Wilkes Barre, PA Hotel Room

A funny thing happened on the way to the gig. A most stressful and bizarre day yesterday left us scrambling to honour ticket holders in Ithaca.

After a grand Saturday night in Burlington, Ontario, we rolled our tour bus and trailer of equipment to the Canada US Border, as we have done hundreds of times. We stopped at Immigration and showed our work Visas with no issue as we have done hundreds of times. The trouble started when we were asked about our equipment. The same equipment we have crossed with hundreds of times.

Now, I should note that what is to follow is not a critique of US or Canada Customs. Nor is it meant to persuade anyone that I know better than anyone working or administering the borders, because I don’t. I can only imagine how complicated it must be to safely and fairly immigrate and emigrate people and import and export goods and commercial property on that scale. Much Respect to US and Canada Customs.

Easiest way I can think to describe the conversation that went on for nearly 8 hours would be like this.

ME: Hello, we’d like to enter the US and play some concerts, please. Here are our work Visas and paperwork.

THEM: Hello, I see you’ve played here many times. Good luck with it… oh wait, one second. Do you have your blue sheet of paper for the equipment?

ME: No, we were told many years back we did not need the blue sheet because this is a bunch of personal tools not commercial equipment. And we have crossed dozens of times without having the blue sheet. See, here on the passport, we crossed last Friday into Denver where we they were clearly fine with us being non blue sheet people.

THEM: Well, today, you need a blue sheet. No problem, just go get one and you’ll be on your way.

ME: Ok. But it is Sunday. All the blue sheet people are off today.

THEM: Oh. That is going to cause a problem for you. Sorry about that. Again, you are all free to enter and perform, but your equipment, bus and trailer must stay till you get the blue sheet. Have a great day.

ME: Thanks. We’ll get a blue sheet and try to figure how we can still do the concert with no gear.

THEM: How are you going to do that?

ME: I really have no idea.

THEM: Good Luck.

ME: Thank you.

So, we retreat to the parking lots of purgatory. Those are the places where you can stop and be in neither the US nor Canada. We scrambled to make some kind of plan. We tried everything we could to get a blue sheet person to work on a Sunday, but it proved impossible.

By now it was 2 in the afternoon. We’d been there for 6 hours and the first suggestions arose that we’d have to cancel the show in Ithaca. Long time readers of this blog will know my policy on cancelling shows. I wrote once about an ill fated trip to Alberta which took 24 hours instead of 7 and had me get on stage 3 hours late, to a jubilant gang who so patiently waited for me. I wrote something like this;

‘I got in the music business to play concerts. I did not get in the music business to find good excuses not to play concerts.’

So, when the suggestion came up that we might have to call the promoter in Ithaca and tell him to send people home, my response was simple (pardon my language)

‘No f—king way.’

We brainstormed how we could do it and almost every proposed solution met a road block.

We’ll get a hire car to drive us there…nope, takes three hours to get one here from TO.

We’ll rent a car in Fort Erie and drive our selves…nope, we drove the bus and trailer to the Rental Car Company, but it was closed on Sunday.

Again the suggestion that we might have to cancel.

‘No f—king way.’

It went on.

We’ll rent local gear and gut it out…nope, the rental store is closed on Sunday.

Andy, our tour manager got on the phone with the club owner and explained the predicament.

‘He can borrow an acoustic guitar and electric guitar and an amplifier.’ He said.

‘We’ll take it.’ I said.

Andy turned and explained that we’d try to make it happen in some form but we might be late getting there.

‘No f—king way.’ I was admittedly over doing at this point. ‘We’re starting on time.’

It was explained to me that it was now approaching 3pm and Ithaca was 3 hours away and our show time was 7. No problem, except we still did not have any way to get there.

Someone on the bus knew someone in St Catherine’s who had a pal in Fort Erie who owned a van. A few texts later and some gent agreed to leave his family supper for a very modest fee and drive us to Ithaca.

I won’t say too much about him because he may or may not want to be identified in this story. I can say that he showed up on time and drove us with perfect professional accuracy. I can say he was an extremely pleasant man. I will be forever grateful to him.

In truth, I was so pumped on adrenaline, that I barely looked at the guy. I shook his hand and jumped in. He did, in retrospect look a bit like the loveable ‘Shaggy’ in Scooby Doo, so lets call him Shaggy.

Our plan was to take me, Cory and Kendel, along with our sound guy Johnny and bolt for the club. I would use the acoustic guitar for the whole show, (I usually use three, as well as bouzouki, mandolin, and electric guitar). Cory would use the borrowed electric guitar and amp, (he ususally uses two electrics, a very specific modified amp, acoustic guitar and mandolin). Kendel would play her own fiddle (which we would beg exception for at the border as it is a very fragile antique that cannot be left in a warehouse overnight to wait for the blue sheet.)

We rolled back to the border and were held for a brief incarceration. I honestly think they admired our tenacity. A few of them even joked they bet it would be an excellent gig if we got there as we seemed so determined to put it off. It was unsettling, but it seemed to be going well enough.

I do confess however to having a moment at Customs as we sat there in the holding area while they searched Shaggy’s car. And it was not a pleasant moment. I looked across at Shaggy as he smiled nonchalantly and I realized something quite unsettling.

I have absolutely no idea who this person is.

I am crossing an international border with someone who does not have, to my knowledge, a professional limo or taxi license, so we are with him personally. And I have no idea who he is, where he comes from, what he does for a living.

He did have a NEXUS card as trusted traveller, so that was reassuring. But I wondered if I was the unknowing patsy in a grand plot in a 1980’s Bruce Willis movie, and soon SWAT teams would blast through the window arms raised, shouting, “Agent Orange, please surrender!!” or something like that.

After searching the cart and finding nothing untoward, other than the aforementioned fiddle, they agreed to let us proceed. I remain grateful to them. But just as we were leaving they stopped us short.

‘One moment. Ah…Mr Shaggy. What do you do for a living?’

I literally froze in my steps and involuntarily clenched my bum. What had they found? Who was this mystery man?

Mr Shaggy turned without a skipped breath.

‘I work for a food bank in Fort Erie.’

The customs officers all smiled and almost said ‘Ahh’

I could have kissed Shaggy on the spot. A food bank?!?! Who says no to a fella who works for a food bank. Spectacular.

So, we were in.

It was now almost 4pm and Ithaca was at least 2 ½ hours drive away, so we’d have to bolt to make the 7 pm start.

‘Won’t matter if we are a few minutes late.’ Someone suggested.

‘No f—king way’. I was being overzealous now, but I wanted to gun for on time for some latent professional reason.

It was a beautiful drive through what I believe is called the Finger Lakes. The Fall colours made the stress of the day a bit more bearable, for sure.

We pulled into the parking lot of The Dock in Ithaca at 6:35. We were greeted by the local promoter who could not believe we’d made it. We opened the side door and walked right onto the stage to thunderous applause of the audience who’s been following us on Twitter the whole day.

Kendel plugged in her fiddle. I plugged in the borrowed acoustic. Cory plugged in the borrowed electric guitar and amp. It was awkward, but they all worked.

At 6:50, we ran offstage and changed into our stage clothes.

‘You need a few extra minutes?’ the promoter stuck his head into the wee side stage dressing room.

‘No f—king…ah…no, sir. We don’t.’ I smiled at Cory and Kendel.

At 6:59 Cory kissed mine and Kendel’s faces.

At 7 pm the Alan Doyle and the Beautiful Gypsies show started on schedule.

We were supposed to take a break at 8, but we played straight for about 2 ½ hours and left to a standing ovation.

The promoter said it was the best show he’s ever seen in there.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the people at the club for letting us play with whatever we had. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to Shaggy for his efforts. I could never tell you how grateful I am to Kendel and Cory and Johnny for performing at the highest standards no matter what obstacles the day threw at them. They are serious professionals, all of them. And I’m lucky to have them with me, for sure.

Happy to announce that the Blue Sheet office opened yesterday and we got the documents to satisfy all hands. The bus carrying the rest of the band and crew rolled into the US yesterday without incident. We be celebrating the reunion and drummer Kris MacFarlane’s birthday tonight at the gig in Wilkes Barre.

All together again. Thankfully.

Tonight, and onwards, it is business as usual.

Or as usual as it gets in the music business.

Cheers,
Alan

Happy Fall

Happy Fall Everyone. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But any regular readers of this blog, and folks who know me closely, know that the Fall is my favourite time of year.

I like the way it looks with the ever-changing colours. Hills that once were a mono blanket of green letting go and making way for oranges, yellows, reds, and browns. A little at first, then a full surrender to the variety and perfect randomness of the hills of Autumn.

I like the way it feels. The heat of Summer, slowly, or not so slowly in Newfoundland, retreating first in the early morning and late evening and gradually, or not so gradually in Newfoundland, disappearing all together and the cool breeze of September welcomes back my favourite hoodie.

Mostly, I like the way it makes me feel. I’ve long touted September, not January, as the dawning of the New Year. A time of new beginnings, new school grades, new University classes, new jobs, new places, new faces. And if you are a curious cat like me, nothing is more thrilling than seeing what comes next. Fall is like finding a new corner to look around. A new rock to look under. A new song to sing.

And new songs are a-plenty these days as me and The Beautiful Gypsies prep for a new album. I’ve been so grateful for the positive response to the one or two we’ve been playing live, especially Come Out with Me, which has become a bit of a concert fav even though it is not even on a record yet. Might slide a few more new tunes in the sets this fall. I’ve got about a dozen new tunes mapped out and demoed and need to get another 6-8 to choose from to make the final list. In a perfect world, we’ll get those tunes this Fall and record the new album in a few months. The plan is to get it in the can by year’s end, for a single release in the early Spring, and a full release in the Fall of 2017.

And in a most perfect world, I’ll drop a new book right around the same time as the album. So, I’ve got to get down to it and write the rough draft and submit it before Santa Claus comes. I’ve got about a third of the book on paper and so far the working title is A Newfoundlander in Canada, and will chronicle my first impressions of the world as it appeared to me out the Great Big Sea van window. Some road stories, some lessons learned the hard way, some encounters with famous people, and a whole lot of surprises for a young fella who’d never really been far from Home.

Looking forward to a bunch of live gigs this Fall as well, including stops in Vermont and Trenton, Ontario this weekend and Aurora, Ontario the next. As always, I would love to see you at the shows. All the info is at www.alandoyle.ca/tour. Come on. Come on. Come out with me.

There’s also a fun TV appearance in the works, where I suspect you’ll see me in some old period costume. Keep you posted.

Also, super excited to be helping Beautiful Gypsy Cory Tetford with the last brush strokes of his new album. He might be too bashful to brag, but I certainly don’t mind telling you that it is going to be spectacular. Can’t wait for you all to hear it.

As I type, it is fairly early on the Monday of Labour Day weekend. I got up early to make some coffee and breakfast for friends departing our cabin overlooking Placentia Bay. My own family are still sleeping and it is just me and the trees and the water. The sun is creeping over the hills behind me onto the hills in front of me across the bay. A slight breeze ripples the mirror of the harbour. This could be my fav seat in the world. On my fav day of the year. I am so, so lucky.

The Fall is upon us and all the new and exciting nexts that come with it.

So, lets go.

Cheers,
Alan

Summer shows announced

Hey all,

Excited for the Summer Gigs to get rolling in the SOO this Friday in a really cool new venue, the Machine Shop. Stoked to be joining the most awesome Arkells on Saturday for my first ever visit to Kirkland Lake. I’ll be doing a book signing in the afternoon as well. Details on the tour page. Come on out. Love to see you.

The Summer rolls on with a bunch of cool gigs in Canada and the US and the East Coast and West. Looking forward to them all, especially a grand hometown gig at the George Street Festival, easily my fav gig in Newfoundland.

Check out all the dates and stuff on the tour page. Spread the word and that. Appreciate all the buzz and support.

On the down days, I’ve been working away on writing a new album and a new book, both of which I hope to have in the can by the end of this year to be released in 2017. Lotta work, but the best kind of work.

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Thanks to all who’ve grabbed advance tix to upcoming shows. Grateful for it all.

See you out there in the sun.

Cheers,
Alan

HOME #yyt4ymm

Hey All

A quick note about the details for a Roving Festival Downtown Festival we are pulling together to raise money to help the Red Cross help the victims of the fires in Fort McMurray.

Thanks for all the interest, buzz, and support. See you downtown, or if you can’t attend and would like to support, a quick and easy way to donate $5 is to text REDCROSS to 30333 and follow two simple prompts.

Thanks to all who volunteered their time, talents, and spaces.

Cheers,
Alan

East to West-With Love #yyt4ymm
All of us here behind East to West – with Love are overwhelmed with the support flowing in, we can’t begin to express our gratitude to all for lending a hand for our friends in Fort McMurray who so desperately need it.

Here’s the details. Thursday, May 12, 2016. This will not be your traditional concert. It will run as a pop-up festival, a travelling circus of musicians moving throughout the downtown core in what is sure to be a one of a kind, intimate and collaborative effort for one cause. Three venues. Factory on McMurdos Lane, the home and origin of the fundraiser, starts it off early with doors at 3pm and music starting at 4. Erin’s on Water Street and O’Reilly’s on George Street are open regular pub hours with music starting at 5. Over 30 acts will play in one or more of these venues with the likes of Alan Doyle, Tim Baker, and Matt Mays making appearances at all three over the course of the evening. Full list below.*

Representatives from the Red Cross will be on hand at each venue to accept suggested minimum donations of $10 for entrance and encourage digital and texting contribution throughout the night.

As if that wasn’t enough we are pleased to announce that TD bank have agreed to match our door donations up to $10,000! Molson & Old Town Pizzeria are coming on to sponsor our group event.

Come early. Stay Late. All for a good cause.

*Confirmed Participants for the evening, appearing at one or more of the venues:

Alan Doyle
Analog Age
Andrew James O’Brien
Bob Hallett
Brothers in Stereo Unplugged
Ceiligh
Chris Andrews
Craig O’Reilly
Craig Young
Donnie Dunphy
Dylan &The Brown Eyes
Eddi King
Ennis Sisters
Fergus O’Byrne
Hot Proxy
Irish Descendants
Jeffery Quilty & Denver Drake
Jody Richardson
Jordan Harnum
Karla Pilgrim
Kelli Loder
Larry Foley
Mathew Byrne
Matt Mays
Matty Rose
Melanie Hutton
Paddy Daly
Port of Call
Sean Panting
Selina Boland
The Long Distance Runners
Tim Baker
…and more

In The Sun

Currently enjoying the last few breaths of a grand vacation with family and friends. Just wanted to drop a quick note on a couple of things.

First of all, this weekend, one of the most influential bands of my life are playing their last show. And they are going out with such grace, class and style, that we should all give them a standing O. Spirit of the West were the first Nationally successful band that I ever saw on TV or in person that made me feel like I could just be myself, and play music on instruments that came from my backyard and sing songs about stuff that happened to me. Being from Newfoundland, I was lucky to have local heroes of mine like Ron Hynes and the Wonderful Grand Band and Figgy Duff, but the first band I ever saw play folky celtic music on the National Music Video stations alongside all the hair metal and rock in the 80’s was Spirit of the West. As soon as I saw John Mann strum an acoustic guitar solo in Save this House, or Geoffrey Kelly play a ripping flute tune in the rowdy Home for a Rest , I felt like the path to a life in music for me got a little clearer. Perhaps I didn’t need to look or sound like Whitesnake and pretend to be from LA afterall.

I got to see them live a few times and in the fall of 1995 (I think), Great Big Sea got to open for the Gents across Ontario and even a wondrous homecoming at the old Memorial Stadium in St. John’s. Over the years, we became and remained great friends and have toured and recorded together many times. I have not the words to tell you how many life and musical lessons I’ve learned from them.

This weekend they wrap up an amazing run that would be a fantasy for just about every one I ever met who picked up a guitar and dreamed a big dream. A few health issues including John’s well publicized Alzheimer’s condition has taken the band off the road earlier than many of us fans would have hoped, but the songs will be sung and resung for as far and long as any of us will see. So stoked to have a couple of the Beautiful Gypsies, Kendel and Kris, helping the Gents out in the final few shows.

Serious congrats to John, Geoffrey, Hugh, Vince, and Tobin and all the other past and present members of the band.

Whoever said ‘Don’t meet your heroes’, never met Spirit of the West.

Also, big shout out to Beautiful Gypsy Cory Tetford out with the most awesome Matt Andersen this week.

As for me and all Beautiful Gypsies, we hit the road starting Thursday in Buffalo. Some of the shows are Sold Out and more are very, very close so grab a tic quick if you can make it. All the details on the tour page here.

I’m back to the palm trees and that for a few more hours. (have I mentioned here that I might be the luckiest fella on earth?)

These so called vacations will soon be my death.

See you back out on the road soon.

Cheers,
Alan