Category Archives: Social Commentary

Three Wax Mannequin Shows and Two Festivals

Aug16: Jack of Clubs Pub w/Wax Mannequin, Wells BC
Aug17: CJ’s w/Wax Mannequin, Williams Lake BC
Aug18: Westwood Pub w/Wax Mannequin, Prince George BC
Aug20: MUSIC ON THE MOUNTAIN, Fort St.James BC **
I got one ridiculous week ahead of me.  It starts with travelling to Dunster BC all for the chance to stand on a big stage that faces gorgeous mountains and sing to the marvellous folks that are going to ROBSON VALLEY MUSIC FESTIVAL.  We’re all happy because it’s a 7pm set, the only time all summer we are scheduled to play early.  There will be kids there so don’t expect us to play that stupid fucking Andrew Neville song haha.
Then next week starts off by playing a set of three shows with one of my favorite performers, Wax Mannequin.  I met him at my first Artswells, to put that in perspective this past one was my 11th.  Already then I loved what he did, there’s no one else like him.  No one else writes songs like he does or commands the stage in such an epic yet silly manner.  Wax Mannequin is as good as it gets!!  I’m glad he’s my friend and I’m glad we’ve been able to work together so much over the years despite living 4000km away.
Then it all winds up for me at MUSIC ON THE MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL in Fort St.James BC.  It’s the lastival for nearly all of us, although I do have the Barkerville Cowboy Festival coming up in September.  We have the extreme honor of sharing the stage with the legendary punk band DOA!!  I mean come on folks, this is a big frickin deal.  We go 1-2 on the mainstage that Saturday night and it is sure to be a highlight of my year.
Then things slow down before I go on the warpath to promote NO MORE TROUBLE IN THE PEACE, our band new ass kicking album.  See you on the trail folks.

Original Six Outlaws…#2: Rick McCallion on Bass

March 3rd 2016 will mark 10 years since the first Outlaw Band pilot show at Spartacus Books in Vancouver BC.  Today’s blog is about how Rick came to be our bassist for the first 2.5 years.



For a couple years Rick was the most dedicated and most important member of the band.  We generally rehearsed at his place, he updated web pages, made sure other members had cheat sheets and owned the fleet of Dodge Caravans that we ran into the ground.  Like everyone else involved it seems to me a real coincidence I got to know Rick so well while its an unlikelyhood that he would have become a bass player in our band.  After all, he wasn’t even a musician when I first met him.

It was during a long rainy spell in February 2003 that I ended up down

Rowan and Rick in Fernie BC, November 2007. This was the last show we did that year, they went to Vancouver and Leah and I moved to Nanton Alberta for six months.

Rowan and Rick in Fernie BC, November 2007.

in Richmond BC to see about this house sitting gig.  I had only been in Vancouver a few months at this point but had already been through a lot settling into life on the coast.  I had been a homeless squatter with pnuemonia, a member of the legendary Woodwards occupation and had basically couched surfed/house sat through three different places afterward.  By this point I was actually sleeping on a bed made of my own clothes in a heatless appartment my friend had which was only made more bearable by my -20 rated down sleeping bag.

I had no idea what I was going to do with myself, or where I was going to go in life so depression was quickly taking over my thoughts.  The weather was so dreary and the dampness seemed colder than I ever could have imagined.  My health wasn’t well and I barely had a dollar to my name.  I had dreams that I felt I was impossibly far away from.  I was still organizing with the Anti-Poverty Committee in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside but I found myself missing the Tenant Action Group comrades back in Belleville Ontario.  I didn’t feel like I had any friends on the coast and in some ways I can say those feelings were justified.

However there were people who I seemed to have affinity with.  One of them was this sorta strange and gentle character I can only describe as a modern day monk.  His name was Sean and he sported a bald head and a long beard.  He was then and still is a perceptive character with very convincing ideas about the nature of government.  I met Sean at Woodsquat and then other left wing events I happened to be at in the city, he was keen to get involved with things as he could.

One way or another Sean knew I had nowhere to go, and was suffering for it, so he told me he might be able to help.  His housemate Rick was going to go to Gautemala for a project that involved computers, coffee and chocolate so the house would have no one in it for several months.  Sean didn’t actually live in the house as he and another fella named Bob lived in vans parked around the property.

I went out and met Rick one night and we instantly got along.  Without

Zippy on cello, Rick on bass. Robson Valley Music Festival August 2008, our last show together as the original lineup.

Zippy on cello, Rick on bass. Robson Valley Music Festival August 2008, our last show together as the original lineup.

further adieu I was able to stay at Rick’s through most of the spring of 2003.  The property was on the edge of a forested section outside of Richmond directly under the flight path of the big jets coming into YVR which would often rattle the windows on their way overhead.

The living room was great for songwriting and I made good use of it those months I was there.  I’m not sure how many songs I wrote there, or which ones, but I do recall making some progress on my fledgling act.  Rick also had an amazing collection of original 1970’s psychadelic rock albums which I spent a lot of time listening to and learning about.  At one point I made sure to record all my favorite records he had on to cassette tapes for further study, in some ways these bands are still a big influence on me.  Knowing what kind of music Rick was into as well played a role in the Outlaws becoming a band that pushed our shows to a psychadelic level.  All this seems fitting seeing as Rick’s living room would become the place where the band became the band just three years later.

Once Rick came back from South America I moved into a Strathcona single room occupancy place called the Bad Manors – which is famous for how many down and out or upcoming musicians had lived there.  My stay there was but a few months before moving around to a number of other places and going through a few years of relative stability in Vancouver.  Besides all that moving around I did Rick and I still kept in touch.



Rick is a genuine environmentalist which is something we held in common.  We had a number of adventures together in the years leading up to the formation of the band.  One July weekend we went up to the Elaho Valley, camped out and hiked around while Rick recounted many of the stories from the big forest protests he had been a part of there.  We ended that weekend by roping up and scaling down a cliff to get my cat Buddy who had decided to sleep on a ledge below our picnic site that seemed to have enough sunlight for him.  That’s right, my cat came camping.

On another occasion in August 2003 we drove out to the Anderson River somewhere outside of Boston Bar and took bicycles over to where Cattermole Timber Company planned to cut an old growth forest stand known to have spotted owls in it.  We biked more than 20km to get to the lookout and biked back spending a great deal of the return trip flying down steep switchbacks and never having to pedal.  For all our efforts we found his car to be sabotaged when we got back to it making our journey back to the city interesting to say the least.

Later in 2003 word got around that Cattermole Timber out of Chilliwack had been granted permission to log an old growth stand on Elk Mountain just outside of Chilliwack.  The next few months became very interesting as we got involved in the only forest action I was ever part of.  First we made friends with native allies from Cheam First Nation such as June and Fred Quipp and later became active in the protest camp itself as supporters.  We brought up provisions and often would go out just to visit, play songs and raise morale.

The cover of an informational zine I made for the Elk Creek Tree Sit.

The cover of an informational zine I made for the Elk Creek Tree Sit. (2003)

One day late in December Rick and I roped up and climbed to the platform at the top of a very large tree.  Swaying around in this giant tree was an amazing experience leaving me feeling so alive afterward.  However that very next day loggers wisely used a distraction tactic to make the activists think they were going to take a new road in, when the activists went there to intercept some other fallers came in and ended the tree sit camp once and for all.  They fell the very tree were in the day before.

As a last ditch effort to stop the logging operation one of the youth at the camp anonymously claimed the trees were spiked.  Although it was never proven to be true, and I have no knowledge that they actually did do this, it didn’t stop Joe Foy and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee from offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the tree spikers.  I never forgave Joe Foy for this personally, most of the kids at the camp were barely over 20.  Another spotted owl habitat was destroyed as was my remaining faith in liberal environmentalist movements.

So as the next two years passed Rick and I stayed buddies, one whom I knew I could trust.  Everything I had seen and experienced at the Elk Creek forest defence camp was because I was there with Rick.



This brings me to February 2006, that month leading up to the formation of the band.  I had returned from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, fresh from my experience of having a real band playing behind me and decided I was going to build my own once and for all.  I’m not entirely sure how it all came about but somehow or another Rick and I got to jamming at his place semi-regularly.  Our friend Luka also joined us frequently and we were starting to visualize the possibilities of a band.

Zippy, Kenan, Rowan and Rick behind the Royal Hotel in Fernie BC...February 2007

Zippy, Kenan, Rowan and Rick behind the Royal Hotel in Fernie BC…February 2007

I had set up the Outlaw Band pilot show at Spartacus Books which would happen on March 3rd.  I already had the services of a professional double bass player handy to me in the name of James Forrest.  When it came time to do the gig I did one set with Rick and two with James backing me up.  Rick had only just started to play bass and quite limited with what he could do, being new to music he especially struggled with song structure which he compensated for by having detailed cheat sheets.

However it was pretty obvious after this first show that James Forrest is the kind of bass player every aspiring country-folk singer would want to have behind him.  I also knew that bass players like him in Vancouver aren’t all that loyal to one particular band, they are hired ringers and if the gig pays well they will be there.  Of course our Spartacus gig paid squat but James was keen to make a try-out of it.  Of course having to commit to a bass player who is a professional and is busy with a number of other acts would make touring as a unit nearly impossible.

Knowing that Rick was going to be more willing I quickly started to think that maybe he was the way to go.  Up to that point I don’t think Rick expected that he had the chops to keep up with the project but I knew something about the electric bass guitar.  When I was a 15 and got my first bass Mike Rose and I immediately started working towards starting a punk band, in six months I went from having no skill on the instrument to being pretty good on the thing.  Maybe Rick wasn’t all that great in March 2006 but I correctly assumed he would be a lot better by the time March 2007 rolled around.

Rick at Book and Company in Prince George for the Artswells Fundraiser. June 2007.

Rick at Book and Company in Prince George for the Artswells Fundraiser. June 2007.

He made some immense improvements over the next year becoming a reliable ‘hold the fort’ bass player.  Picking a player who would be dedicated to the concept of a band…a family…a crew…was one of those smart things I did.  I wanted a democratic band of willing participants invested in our success, not hired musicians that you couldn’t rely on from week to week.

Not only did having our own bass player allow us to tour western Canada but I’m not sure we ever could have done so much of that without Rick’s driving efforts.  He also had a handy hippy living on his property named Bob who could fix just about anything wrong with our tour vans.  Rick really brought a lot to the table and is one of the biggest reasons the Outlaws had our first string of successes.

Rick waterproofs the leaky trailer that Todd Serious/Rebel Spell gave us.

Rick waterproofs the leaky trailer that Todd Serious/Rebel Spell gave us.

So in the weeks after the very first Outlaw pilot show I knew that I would somehow try to work with Rick while I had this amazing cello player named Zippy Zaenker who I also knew without a doubt I was going to work with.  I wasn’t sure how to mesh the two sounds together of a bass and a cello.  At this point I figured I was actually building two seperate bands and would figure out how to reconcile this problem later.  What I was doing with Zippy was essentially a continuation of the folk-punk act I had been doing the last few years…whereas what I wanted to do with Rick more represented the direction I wanted to take my music.

I wanted to be a real deal outlaw country singer.

If anyone has ever heard the Joey Only Outlaw Band EP (2006) they will understand what I mean by having two distinct sounds…part of that recording is the trio of Rowan Lipkovits, Zippy and I…while part of it is an example of what the Outlaw Band was going to try to do.  Often I would play one gig with one lineup and another gig with the other lineup depending on what made more sense for the room…and sometimes I’d play with both at the same time.  But by the time 2006 ended both lineups were integrated into one giant band and it pretty much stayed that way for the next two years.

So now I had a cello player…and a dedicated bassist.  I needed someone who could play with a cellist and I needed a drummer to play with the bassist.  I was in luck, a month later (April 2006) I met accordionist Rowan Lipkovits and drummer Kenan Sungur.  Almost all of the principle players would soon be involved.  When all the peices came together we were able to put together an ass-kicking road troupe that never backed down from a chance to go hard….but that’s a blog for another day.

Rick fixes a picnic after fixing the trailer during a breakdown outside Drumheller Alberta, June 2007

Rick fixes a picnic after fixing the trailer during a breakdown outside Drumheller Alberta, June 21st, 2007 on our way to Saskatoon.

Rick played gigs in four provinces with us during multiple tours until the end of the summer of 2008.  I believe he most likely was on stage with me for somewhere around 150-200 shows.  Rick became one of the principle people who helped me get through my recovery from tuberculosis.  He was our tech expert

We worked him hard through stressful trips and if we weren’t getting along at the end his time in the band it didn’t take long for us to admit our parts and stay friends (as we are to this day).  After surviving a few health scares and moving out of the city Rick continues to play music with a number of friends where he now resides on the coast. 

Thank you Rick for helping make the band happen…happy anniversary old friend.

Why I Largely Stopped Playing Left-Wing Freebie Shows

First of all I never intended to be a band leader, a folk singer, a songwriter or anything like that.  It all began back in the summer of 2001 when I decided to drop out of University and moved back north of Madoc to live in the old Dudgeon farmhouse.  I had already had a lot of experience in music up to that 21st year of my life.  I had played bass in punk metal bands like the Persecuted, Fart Bomb Appartment and Notwithstanding AE.  I was the music pastor of a small church in Hamilton Ontario for the better part of two years while in University but mostly played drums come service time.  I had experience singing and I was fine with doing it, let’s just say it wasn’t something I felt like I was real strong at despite having vocal control.  I had been the singer in my high school jazz band, did some guest appearances with Clifton David (Kirk Broadbridge) in Belleville and was the singer of a punk band for two years called Bloodthirst.

Despite all that, my heart and soul yearned to start another punk band so I could play bass.  However north of Hwy 7 sittin at the old farmhouse it became apparent I would be waiting a lot of years to get a fully operational band together again.  It also dawned on me that once civilization collapsed and the lights went out there would be no metal bands.  The lure of the acoustic called me once again and I started writing my own punky style of folk and country music believing someday I could tell those stories anywhere and anytime there were six strings on my guitar.

That whole summer of 2001 I had no job.  I made all my money by busking in Belleville.  As it was a 75km hitch hike to get there my chosen method to busk was to yell poetry at people on the street.  Belleville had never seen this before and I raked it in alright every week, taking time away to go back to the farmhouse or to go camping on some epic adventure in Algonquin Park.

When I decided to come west my identity was Joey Streetpoet.  I played and sang some but my inclination was that no one was gonna like my songs in and of themselves, that the songs had to have a purpose.  As a young politically motivated anarchist I sang ‘radical folk’ songs.  It was October 2002 when I finally landed in Vancouver and got the nickname Joey Only because of a misunderstanding with a reporter who liked my speech at the Woodwards Squat.  Soon I was playing the odd show as Joey Only and I became known as ‘the radical folk singer’.

So there I was in Vancouver, busking to get by every day.  Not because I thought I was gonna be a star but because I was poor and the idea of sitting in my 45square foot appartment playing my songs to myself disturbed me greatly.  I didn’t see myself properly yet.  I had no confidence in my material.  I truly believed nobody wanted to hear a song that was about ME, so I sang political ditties and old fashioned folk-country tunes.  I would go to the Drive and make $30, buy a gram of weed, buy a chocolate soy milk and sit alone at night with few friends to talk to.  Truly 2003 were dark times for Joey Only as a stage persona was yet but a newborn.

I used these talents and these old songs to bolster picket lines, play legal defence benefits and chime in at protests.  Pretty soon 2004 came about and David Parsons set me up to make my first album ‘Radical Folk of the Great North’.  I should add that before I had a recording my show had next to no value, the album was the first thing that made my show worth something.  For a little while sales were good while lots of opportunity presented itself and I used whatever money I made to fight a series of criminal charges I was facing.  It was May 15th of that year I found myself in a Montreal jail cell for what would be the start of a two year court battle.

In that way the government truly borned Joey Only for good…for until that legal battle in Montreal came up I never put much effort into getting paying gigs.  This was when I began to tour Canada just to afford to get to court.

It was also around this time though that I started getting disillusioned with my role in the community.  For the first while I was bitter at the Montreal organizers of the Westmount protest, I wrongly felt like I had been hung out to dry.  This began a time of travelling back and forth to Montreal, a time where I had to ask for some money to play my show just so I could get east and defend myself in court.  At this same time I started feeling like I wasn’t being appreciated properly in Vancouver as well.  I was getting disillusioned by the left on the whole due to infighting and inner struggles within the Vancouver protest scene.

Over the course of the next two years there were many times I was asked to come play at events put on by the Vancouver left.  However many times I felt like I came and did what was expected of me but wasn’t even thanked or paid…or in some cases offered a free beer for my services.  I got the impression the left wing community was willing to use my talents but didn’t take them all that seriously.  I remember after one show at the Alf House feeling very disturbed by how selfish the other acts were, I ended up leaving without playing a note or recieving any appreciation whatsoever.  I was bitter.  I felt like quitting that night forever.  I knew how depressed moments like that made me and I was scared that I couldn’t take that sort of humiliation.  I was pretty crazy at the time and I struggled to have meaningful friendships.

There were small examples of this dynamic not being true as the Palestinian refugee’s loved my song No One Is Illegal.  They had me play at a number of events where I was the only white guy, they treated me with dignity and respect.  But many times I played for the protest crowds and did not feel so warm afterward.

Still, time passed.  I felt like it was important to turn down more and more shows that didn’t pay to protect myself from depression.  At first it wasn’t about the money although I needed that.  It was more about the appreciation and I realized that if asked for a price, they might say no, and that would be fine cause they I didn’t really want me anyway.

Then in Dec 2005-Jan 2006 I landed in Whitehorse.  Soon the local musicians gave me shit for not charging the bars enough.  They explained politely how in doing so I was driving the wages down for all the local musicians in town.  I accepted this though when I made my own band still found it very difficult to set a price.  But we got better and better and more in demand and the price became a mechanism to turn down shows that would deplete my energy and my bands morale.

In creating the Outlaw Band in the spring of 2006 there was a noticeable change in my material and my show.  The show became less political and less directed to the left wing.  The concept of the Outlaw Band was to use wild western imagery to speak to the idea of freedom and revolution is our own era.  However I didn’t try to blatantly promote the revolution in the way I had before.  The Outlaw Band was not going to play coffee-houses, talent nights, protests or anything like that…we were gonna become a working band and we were gonna make bar owners want us.

I also knew by this time that left wing folk singers have an uphill battle to survive.  When professional political folk singer David Rovics asked for $500 for a show we did in Ottawa people were incensed, even though David was American and had a fairly arduous travel schedule just to attend the show.  They interpretted that as David not being for the cause, that he was in some way a representation of capitalism for having a bottom dollar.  Personally I had done alright playing union events but after I was blacklisted by Jim Sinclair and the BC Fed I only got the odd union gig for CUPW in places like Halifax or Calgary.  Playing the political folk music was not a good career choice if I couldn’t do it in my own province.

Part of this was my disillusionment with my role in the left and part of it was my desire to make music my living.  But another part of my changing was  a desire to speak to the working class of Canada on a greater level and not be some left wing freak show preaching to the already converted.  By speaking the common language I believed someday they would have a better understanding of why I am an anarchist and that my far flung ideas could be indeed normalized through tireless performances.  It largely worked.  I sang cowboy songs to the Albertans until they liked me and then by the nights end I sang a few tunes such as “Stephen Harper is a Nazi Douchebag and I Hate Him So Much” and the Albertans laughed and laughed at me.  It didn’t matter if they agreed with my politics, they liked me because I was one of them.  I liked them because they paid better than BC did.

I got better at setting a bottom dollar..however I wasn’t good enough.  Truly one of the main things that costed my that first Outlaw Band lineup of members, who did 200-450 shows with me, was how far and how long we travelled for how little we got in return sometimes.  There were blow ups on the road regarding money when band members found themselves too broke to eat properly or pay their rent once we got home.  Eventually a few of my members were picked off by Fred Eaglesmith, a professional, who could afford to pay them a gaurantee every night of the week.

The one thing that became apparent over the course of those 450 shows was that when we kicked it into high gear the bars sold a lot of beers.  Routinely we would outsell other bands, even if we played on a Wednesday.  Selling more than $3000 in beer was becoming common and we knew that the bars were raking it on off of our backs.  Still at that time we were struggling to build an audience and build our connections, we would play for less before we’d risk losing a show.  We demanded better and slowly starting getting it more and more often.  We were living in poverty despite playing so many amazing shows, we couldn’t do it like that forever.

When a promoter once told me that playing his show would be good for exposure I retorted, ‘I’m dying from exposure!’

Soon I quit music due to personal disillusionment, moved to Wells took it easy, started a family and soon got a brand new ass kicking band together.  Each member of the band now is a family person.  It can be very inconvenient for us to all get together.  Nowadays we require a lot more than I did 10 years when I was just getting started.  But the product we have to offer is a lot better now too.  I am 10 years more experienced as a band leader and when we come we come to rock it.  With families and things to do in life it is a lot of work for us to put on the show we do for you.

But now you know.  It’s often our job to sell beer and we know what that’s worth.  We know now that it’s okay to say NO to shows that will stretch your bands morale or make life harder for my players and their families.  Now I know that I don’t have to play every small town bar for next to nothing because we laid the ground work out.  Now I know that if it’s a fundraiser, or a show for a good cause, it has to be well promoted and we must be well appreciated for giving our time and energy.

The one thing I never want to feel again is anger leaving a show…or that feeling of despair because I tried so hard but people really didn’t seem to get it.  Now I know that low paying and poorly organized shows can tear a band apart quicker than any personal dynamic can.  Now I know that when bands play for next to nothing they drive wages for artists down across the board.  Artists need to be appreciated and they need to be treated nicely because most of what we do to prepare for our performance pays nothing.  So many amazing performers ran out of steam and quit altogether because it was not worth it for them to keep going.  Think of the talent we’ve lost simple because musicians were sick of being taken advantage of, sick of the futility of going nowhere and getting nothing in return.

I beg of you…if you have a band and you are willing to play for less than $100 a person, all you are doing is making it harder for professional quality bands to get what we deserve.  You are stealing our work like scabs and making it harder for us to survive.  We put in our time, we paid our dues…don’t undermine us.  Don’t allow venue owners to pocket thousands off of our backs, the relationship needs to go both ways.  Also, if your band isn’t ready to play a bar for a night keep practicing, put on house shows, get hot before you come play for free.  We put that effort in so we want you to do that as well.  Don’t drive down the quality of performance out there, when a crowd goes and sees a poorly rehearsed and shitty band they are less likely to take a chance on seeing us the next weekend…much less pay for it.

See yourselves as having value for the countless hours of writing, practicing, planning, travelling, setting up, playing, tearing down and travelling home.  That is what professionalism looks like.

I’d like to finish by saying that my disillusionment with the left and with my former role as ‘the radical folk singer’ is no one’s fault.  Although there are real critiques I could make of situations that affected my withdrawal from that role part of it was also a personal battle to find value in myself.  It’s taken me that long to truly love myself, believe in what I bring to the table and to see my role in the community for what it really is.

I demand more now so I play less.  But I get better gigs than I ever did before.  I created value for myself.  I try to balance that by behaving professionally, working hard, having a good attitude and giving what I can of myself without selling my players out.  If it only lasts a few years I’ll enjoy it, I’m in my hayday right now.

The Malcolm Maclean Pains, Troll Telefest, Canada Games and More To Say


One of the more exciting things to happen in January was when I welcomed my friend Malcolm Maclean to this part of BC for a four show weekend swing. Malcolm is the wily cowboy I was building fences with for the better part of two months last summer in the Dawson Creek district.  What was especially nice was having Allen Christie, a fairly good cowboy singer in himself, playing leads while my dear friend Lindsay “Bootsy Cline” Thompson played the double bass.  It had been a while since I was a drummer but I was right to think I could still do it.  By the end of the weekend we were a hot band.

The trip started Thurs.Jan 24th with a show at the recently re-opened Riley’s Pub then 1397531029_MalcomMacleanBandcontinued on to the Fort St.James Legion the following night for Robbie Burns Dinner.  The Legion event was complete with Lionel from Music On The Mountain Festival rendition of ‘Ode To Haggis’ and the subsequent serving of such things.  Guess I didn’t know I would like haggis.  Wasn’t so bad, I’d eat it again.  Saturday the 24th saw us end up at the Occidental in Quesnel and Sunday night we closed the trip up with a night at the Jack of Clubs Pub here in Wells.

I would call the trip mildly successful.  Malcolm was set him up with an important meeting, we introduced him to no less than 7 festivals board members, a major booking agent, a newspaper writer, two radio stations, the best sound guy in northern BC, photographers, bar owners, musicians, cowboys, farm hearted folks and the town of Wells. We got treated well and didn’t come close to losing our hats. Mission accomplished. We don’t mess around.



Due to the Canada Games Telefest was a little earlier than usual this year falling on January 30th instead of the first weekend in March.  The snow conditions have been nothing to brag about this year, but fortunately a half foot of snow fell the day before so there was lots of good riding to be done.  I did find however my favorite steep runs were already tracked out by the time I got to them.  Snowboarders got scared and put the brakes on but also succeeded in wiping the layer of powder clear off the crust beneath it, I came flying down there and realized I had no control…ate it a little and decided to stick to forest runs that were less chewed up.

IMG_5952By 2:45 I hit my last run from Silver T and rode all the way to the lodge, walked in, tuned up my guitar and pretty soon we were puttin on a show.  I did the whole show still wearing my snowboarding gear and managed to win a nice set of goggles for a door prize.  The room got dancing afte a while, a nice dinner was served, a good crowd stayed and beers were consumed.  We probably played for close to the three hours with intermittent breaks for supper, prize giveaways and the addition of a few guests on stage.  Leah opted not to sing the whole show but she came and did several duets with me while Mike’s 7 year old daughter stole the show with her country song medly which we assisted her with.

All in all, I gotta say, I just love Troll Ski Resort…family run operation, great snow, affordable, great atmosphere, lots of terrain, great verticle…everything you need.  We’ll certainly hope to stay a part of Telefest for years to come, three in a row just isn’t enough yet.



So we are on the mainstage of the Canada Games on Feb.22nd at 5:30pm.  Will be real neat to play right before the days medal ceremonies!! Gonna be a different sort of bunch backstage then I’m used to…might be a hard bunch to get smoking and drinking with us, might better just be on my best behaviour for a change. I have done it before.  Maybe one of them will let me touch their medal.

Another honor we have to announce is our participation in this years North Country Fair up by Lesser Slave Lake, Alberta.  It is one of the most prestigious festivals in the west to play!  What really made me blush was that they called us.  Most of you know, I don’t apply myself to things, or write applications, or grants or any of that shit.  So when we get asked to play a new festival it’s a real honor.

Troll Telefest poster

Troll Telefest poster

Not sure how many festivals we will be doing this summer, been busy playing 8-10 a year since 2008.  I got a second baby coming in May and this summer may be a write-off till we make adjustments in our lives.  For sure we are coming to Sweetwater 905 in Rolla BC and I can’t see myself missing Hootstock in Forest Grove.  Artswells you know we’ll be at cause it happens around my firepit.  Without any serious developments this will probably be our schedule this summer.  I have been asked about solo shows and I’m undecided.  My personal feeling is that we will have a new album out so I won’t want to play solo shows so much.  The band makes everything easier and it’s the band sound I want to get into your heads and living rooms!

Cheers for now…joe

Vancouver Show A Success, Busy January Ahead

A personal review of our Vanouver concert at the WISE Hall.  Plus details of my upcoming shows with Malcolm Maclean, Troll Telemark Festival and Canada Winter Games:

Thurs.Jan22: MALCOLM MACLEAN BAND with Joey Only, Rileys Pub, Prince George BC.

Fri.Jan23: MALCOM MACLEAN BAND – ROBBIE BURNS DAY, The Legion, Fort St.James

Sat.Jan24: MALCOLM MACLEAN, the Occidental, Quesnel BC

Sun.Jan25: MALCOLM MACLEAN, the Hotel Pub, Wells BC

Sat.Jan31: TROLL TELEMARK FESTIVAL, with the Joey Only Outlaw Band, Troll Ski Resort, Quesnel BC.

Sun.Feb22: CANADA WINTER GAMES, Mainstage/Civic Centre, Prince George BC


So the Vancouver show was a success.  The best part for me was a lot about who I got to play with while so many old friends were able to come and say howdy.  We partied like bastards at the WISE Hall and the crowd danced like time was short.  My friend and mentor David Roy Parsons opened the show with top notch guitarist Paul Doherty and steel guitarist Steven Drake playing behind him.  Steve Drake produced some pretty big albums including a few stints working with the likes of the Tragically Hip.  Now figure that was just the opening act.

From there on in it was all a mish mash of the same players who would later make up the Outlaw Band that night.  First Jeff Andrew played a wicked 30 minute set backed by Brin and Kenan.  Then the Party On High Street kicked into action with 45 minutes of kickin hard funk.  Because it was all the same players in the three final acts there was nothing to move on stage, everything changed over very quickly and the crowd was always engaged.WISEposter

Next thing you knew the Outlaw Band was up with Mike Zinger, Kenan Sungur, Brin Porter, Travis Charuk, Adam Farnsworth, Jeff Andrew, Steve Drake, Leah Martin, Rowan Lipkovits and myself.  Talk about an ensemble of mandolins, accordions, steel guitars, stratocasters, drum kits, keyboards, fiddles, tambourines and me.  We played for more than 90 minutes and kept our shit together though the drinking was trying to interfere.  What a pleasure to play with so many players who have all given their skills to my band in the past.

We had Chris Leuchte, who I think is one of the best stage managers I ever seen, running the show so he pulled the plug at last call, made sure we had beers, made sure the change overs were smooth and kept us all laughing.  Mean while the best emcee in BC, Doug the Hug Koyama, did all the talking for us between sets.  This was how we were able to keep the show running so smoothly.  There were so many old friends in the WISE Hall that night.  It was a real overwhelming musical homecoming of sorts!

Just as an example of what kind of week it was…At one point I was sitting in the dressing room talking with Donny Ducharme who plays bass with Buffy St.Marie and has his own band Whisky Jane.  Next to Donny and his girlfriend Mardine is Travis Challord from the Rebel Spell, a band who has played with many of the greatest punk bands on earth.  On my right was Steve Drake while Mike Zinger walked by just back from four years of working for Fred Eaglesmith.  That was just one example of the amazing people in the music game we got to spend some time with that week.  Even our soundman that night was Brian Else who himself has produced many of the best albums DOA, Hanson Brothers, Nomeanso and Dayglo Abortions did.

The after party was even crazier than the show!

It was a star studded week like that which included chit chats with folks like Gerry Useless, CR Avery and Chris Walter while witnessing Joe Keithley, John Wright, Jon Card, Mike Graham and more perform.  That all took place at another special night we attended which I am hesitate to say to much about as it was a memorial for a fallen comrade.  It was a real special night for us all though to say the least as we came together to remember Brian Goble.

We ate top quality sushi and got to party on a yacht with my semi-famous gold mining friend.  I did two radio shows, rehearsed in the WISE Hall all night, caught up with a friend who works at the Safe Injection Site and head a whole bunch of his stories over numerous drinks.  I got to see so many special friends and was even able to go to lunches and dinners with so many of them.  I’d call that an interesting trip.

Fortunately the bad weather didn’t kill us on our trip to the city…and the speeding ticket on the way back won’t set us back too far.  One thing that helped was the visits with our friends in Tax Free Liqour and Genghis Ghandis to break up the long drive to Vancouver.  The weather was so terrible that driving for more than a couple hours at a time was very stressful and dangerous.  We felt lucky to have safe havens to weather the storm at.

After all that travelling there’s hardly a moment to pause cause up next is a trip around the BC interior with my good friend Malcolm Maclean.  We spent a few months up in the Peace Region building fences and doing cowboy sorta things together, it turned out he’s a real good songwriter.  So we’re finally gonna get him some recognition in BC by bringing him down through Prince George, Fort St.James, Quesnel and Wells…with the chance that we’ll add some more shows to the trip.  I’ll be his drummer and we’ll have a good old time of it, people in BC will be shocked to see I’m not the only outlaw out there.  I can’t say enough about the kind of person he is, he’s a real deal Alberta cowboy who knows how to put a show on too.

The month ends with a party at my favorite place to snowboard on earth, Troll Ski Resort for the annual Troll Telemark Festival.  Details can be found online at  We’ll probably start playing shortly after 4pm, so come ski for a day and then dance your snowboots silly.

As soon as we’re done playing at Troll the band is gonna have one thing in mind, getting ready for our big show at the Canada Winter Games.

Part 1: How Many Times Should I Have Died?

They say a cat has 9 lives…thank goodness I weigh more than 20 cats.  Here’s part 1 of my series called HOW MANY TIMES I SHOULD HAVE DIED…


Beginning with a bizarre experience as a five year old in which cousin Jeremy (RIP) yelled ‘yelled the deck’ there have been a bizarre amount of close calls with lightning in my life.  People ask me about this a lot so I put this one first on the list.  With the exception of the few summers I was in Vancouver, and didn’t leave, most years a bolt of lightning has come close to me.  Occasionally it has been known to hit the house I am sleeping in.

Sounds funny, I know, cause I think it is.  I got jolted goddamned hard sittin in a plastic lawn chair at mom’s house in 1999.  That was the one that sent me sliding across the kitchen floor as I burst through the door in a panic after the thunder alone crippled me momentarily.  Mom and Tom couldn’t believe it when I blasted through the doors about three seconds after that blast of thunder, they obviously knew it hit right outside the house.  Fortunately, once again, I was in the area where the energy collects and not where it directly struck!!  Nonetheless it took about three minutes for my breathing and heart rate to calm down so that I could speak the words in between gasps for air, ‘that was fuckin awesome’.

Mom’s house became famous for near lightning strikes.  Something funky is in the ground in that part of the Canadian Shield I am sure because it was always certain that there was no place to hide when the big Ontario storms would come in.  Many times it hit the power lines across the road.  I swear to god I seen it hit the same friggin spot a hundred feet toward the beaver ponds about 8 times in the course of 10 minutes, each time it was so close the hot water tank in the laundry room made a terrifying electrical zolting noise.  And I swear to mother earth that Mom and I seen ball lightning one day beneath those giant 225,000W power lines across the road as a storm was coming in.

Seen the hair on my arms stand up one humid day so I ran into Mom’s house and waited for a minute.  Then….FLAAAAAASHBOOOOOOMMMM!!!  There were actually two close calls that afternoon but the first one was the most exciting.  I actually realized, although it seemed sunny, that my hair was standing on end.  If I had been less perceptive I would not have ran in the house and I would have once again been dangerously exposed outside when it struck at mom’s house.  Lightning can reach 15km or even further, just because the sky was blue directly above us in the forest didn’t mean I wasn’t in danger that day.

You can’t see the trees through the forest at Mom’s, it’s pretty thick there so you just don’t know what’s going on out there in the world of weather unless you walk to the end of the driveway.  That’s where the power lines are and more than once I seen crazy lightning strikes within very close proximity there.  It was my correct opinion that the grounded towers were probably the safest place to stand near in an electrical storm for obvious reason, it would hit the power lines and not me allowing me to watch the storm come in relatively safely.  But to be honest, I was still too chicken shit to stand directly below them but experience showed lightning was more likely to hit the towers than anything else around.

It didn’t take me long to announce my arrival in Wells.  That very September, as we were smoking in the quiet outside, a bolt hit the transformer box that feeds our house.  FLASH, BAMMM!!!!  We were on the ground like a pile of jello cussin and laughing as our ears rang.  Luke Stackhouse, Leah and I immediately walked up to the Pub in shock.  Chance and Randall instantly asked, ‘yo, did you just see that bolt of lightning by your house?’

‘uh, yeah, that’s why we’re here.’

Hilariously there’s a dozen more stories like this!  Got a slight jolt in Quesnel.  Had a close one at Karl Mattson’s ranch this summer.  It never ends.  Bring it on.  I know it’s gonna try to come for me again.


The full story doesn’t matter anymore, but it’s true that me and another folk singer you all see me hanging with lots over the years had to spent some time in quarantine.  Thankfully the miracle of anti-biotics ended our luxuriously aweful visit to the lung ward cutting it short after a mere couple weeks.  Needless to say that took another year of the most ridiculous concoction of super anti-biotics you can dream of and an even longer more regrettable period of not consuming the drink.  That was in 2006, I was 45lbs thinnger and sicker than I am today.  How did we contract it?  No official explanation was ever really given, just happened to us…and goddamn when I see photos from that year I look like I had just escaped death.  My collapsed lung eventually came back after the surgeries and I am once again able to breathe fairly well.


Check, check, check, check…what else you got?  Even survived hypothermia, or at least on three occasions I realized what was happening and took measures before it worsened.  Luckily some Air Cadet training and an understanding of hypothermia made it easy to overcome.  My cousin Jeremy died from hypothermia so that put a good lesson into my head.

Hitch hiking there were several times I felt at risk from exposure to both heat and cold.  On one January occasion near Port Hope Ontario I curled up on the side of the road to warm up.  Nobody stopped to check on me but some Samaritan called an Ambulance who eventually told me the police would come and get me because they wouldn’t take me.  I was frozen!  Bizarrely a strange man picked me up a minute after the Ambulance left and as he took me north from there I seen the cop car that was coming for me.  I had vanished like a ghost on them.

I have actually fallen through ice a number of times though only one of them would I have been in real danger.  As I felt the ice go I shoved with my feet, which did bust the ice, but it also sent me sprawling out on my belly preventing my upper body from getting wet.  I knew when I got out the key would be to get to mom’s fast, which I did.

Nonetheless, I’ve fought with several snakes.  I stepped on a young rattler at the Black River canyon back home, tussled with a couple of those big bad ass Ontario water snakes and once discovered a six foot long black rat snake in mom’s laundry room.

The same place I stepped on that little rattler I had the misfortune of going over the waterfalls after a heroic rescue of my very naive townie friend.  No names will be mentioned it doesn’t matter anymore to me cause Mom seen the whole thing…she seen me drag his 14 year old ass out of the rapid and get sucked over the falls in the process.  It only be 15 or 20 feet there at what was Barebum Beach (see North of Number 7 song) but it was a fuckin violent experience that could easily have resulted in my head being smashed to peices.

But there are bigger waterfalls.  When I arrived in Niagara Falls at midnight back in 1998 dehydrated and crazy from sun exposure I became engaged in a mental battle with myself to not jump into the falls.  I don’t think I was particularly suicidal that week, the water just looked so refreshing that I had to do it.  Once I realized I was on the verge of killing myself I stepped back and walked away.  I slept in the park that night and was awakened by a lawn mower driving by.

Join me next time for part 2 of this series How Many Times Should I Have Died?  I’m just gettin started here…

Historic Account of Outlaw Band Happenings in Quesnel

Truthfully there wasn’t that many shows and the first ones still rank highest on my list.  I came north one summer to do a couple shows Jesse Mathies had been working on with his band The Effigy.  Arriving in Quesnel we spent the next few weeks hanging around town, going to all the scenic places and even came out to Wells and hiked to the top of Mount Murray.  In a sense the story of my first show in Quesnel is the story of how I came to live in Wells though I could never have guessed that first time here standing on top of Mount Murray that I would call the plateau before me home.  What I was thinking of was the red and dead trees from the pine beetle, as far as I could see.

This amazing summer of adventure, based out of Jesse’s parents basement, culminated in an amazing show and secondly in a split album people are still fond of.  That album was basically created in Barry McKillicans studio and it would forever be known as the Quesnel County Country Punk Conspiracy.  That’s when we recorded Smells Like Quesnel for the first time.  It was that song that got me an invitation to play at Artswells Festival which I have now been a part of for a decade…those events way back then set the stage for my life here today.

I have no recollection of the first show I did in Quesnel back then, so it must’ve been awesome…but for some reason I don’t think so.  It must’ve been just fun enough that I stayed around for the big show. The big show was on July 23rd 2005 and besides Under the Volcano Festival was really the highlight of my summer.

The Elks Hall lay host to this ridiculous assortment of bands such as The Tups, Four Horns, The Hippiecritz, Joey Only and the Effigy!!  There were too many drunk teenagers to count and somehow we managed to survive what was essentially an illegal alcoholicaust with no one bearing any responsibility for the occasion.  It’s these sort of all ages DIY punk bashes in rental halls that have become a thing of history…perhaps it was because the way we all behaved, punk across North America being teenage assholes.  It was sure fun.  I probably played 40 shows like that in my life…and that was actually the last one.

Teenagers were vommiting as quick as they could between RCMP visits to the site…that sorta thing.  My memory is vague of the occasion but I know I paid for it dearly.  I have grown up considerably since then.  I don’t really party with teenagers much anymore but at 25 it was a little less weird.  They think I’m weird now.  That’s the difference ten years will make in your life.

The next show we did was in the very same hall.  We were already a little bit older and wiser.  There were no teenagers puking over the backside of a Ford Tempo.  It was with Murray Boal and his excellent band.  The show was well attended, largely by a more adult crowd.  No one was drunk in public, though I might have been close to the line.  The payout helped our band get up here to do some recording with Barry who was also playing bass with Murray at the time. After a week or so at Barry’s I took a Greyhound bus back to Nanton Alberta where I was living and working for the winter.

That was in 2008.  I still believed back then that it was possible that I could become a success in the music industry despite not being all that great at music in general.  Not long after my youthful idealism was largely crushed, and not by any one thing which is unfortunate cause there’s no real story to tell.  Nonetheless, with no end in sight to the ‘small time’ as Corin Raymond would put it, I kept playing shows and having a lot of fun doing it.

I can’t exactly say the Hallis Lake Halloween party was inside the borders of what is commonly agreed on as being Quesnel.  Perhaps it’s just better that I have a good excuse to not talk about the debaucherous things that I participated in that night.  If I started telling those stories I’d have to talk about Bobb Inn and Artswells and Troll Ski Resort and every show we ever did in Wells and while we’re at it might as well write a paragraph about Williams Lake.  NO WAY!  Only shows that happened inside the town boundary of Quesnel can be discussed in this blog entry mostly so that the government will never know what really happened at Hallis Lake that night.

Since then we bought a monstrosity and moved to Wells to spend the rest of our lives fixing it.  We have been in the area for a while but we still haven’t made too much of a habit of trying to play in Quesnel.  I think that’s a shame and I know part of it is that until recently there’s been very little live music culture in Quesnel, a lot of people are just learning now how to go to shows of original live bands…they’ve never done it before.

Nonetheless…We have played two Billy Barker Days.  We really enjoyed playing at the Cariboo Hotel and hope we get to do that again sometime, we did two shows there and they were really well attended.  The Cancer For Life people got us on board there in 2013 and I’ve played no less than four times at the Quesnel Farmers Market.  I also did some work with Shaw Cable in Quesnel all about music in the Cariboo.

Then the Occidental happened and it became an innevitability that we would start putting on some Outlaw Band shows.  We just never did, but that didn’t mean that we didn’t want to.  I know how awfull you all must feel about me sharing my gifts so rarely with the local townsfolk.  Wells is so close, but really it’s a long ways away.  Time to change that trend for a little while.  I hope we keep motivated to keep coming to town and playing for you, it would be because you all kept coming to see the only outlaw country band in northern BC.

So, without further adieu, see you at the Occidental on Saturday November 29th.  The band is ready.  Then on December 19th I’m gonna do my Stompin Tom Tribute at the Quesnel Legion, consider that one a Christmas gift from me to the city.