Photo By Cathrine Gosselin
MAKING A SCENE Presents On the Road with an Indie Blues Band – John Pagano Band
We pick up the band as they head to Boston via the Cross Sound Ferry from Orient Point. This is the second week of a three week tour on the road. This is the week that they head for our “anchor” gig of the tour which is the Donnaconna Blues Festival in Canada. We hit Boston, spend three days in Canada with three gigs in Quebec City and Donnaconna including the festival and the festival after party. Let’s take look at the trip this week!
Well today we head off to Boston for a Gig at Thunder Road. We decided it would be in our best interest to take the Cross Sound Ferry from Orient Point on Long Island to New London Connecticut to save alot of time, gas and traffic. Not that we saved alot moneywise as the cost of the ferry for the van and all 4 of us was $104. The fact that we can sit and relax and enjoy the trip on the water was well worth it. We left at 8am to catch the 9:30am Ferry
After a quick 2 hour drive from New London, we arrived in Boston! We first headed over to the venue to see what the story was. Fortunately one of the owners was there who let us take a quick peak of the place, but seemed pretty busy so we headed out to find lunch and do some sightseeing. We ended up checking out the USS Constitution to pass some of time away!
It was finally time to do the Boston Gig, we arrived at the venue and started to load in our equipment. The other bands arrived (there are 3 Band on the show), and since we are the last band, the second band “Lux” agreed to leave their drums on stage for backline. The show started out with the Cosmic Vultures, then Lux hit the stage and then John did his thing. The crowd was light, but the gig paid for our ferry ride over and gas, can’t ask for more than that. We played from 11:15 to 12:30 and by the time we loaded back up, it was after 1AM. We do have to thank David Riley for all his help Before and after the Gig
After looking for some inexpensive hotels in Boston, we realized there are none, so after loading up we decided to drive 2 hours into New Hampshire to find a room. Now, I don’t know what the hell happens in Concord New Hampshire, but for some reason on a Thursday night at 3am in the Morning, EVERY Hotel in Town was booked Solid. Is there anything in Concord New Hampshire, Not that I can find. So for what reason would EVERY Hotel in Town be booked. We asked some of the locals at the gas station, because if anyone knows what is going on it’s people hanging out at a gas station at 3am in the morning, and not of them had a clue what is happening in Concord New Hampshire. As far as we can tell, it’s just because of summer. Not really an answer but we had to live with it. Now think about it, you are tired, you know you have to sleep and EVERY place you check for a room is booked. We finally found a hotel that had 1 room left, so we took it.
It was 3am in the morning, we needed to get some sleep so we headed to the room that was given to us and wouldn’t you know it, someone who had the adjoining room decided to take over the room we just booked and locked it from the inside so we could not get in. So here we are, all four of us standing in a hallway of this hotel, guitars, luggage, laptops, etc. and the room won’t open! John headed down to the front desk to sort it out, and finally they gave us another room (which I am not sure where they got it from since they said they only had this one room left) and we settled in to get some sleep!
When you are a band on a budget, you sometimes have to share a room and sometimes a bed. Fortunately this was not the first time, and it does make for a “Tight” rhythm section.
Today is the day we cross the border into Canada. We decided to hit the road early in anticipation of any problems we may have at the border which was approx 2 hours away. Now, if you have never toured outside the country, even canada, there is a ton of paperwork that has to be in order before they will let you make money and play music in Canada. To John’s credit he had made sure that all his tax documents and working papers were in order and with us. We all had our passports at the ready when we arrived at the border crossing.
Now we get to the guard booth and a very serious border guard started asking us a series of questions, where are you going, how much cash are you bringing in the country, how much is your merch worth, and on and on. After we got through answering all the questions we were directed to park on the side and go into the border office for further processing.
Now we were not sure if we were getting searched or not. We were prepared to have our whole van emptied and then repack it again. The Border guards took our passports to do a background check on us, John had a folder with all the proper paperwork and stood at the counter as the second guard looked through the folder. After about 15mins they handed us our passports and welcomed us to Canada and sent us on our way.
The Strange thing happened as we left the board office. There was a late model chevy with an 80 year old man and three teenage girls, which seemed to be his grandchildren standing by their car as two border agents in full tactical gear is instructing them to stand to the side and away from the car as they prepared to give it a through search. We quickly got in our van FULL of Equipment and got out of there as fast as we could.
The thing with Quebec, is everyone speaks French! Some will have limited English skills, but for the most part if you don’t speak French you are at a disadvantage. I quickly had an appreciation for people who are don’t speak the native language. The Signs on the road, the menus, storefronts, everything is in French!
We had another 2+ hours until we arrived at the hotel that is provided for us for the next 3 days. I sat down at the restaurant that was attached to the hotel and decided to try the National Dish of Quebec “Poutine”. Remember I said everything was in French, so was the menu. I have learned to not ask what is good and not ask what is in it. Now what is Poutine you say? Well Take a whole lot of French Fries, drown them in Beef Gravy and add some soft curd cheddar cheese and you have Poutine! Needless to say, we will quickly have our fill of Poutine in the next 3 days.
At this point I discovered Google Translate! Talk about a lifesaver, communication got alot easier as did our food ordering skills! We all installed it on our phones.
Pub Limoilou and the Lost Drummer
Now our first gig was in Quebec City, an hour drive from the hotel, at a club called Pub Limoilou , a small blues club in a cool section of the city. When we first walked in, the first place I go is to see what is the story with the PA system. It was a standard Mackie powered head, they are ok if you just want to push some vocals, but I don’t believe in cheaping out on the sound. I brought along my Behringer XR-18 Mixer, Laptop and my Mic Case. I sent the outputs of my mixer to the Mackie head and mic’d the Bass Drum, 1 overhead, Bass amp direct, Guitar amp and 2 vocals. I am now able to mix the band from my laptop and the get the balance I want.
The Staff at the club of course did not speak much english, so google translate worked well in our communication. They were very curious as to what I was doing, with all the mic’s. After we loaded in we set our stage volume and I got a good mix on the band for a small club.
Now, the first set was lightly attended, I was starting to feel tired, the sound was pretty much set and there was not much for me to do, so I went in the car to catch a little sleep.
The Second set from what I was told and seen when I woke, really packed out. It seems a group of younger patrons came into the club around Midnight and there was a lot of dancing, screaming and French hollars! It Turns out Quebec is a late night party city!
As for the Lost Drummer, the story I was told is our Drummer Shiloh got off the stage after that set and a young Blonde French Canadian Girl wrapped her arms around him and decided that he was hers for the night. She did not speak any english, but she did not have to when it came to making her intentions clear. Now, we quickly learned when a French Canadian girl has her eyes set on someone she wants, she gets him.
We have a standing rule that, If I cannot get you in 15 mins you can’t go. Shiloh looked at me with this look of “PLEEEASE”, he has been a victim of that rule more than once, and it must have been the lack of sleep, but we left him to her. Not sure if it was the best decision, but he was very happy drummer.
As we packed up the bartender girl came over to me and in broken english told me that I was the best Soundman she has ever heard. I smiled and thanked her, knowing that I can now state as fact, that I can literally do this in my sleep.
We got back to the hotel around 4Am
This is the day the John Pagano Band is performing at the Donnaconna Festival! This was the anchor gig of the tour, and everyone was excited to get to the festival site and check out the show. The Lineup for Saturday night was Spencer Mackenzie, John Pagano Band, Poppa Chubby and Joanna Connor. This promises to be a really great night of music.
My day started by getting up early and made the 1 hour trip back to Quebec city to retrieve Shiloh. I notice a text on my phone at 5:30Am from him letting me know I can pick him at anytime. I pulled up to the club where we played the night before at about 10am and there he was, sitting at an outdoor table looking quite pleased with himself. It was a quiet ride back to the hotel.
Tony Hossri our bass player, went out for a run and went down by the river and did yoga and meditation to prepare for the show, John slept in and rested, and Shiloh went to his room and we did not see him again to it was almost ready to leave.
We made the 20 min drive to the festival site, which was setup with a huge stage under a large circus style tent. Outside the main gate was a village of RV’s and Campers who have come to the festival and staked a claim to their own accommodations. There was this really cool vibe as people were grilling and socializing with each other.
There was one strange item that I could not seem to understand until much later on. It seems there was a barricade that ran down the middle of the audience area. As you looked out from the stage the left side was reserved for people who brought their own seating, and wanted to sit back and relax and enjoy the show. The Right side, well let’s just say that was the side you wanted to be on if you are the more fun loving sort. I have to say it was a little weird to see one side of the crowd sitting and reserved, and the other jumping, shouting and screaming.
They had a wonderful back stage “Lounge” setup for the musicians with a refrigerator stocked with water, soda, Sandwiches, Beer and Wine. Yannick Lambert who booked us for the festival is a musician himself. This gives him the right insight into how to create the right atmosphere and environment for the musicians to give their best performance. There were RV’s Back stage for dressing rooms, and the sound system and staging was amazing. Everything was there to create some magic.
After we had unloaded and we started to settle in backstage Joanna Connor rolled up with her band. I have known Joanna through interviews I have done on Making a Scene, and I have met her several times on the road. So when she rolled up, we recognized each other and like two old friends time and miles all faded.
Now when John Pagano was around 13, Joanna rolled through the town he lived and had brought him up on stage to play with her. John went over and introduced himself to her and reminded her of that night, she smiled and an instant connection was made. Through the night the two talked and laughed.
The show started with Spencer Mackenzie who put on a great set of good straight up blues. I love to see young players doing the time to learn the roots and doing it well.
Next it was time for John and the band to hit the stage. One of the things I do when John plays is to try to gage the crowd reaction. I think after Spencers set, the crowd was not initially ready for what The John Pagano Band Does. They are high energy, in your face Indie Blues. For the first two songs the crowd was literally stunned, by the third song they “Got it” and went wild! By the time they ended their set they have everyone on their feet screaming for more. When John and the band got to the Merchandise tent, it was swamped with new fans that wanted to meet them and get them to sign their CD. John said after the deluge of fans, that this is one of the best shows he has had the pleasure to play.
Photos By Catherine Gosselin
Popa Chubby took the stage after John and continued rocking out the crowd. Which ended with his famous rendition of Hallelujah!
Then Joanna Connor took the stage and set it on fire! Her guitar and slide work was unreal as she unleashed on the crowd. Even the sitting side could not stay seated! This was the perfect ending to a night of Music that Donnaconna won’t soon forget!
Now the thing with being on the road, especially doing festivals, is you get a chance to run into people you know and to meet people you have heard about. This is no exception, as John Pagano and I were heading to our room we ran into Biscuit Miller, an old friend from the road and we started to trade those road stories. As he was telling us about how Zac Harmon broke down and how he and his band got together to help get him to his next gig, in walks in Heather Newman and her band. Now I have interviewed Heather for “Making a Scene” and she was on my cover, but we have never met in person. As it turns out she and Biscuit knew each other from the road and Biscuit was a fan as she was of him. Now we have about 7 or 8 people all crowded in an hotel hallway trading greetings and stories. It’s like a club you belong to just because you are out there. There is a common understanding with musicians that are out on the road, we all know what it takes to make it from gig to gig, whether it’s handing your guitar to someone who just broke a string on stage, or helping a band on the road with a warm bed and a hot meal, they all know the importance of looking out for each other.
This is the day that both Heather Newman and Biscuit Miller perform and we didn’t want to miss their set. Our Gig does not start until 11Pm after the festival ends, so we headed to the festival site early to catch them perform!.
First up was Heather Newman, who I have been a fan of for a while, and as I mentioned I had interviewed her for “Making a Scene” and she was on the cover of the Making a Scene Newsletter. I can tell you that she and the band did not disappoint. Their set was fantastic!
What can you say about Biscuit Miller? Dynamic joy that drifts from the stage and takes control of your soul. He had the crowd up on their feet dancing and screaming for more. To top it off at the last song he brings up John Pagano and turns a Jame Brown Song into an all out Festival in it’s own right.
After Biscuit finished his set we had to leave to setup at Pub O Totem and we missed the headlining act that night. We heard it was a killer set as well with David Gogo, Justin Saladino and Steve Strongman
Now, we get to Pub O Totem, which was down the street from the festival, where we were hired to play the after party for the festival. This was suppose to be an easy 2 hour gig from 11 to 1am, so we started to plan out our next days travel as we were setting up. It’s a Sunday night, we were getting a late start, we figured it would be a fast surge and we would be on our way to the hotel. We would get up early and hit the road by 9 or so, stop in Montreal, see some sights and then head back towards Long Island NY, maybe get a hotel along the way.
As always first thing I did was to check out the PA system, and this time it was a 4 channel Behringer mixer and two Mackie powered speakers that would mounted on the wall BEHIND the band. Of course anyone who has ever done any sound knows, having speakers behind the band is a feedback nightmare. But, we have to work with what We have. I broke out the Xr-18 and my Mic case and setup the same mic system I used for the last club. After we got the soundcheck out the way, we kicked back and ordered some food. The owner of the club added three heaping trays of Poutine as well, of course!
Around 11:30, the crowd started to show up. John started the set on time and as the crowd grew, the music became more intense. By Midnight you could not move! John and whipped the crowd into a total frenzy with everyone dancing and moving to the music. It was then musicians from the festival showed up. Biscuit Miller, Heather Newman, David Gogo, Justin Saladino and Steve Strongman amoung others all came to listen to the band.
Now anytime you have a room full of musicians and a stage you know a Jam is going to happen. John Finished his set and he and the band handed over their instruments. Biscuit and Heather laid down some tunes, with Biscuit on Bass, Heather on Vocals and Shiloh remained on drums. Everyone that wanted to a piece of that stage got a chance to do just that, including the festival promoter Yannick Lambert!
John took the stage one last time for a final set, because the crowd just did not want the night to end. Even after what we thought would be the last song the crowd chanted “play, Play, Play” Until he did one more song. What started out as a 2 hour gig lasted well after 3am in the morning.
We got back to the Hotel about 4:30am, Biscuit, Heather and some of the band were in the resturant, John headed over to say hello and good night and thank them for a great night. And we headed to bed.
Well, our plans to wake up early and head out went straight to hell. We woke up at around 10AM and started to task of packing up the van for the trip back to Long Island NY for two Gigs there. We have given ourselves two days to get from Canada to Long Island NY, so time was not really an issue. We had decided to that we would still stop in Montreal to do some sightseeing and if the traffic gods were with us, we would be able to make it to our destination in Long Island before 1am, if we drove right through.
John is big on sight seeing and wanted to check out some of the sights in Montreal, he had mapped out an itinerary for us which included Notre Dame Church and some hill climb that gave you a view of the whole city. We got into town and parked and headed to “Old Montreal” to have lunch and see some sights. After Lunch, which I have to say was the worst sandwich I have ever had, we headed to the first stop on Johns itinerary, which was Notre Dame. We walked around the church for a bit and then got in the car to head towards the park for the hill climb.
Now to be honest I am not as enthusiastic about sightseeing as the band, I did the church, but the hill climb, not for me. I was tired, we had a long drive ahead of us, and that last thing I wanted to do is hike up some damn hill to view the city of Montreal. So I dropped off the boys at the spot the GPS took me too, and went to find a parking spot to relax while they did their thing. Well that was easier said than done, Montreal like Boston was not an easy city to drive around in. I finally got to spot in the park where I could park, and as soon as I did, I got a call from Tony saying they were done and come get them. Well, it turns out they were on the other side of the park and according to the GPS I had an 18 min drive to get back around to picking them up. As they say in Montreal C’est la vie.
Crossing the Boarder
We finally made it to the US border and got in line to present our passports to the border guard. We pull up to the booth and handed him our passports. He takes a good look at John and I in the front seats and tells us to open all the windows. He takes the passports and one at a time identifies each of us, takes a look at our loaded up van of equipment and says “What were you doing in Canada?” , John responds we are a band and we were playing a festival. “what is the name of the band?” he asks John Responds “John Pagano Band”. He takes another look at the equipment and asks “what Kind of Music you play?” , John tells him Blues rock, or Indie Blues. Then he looks right at Tony Hossri, who by the way is of Lebanese decent and asks “Do you have anything to declare besides that pipe in his lap” referring to the VAP pipe Tony was holding. At this very moment each of us were struck with confusion and dred. Now what? Are we going to be search at the US Border? Are they going to take away our bass player? The border guard smiled and said “You guys have a nice day and a good trip” and collectively we all let out a sigh of relief and headed across the US border.
I would like to take this time to thank all the wonderful people we met in Canada. The people of Quebec are warm fun loving. They are quick to give you a smile and a welcoming Bonjour!
To all our new Canadian friends the John Pagano band would like to say “Merci pour vos coeurs chaleureux et vos âmes joyeuses”
We made it to Long Island NY at 12:30am, which gave us a full day of rest for the next day. The next show was not until Wednesday at the Jones Beach Bandshell.
This was a welcomed day of rest, Everyone took the opportunity to sleep in. The Band watched TV, went out jogging together and had Lunch. Shiloh had a dinner date for the night and the rest of us had meatball subs and salad for dinner. Now, during the day we got some interesting news that was a direct result of some videos that were uploaded on facebook from the festival. I can’t say anything yes about what transpired, but I am sure that by friday I will have confirmation and will be able to let you all know. So look for part 3 next week as we finish the tour with The Jones Beach Bandshell, Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, Sellersville Theater in PA, Madams Organ in DC and the Pour House in Raleigh NC!
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If you missed any of the other articles you can read them here