Voted Ben's Most Interesting Venue
We've played a lot of interesting venues over the years, it only seems right to acknowledge the more interesting ones.
When you get the call you go. You always have in mind what kind of venue you want to play in because you know your show and the needs you have in order for it to come across in the best possible way. Small interruptions break the flow and distract the audience, and because a performance is a memory-maker it stand to reason that it'll take some time to get the audience back on the same track as you.
Case in point, back in the fall of 1998 I was on stage with Jake Peters and Bryn Thiessen, at an awards night where I was to recieve the Shell Silver Spur Award. The crowd was right in our pocket, nothing could go wrong. Jake and I had just finished one song and I was setting up the next tune when in that very quiet spot where I took a breath to say the next sentence there came a deafening hork from the back of the room somewhere. Someone's sinuses was clogged and evidently this was the time and place to clear them. The whole room froze - what in the world do you do to break the ice that's froze everybody to their seats? I looked back at Bryn whose head was down between his knees bobbing as his shoulders shook from unstoppable laughter. He was glad he wasn't behind the mic at that moment.
Jake simply moves up to the mic and says "Wow - did you hear that guy hork?!" That was just what was needed - it brought the house down and we were back in the game. That little interruption that breaks the flow.
But back to venues - some are built to enhance the performance, and some are - well, enhancement breakers. But they're all part of this adventure that we know as our life on the road.
It was so cold in that little bar in Sidney, Montana, that there was ice cubes in the urinal in the men's room.
We've played small rural halls built in the '40s where the electricity all runs off one breaker. This is fine until somebody plugs in a coffee pot for the potluck meal to follow the show. We've played outdoor Stampede Breakfasts under the blazing hot sun up against the south side of a church in Calgary, and just as hot inside at the Big Muddy Outlaw Festival in Coronach, SK, where it was 40 degrees outside and inside the arena with no air flow. We've played to an audience of 20 in a small hall in Alberta's Peace country and to 5000 at Calgary's Jubilee Auditorium with Stuart McLean, where the applause seemed to be in stereo. We've sang to snowbirds in the Phoenix valley's RV Resorts, to eastern farmers in Malone NY, to southern belles and gentlemen in Baton Rouge LA, and an ag society fall get-together at a bar in Sidney MT where it was so cold there was ice cubes in the urinal in the men's room. And that's no lie.
But after all the votes are in and the numbers is tallied, we have come to the conclusion that the most interesting room is in Viking, AB. We played the Viking Festival, where the whole town turns back the clock and wears helmets with horns and camps outside in period costume, food and tents. We were showed to the room that we would play that night, arguably the skinniest and longest room I have ever seen. It was all one long hallway. Seems that there was a need for a theatre but no building suitable for one in the entire town. So they built a wall at one side of the bowling alley, brought in theatre seating (three on one side, two on the other). The stage was barely big enough for one but we found a way to get both of us up at the same time. We set the speakers up as high as we could so that the folks in the front wouldn't lose their hearing and them at the back could pick up what we were singing.
Each room has been awesome in its own way, and the fun of it is that each place, being completely unique, makes each setup and each show something brand new. That's why we're always smiling, ain't nothing boring about this life.