Icons, Upstarts And Apparitions

Why hello, friend! It's been a while since you visited The Unvarnished Truth, hasn't it? Well why don't you set back a spell, pour yourself a sarsaparilla and read about one of the greatest little tours ever put together (by my reckoning, anyhoo). Yes? Of course you will!

The Icons & Upstarts Tour 2014 with Jay Semko of The Northern Pikes steamed thru Alberta last weekend and I'm here to regale you with tales of derring-do (and some of derring-don't).


The Poop, The Scoop And Cuban Dictator Doppelgangers

Drumheller was the first stop on this 3-day mini-tour of the province. Before we did anything though, Uncle Jay had an issue with some errant dog poop he inadvertently stepped in back at the rehearsal farm. Must've made for an olfactory delight for him and Bandmeister Randy B on the way to The Drum (that's what the locals call it). And damn me all to Hades if I couldn't get a photo of the Canadian musical icon casually scraping canine fecal matter off his shoe at a Red Deer fuel stop. Some things are best left to the imagination, I reckon.

I must say before continuing that with The Rev. Robin Eklund being on family hiatus, we brought in Tupelo Honey's capable Greg "Fidel" Williamson to pound the skins for these shows. Aside from the communist allusions, he did pretty damned good! Cuba, si!!

Tupelo Greg being uncharacteristically well-behaved & attentive during a band meeting at the Dino Hotel in The Drum.


With Canada's largest dinosaur model on permanent display in the middle of town, you'd think ol' "Flash" Sawbones could get a photo of the aforementioned beastie. Nope.... but I did get a fairly disturbing compromise at the venue.


Dino décor in The Drum


We reunited with our old pal, Diamond Dave Neher to provide us with lights & sound for the gig. As usual, his cracker jack team of techs, like a herd of T-Rex, had the place rippin' and roarin'.

Nero Productions dapper headmaster.... but only because he borrowed Sawbones's chapeau


Meetin', Greetin' & Creepin'

A strange new sensation, that. For the first time ever... we walked around before the show in full stage garb and glad handed everyone in the room. These folks paid for a personal touch and, by golly, they got it. I felt like a particularly well-dressed dinner party host... which we kind of were. Might I recommend a good hand sanitizer after the show?

Staunch supporter of the local arts scene, Rockin' Ray with your ol' Sawbones


Sawbones and the lovely & talented Stacia


Rabid Rumble In The Rose City

Ahhh, Camrose.... our second home and the second date on the I&U tour. Once again inside the familiar haunts (and haunted, allegedly) of the historic Bailey Theatre. A day-long celebration of roots-related music, organizers did it up right with a cool bunch of bands, classic movie to start the party and the "Punch Drunk Pikes" to finish off the night. Though we were considered honourary Northern Pikes, we hadn't made Mr. Semko an honourary Punch Drunk Fellow. Perhaps we'd present him with a top hat or commemorative spats on the last day of the tour or something. Gold-plated, dog poop shoe scraper, maybe?

The Icon


The infamous Clarke family was in the house.... probably holding the distinction of being the band's most dedicated (read: rabid) fans or could easily challenge for it..... perhaps a duel at ten paces for our affections? Now, now, kids.... this isn't a competition!

Cathie, the stage bitch (her words, not mine.... a gentleman does not refer to a lady as such) was our basckstage organizer and ran a tight ship. As it was a day-long roots festival with all kinds of bands, crew, MC's and animal acts running around teetering on the precipice of pandemonium, it had to be! Also, glad to see old friend Jazzy Jeff Nyback give us a hand before the show. Though I did not notice his usual companion Flasky around. Retired? Resting? Rehab??? 


Turning On The Waterworks

The final day of this musical troika found us in Wetaskiwin and the rustic charm of the Water-Works Theatre (also reputed to be haunted).

If you, dear reader, could've attended any one of these fine and significant shows, you would've seen the Icon, Jay Semko, play a sweet acoustic set followed by your favorite Upstarts, PDC, performing their obligatory raucous set. And then..... oh dear lord, if you could've lasted a while longer, you'd have witnessed an amalgam of artistry appear as both icons AND upstarts came together to trot out those grand old Northern Pikes hits from the days of yore. Land sakes, it was a sight to see!

The Bandmeister warming up with enough hellfire licks to scare off the theatre's spooks... but not quite enough as it turned out.



Now I'm not a religious man. But if I were, I'd be quite concerned about every venue that claims to be haunted by some sad spectre of the building's past. And this ol' gal was no different. The reason for all this hooky-spooky talk is because my pedal board gave out with two songs to go in the night's set.... for NO APPARENT REASON. Gary, one of the house techs quickly ran up to help me troubleshoot the problem but to no avail. So I plugged in straight to the bass amp and damned the mechanical torpedoes to finish the night.  The next day at a band practice, I plugged everything in and it worked just fine! <cue spine chilling music> Thank you, o apparition of the venue for trying to steal my thunder. Ghosts can be such pricks.

After the show as we sat around the green room discussing the evening's pro's & cons, woven yarns of personal run-ins with ghosties were retold by Jay including a recording studio haunting by a poor sod in the area who was evidently ripped apart by wolves.  

Unfortunate. But entertaining. 

End Of The Line (l to r): Tupelo Greg, Bandmeister Randy B, Uncle Jay, Sawbones


Thanks to Eldon, Laura, Trevor, Gary and the diminutive but mighty Warren for not letting the arts die in Wetaskiwin!


Post Mortem

What a lovely time we had on this all-too brief tour with Jay Semko! Hope y'all caught one of the shows because it was certainly a hoot 'n' a holler to hang around this much-respected Canadian legend for a few days. We now have more than just ghost stories to tell.

And that's the unvarnished truth.