Hey there friends,
As you’ve probably guessed, there’s a lot of story to tell since I wrote you last. But before we get into all that, and for those folks who won’t be reading further, I want to share a video of “Pass It Along”, shot in Melbourne by friend and fellow muso Benjamin James Caldwell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R0W_QbGHr8. That’s a song I hope you’ll sing after I’m gone, friends.
If you’re following me down past the break, you might wanna pour yourself a cup of something and put your feet up. It’s more personal than most fan mail gets, precisely because it’s not exactly fan mail, but rather a letter to friends far and wide. I’ve always had a hard time drawing a line between fans and friends, and I figure if I’m gonna err, it might as well be on the side of friendship.
Last I wrote I was on the final dregs of my Southeast Asian vacation, and mere days later I landed on Taiwan, sunburned, broke, and amply ready to get back in the saddle after two months of idling. I put out the word on Facebook that I was looking for a place to stay in Taipei, a scooter, a sleeping bag, an air mattress and a tent, and friends came through with all the sleeping kit I’d need, two scooters, three places to stay in Taipei, and four tents. Sometimes I’m just left shaking my head at what good folks I know.
The tour kicked off with an unamplified show at Taipei Artist Village alongside my good friends David Chen, Conor Prunty and Mojo LaViolette, and proceeded around the island counter-clockwise. Partway through I was joined by my friend Amanda, who runs a wonderful, community-forging venue called The Root in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, taking her first trip to Asia on a last-minute lark. Travelling around a place I know so well with a fresh set of eyes really helped me see it anew, and even inspired me to play the tour guide. We visited Tainan’s famous temples for the first time, something I’d always meant to do but always found myself short on time for. They’re some of the oldest on the island, and they were all the more spectacular for the timing, right on the doorstep of Chinese New Year, when worshippers were out in droves to ask the gods’ favour in the year to come. It’s a special season, and a perfect time to travel around the country, with Taiwanese folks even friendlier and more generous than they always are, firecrackers and fireworks day and night, and elaborate parades carrying gods from temple to temple through the streets.
It was a heckuva ride around the island, and went off pretty much without a hitch, besides one fateful drizzly day in Taroko Gorge when Amanda grabbed the brake too fast and fell down. I was incredibly grateful that it was nothing serious, but it did remind me of the seriousness of the mission we’d embarked on, or I’d embarked us on. Sometimes a guy forgets a thing like that too after he’s done something plenty of times.
Along the way, I got to play shows with my old friends Tyler Dakin, the Admissionaries, Mister Green, Mike Mudd, Russell Rodgers, and Landis Shook, and a new folky trio of gals called Tricolor Tree Leaf. The highlight of the tour, though, was the last show, a house concert at Lei Gallery in Taichung with Andy Goode and Mojo’s new project The Vicious Cabaret. I drove most of the five hour mountain ride from Taipei in the cold and dark, and arrived to find the small show I’d been expecting had a crowd spilling out into the street. The Vicious Cabaret opened the show with a set so sharp it had me questioning my worthiness to follow it. But Thom and I tuned up and played, and the love and emotion pouring back from the room was palpable. A big strong fella I’d never met cried openly, standing right next to me, and all I could do was hug him. More than ever, I remembered why I do what I do, and what a gift it is that I get to carry.
Like I’ve been saying for a while, the lesson I’m trying to learn is to see it for what it is, accept it, feel worthy of it, be unashamed of it, and go about it in such a way that I can continue to carry this gift for a long time to come. And that’s gotta involve some kind of balance of health and sanity with the late nights that you all know I love. In this case, despite my oft-stated intentions to keep up with my yoga practice and get to bed at a reasonable hour now and then, Taiwan’s still a night-owl’s paradise, with parks and 7-11 storefronts aplenty as ready 24-hour venues for debauchery, and friends aplenty as ready excuses to stay out and party. Let’s just say there wasn’t a lot of going to bed while the party’s still going going on, and I caught my flight out in the usual scrambling, dementedly exhausted fashion.