Return To Swan City

Season's Greetings, Friend! The Unvarnished Truth is back with not only the tardiest of blogs, but with Santa-sized lame excuses to match! Bein' the Xmas holidays and all, your ol' Sawbones done got all caught up in that holiday revelry. And where there's revelry, there's hangovers.

As I write, it is December 26th. Boy oh boy... nothing squelches all the built-up reservoir of Christmas goodwill like the consumer chaos of Boxing Day. So enjoy your new, stress-filled purchase, grab a cup of leftover spiked egg nog and set a spell as I weave another yarn of rock 'n' roll misadventure!


Swan Dive

December 12th and 13th, Dustbowl, AB's own Punch Drunk Cabaret returned to Grande Prairie, AB: the Swan City. Decades ago, your scribe played this burg many times in various taverns, saloons and assorted holes-in-the-wall. None of them back then were particularly glamourous let alone well run. But then I'd never played Better Than Fred's before.

BTF is a well-oiled machine that any self-respecting live music club could learn a thing or two from. Your Punch Drunk pals made their second appearance in two years there this weekend.


Better Than Fred's....                           .... but not at spelling. Oh well.


I couldn't drive out with the boys on that Friday so instead I jet-setted! Well, it was a prop job, but exciting nonetheless as it was my first flight to a gig with this band..... although it did not come about because we've "made it" or our "advances from the record company" came thru. No, just a little work commitment to a heartless, soul-sucking corporation, that's all. But I digress.

Preppin' for GP...  in the frozen confines of the band's practice lair, The Liquor Haus


(Four) Skin Man & The Threatened Modesty

So the boys (Bandmeister Randy B and our fourth, latest interim skinsman, the powerful and attractive Martini Zee) drove ahead and I met them there. Problem was I wouldn't arrive 'til after 8:30 that night and we were supposed to play at 9:30. I couldn't dilly-dally after getting off the plane so I decided to make the trip in full, sharp-dressed PDC stage mode. Don't mind tellin' you that at the airport, I turned a few heads. But not comely young stewardesses, sadly.... mainly construction fellows working inside EIA who likely saw me as some poncey, Victorian fop to be trifled with.

That was disappointing enough. But at check-in before the flight, they noticed more metal in my attire than your average air traveler (pocket watch, spats straps, etc). The EIA security then made me undo my belt buckle as well as the top of my pants... in full few of several dozen airport patrons. Sawbones is used to being on display but this is ridiculous!

Aside from that attack on my modesty, the flight was fine and I arrived in plenty of time.


Pour Favor

First night... a packed bar as usual for Fred's (as the locals call it), but if I may, a typical tavern crowd: drinkin', carousin', good times to be sure. Not necessarily into us but them's the breaks when a mostly original band plays a club in the prairies.


Martini Zee's pre-gig meal in a jar           Side stage: moments before the bedlam


Second night... a whole 'nother kettle of fish. And the fish were bitin'! This was a complete reversal: another packed house but this time the audience danced to every tune and purchased our quality merchandise like sale-crazed shoppers on Boxing Day! 

Though less intense with audience participation, the first night's patrons purchased a goodly amount of drinks for the band. Ironically, on the second night, not one bevvie was bought despite the throngs of the PDC faithful and new converts. Huh. Some days it rains. Some days it pours.


The good people of GP at BTF dancing to PDC.....  and a girl who could probably kill them all with them guns



Sawbones and friends.... who doesn't love 'im?!?!?!


Better Than All The Rest

Thanks to the Better Than Fred's crackerjack staff including: Andrew the stoic doorman, Nathaniel the staunch soundman and proprietor John -- one of the rare, good guys in the bar running biz.


Local Quoteables:

"I loved the show and I'm not even drunk!" - a BTF patron not yet lubricated, obviously. Only in Grande Prairie would they apologize for not being pissed up. Canadian manners at it's finest.

"GP is the drug hub of the North!" - another patron who said this with a medicated modicum of civic pride.

"You guys are awesome... and it's amazing how much you look like my dad!" - a female patron who I thought was taking a shine to me. Would-be lothario's bubble burst. These are the things that keep me humble and dateless. 

Newest interim skinsman, Martini Zee with the light of Jesus shining down on him. Or just a stage light. Or both. 


Seen But Not Heard

Burt Reynolds.... yes, the Burt Reynolds. Oh he wasn't there. I just wanted to be clear about who I'm talking about. Anyway, some kind folks on the Friday sent us up a round of Burt Reynolds shooters (Editor's Note: spiced rum and butter ripple, FYI).

Scatman Crothers... yes, he's dead. But his doppelganger is alive and well in GP! While we were at a gas depot filling up the band jalopy, the mock-Scatman shuffled seemingly out of nowhere and approached Bandmeister Randy B with the most unpredictable of unsolicited questions: "'Scuse me, sir... where is Dustbowl, Alberta?" 

And that's the unvarnished truth.