July 15, Quebec City

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    Quebec Summer Festival - it's always great, with bands from everywhere brought together in the historic old city of Quebec City to play in clubs, theaters, and open air stages.

I was here for a few days of rehearsals, then a big show at the Plains of Abraham, with California Guitar Trio, then Jon Anderson, then Rick Wakeman with orchestra and chorus. My part in the show was only to play with the Trio, then a historic combination with Rick, Jon, the Trio and me doing Heart of the Sunrise.

First, some photos of Quebec.

Beautiful city, isn't it. In the center of the last picture you can see the edge of the Plains of Abraham.

I've been here a few times before, and wandered in the old city section quite a bit - this trip I knew right where I wanted to go - one of my very favorite restaurants is right in the center, the Capitole Theater.

My apologies to those who have asked me to continue the junk food theme I stared with last week's Pittsburgh Primanti's sandwich story. I know that Quebec's poutine is the match for any fast food experience you've ever had - just describing it as fries, topped with cheese and some kind of gravy - does not communicate the ... uniqueness of this dish, nor the variety of it in different parts of Quebec.
(And, incidentally, I've learned if you're not French speaking, you have to be careful ordering it, or you'll get into the trouble I did at a Rome concert when I mispronounced a word - very strange looks, to say the least. Try poo-tin - and avoid asking for anything that sounds like pou-tain!)

Well, the Capitole certainly had no poutine on the menu - and I had quite a few meals there. There was also another unusual element to the trip - many friends of mine had heard about the special concert with Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, CGTrio, and me, and had come into town for the rehearsals and show.
A perfect opportunity for us to continue our vodka comparisons (we've been doing it for decades - researching which is the best tasting) and I'd brought a few bottles back from Russia which needed to go head to head with some other favorites of ours.

Here's a shot of some of the bottles before...

and, though I'm not proud of it... here is a shot from during the action -- (a point at which I think there were 14 people in my room...)

Now, don't get the wrong idea, this was purely research you understand! And, how that bottle of Unicum got in with the vodkas, I do not know.

On to the music - we rehearsed at the theater of Robert LePage - Quebec's great director who's collaborated with Peter Gabriel for the last few big stage shows.
The trio was upstairs, with Jon and Rick visiting occasionally, while downstairs a full orchestra and chorus were preparing for the second half of Saturday's concert - Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth.

It had been some time since I last saw Rick, and we were reminded immediately of our passion for playing Boggle backstage before shows. (It's a word game, and back on the 1990 tour of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, Rick and I would get so immersed in the game that some show start times were actually pushed back a bit.) Yes, I did remember to bring a Boggle set, but alas Rick was pretty busy, what with the orchestra, chorus, his rehearsals with the Trio, and his duets with Jon... I did end up organizing a game backstage before the show, but Rick, the star player, was busy elsewhere. It'll have to wait until our next show together.

Soundcheck, in the morning before the big show, was a rainy affair. The huge Plains of Abraham looked a little daunting with sheets of rain pouring down.

Evening came quickly, and plenty of people braved the rain - it stopped for our performance too.

Night fell during our part of the show, and Jon did more solo pieces.

Then, in the intermission before Journey to the Center of the Earth, we (the trio and I) were whisked off to a "cd signing" at the record tent outside the venue.

Alas, no matter how long you're on the road, you still run into Spinal Tap moments, and can't avoid them.

To make a long story short, there was nobody there.

(The woman crouching at the table isn't buying a cd, she works for the record distributor and had brought us there.) (Remember? Artie Fuffkin. "Go ahead, kick me.")

Anyway, fairly quickly we left, returned to the venue to watch the fantastic production of Rick Wakeman and orchestra.

And so, with the magical sparkling of the red lights worn by the audience, our stay at the Quebec Summer Festival came to a close.

It was a special musical experience - for me, re-uniting with the California Guitar Trio for a set, and with Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman for Heart of the Sunrise, which I'd last played with them in 1990.

And another wonderful visit to this special city.


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