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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday: Sun Valley

Notes from the ChildLine Rocks charity motorcycle ride through BC, AB, MT and ID:

Still no access to the desk, but I did all my pre-show writing on a table next to a duck pond with a mountain in the background, under an intense sun floating in a blue sky. Screw manners, I'll take it outside.

Having spent a week on the road with members of The Union and Thunder, I was looking forward to watching them in their element – the stage. I’d gotten to know them as guys who rode motorcycles and played an instrument or sang, now I’d be able to see them do what they do. The most pleasant hours of the entire trip were spent in their company, so it was fun to watch them go into Tour Mode when we hit the hotel last night. They went from guys on motorcycles making jokes and enjoying life, to professional musicians who know exactly how to arrive at a hotel as a working musician - all the while not losing the ability to be friendly with the people they've spent time with. Impressive.

Because of local scheduling and an ice skating show at the adjacent outdoor ice arena, the show kicked off at 5:00 PM with a rousing set by Marina V on piano accompanied by acoustic guitar. The highlight of her set was a Russian folk song about a tree that falls in love with another tree on the opposite riverbank who realizes she is a tree and she’ll never be with the one she loves. Marina sang it in Russian but nothing was lost in spite of the lack of translation. When it comes to making you want to kill yourself, nothing comes close to a Russian folk song.

The Union took the stage next and ripped through tunes from their debut album and the forthcoming set they are currently preparing to record. Good, loud rock and roll filled up the arena. Pete Shoulder, the lead singer, has the rockstar swagger only a few people are born with. That swagger, mixes in with a bluesy, time-worn voice that transcends everyday arena rock and takes the listener to that elusive plane of story-telling by way of music.

Thunder hit the stage a little before 7PM, and even though it was a bit early for a rock show, the light of the sun playing off the brown and gold hills surrounding the arena more than made up for the lack of a light show. I had only been marginally aware of Thunder during their 1990s heyday, as I was traveling a divergent musical road at the time, a point I came to regret as I listened to them blister through a set of their greatest hits. Watching their core fans fill the arena with energy also added to the power of the show. One fan even drove 1700 miles from Hackensack, NJ, to catch this one-off show. It was fun to meet a fellow Garden Stater after a week away from the land of diners and toll booths. Even though they haven’t played a gig in three or more years, the band was tight and powerful, and honestly one of the best live acts I have seen in quite some time.

All in all it was a great show, and the early hour at the end of the last encore made my tired motorcycling muscles happy indeed.

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