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HARPER & MIDWEST KIND. A USA TOUR DIARY

ON TOUR WITH HARPER AND MIDWEST KIND- SUMMER, 2014 – USA AND CANADA

Peter D Harper, or just plain old Harper as he’s more commonly known, is an Australian singer/ songwriter and extraordinarily good blues harp and didgeridoo player. After being signed to prestigious American blues label Blind Pig, he relocated to the USA  nine years ago. Harper is on his way back to Australia in October for a short tour. Before he hits home turf, Harper was kind enough to give us a taste of life on the road in America in this exclusive tour diary.

Detroitmusicaward2014

Harper and wife Bobbi with Detroit Music Award

June is here in the USA, which means summer and the festival season woohooo!!!   My wife Bobbi and I moved to Detroit, Michigan USA in May, 2005 from Melbourne.  I was very fortunate to sign a record deal with one of the world’s leading blues record labels- Blind Pig Records, USA.  I was their first international signing, so it was all very exciting indeedy!  It was very daunting to make the big move.  We had a good life and lots of friends and family in Australia, but with the new label, it made sense to go!  I have no regrets, it was definitely the right move to make.  Fast forward to 2014, we’ve been living here for nearly 9 years, five CD releases later, numerous US/ Canadian and European tours. Busy as hell!  I now have a great US band based in Detroit called “Midwest Kind” and I Just received a 2014 Detroit Music Award for “Outstanding Vocalist”.  Totally blown away to get some love from the Motor City.

So here we are in June with 30 festivals booked in the USA and Canada over the next few months and a short but sweet tour organized for Australia in late October. I’m gonna tell you about some of the high lights of our festival season, because I’m sure you all don’t want to hear about all the miles and miles of driving, truckstops and hotels.  Boring!

Groovefest

Harper and Midwest Kind at Groovefest

In late June we were booked to play at Groovefest in Cedar City, Utah and the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah. It took us about four days drive to get to Cedar City by way of Longmont, Colorado and starting in Michigan. We have a big white Chevy Express 15 seater van.  She’s a smooth ride! But still driving 30 hours isn’t a lot of fun.  Utah is an amazing state. It reminds me a little of Uluru in the Northern Territory, the rock formations and the landscape is stunning. Zion National Park is a must see!!  I usually do workshops at alot of the festivals I perform at.  At Groovefest I did a didgeridoo workshop which went over very well. Small, intimate, nice folks!  The festival was great, held in a downtown city park, blue skies, great hospitality, great sound.  We went on second last, hitting the stage at 7.45pm.  The audience was really into it. Lots of dancers, lots of screams.  The band that followed us was an original reggae band called “Stranger”.  The singer was amazing!  Although they were mostly original the singer did a fabulous version of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”

 

The next day we drove north to Salt Lake City for the Utah Arts Festival, which was an eclectic mix of music, arts and theatre.  The festival was huge, multiple stages, rows and rows of venders of food, art, clothing -loads of stuff, loads of people.   We did a few small stages- kind of acoustic sets, and a didgeridoo presentation for the kids, which went over well.  The headliner slot on the park stage was really the main event.  We were supposed to have all the backline supplied, but when we got there, there was no backline to be seen.  So we decided to golf cart our gear in, to make life easier.  Sometimes you have to go with the flow and not be the rock star!  We had a great set.  Full crowd, and the sound was great.  We closed the festival in style.

Ottawabluefest1

Ottawa Blues Fest

Then it was the beyond huge drive to Ottawa, Canada.  Not the best routing but the Ottawa Bluesfest held in the first two weeks of July, is definitely worth the effort.  The Ottawa Bluesfest in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada is run like a well oiled machine. Its one of the biggest festivals in North America with  two massive stages plus two smaller, middle sized stages plus the Dansen Theatre. Our first performance was on The Black Sheep Stage at 7pm with the Honey Island Swamp Band right after.  It was cool to catch up with stage manager Millicent and hospitality gal – Jen who we nicknamed “the beer fairy”.  This was our fourth booking at this festival and we have made some great friends with the festival staff.  Every piece of back line we had asked for was there.  Every food item, every beverage. And if you needed more, they were only too happy to oblige!  Just awesome!  Also the sound was great.   They had big screen jumbo trons at the back of the stage.  It was kind of bizarre to look behind you and see yourself ten times bigger than life.

Ottawabluesfest2

Guitarist Mike Howe, Ottawa

After our set Bobbi and I rushed over to The Bell Stage to catch up with my good friend-bass player: Ross Valory after his set with “Journey”. I’ve had the pleasure of performing with these guys and they really put on a great show.  There were literally 30,000 people in front of the  Bell Stage.  We had special “Journey” back stage passes, so we had a really close up view of the band.  It was cool to hang out with the wives of the band and to see the band after their killer set.  Our Saturday show on the Claridge Stage was pretty cool.  This stage was huge, complete with even bigger jumbo trons on either side of the stage.   We hung out with big Canadian Matt Anderson and JJ Grey (of JJ Gey and Mofro) back stage.  Had a lot of fun. Even got to see Lady Gaga drop a load of F bombs during her performance.  Despite that, she did put on an extravagant  show with her 24 tour buses and 150 person crew and entourage.  The next day we headlined the final day of Sab Stock in Pembroke, Canada. This was a very nice ending to a great weekend.

The second week of July,  I performed ten shows in seven days … sorry its a blur!.  The highlights were Jamming in Jackson, Briggs Farm Festival in the US and Blues in the Vineyard in St Catharines, Canada! Got to meet Samantha Fish, Eric Gales, Kelley Richey and Selwyn Birchwood!    No Rest for the Blessed!

The next big road trip was Michigan to Oregon, 35 hours!  We did it in three and a half days, making it safely to Prineville, Oregon for Picnic in the Park. Unfortunately it wasn’t “picnicing” weather as we were rained out.  Now as you all may know we musicians rely heavily on GPS navigation to get us from place to place.  Well the GPS who we affectionately call “Jane”,  didn’t work too well in Oregon.  On our way to the Rhythm on The River Festival in Clatskanie, we were literally guided down a lumber jack’s track and ended up on the edge of a cliff.  Now you may well laugh, but this is the second time this has happened to us.  The first time was on our very first Australian national tour, where we had no GPS, just our own stupidity guiding us.  So as a general rule when you hit the dirt, usually something is wrong!

Canadianrockies

Canadian Rockies

Up next was the Calgary International Blues Festival in Alberta, Canada.  An amazing drive through the mountains. We stayed at The Downtown Ramada Hotel in Calgary and we had “Jake the female mini van driver” pick us up and deliver us to the festival.  Full back line and pretty decent hospitality.  We went on just before The Mannish Boys.  My first time seeing these guys, the singer- Sugar Ray Buford was brilliant. At the after show concert, the beer was flowing.  One musician got so drunk he fell into a garbage bin and couldn’t get out.  No one could work out who he belonged to because he had no ID on him, so the Cops were called and he spent the night in the slammer. Now he probably wont be gigging in Canada again!  The next day we drove from Calgary, Canada to Washington State, USA.  This was probably the most beautiful part of the trip to date, driving through the Canadian Rockies.  Miles upon miles of lush pine forest and mountains.  You could see some devastation from the mountain pine beetle which has wiped out large portions of pine forest in Canada and the US due to Global Warming.  But I was happy to see lots of baby pine trees springing up everywhere.  We finished the weekend with the fabulous Mt Baker Blues Festival in Bellingham, Washington.  This was our second visit to this great festival.   I would have to say this was the best set of the summer.  The sound was superb, both onstage and front of house.  The band’s sound is probably the most important for a performer. If the sound is right, you really feel good and its easier to give it your best.  The hospitality was incredible, lots of smiling faces and the after party jam was brilliant.  Got to hang with my good buddy Scott Holt and catch up with many old friends and new.

beartoothpass

Bear Tooth Pass

The cool thing about touring is that you get to do some touristy stuff along the way.  Since we were heading to Montana for the Magic City Blues Festival, we thought it would be fun to visit Yellowstone National Park.   We had one day to do it in and we were determined to see as much as possible.  For those who don’t know much about Yellowstone, it’s renowned for its geysers.  “Old Faithful” is the biggest- shooting hot water high into the air.  But there are hundreds of little geysers as well.  The wildlife is prevalent throughout the park.  But it’s the tourists that make you laugh the most.  We saw some Japanese tourists with their little kids jump right in front of a huge male buffalo with horns, like it was a dairy cow!  It’s no wonder that park rangers are constantly on the prowl, looking for tourists doing stupid things.  We spent the whole day in Yellowstone, leaving through the North East entrance taking us to Billings, Montana.  We didn’t realize that the road that we took, snaked its way right up to the top of Bear Tooth Pass, some 13000 feet high.  We reached the summit right on sunset.  It was amazing but scary at the same time.  Not a drive for the faint of heart, just take a look at our GPS!

Now into the second week of August- we had a set at the Magic City Blues Festival in Billings, Montana.  The Friday night show was held downtown in the street.  Some cool acts were performing – Johnny Lang and The London Souls.  We had a great spot just before Johnny Lang- so the crowd was large and into it. The next day I had to do three didgeridoo workshops at the other festival site.  I wasn’t sure how they would go across but all three were really well attended.  My band “Midwest Kind” and I got to see Trombone Shorty perform- who put on a very solid set.  The whole band were very talented.  We also caught a few songs of Charlie Musslewhite and Ben Harper – who were very laid back compared to the driving funk of Trombone Shorty. 22 hours and 46 minutes later, we made it back to Michigan for two whole days off then we were on the road again to New York for three shows.

The next week, wow it was HOT- right up around 100 F.  We had a hot and sticky set at 8.30pm at the Old Capitol State Blues Festival in Springfield Illinois.  The band before us were soaked in sweat from head to foot.  It wasn’t so bad for us, but it was muggy as hell.   Got to hang out with Victor Wainwright and his band.  Good bunch of guys!  Then it was on to the Paola Roots Festival in Paola, Kansas.   We had a 5.50pm set and man its was sooo hot- 106 F but it had to be even hotter on stage especially with the stage lights on.   Thankfully it was only a 50 minute set.  But it was one of the hottest sets of music, in terms of temperature I’ve ever performed. It was rough.  The sun was blaring right in my face.  I did my best, and so did my guys.  I had a killer headache afterwards.  Thankfully the hospitality folks really looked after me and the band.  We had an air conditioned tour bus, with load of eats and drinks.  They even supplied me with some headache tablets and let me keep the bottle.

Now at the end of August, we have The Snowy Range Music Festival in Laramie, Wyoming coming up this weekend, which I’m told is an awesome festival. The touring will slow down a bit in September with a few club dates and two festivals. So we will all get to take a breather!   Then in late October we will head to Australia for a very short but sweet tour. I will be bringing my American band “Midwest Kind” with me.  I will have Mike Howe on lead guitar, James Norris on bass guitar and Greg Sauceda on drums.  We have the Sydney Blues and Roots Festival and The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues coming up plus a few club dates. We will be launching the new “Live at The Blues Museum” CD.  But mainly it’s a chance for me to visit my folks. My parents are getting up there in years and it’s been well over 7 years since my last trip.  So I will be heading to Perth with my wife Bobbi to visit the relos and have a little R and R.  Here are our shows:  Hope to see you all out on the road.
Cheers Peter D. Harper

 

HARPER AND MIDWEST KIND AUSTRALIAN TOUR
“THE SHORT BUT SWEET TOUR”

Fri Oct 24:—8pm—German Harmonie Club–Narrabundah, ACT.
www.harmonieclub.com.au

Sat Oct 25:—5.45pm—Sydney Blues & Roots Festival–Windsor, NSW.
www.sydneybluesfestival.com.au

Sun Oct 26:–3.30pm—Towradgi Beach Hotel–Towradgi, NSW.

Tues Oct 28:–8pm–Royal Standard Hotel, West Melbourne. Vic.
www.mbas.org.au

 Sat Nov 1:—-8.30pm—Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, Wangaratta, Vic.
www.wangarattajazz.com

Harper’s official website: www.harper.biz

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