers for this "Ukulele Formal" event. Amazing is really the only way to describe it. These people know how to throw a party! It was like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, full of cheers and applause and tears of joy. We got a two minute standing ovation. It doesn’t get any better than this
We just finished three shows in a row in the Bay Area- At the first show in San Francisco, we arrived from Portland an hour before the show and were met at the Balboa Theater by Dan Scanlan and Joan Buffington, who brought sound gear all the way from Grass Valley, saving us mucho time and money. Great to see them and their families.
The Bay Area gives very good marquis! 250 people packed into The Balboa Theater for a night of ukulele mayhem. Audiences are loving the film. We are getting tons of requests for more screenings in CA. I guess we'll have to come back.
The next night, in San Rafael, the audience was much more a movie than a ukulele crowd, our first real cross-over event, and they were just as enthusiastic as the uke crowds. The sound was lush and the theatre, immaculate Deco with a spiral staircase. A class act. Special thanks are due to my cousin Kassy and her partner, David, who housed us and helped in all kinds of ways.
Attended the Gorge Ukefest in Hood River. What a drive from Portland! Right along the Columbia River, all waterfalls and mossy rock, and big, big rocks.
Lovely ukefest- kids running to class with ukes and jamming in corners, and music everywhere. The fabulous Friday night show included James Hill and Victoria Vox (whose rendition of Billy Jean on uke and mouth-trumpet rocked the house), Moe Dixon (whole lot of Saturday night left in HIM!), and the Langley Ukulele Ensemble. Very enthusiastic and appreciative crowds and we got to meet up with the a few of the players who appear in the film, Lil' Rev, Victoria, the Langley folks....
Early Sunday morning, we picked up James Hill on the top of a mountain outside Hood River, OR, for a week of performances together from Seattle to San Diego. We drove 4 hours to Seattle where we screened at the tiny turn of the century JewelBox Theater. It used to be a private screening room for MGM. About 50 people packed into the room for MIGHTY UKE and James Hill. James’ parents came down from Langley. The audience were cheering their favourite players in the film and James rocked the house (no surprise). Had an awesome meal with the Hills and the fabulous Del Ray, and then packed up for the 2 hour journey to our motel on the way to Portland, OR, where we caught a flight the next morning to San Francisco.
Spent Valentine's Day with my honey driving the I90 to Seattle- 5 mountain passes, ears a-popping. Got a fishburger at Zips in Ritzville, stopped again at Atticus in Spokane (yum) and arrived at the Marco Polo Motel at dusk. Loving the neighbourhoods in Seattle: Fremont, Queen Anne... beautiful city. And they have flowers. In February. Met the folks at the Rendezvous Theater, where we'll be screening February 21st. Quite a unique little space and our first screening with food and beer! KUOW interviewed us and will cover the event at the Rendezvous. Let's show them what a joyful noise sounds like!
Our low budget hotel was in an unexpectedly fine neighbourhood, Fremont, with endearingly odd landmarks, like a giant statue of Lenin and a genuine Soviet-era rocket. Yes, it's a troll under the bridge, and that IS a Volkswagen under his hand.
The Denver UkeFest: Spectacular night for all concerned- James Hill and Anne Davison, The Boulder Acoustic Society... the list goes on. We screened Friday night at the Starz Film Center and then went over to the Wynkoop Brewery for a crazy uke jam. James had half that bar singing Gospel tunes! The Denver Post featured the uke and our film on the front page of their entertainment section and Colorado Public Radio did a feature on the Ukefest. We woke up the next day to find our 11 year old nephew, Nolan, doing his best imitation of James Hill, chopsticks in hand, banging away on his grandmother's uke.
Elisabeth P, via Flickr: "I loved your film. Before watching, I knew nothing about the uke. After watching, I was so inspired that I bought my own ukulele and attended the UkeFest. Thank you!" And thank you, Elisabeth for the above photo of us at the Starz Film Center.
And special thanks to my cousin Suze and her family for putting us up and putting up with us. We got a chance to explore the area and soak in some hotsprings. Ahhh. All that before boarding a flight to Portland and the long drive to the Docfest in Missoula, Montana. Many new sights: first Combine Harvester Demolition Derby, first tumbleweed, first round farm, first Free Beef with Tires... Beautiful mountains and the Columbia River! What a sight. Special appreciation to the Atticus Cafe in Spokane for the excellent coffee and directions. Loved Missoula- the downtown is full of lovely old deco buildings, including the Wilma Theater, where MIGHTY UKE screened. If you're ever there, I recommend the El Cazador for lunch and The Silk Road for dinner. As to Spokane, we knew nothing, but found not only good food, but also good humour:
What a great way to launch the Roadshow. Hometown crowd, James Hill, Andrea Koziol and Melanie Doane performing. For us (the filmmakers, Tony and Margaret) it was a magical evening. A sold out show, great press in Toronto’s papers and radio, and a chance for our families and friends to see what we have been up to for the last couple of years. Members of the Corktown Ukulele Jam were out in full force, armed with ukes, ready to strum along with James. I couldn't have hoped for a better evening.
We can only dream that this will be the shape of things to come.
Time to pack up for six weeks on the road.
“Saw the premiere of "The Mighty Uke" film this evening: absolutely awesome in every respect. We hated for it to end!"
"It's unpredictable, delightful, surprising, enchanting, soothing and none of us wanted it to end. When/if it comes to your town, SEE THIS MOVIE."
Woodstock! MIGHTY UKE screened at the Bearsville Theater. Not a full house, but a house full of enthusiasm.
Many thanks to Jim and Liz Beloff, Melvern Taylor, Jon Braman, Stephen and Sophie Traub, Naomi Major, Nancy Fox, Barbara Mansfield, and our many kind hosts, among others, Joni and Rob of the infamous Logstock. The concert following the screening, a benefit for the Killian Mansfield Foundation, raised cash and awareness for alternative therapies for sick kids. A moving event that was still completely entertaining. Woodstock knows how to do a film festival.
Woodstock is home to many local heroes, including Todd Rundgren, whose recording studio became something of a pilgrimage for our inimitable sound guy, Stephen Traub.
Tony and Stephen uke out in Woodstock Town Square