Foghorn Stringband Down Under!

First, the nutshell version….then read on for more detail…

Yes indeed, we’ve gone off to the other side of the world to share our music with those people way down there! But not before a little stop in the Hawaiian Islands! But first, to catch you up, as it’s been quite some time since the last update… You may want to grab a cuppa and a comfy chair, because there is a lot to say….

That’s because the fall was so busy! In early September, Foghorn had a couple of weeks off, so Sammy and Nadine toured for a few shows with Jesse Lege and Joel Savoy around the West Coast. Reeb and Caleb used that time to do a few shows with the Caleb Klauder Country Band, and then headed out to Central Washington to help build a dancehall empire for the hitchin’ of Reeb’s sister. The Willms’ really came together to put on a heck of a party out on the farm!

Then we all came back together for a tour that took us first to the Bay Area for the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention, where we played a square dance and concert with Dirk Powell, and a Cajun dance with Suzy and Eric Thompson. from there we flew out the Midwest for the Boats and Bluegrass Festival out on the banks of the Mississippi. We also played in Madison, and ended the tour in Minneapolis with a double bill with our pals, the Cactus Blossoms. We had a nice time visiting with Sammy’s family with a little celebration for him and Nadine, the newlyweds!

October took us on a long tour where we drove and drove. We played our first gig in Boise, a house concert there, then headed for Winnemucca to perform at the Martin Hotel, and in typical fashion, it was an epic night for music there. Maybe the big Basque supper had something to do with it, but I think it’s the people. They really come out of the woodwork around there, and they are ready for a good time! We played a house concert in Salt Lake that next day, and then we carried on all the way to Moab where we were scheduled to play a wedding there. I’ll never forget the band of brothers on the dance floor, one of whom was the groom, laughing and dancing late into the night. Rowdy bunch they were. We had a couple of days off driving to LA then, where we played at the Mint. It’s ironic how the biggest cities, sometimes make for the least energetic shows. I think people must just have too much to do all the time in the city. We had a night off again then and got to spend a rejuvenating day in Big Sur with some friends on their beautiful farm on the bluffs above the sea. We finished that crazy driving tour teaching a long weekend workshop at Walker Creek Ranch near Petaluma. Then it was rush home and pack up everything we needed for a month long tour to Hawaii and Australia. A couple of days at home hardly felt like enough, but sometimes, that’s how life is for us… Now onto the big tour down under!

We had the pleasure of stopping off in the fair Hawaiian islands for four days for a gig en route to Aussie. Our good pals Lucas Hicks and Jenny Lara joined us there, Hicks hired to call squares, and Lara to oversee and photograph. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves fully there, jumping in the sea, drinking piña coladas, and enjoying the tropical clime. We were there four days, and only had one performance, so we really got to relax! Hicks and Lara went back to the mainland, and we four Foghorns went on to have a fabulous nearly month-long tour of Australia, starting out with a bang at a sweet festival in the small village of Dorrigo, and played around 21 shows up and down New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and Victoria, getting as far south as Melbourne before we made our way back to Sydney to go our respective ways.

We all managed to avoid death by crocodile, shark, spider or snake, and the worst we had to deal with was the intense sunlight, petting baby animals, and the immensely friendly people. They can really talk! Our tour went over famously, and each night it seemed the house was full, and the audience enthusiastic, welcoming, and appreciative. We enjoyed meeting and befriending folks all along the way who took us in and hosted us at their homes, giving us the richest experience four traveling musicians could have. The landscape was gorgeous, and we saw some very different regions along our way. We had our share of friendly animal experiences as well… which actually started with a lack of animal sightings altogether, particularly of kangaroos which everyone said we’d see absolutely everywhere. This spawned Caleb’s latest pop hit: I Don’t Believe In Kangaroos. Later however, we saw a great many kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, strange birds, pythons; it’s like all those National Geographic photos were real! Caleb altered the words of his song to fit and thankfully ceased to sing it multiple times a day God bless him.

After the tour, Sammy and Nadine headed for the Yukon via Hawaii, and I can only imagine the temperature extremes they’ve experienced! Caleb and Reeb went off for a short duo tour of New Zealand and then home to Portland. What an adventure we all had! Not to mention, I sort of feel like we cheated a bit getting a couple extra months of summer weather!


And now, for more detail… If you aren’t bored yet, I will reflect further….

Hawaii. October 17-21, 2013. We were hired to play at a conference and by golly if they didn’t put us up at the Four Seasons Resort for four nights! Not to mention we shared the bill with a classical violinist and cellist, as well as Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead! The conference was held on the island of Lanai, which, though some among us had been to Hawaii before (the three gals) none had been to Lanai before.

As aforementioned, we hired Lucas Hicks to come along as our square dance caller, and his fair sidekick Jenny Lara came along to oversee and photograph the event. Now, we kept ourselves plenty busy with swims in the warm blue sea multiple times a day and night, snorkeling, walks in the forest, looking out for dolphins, proper games of croquet on the vast and perfectly manicured croquet lawns, glow in dark putt putt golf on a world class 18 hole course, and perhaps the pinnacle of our existence there, drinking piña coladas in the salt water hot tub in the salt water pool, overlooking the ocean!

Now, we may be worldly, but I guess we weren’t quite used to being waited on hand and foot. Not that it was too hard to get used to. Seemed like every time I turned around, someone was offering me some kind of towel. “Hot towel Miss?” “Cold towel Miss?” “Miss, would you like a beach towel?” “Would you like a dry towel Miss?” Not to mention, we merely had to appear at the beach before someone was setting out a chaise lounge with an umbrella, and offering us some cold sliced fruit, a smoothie, or an Evian spritz. Totally used to that now.

As ridiculously luxurious as it was, and as much as I think it absurd that people pay loads of money for vacations like that when there is simply so much to be thankful for, and much good work yet to be done in the world, I will say, it was an unforgettable experience, and we made the most of it after an extremely busy tour schedule this year. It was quite relaxing and rejuvenating, and everyone needs that in some form. Did I mention that when we would come back to our rooms after an afternoon at the beach, the blinds would be drawn, bed covers turned back, ice bucket filled, and any stray clothes left about would be neatly folded at the foot of the bed?

Now, Australia! October 22 – November 18, 2013. We followed in the footsteps of Sammy and Nadine, who toured Australia last year at this time. Foghorn Stringband was eagerly awaited by folks in Australia, and that made our trip quite fulfilling. Thanks to Nadine who booked us a grand tour! It would have been much harder to leave Lanai if it hadn’t been for the fact that our next adventure awaited. We said our goodbyes to Hicks and Lara. I can’t believe no one offered me a hot towel upon my arrival in Sydney! Furthermore, we were sprayed with pesticide, while still in the quarantine, a routine entry into Australia. They should take some hospitality lessons from the Hawaiians! With all respect, the Australians proved to be very hospitable. We stayed that first night in Sydney at the home of Wags, Caleb’s mother’s friend from high school. And though we wouldn’t meet her until later in the trip, she left us a sweet note, comfortable beds, and a bagful of snacks and wine for our trip. Now that’s hospitality! We drove about 6 hours the next day, with a stop off at our new friends Dougie and Glenny Rae’s house to pick up the bass we would be borrowing for the entire tour. Most generously, the rental fee was a case of cheap Australian beer. Thank goodness for bass player karma! We arrived in Dorrigo after a windy canyon drive in the dark, landing at the Dangar Falls Lodge, our home for the weekend festival, sponsored by our musician friends the Dears, who joined us there and cooked beautiful meals all weekend.

Next morning we awoke to the strangest sounds! Caleb and Nadine described it as an old-timey dial up router mixed with all sorts of loud foreign monkey jungle sounds. Well, it was just birds, but seriously! It was the strangest and most delightful thing to wake up to at dawn! The view from our veranda was of the plateau, rolling green hills, eucalyptus trees, sheep and cattle grazing. Kangaroos? Not yet! We started the weekend teaching a two-day workshop that included instruction on guitar, singing, fiddle, and mandolin. Then the Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival began. And a fine festival it was, quaint and intimate, yet full of energy and enthusiasm from young and old. The concerts were held in an old wooden hall, and at night the place was packed wall to wall, and with people peering in from the wide-open side doors. This was probably our biggest audience of the tour. Outside under the stars, a few hot barrel fires staved off the chilly night air, and folks carried on into the wee hours playing sessions or enjoying the scene. There were lots of Australian bands featured in the festival, many of whom we befriended and would run into later in the tour. It was a bang up way to commence our Australian tour, and the Dears kept us good company and well imbibed at the lodge.

When it was time to leave Dorrigo, we had a Monday night off and were kindly hosted by our friends The Pitts Family Circus on their beautiful farm in Barker’s Vale. Where the @#!&! is Barker’s Vale? They taught us how to play backyard cricket (which I think may have been a very dumbed-down version for the benefit of all) and we grilled some good food and had a fire under the stars. They warned us not to walk around barefoot as there were very poisonous snakes about. Earlier in the night they had showed us the underbelly of a resident python living in the kitchen rafters. No big deal! Next night in the nearby town of Kyogle, we played in the beautiful Memorial Institute Hall, sharing the bill with the Barkers Vale Brothers, (related to the Pitts Family Circus). It was a fine show and well attended. We drove to Stokers Siding the next day, with the Barker’s Vale Brothers to play a private party. We stopped on the way for a nice swim in a forest river swimming hole. Local lore claims it is so deep the bottom has never been found. In Stoker’s Siding at the next-door vintage shop, Caleb discovered in the window something he could not live without: genuine, antique crocodile shoes! Only problem was, he couldn’t quite squeeze his feet into them. Luckily, his trusty sidekick Reeb, with feet just slightly more petite, took it for the team and kept those shoes within Caleb’s scope of ownership. Now what am I supposed to do with a pair of croc shoes?! They are actually quite beautifully made, just a bit eccentric.  (Note: I later forgot my dress shoes in Sydney, departed Australia, and ended up having only the croc shoes to wear for each and every gig we played in New Zealand!!) That night we stayed in the town of Bellingen, located in a region called the Promised Land, and for good reason, with some dear friends, Scott and Jay and their two sweet kids. And we stayed with Jay’s very sweet folks the next night in Kinkumber over in Central  Coast, after playing at a local restaurant, Lizotte’s for a small, but very warm audience. They had the coziest little house and next morning, Nadine got to feed a resident wild parrot, yes, they have brilliant rainbow colored parrots just flying around like a bunch of sparrows in Australia. No big deal. Kangaroos? No sightings yet.

It was by then November 1, and we drove south to Wollongong, home to one of the most beautiful clear water beaches I’ve ever seen. Since we had some time before our sound check, Sammy and Nadine remembered a great fish shop on the way to the beach and we picked up some oysters and prawns and had a nice messy lunch sitting in the sand, the mess easily remedied by a jump in the sea afterward. We all had a great time body surfing in the waves, and Caleb was the stronghold, playing in the waves for what seemed like hours. I guess his grandpa was quite an expert body surfer, so the passion must’ve trickled down through the genes. Another great thing about Australia is that everywhere you go near the coast there are free saltwater swimming pools! They pump in ocean water and goodness, who needs chlorine?! So nice for getting some good exercise! Wollongong’s pool was Olympic sized, and Australians young and old were keeping fit. We played that night at the local veteran’s club, and stayed with our Australian sponsor, Val and her husband Wayne.

Next, off to the big city of Sydney! And what an iconic city it is, and not only because of the famous opera house. It also has a great energy about it, huge remarkable botanical gardens right in the middle of the city, planted with plants and trees originating from every corner of the earth, and beautiful beaches round every corner of the extensive harbor waterways and outer coastline. We got to explore for a couple days here as we played in the city two nights. Our friends Jacinta and Terry hosted us, as well as Wags again. We played at the Sydney Old Time Get Together the first night, and several bands performed and lots of folks crammed into the hall with ladies in the back cooking up delicious sausage rolls and cakes. The second night we played a packed house at the Roxbury Hotel.

We traveled next to the state of ACT, the small capital state, and the city of Canburra. Everyone warned us it may be terribly boring there, what with all the politicians and beaurocrats everywhere, but I have to say, they were wrong! This must be thanks in part to our hosts, Donal and Carrie Baylor who helped promote the show. Donal is a well-known Australian bluegrass player who we had met in Dorrigo. We played at a tiny coffeehouse bar and art gallery called The Front. And though the night began slowly, it ended with a bang, a crowded house cheering and cheering. For a Tuesday night, those beaurocrats and office workers came out strong!  The next morning was the morning we finally saw our kangaroos; of course, Sammy and Nadine had already had the experience the previous year when they had toured Australia as a duo, but for Caleb and I it was a first! We went on a morning walk in the hills at the edge of town and came upon a vast mob of kangaroos! We were able to get quite close for some good photos, and even saw some with joeys in the pouch! Caleb believed in kangaroos at last!

Next we found ourselves in the tiny village of Yea. We played a house concert style gig there at the local community house. Our good pal from Ireland, currently living in Melbourne, Suzy McCarthy came out for the show and it was a small but warm crowd, a sold out show. I think they need to find a bigger venue! You think Yea is wacky town name, guess what they call themselves? Yealians! They even have t-shirts, which each of us now own. We found the Southern Cross that night looking up at the stars after the show. Thursday the 7th we carried on with Suzy to Melbourne to play at a charming venue called the Northcote Social Club. Melbourne is quite a nice city, and we were hosted by Suzy there. Her housemates were very courteous to comply to her bringing the likes of us into their very crowded house. The show was grand and we shared the bill with a creative duo we’d met in Dorrigo called Oh Pep.

Bendigo Blues and Roots Festival kept us working through the weekend, and we played all the cheerful blues fiddle tunes we could think of. We got in a visit to the Bendigo Woollen Mills, a local mecca for knitters, and got Nadine all stocked up for her latest project. We played in a bar, in the park, taught workshops, played at a hotel, and ended the festival with an epic Sunday night show in the basement of the Gold Mine Hotel in a tiny stone room that was packed to the gills with people. It soon got very warm in there from all the body heat, and there was a row of hip, handsome young lads sitting on the floor right in front of the stage, gazing up at us with admiration! It’s always such a pleasant surprise when young “cool kids” think old time music is super cool! ‘Cause it is of course! And they should think that!  I think we all could have played there for hours more. But the show had to end sometime, and we had a long drive to our lodgings that night out in Blackwood, the tiny mountain town where our friends the Dears live. We were hosted all weekend by a very hospitable Scottish couple, Richard and Aeysha at their beautiful homestead out in the countryside. They fed us lavishly from the garden, we ate our first kangaroo, and Richard, being a wine-maker, kept us quite lubricated by insisting that we sample all of his wines! Needless to say, we were a cheerful group at their place!

Hard to believe at this point in the tour that we had but a week left in Australia. Time flies as they say. Blackwood was a restful place for us, even though we stayed up late with the Dears all three nights we were there. Down south there it was still quite chilly at night, and we came home late to their cold and seemingly empty house. But the far off sounds of merriment came to our ears, sounding a bit like a radio left on in some distant room, and we discovered the lot of them holed up in the parlor with a roaring fireplace, for they’d played a gig that night too, and the house hadn’t warmed up yet, and soon enough we had glasses of scotch in hand and our tiredness was staved off awhile longer.

They put on a workshop and concert there at the Blackwood Academy next day, housed in a charming little church in the center of town, and afterwards, everyone gathered at the local cafe for a delicious dinner prepared for us there. We had the day off next day, and I think we did mostly nothing at all and it was quite nice! Nadine and Lache (one of the Dear sons) prepared a delicious dinner for our final night there, and topped it off with the most amazing date cake! Holy crap it was mouth watering!

We played on Nov. 12 at the Berrinja Cafe in Upwey, a burb outside Melbourne. And the next night at the town pub in Yinnar, a small town with a huge showing! They said about 800 live in the town and I think the house was sold out at around 200! That is a high ratio of attendance! We were hosted and fed by the local stringband, an epic 13-member band – a bunch of characters who pretty much founded the local music scene, and host a regular jam to get more locals of all ages out to learn and play music. Cool scene. Another highlight of Yinnar was that one of the string band members took us to see his friend who runs her own grassroots animal shelter. And that really was an amazing experience. She’s got a big heart, devoting herself to saving baby animals! She had wombats, kangaroos, an owl, wallabies… And we got to hold them and bottle feed them, and holy crap, wombats are soooo cute!

We had a day off and drove north and arrived late at John and Pam’s homestead in Narrigundah, a small town up in the hills above Narooma. They were there to welcome us and help us settle in. We enjoyed a visit with them and got to wake up in the morning to their beautiful gardens and a lovely river flowing by. We had the day there to go on a walk (where we saw a shy liar bird!) and rest. That night we played a show nearby down some dirt country roads in the old Ag Bureau, a gorgeous corrugated metal building filled with good country folk and lots of hors d’oeuvres and cookies. It was a rowdy show and some drove from as far as three hours away to see us play! We also saw possums who had infiltrated the green room! The next day we played in nearby Narooma at the Quarterdeck, a delicious restaurant that actually sits on pilings over the sea. Needless to say, fresh seafood was the fare, and the oysters harvested from just out the back door were about as fresh as you could get them! Raw with lemon! So good! The house was sold out and it was a great crowd.

We drove into Sydney on the 17th for our final show of the tour. We played again at the Roxbury Hotel, round two. The first was such a success that the promoter asked us if we’d do another before we left the country. We weren’t sure if people would come again, but I think it may have been even more packed than the first show! It was a bittersweet night, a great show, but sadly the end of our time in Australia! The next day, we all went our separate ways, Caleb and Reeb to New Zealand to play a little tour, and Sammy and Nadine for some shows and well-earned R&R in Hawaii, and then on to the Yukon for the holidays! To hear more about New Zealand, check out, and to hear more about Hawaii and the Yukon, check out Thanks to Australia for a fine adventure!