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78° North

Oct 19, 2016 - We arrived in Oslo, Norway this morning after an over night flight from Ottawa.

We usually have to run to a gig as soon as we arrive in Europe, but this time we actually had the day off. Tomorrow, we leave first thing in the morning for the Colorline Blues Cruise.

Thurs, Oct 20 - While we were waiting to be picked up for the cruise this morning, JW and I killed time by comparing our lucky socks...

(in the battle of lightning bolts vs polka dots, I think I win).

It turns out a bunch of bands going on the cruise were all staying at the same hotel. We got picked up together, and drove out to the ship.

We found this guy on the way to the boat... you can't take us anywhere without things getting silly...

We got all settled in, and I even have my very own adorable little room complete with a port hole window.

I think the most shocking part of this room is that you could actually sleep 4 people in here. See those panels in the ceiling? They fold out into extra beds. Luckily, it's just me in here. You can't tell from this photo, but about 3 seconds later the entire contents of my suitcase exploded all over the room. Yep, I'm a messy person.

I’ve never been on a big cruise ship like this before, or even slept on a boat, and I have to say it’s all somewhat overwhelming. This place is enormous, and has many shops, restaurants, and bars...

And this super fancy restaurant, which is at least double as fancy just because it's on a boat. many titanic jokes, so little time...

We spent most of the day wandering around the ship exploring, then in the evening, we performed in this massive room…

Here are a few shots from the show...

​Another cool thing about being on this boat, is that there are tons of other great bands to check out, including Sugar Ray Rayford. We actually met him once before in Phoenix , AZ, so it was really cool to see him again. Man, this guy can sing!

Fri, Oct 21 - Today I had more time to really explore the ship. It was pretty cold outside, so I had the "sun deck" all to myself.

And more time to check out great bands, like Egidio Juke Ingala and the Jacknives, a sweet group from Italy.

We played again this evening, back on the same crazy stage.

The people on this boat sure know how to party.

Also, you can't put a bunch of blues musicians on a boat without it turning into a huge jam at some point...

And this is how the three of us jokers look standing on a boat.

Sat, Oct 22 - As soon as we got off the ship this morning, we got straight into a van to drive 7 hours to play at the Fjord Blues Festival in Sandane.

Egidio Juke Ingala & the Jacknives were also playing the same festival, so we all travelled together. They are a really great group of people/musicians, and although we were a bit squished, it was a nice change to travel with another band. We are so often on the road for weeks or months at a time, and barely see other bands at all. It’s so cool to chat with others who are going through similar experiences.

The drive had some pretty beautiful scenery, and there was even a short ferry ride.

We arrived with enough time for sound check, dinner, and a quick rest before the show.

We got to open for the Danielle Nicole Band, and hang with them after the show. And of course we got to hang with our new friends from Italy too...

(JW-Jones band + Egidio Juke Ingala & the Jacknives - 1 bassist...)

Sun, Oct 23 - We had to leave first thing this morning to head back to Oslo. I can’t get enough of this amazing Norwegian landscape.

Mon, Oct 24 - A day off meant time to explore Oslo, the capital of Norway. Figuring out how to get around in another country is always a challenge, but it’s also half the adventure. We teamed up with Egidio Juke Ingala and the Jacknives to figure it out (after the 14 hours round trip, they are now our new best friends). After a few false starts, we were finally making our way downtown.

Here are some random scenes from around Oslo...

I'm not going to lie, this little girl statue scared the crap out of me when I first saw it...

This one too.

Tues Oct 25 - Tonight we were back together with several more bands from the Blues Cruise, to perform at a charity concert in a church.

We managed to get almost everyone together for a group shot:

And we had lots of time to share laughs and stories backstage before the performance with all of these great bands.

Each band played 2 songs, which sounds easy, but with only a couple minutes to get on and off stage, it was kinda stressful, especially in front of a couple hundred people.

When it was our turn, my cables somehow got all tangled up and wrapped around me and my guitar stand. The MC turned to us to say "all ready?", and I felt like I had been mummified by patch cables... "uh, no, not ready". It probably only lasted 30 seconds, but felt like at least 10 minutes.

The performance went by in a blur, and although I don't often get nervous performing any more, my heart was racing the entire time.

How did all the other bands seem to get on and off stage so gracefully?!?

After arriving back at the hotel, it was still rather early, so we went to hang with Victor Puertas and the Mellowtones (from Spain) over at another hotel cause their lobby was way cooler. We got into a game of foosball, which it turns out I am very bad at.

Wed, Oct 26 - Today was a very long day, since we had to check out of our hotel rooms at 1:30pm, and then spend the rest of the day killing time in the lobby before our night flight to Svalbard.

Egidio Juke Ingala and the Jacknives, as well as Victor Puertas and the Mellowtones were also travelling to Svalbard, and staying in the same hotel, so we were all in the same boat (this time a figurative boat, as opposed to the literal boat we were all in earlier in the tour. Hahaha. Sorry, I couldn't resist). We all made it through by joking around with each other about the long wait, and drinking too many coffees.

I also spent some time learning about Svalbard, and it seems like a pretty unusual place. Watch this video if you feel like knowing more...

The night flight to Svalbard wasn’t too long, but there is one point where they land the plane, make everyone get off and go through customs, then get back on the plane to finish the journey.

There was a nice feeling of camaraderie through it all since it seemed as though everyone on the plane was heading to Svalbard for the Dark Season Blues Festival, just like us. There were a lot of musicians, but also volunteers, and people just planning to attend the festival.

It was 3am by the time we made it to the hotel, and we were immediately handed packages with all of the information and passes we would need for the next few days, and sent off to bed. That's definitely my kind of greeting.

Thurs, Oct 27 - I was pretty excited to wake up in Svalbard today. We are legit in the Arctic, and we won’t see the sun again until we head back to the mainland. This is an island that is more populated by polar bears and snowmobiles than by people. It is the northernmost town with a permanent settlement in the world.

The blue dot in the top right is my current location. The little house on the bottom left is my home in Ottawa.

Getting out and walking around today was not as cold as I expected it would be, since it’s only around 5°C (or 41°F for my American friends).

I wasn’t expecting these cool mountains...

We performed twice tonight. This first show was at the opening concert for the whole festival. Once again, we were sharing the stage with a bunch of bands, and only performing 2 songs each. I learned my lesson last time, though, and carefully wrapped a single (short) cable to bring on stage.

Also, Victor Puertas joined us for a song!

And here's their whole band tearing it up!

(Victor Puertas and the Mellowtones)

Later, we performed in a packed club as the last band of the night. If I thought people could party on a boat, it’s nothing compared to how they party in the arctic.

Fri, Oct 28 - After I saw the mountains yesterday, I knew I had to get out for a hike. There were a couple problems with this plan, though. First of all, no one is allowed to leave the city limits without a gun. Remember how there are more polar bears than people? Well, you don’t want to run into a polar bear without a gun.

The second problem was that I didn’t really bring any appropriate clothing. When I was at home packing, I had figured we wouldn’t be outside too much, and that as long as I put on lots of layers, I wouldn’t need a proper winter coat.

Anyway, it turns out you can hire a guide with a gun to take you on a hike, so that solved the first problem. It also turns out that freezing to death doesn’t bother me all that much. I went ahead and booked the guide, despite reading several warnings about the need for appropriate clothing and footwear.

Then I convinced Mat to join me, even though he was not any better equipped than I was.

I think I managed to cram myself into about 8 or 9 layers of clothes, plus hat, mitts and scarf. The only real problem was that all I had were regular running shoes.

When the guide arrived to pick us up, she looked us up and down like we were crazy and asked if we had any warmer clothes, or better shoes. We both managed to convince her that we would be fine, but she sure didn’t seem confident about it.

We picked up one more person who would be coming along on the hike, and then drove to the edge of town.

We started hiking, and it was totally fine! The ground was mostly dirt since it hadn’t really snowed yet, and after about 10 minutes we were all sweating and removing layers anyway.

As we approached the city limits, we paused to allow our guide a moment to load her gun.

We continued on, and I was still feeling quite warm and comfortable. Then, it started to snow. A lot. At first it just seemed beautiful.

As we continued, though, the snow piled up, making the trail increasingly slippery. The snow was sticking to my clothes, which weren’t really the right type of fabric for the weather.

It didn’t take long for everything to start feeling damp. The good news, though, was that it was still really rough going, so the physical exertion was keeping me toasty warm.