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Hello. My name is Isaac Shabtay, 32 years old from Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s “Get Lucky” tour during the spring‐summer of 2010. This is in much the same way I did for Knopfler’s 2008 “Kill to Get Crimson” tour (see the “Links” section), except that this time, I will be following the entire tour—starting April 8 in Seattle, Washington, and ending July 31 in Gredos, Spain. Similarly to before, though, you are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read and comment. All comments, positive and negative, are welcome. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see links at the right‐hand side of the screen), so new posts become available through your favorite RSS reader. Have fun, Isaac

Friday, April 16, 2010

Meeting with Nancy Loughery (or: On Giving)

This is not the blog post you’d expect.

After arriving at the Pechanga Hotel Resort & Casino, at the end of what seemed to be an endless driving day, I took a shower, and then had the delight to meet with Nancy.

Very few Mark Knopfler fans, if at all, know anything about Nancy. She is a big fan of Mark Knopfler’s music. We met at the Las Vegas concert during the Kill to Get Crimson tour; I can’t recall exactly what started the conversation (I believe it was something about Danny Cummings handing out his drum sticks to her after the show; she then mentioned that she was following my blog), however we stayed in touch ever since, chatting now and then, emailing back and forth.

Nancy’s a sweet lady, living in Jamison, a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. A kidney cancer survivor, Nancy appears to be a very relaxed, cheerful lady.


(You’re probably wondering now what on earth is this the business of yours… be patient, it’s coming)

As soon as the Get Lucky tour was announced, I knew that I will attend it in its entirety. One of those things that you do first, and then think—rather than the other way around. I love to travel, and listening to the best music the world has to offer played live in front of you on a nightly basis—well, could traveling be any better?


Travel North America & Europe? yeah, I have done that already (mostly in North America); and it’s fun. Listen to Mark Knopfler and his band live? yeah, I have done that already too, 38 times (44 times if counting the current tour so far; 125 in total by the end of July; and it’s never enough). How about I do something a little different now?

So I had this idea I was toying around with in my head—pondering not on its merits, but on how I’m going to bring it to life. The passion to actually do something about it built‐up over time, fuelled by certain people (Nancy, and my good friend Joyti Bharaj) and events (Mark Knopfler’s Hurlingham Club charity concert).

However the “last straw”—the event that made me decide “yes, this is worth pursuing”, had nothing to do with Mark Knopfler. It had to do with a musician named Jason Mraz; an avid fan of his, a gorgeous redhead whom I met in high school (see a picture of myself with a sweet girl named Hadar in one of the previous posts); and a brilliantly‐inspiring young man named Jesse Billauer.

Billauer, nowadays 31 years old, has a rather impressive life story. At the age of 17, he broke his neck as a result of a surfing accident, rendering him quadriplegic. That seemed to have very little impact on his motivation, though. He did continue to surf, adjusting his equipment and technique to his physical condition. Later on, he graduated San Diego State University studying communications and became heavily involved in an organization called Life Rolls On ( Read about it; they’re organizing some amazing events.

A charity concert has been arranged celebrating Billauer’s birthday in late February this year, featuring Jason Mraz as the main act. Hadar asked me to join her, and as it is strictly against my genes to say “no” to redheads, I hopped on a plane and met her in Long Beach, California, for the concert. It was an eye‐opening event.

What I decided to do is simple: depending on the Get Lucky tour’s schedule, and if time permits, I would like to meet with people who are contributing their time, efforts and energy towards worthy causes; chat with them, get a sort of idea about what they’re doing and put it in writing.

Maybe I will learn something.

Nancy is sitting in front of me, at the cafe by the casino at the Pechanga Resort. Jeroen, who has been very supportive of this idea, is with us.

Nancy has been volunteering in many places throughout her adult life. Nowadays, she volunteers at Chandler Hall Hospice in Newtown, PA. Working with terminally‐ill patients, Nancy fulfills whatever tasks she is assigned to.

That wasn’t her original plan, though.

“As a professional massage therapist, I originally thought I would be giving massages to hospice residents”, she’s saying. “But I am doing much more than that now”.

The hospice is a 14‐bed inpatient unit. Terminally‐ill patients go there to get palliative care and emotional support. To be admitted as a patient in a hospice,

  • An M.D has to say that the patient’s life expectancy is within the next six months; and
  • The patient is no longer receiving any medical treatment for his / her illness.

The hospice asks volunteers for at least two hours of their time each week; Nancy volunteers between six to eight hours weekly. “Although people tend to assume this is a sad place to be, that’s not always the case. Our residents are no longer receiving painful treatments, they often feel much better after being admitted to hospice. Our goal is to make what time they have left as pleasant as possible.”

“So, what is it that you do exactly?”, I ask.

Nancy hesitates, as if she cannot decide where to start. “Whatever they need me to do, really. Patient care; preparing and serving food; holding hands or listening to anyone who needs to talk…”

Working in the hospice sometimes is no picnic by any account. “We have a woman suffering from Dementia,” she continues. “She has been there for quite some time now. Sometimes she gets scared and anxious. She tells me she finds me comforting, so some days I simply sit and hold her hand or tell her stories.”

“People enter hospice at the end of their lives. Some of them have no family, or their family members might be unable to be there as often as they’d like. We fulfill that role as well; nobody should have to die alone”.

Emotions are often involved. “It’s hard because I do occasionally get emotionally attached to patients,” Nancy says. “We know they’re going to die. We never lie to them about why they’re there.”

“What prompted you to take action and volunteer?”, I ask.

“One of the main reasons I joined the hospice was that I feel very fortunate to have survived kidney cancer. Priorities sort‐of change once you go through something like that, and I wanted to do something meaningful”.

She continues: “The work I do at the hospice gives me a feeling of purpose, a sense of being needed.”

“How does it fit with your life?” was my next question.

“I make it a priority,” she responds. “I own my own business, I set the volunteering work as a priority and I schedule my work around that. My family has always been very supportive.”

There are so many people out there putting their time and efforts into worthy causes, often dealing with subjects, conflicts and challenges that the average individual doesn’t really want to have anything to do with. I can’t and won’t preach—as a matter of fact, I will be straightforward and testify about myself that I have a lot to learn in that area; I have no excuses.

If you know of people / organizations that contribute time and efforts towards making this crazy planet a manageable place to live in, drop me a note. Tour’s schedule permitting, I will do my best to bring those stories forward.


Concert Day: Pechanga Hotel Resort & Casino, Temecula, CA (April 15, 2010)

(This post is being written on April 16, 12:00pm)

Oh, what a long driving day that was.

Right after the concert in Santa Rosa, we drove back to Oakland to spend the night. We figured that would be more convenient than staying the night in Santa Rosa: for once, we would be able to stay at the same hotel for two nights in a row; also, Oakland is about an hour or so south of Santa Rosa, so it’s on the way from Santa Rosa to Temecula… saving us an hour drive during the already‐too‐long driving day.

My weary head had to bid the inn’s comfy pillow farewell after a little less than 5 hours of sleep. We decided to leave early—get‐up at 6:30am, pack everything and be out of the hotel by 7:30am, in order to avoid any chance of traffic driving south. The plan has been followed right to the T; a bit of a coolish morning, but still the sun was out and so the convertible’s roof. Within a couple of minutes we were already on the I‐580 southbound towards Los Angeles.

Having received some strange uncomfortable vibe from Oakland’s downtown, I decided to push my caffeine craving for a while until we leave Oakland altogether. We ended up having breakfast & coffee in Dublin, CA—about half an hour south of Oakland. Very close distant‐wise, very far in any other mean. It was nice to see some greenery and feel some peace after a driving a noisy interstate for half an hour.

Having chewed on a decent Starbucks sandwich and mildly‐acceptable coffee, I took the driver’s seat again and so our long driving day has begun. Destination—Temecula, California; estimated 8 hours drive.

The length of the drive stands in opposite proportion to what is there to be said about the road itself. The only drive more boring than that, in my experience, is the drive east of Edmonton towards the prairies in Canada.

At the beginning, you actually appreciate the endless skies and distant, brownish hills. There’s some greenery around as well. That’s better than the last time I drove this path, in the summer of 2008 (then I was driving northbound from Los Angeles to Berkeley), then it was as close to a desert as I could imagine.


(take this picture, print it one million times, chain the papers together and it will still be more interesting than the road we took)

We stopped along the way just off the highway, as we recognized an opportunity to take some photos that will demonstrate what the road is all about.


OK I think you get the point.

Such a long drive… not even a curve in the road to challenge your senses. Hell, we drove for miles and miles without even seeing a way to leave that road. We switched seats a few times as keeping your eyes open while driving this road is quite a tricky thing to do.

As you approach the Los Angeles County line, though, the scenery becomes prettier:


And… drum roll please… WATER!


We also got a glimpse of the U‐Haul truck carrying Richard Bennett’s gear:


After a short period of good scenery, things became ugly again as we approached the Los Angeles metro area. Following Jerry’s recommendation (thanks Jerry!), we detoured the Los Angeles basin area by taking the I‐210 eastbound towards San Bernardino, then the I‐15 southbound. Traffic became a nightmare: we later learned that people who left Los Angeles at noon arrived at Temecula at around 3:00pm—a 3‐hours drive for approximately 70–80 miles! Yikes.

Words cannot describe the relief I felt once we actually arrived at the Pechanga Resort. It has been a long and boring driving day. Good thing that I get to end each day watching the best live music the world has to offer.

The Pechanga Hotel Resort & Casino is quite the impressive resort, boasting friendly staff, a few restaurants, a decent‐sized casino (nowhere near, say, the Bellagio… then again, I don’t gamble so I’m judging by general appearance only) and great rooms for the price. I actually didn’t have much expectations—what can you get for $100 a night in a resort just out of Los Angeles… but I have to say I was surprised. It goes without saying that, the added benefit of staying the night at the very same location where the concert takes place, reduces quite a bit of stress.

Nancy, whom I first met during the Las Vegas concert two years ago, was staying the night at the same resort as well. We kept in touch ever since the last tour and it was great seeing her again. Checking in was a breeze. By far the best hotel room I stayed in so far. A quick shower and the three of us—Nancy, Jeroen and myself—went downstairs for an early dinner before the show. Good times, catching up with friends over good food; and Nancy has a very interesting story to tell.

On the way to the box office to collect our tickets (front row, right‐centre), my path crossed that of a tall, respectable‐looking fellow wearing a hat and a young lady wearing huge sunglasses. The greeting “hello” towards Bo Ramsey and Pieta Brown remained unanswered; perhaps they, too, had a very long driving day.

As before in this tour, ticket collection went smooth. A few photos with familiar & new faces and we went inside the hall.

This is the place to note that I am quite baffled and humbled by the number of people following this blog, writing back, expressing support—I guess I’m pissing‐off much fewer people this time around—thank you for your readership and support, hats down to you all.

The showroom at the Pechanga is rather spacious for its capacity. 1,200 seats—less than the Wells Fargo Theatre’s capacity (Santa Rosa; 1,600) but looks quite big from the inside. VERY positive air at this venue.

Turned out someone screwed‐up the seats—the front row had two seats marked as “101”, “102” and “103”—which appeared to have puzzled the poor ushers trying to figure out what went wrong.

Pieta Brown took the stage just around 8:00pm, then the gang came in at around 8:45pm to some significant cheers. The sound at the venue was very good—somehow, the so‐discussed bass resonance problem wasn’t really felt at the front row. Magic? perhaps.

A slight variation on the setlist again, however no new songs were introduced; good to have Cleaning My Gun back, I must say. Great song, perfect fit for rocking the crowd.

We had a pretty humorous Knopfler, who handled some heckler from the crowd in a way that made me laugh quite uncontrollably (heckler to the talking Knopfler: “Just play it already”. Knopfler: “… like that guy over there, obviously watching a lot of Shakespeare”).

The high point of this concert was its end. For the first time during this tour, the crowd kept on standing during Piper to the End. It’s a great show‐ending tune, and being attached to the stage surrounded by people with hungry ears is certainly something to look forward to—much better than parking your ass on a seat and letting the guys just play away.

I must also mention that last night’s performance of Piper to the End was the best one so far. It had a lot to do with Mark yielding to the band during the outro solo (whoever has been listening to the studio version of the song probably noticed that the electric guitar takes a leading position only at the last part of the outro instrumental). In my mind, Piper to the End’s outro piece sounds best when the guitar takes a secondary role, then taking the lead role for the final round. That’s just me though.

Some pictures:


Concert ended and within 10 minutes I found myself with Nancy at the cafe, each one working away—she’s responding to emails, and I’m editing a blog post that hasn’t been published yet. Stay tuned.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Concert Day: Wells Fargo Centre of the Arts, Santa Rosa, CA (April 14, 2010) (Part 2)

Bidding the Bad Ass Coffee (see previous post, don’t give me that look) goodbye, we proceeded back to the venue. The parking lot where we parked the car seemed to contain hardly any cars in it, which triggered the unavoidable question of whether we’re at the correct place. You know, nobody wants to be the first idiot to miss a Mark Knopfler show due to a confusion in the venue (last tour, I almost missed the Vienna, VA concert because I had mistaken it with Vienna, GA. If there’s something more pathetic than missing a concert due to venue confusion, it must be “missing a concert due to state confusion”).

All worries were lifted away once we saw the sign at the box office. We later realized that the parking‐lot was empty because we parked at the back of the venue.

The Wells Fargo Theatre of the Arts ( is a non‐profit organization, aiming at providing the residents of Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley and in fact the entire “North Bay” area with special, intimate performances. It relies solely on donations and memberships, and it is a very well‐run facility. The staff consists of people who apparently smile a lot—very kind and nice.

I entered the venue way before the hall’s doors opened, so had about 45 minutes to explore it. As it was tiny, I decided at some point to park my bottom on a seat next to an old grand Yamaha piano.

I consider myself to be a rather shy individual, let alone when I play. But I guess that when I travel, the feeling of being away from home sort of removes a few psychological barriers and I tend to be much more relaxed. I then decided to flip‐open the piano’s cover, and started playing.

At first, I played some sequences out of my head, whatever came up into my mind in that moment. The kind of stuff I usually play at home hoping that some consistent melody will come out of it (and sometimes it does, then I add some guitar to it and become really proud of myself). Once I realized nobody’s going to kick me out of there, I decided to be a bit more daring and started playing some piano‐only rendition of Coldplay’s The Hardest Part—from memory, of course (I can read notes but really never use them).

That seemed to have really entertained two of the ladies working at the facility, as they approached me (after a few rounds of claps) and asked me if I wrote that myself. I told them “I wish”, and they asked me to play another tune, but I decided to go check on the doors again.

Seeing those were still closed, I sat down at the piano again and played a rendition of some Israeli song I really like, only with an introduction that I wrote myself. Obviously nobody there knew which tune it was, but still I received some good feedback.

Felt good, to let go of those barriers.

Wannee (apparently an active member in some Mark Knopfler fan forums) showed up today again, we talked for a bit before the spontaneous piano concert; she took a photo of me playing, but hasn’t emailed it to me yet… so I guess you folks will have to remain in the dark for now.

Oh, the touch of piano… I bought my first piano about 3 months ago, and one of the disadvantages in taking this tour is the unavailability of a piano at my will. I already have too many ideas for melodies.

Ah, screw it.

Our tickets were almost the best ones in the house: front row, one seat left to the absolute centre. Now that may sound ordinary to you, but this one, folks, was special. And it was special for one reason: This venue is by far the tiniest I’ve been to in my life.

I could swear that I have been to pubs bigger than this venue. Seating mere 1,600 (1,100 at the orchestra level, additional 500 at the balconies), and with a stage half the size of normal venues, this venue is pretty much as intimate as it gets. Reaching my hand out while seated, I could touch the stage; the stage itself was at most 80–90cm (less than 3 feet) high.

Up, close and almost personal. Very unique experience.

The sound was pretty good considering the size of the venue; unfortunately, low frequency tones hit us rather passionately—but what can you do, really. Filter it out in your brain and enjoy the show.

Jerry and his brother Randy, who I met the day before at the Oakland concert, showed up and said hello. Alex arrived a bit later—his first front‐row attendance, so he was rather excited. Unfortunately that was the last time (during this tour) that we’re going to see Alex, as tomorrow we drive way south. Alex has been a great guy to hang out with, providing numerous tips for us in California. Thanks Alex for all your help!

The band showed up at around 8:45pm, maintaining the upbeat and lively spirit of the night before; that includes Mark, who evidently has been getting some good night sleeps recently. Setlist was a bit different than the night before, however no new songs were introduced (that is, all songs played tonight were already played in previous concerts during this tour).

The crowd of 1,600 cheered as loudly as a crowd of 3,000. Quite a few people danced to Sultans of Swing, and we all gave thanks to a brilliant performance of What It Is and Marbletown.

The Finger of Death has been pointed at someone today. Contrary to prior occurrences, Mark didn’t wait for any sort of “pause” in his performance and had to basically stop playing Brothers in Arms in order to ask someone to stop filming (the band of course kept on playing). I’m not a huge fan of organisms who make Mark stop playing, and others in the crowd appeared to have shared the same kind of emotion.

Correction, 2010‐04‐15 4:00pm: Poor choice of wording (thank you Alex for pointing that out). The general performance of the song hasn’t been interrupted. What I meant was that Mark himself stopped playing whatever guitar riff he was playing, in order to vacate a finger to point at an imbecile in the crowd filming the show. My apologies for the poor choice of words.

The band appears to get their stuff together better and better with each show; very nice. There are 82 concerts left to this tour, I wonder how better they can get.

82 concerts left. Wow.

Going to sleep now, have to wake up in a few hours and start driving towards Temecula. Quite the drive, about 460 miles. At least we get to stay at the Pechanga Resort itself, where the concert actually takes place. Seems nice… arrive, check‐in, get dressed and take the elevator down to the concert.

Good night,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Concert Day: Wells Fargo Centre of the Arts, Santa Rosa, CA (April 14, 2010) (Part 1)

I am starting to write this post sitting outside “Bad Ass Coffee” (yes, that’s right), at the corner of Old Redwood Highway & Mark W Springs Road, Santa Rosa, CA. Arrived early at the venue, which is a short 5 minutes walk from here; thought I should have some coffee and perhaps write a bit.

Today has been a pretty good day so far. I guess the bad vibes I got from Oakland didn’t really interrupt my sleep as I slept like a rock. Woke up to the sight of my BlackBerry’s LED flashing; 25 new messages, chat requests and whatnot. Thank you all, by the way, for the support; it is much appreciated.

I was pretty excited today as I was going to meet with a person who had a significant role in shaping my career and my approach towards what I’m doing for a living (if any of my ex‐colleagues are reading this… well, that person is the one you should come complaining to about me being a jackass). Jeroen decided to join me for the ride to Menlo Park so by 10:00am we were already on the I‐880 southbound. Beautiful weather but we decided to keep the roof top up… you know, Oakland being so infamous for carjacking.

The road leading south to Menlo Park is quite boring; letting the GPS take us the fastest route, we drove through the Interstate south and then had to cross a toll bridge to get into the Palo‐Alto / Menlo Park area.

Menlo Park is a quite little city, neighbouring with Palo‐Alto, right at the core of Silicon Valley. People here appear to be very satisfied with their lives; could you blame them, really? No building there is more than two stories high, and everything’s clean, tidy and—of course—green. Later I came to know that the perfect weather I experienced there was actually winter; during the winter, Menlo Park gets five days of rain every month; during the rest of the year, weather is pretty much steady at around “perfect”—sunny skies, maybe the occasional cloud or two.

Nothing in this beauty would of course make any sense to me while my stomach is empty, so I went looking for a place to eat before meeting with my friend. We stopped at Cafe Borrone, which, by the looks of it, appears to be “the place to be” in Menlo Park:


Very good eggs / feta / spinach for breakfast and I was happy enough to start the day. Jeroen and I part ways—he went researching the area (and later said that he’s very happy to have joined me as this is a beautiful city), and I went to meet with my friend, who answers to the name Ehud (very common Israeli name; he goes by “Ed” now).

Some background: Ehud and I first met in 1996 when I was fresh out of high school, working where all 18 years old have to go work for where I grew up (I should note that most of my friends share this very same background, and we all know each other rather well). He’s four or five years older than I am, and when I joined that organization, Ehud’s task was to transfer some knowledge to me, as well as guide me through some projects. In other words, he was my mentor.

Now, granted, everybody knows somebody who knows a little bit about everything. Well, Ehud is pretty much like that, only that he knows an awful lot about an awful lots of things, and has very well‐defined opinions about pretty much whatever you can mention in a conversation. In his 36 or 37 years, he managed to get his PhD, instruct a few university courses, refuse a bunch of offers to join the software industry (preferring the academia instead), write numerous articles about his area of expertise, learn about pretty much any computer programming language in existence, get married, have a kid, move to Silicon Valley, travel around North America… now that’s a lot. My thought of myself as an “achiever” really appear shrunk and meaningless when compared to what this guy had done.

By the way, his wife is a PhD as well. Talk about an intelligent family.

It was great to meet with him again after so long. I was introduced to the family’s new addition, a sweet 6 months old girl named Aya, who appeared to be thrilled to see me. We then sat down in his living room and the conversation didn’t even take one minute break. Later we went outside, walking towards the same cafe I had breakfast in, and talked for another hour or so, about everything.

Jeroen then returned (as we had to start driving north towards Santa Rosa), so the three of us stayed for a few minutes chatting.

As we really had to hit the road, we escorted Ehud back to his house and bid each other farewell. I’m happy to have had the chance to meet with him. Thanks Ehud, and see you soon!


The road north towards Santa Rosa was nothing short of a thrill. The GPS guided us through valleys, hills and rivers; with a clear blue sky, perfect visibility and crisp air, the feeling of total freedom crept in. And what better way is there to celebrate such a feeling, than loading Eddie Vedder’s “Into the Wild” soundtrack and listening to Hard Sun while enjoying the view?


People here are happy:


A short while later, the Golden Gate bridge…


We then noticed that, driving north on the bridge, there’s a visa point right at the bridge’s end. It’s hard to describe how beautiful the views are from that viewpoint, especially in perfect sunny weather.


San Francisco’s skyline…


The camera’s battery then suddenly died, so we proceeded with driving towards Santa Rosa. A few traffic jams here and there. We did follow Alex Flagg’s recommendation and detoured through highway 121—what a beautiful area Sonoma Valley is. Stopped for late lunch at Angelo’s Wine and Country Deli—delicious sandwiches, and arrived at the venue approximately one hour ago at 5:30pm.

Venue’s doors open shortly so we’ll pack our stuff now and head back to the venue.


Concert Day: Paramount Theatre of the Arts, Oakland, CA (April 13, 2010)

Didn’t get much sleep in Willits. I blame the beds.

After a day off, time has come to get back into routine. Staying at Willits, CA meant that we have an entire day to drive 200km—not much, really.

Woke up into a superbly beautiful morning. While scouring Willits for decent food, I realized how beautiful this little town is. It calls itself “The Gateway to Redwood”, and justifiably so—the Redwood National Park is right across the curve. There are hills and millions of trees around; quiet little town.

BUT WHERE IS THE FOOD? Puzzling. After consulting the GPS a few times—each time finding the place inadequate for breakfast—we decided to resort to the roots and went to Safeway, which had a sandwich bar and a Starbucks in it. Not bad; but when you’re hungry, I guess you can find good taste in just about anything.

Convertible‐perfect day again:


Following Alex Flagg’s recommendation (this guy’s pretty knowledgeable about his surroundings. I appreciate people like that. Cheers Alex, see you tomorrow @ Santa Rosa), we decided to stop over in a small city named Healdsburg, in Northern California.

I’m sure it was hard to just pick Healdsburg; folks, Northern California is a gorgeous place. Laid‐back atmosphere, amazing nature all around you and people are very, very nice. You could easily pick a town in random and wander around it, and you’d be fine.

Anyway, back to Healdsburg. The city is located in Sonoma County, a county in Northern California well‐known for its wineries. Healdsburg itself is considered a major “wine capital” in California—it’s hard to swing a samurai sword without accidentally hitting some vines.

We started our Healdsburg visit with some beverages—I had to had some relaxing espresso break before I can go on with my day, so we hit a local place called “Bean Affair” just off the downtown area. Very relaxing 30 minutes of basking at the sun having tea (Jeroen) and espresso (myself).

The downtown area is the major touristic area of the city. It boasts wine‐tasting opportunities in literally every block—and each block has at least two or three of those, offering the best of Sonoma County’s wines. Being a Canadian (I guess nobody’s perfect), I am only allowed to bring 1.5L of alcohol once I’m back in Canada in a couple of weeks, so instead of loading the car with boxes of wine (as I would have), I had to suffice with two bottles. Shame.

Also noticed (correction: Jeroen noticed) a restaurant there carrying two Michelin stars, but we weren’t hungry. Also a shame. Mental note to self: hire a jet and come here once for lunch when hungry.

Some photos were taken as well:


I realized that driving in the sun is kind‐of tricky with nothing blocking the sun from reaching your eyes (sunglasses not always enough), so… yes, now I am “one of those”:


(Got the hat at a local winery, along with a bottle of wine)

Continued to drive towards Oakland, our next destination: Oakland is neighbouring with San Francisco; and also (coincidentally) the location of the concert tonight. Booked a hotel within walking distance to the venue, to make life simple.

Approaching the San Francisco area from the north is a somewhat thrilling experience. Rather pretty drive, however most of the beauty is gone once you cross the Richmond Bridge (?) and start driving toward Oakland. The venue—Paramount Theatre of the Arts—is within walking distance from our hotel at the Jack London Square area, which is considered to be rather safe. We made a decision, though, to not spend too much time in Oakland itself anyway. There’s much worth seeing around.

With that in mind, we left the hotel about 5 minutes after checking‐in, as I was starving and looking forward to see some of San Francisco’s downtown area. A short 10 minutes walk took us to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station on Broadway & 12th, and from there a 15 minutes train ride took us straight to Powell Street station, at the core of San Francisco’s downtown area.

San Francisco’s downtown area appears to be rather compelling to those having the shopping bug in their veins. Very busy, too. We only had two hours to spend there before going back to Oakland for the concert, so we didn’t get to see much:


Spent about an hour in a bookstore there (“Borders”) to answer the dozens of emails I have, then back to Oakland. Concert soon.

It’s a short, 10 minutes walk from the hotel to the venue. Going to collect the concert tickets, I was spotted by Wannee, who has been following my blog, as well as Jerry, who flew‐in from San Diego for the concert (also found me using this blog. Interesting; this blog is a great way to get to know interesting people). Wannee took a few pictures which I would post now had she sent them to me on time…

Then we entered the venue.


The Paramount Theatre of the Arts, located in Broadway & 21st, was built in 1931 and seats ~ 3,500 people. It boasts great facilities (although the lack of possibility to buy food on the premises really ticked me off as I was starving during the entire show), and it is gorgeous in the interior (sorry, due to lighting issues, I couldn’t take good pictures of it).

Our tickets showed Orchestra Row A, seats 101 & 103. But of course, someone in the venue thought it’d be a neat idea to also create an Orchestra Pit (two rows, separated from the orchestra level with a short barrier and mean‐looking ushers). It was weird to suddenly not be at the front row, hopefully that’s not going to happen too often. Our guess is that the pit was created for people specifically invited by the venue, such as subscribers who won some sort of a lottery. Who knows, and who cares. The view was great anyway.


Pieta Brown changed her setlist a bit tonight, good performance as always so far this tour. While listening to the last song, Jeroen decided to get his hands on Pieta’s latest CD. We’ll buy it at the Albany concert, the last one in the North American leg (preferable over carrying stuff around in the car).

Contrary to whatever was posted in emails, Mark’s show was scheduled to start at 9:00pm and not 8:00pm. Also, due to some technical problems (lighting?), the show started about 10 minutes late, with the band showing up to some severe audience cheering noise.

I guess a lot of things could be said about today’s concert (setlist pretty similar to the last one, except for “So Far Away” replacing “Shangri La” at the encore), however one thing is particularly worth mentioning simply because it was unavoidable for me to notice, having followed the tour so far, and it is Mark himself.

I can’t recall Mark looking so… how to say… upbeat and lively. I don’t know whether he simply had a good day off, a tremendously good night sleep, or somebody put something in whatever it is that he drinks, but he appeared to be very cheerful: smiling a lot, dancing (!)… heck, if he reached to his back pocket and pulled‐out that famous headband and put it over his head, I don’t think anybody would be surprised.

He even kept his optimism and overall good spirit once he located someone video‐shooting the concert. Even a little bit of dancing at the beginning of “Piper to the End”.

Puzzling, but hey, what do you know. One thing is sure though, when Mark is upbeat and happy, he is daring. I heard some interesting things being performed on a Pensa guitar (during Telegraph Road’s outro solo). There was also a rather funny moment during Donegan’s Gone when you could literally see (& hear) Mark and Tim having a musical dialog. A funny one, I have to say—Mark’s and Tim’s body language complemented the musical dialog quite beautifully.

Another thing I think I was a bit different today is Richard Bennett taking on a slightly louder rhythm‐guitar playing during Remembrance Day. I’m all for it.


Concert was over at around 11:15pm—very late. I starved but couldn’t find anything open for food. Weird. At the end, we noticed an open burger place named “National Hamburger Place”. Stepped inside and ordered food. Then I realized some mega‐strange people wandering around the store. It just didn’t feel right, so we made the order “to go” and fled the scene.

Something in Oakland gave me a rather annoying vibe. Don’t know what it is.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day for me. I am going to meet with a person whom I haven’t seen in about 10 years and who has been my mentor during my first few years as an information technologist. He now lives about 30 miles south of San Francisco, so we agreed to get together and catch‐up.

Later tomorrow we’ll have to drive an hour or so north, to Santa Rosa, for the next concert.

Stay tuned for updates.


April 12: Long Driving Day

Yesterday (April 12) was a day off for the band—they appear to have taken each Monday off during the North American leg of the tour. The next concert (April 13, today) was scheduled to take place in Oakland, California—some good ~800km away.

We decided—much, by the way, in accordance with Alex Flagg’s recommendations—to take the Interstate (I‐5) south, then take the US‐199 highway to take us along the shore, so we can enjoy some of Oregon’s and Northern California’s scenery.

No need to rush, then; took the time easy in Eugene, Oregon. It was a beautiful day—perfect for a convertible ride, so we took the roof down and passionately consumed each kilometre on the I‐5.

The state of Oregon is a beautiful state. I remember quite vividly my astonishment of the surroundings during the 2008’s Kill to Get Crimson tour—back then, I drove the opposite way. The I‐5, which is supposed to be a busy, boring highway, turned out to be very pleasant to drive and, man, such nice views…

I would summarize driving in southern Oregon as “pretty similar to driving into the interior of British Columbia, Canada—but with hardly any lakes along the way”. True, lakes add beauty but Oregon has quite the scenery to offer. Everywhere you look you see green, green and more green; at some point you think that the entire world is actually green, everything should be green and whatever isn’t green will turn green at some point.


And it’s nice, until at some point you get tired of it. Then we saw this sign:


Somewhere along the Redwood Highway (of course, not before I noticed a sign, placed by Oregon state, thanking me for visiting and begging for me to come back; OK, OK… I will).

The Redwood National Park, and accompanying “State Parks” ( are a collection of parks located in Northern California and containing… well, you guessed it—lots of Redwood. Folks, are those trees high; in fact, they are the tallest trees on earth. Tall and massive, too; it’s not hard to mistake the trunk of one such tree with a decent‐sized cabin.

The Redwood Parks are gorgeous. Driving through those parks reminded me a lot of driving through highway 4 in Vancouver Island, BC—only the trees are taller (of course) and… again… no lakes, however the ocean is right there beside the road (at some locations).

The roads are at times narrow, and offer endless turns, small inclines and declines—motorcycle riders would call this place “paradise”. Really good place to practice your driving, too. Also, the state of California is doing a pretty good job keeping the area clean, and—more importantly—safe, as the roads here are in tip‐top shape.

We stopped along the way to take some pictures:


It is really hard to capture, using pictures, the actual feeling you get when you’re actually there. I wouldn’t call myself a tree‐hugger, but nature attracts me in very special ways, especially the combination of greenery, mountains, rocks and water. The views along the coast of Northern California reminded me a lot of the magnificent coasts of Cape‐Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada—virgin, wild, rugged coastline that simply begs for mankind to take a step back and stop ruining it for everybody.

The love for nature is also the prominent reason for my wish to, at some point of time, live in the city of Vancouver. Yes, the city itself is nice and all—very laid back and cozy—but what really gives me the kick about it is the natural setting in which it’s nestled.

One day, Vancouver… one day.

For the most part while driving on highway 199 (and then highway 1), it was either drizzling or raining. Therefore, we decided to neglect our original plan of going to Mendocino—Alex was raving about that place, but no worries, I’ll get there at some point—and drive as far as we could towards Oakland. For safety reasons, we decided to stop driving once it gets dark as, really, the risk isn’t worth it.

We stopped for an early dinner in a place called “Bless My Soul Cafe” in Eureka, California. This is a small cafe, owned by an extremely vivid and friendly lady who names herself “Mama Janisse”. She also cooks most of the items in the menu. The prices in the menu (approx $15 an entree) may scare‐off a few people, but wait, don’t go anywhere—even if the portions appear to be small. They aren’t. They’re just enough for %99 of the people I know, and they are delicious. Man, can Mama Janisse cook. I went for the vegetarian Creole—essentially an enchilada filled with good stuff and smothered in some spicy sauce… WOW.

A glance at the map suggested that we should stay the night in Willits, California. We arrived there when it was already dark, around 8:30pm. Super‐8 Motel charged us $80 for a 2‐beds suite—not bad, and the place itself is well‐kept (except for the Wi‐Fi which drove Jeroen bananas until he finally positioned his Netbook in just the right location to get some sort of signal. I should note though that the staff did everything they could to help).

I was way too tired to write a blog yesterday evening, plus I had some little project to work on (sorry, no details) so after a couple of hours of work I decided to call it a night.

That was a very good day—lots of driving but also lots of sight‐seeing and soul‐replenishment with all the nature around.

See you shortly at the next post,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

FAQ: About Recording the Concerts

Great day we had yesterday (a blog post coming later tonight), and the Oakland concert is just a couple of hours away.

Just thought I’d post my thoughts about recording the concerts. “Why don’t you record the concerts” is the most frequently asked question I am asked (through private emails), after the obvious ones of:

  • Are you insane? (Jury’s still out on that one)
  • Are you touring with the roadies? (No)
  • Are you touring with the band itself? (No)
  • Are you paid for this? (No)
  • What do you do for living? (…)
  • How much money do you have? (…)

So… no, I don’t record any show, never have and probably never will. The reason is that it’s just not something I’m interested in doing. Same as sky‐diving; yeah, most people tell me it’s fun, and it’s legal, still I will (most likely) never do it because I’m genuinely not interested in doing it. Not my thing, really. I would spend any free minute I have playing my guitars & piano, composing & recording music… sky‐diving isn’t interesting me at all.

If you wish to get audio recordings of the shows, there literally are dozens of Mark Knopfler fan sites that would offer links to such recordings. As I am not familiar with the various fan sites, I am sorry but I cannot direct you to any particular fan site that offers such links; Google, I guess, is your best friend here.

I deeply and genuinely appreciate your support of the journey I am taking, folks—and my apologies if my decision to not record the shows hurts you in any way… still, I am not going to do it. I will give the band (or Mark himself, as he appears to be individual with the final say about subjects like that) the credit for coming up with such recordings to be available for the general audience, if at all.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Concert Day: Hult Centre for the Performing Arts, Eugene, OR (April 11, 2010)

I am writing this entry on April 12 9:20am, the morning after the concert.

Yesterday was a very long day—in a very good way, that is. As good as the concert was at the end of the day, for me the best part was whatever happened before it; it has been my most “social” day so far in this trip.

Knowing we’re only have to drive a couple of hours to get from Portland to Eugene, we took the morning very easily. I slept in—I think it wasn’t before 10:00am when I woke up. We took a huge suite in the Embassy Suites to host the three of us—Jeroen, Alex and myself; within an hour or so, we were ready to start the day.

And what’s a better way to start the day than standing in line for an hour in order to check‐out a doughnut shop?

Just across the street from the hotel, there’s a doughnut shop called “Voodoo Doughnut”. Walking nearby it the night before, we noticed a huge line‐up outside the store. Fiona mentioned that line‐ups are always there, and that she had never tried any of those doughnuts.

It doesn’t take much to ignite my passion for food. If there’s a doughnut shop that dozens of people render it completely reasonable to wait in line for for an hour, every day and night—I simply have to check it out. What is it that could be so good about a doughnut? I immediately notified my companions that we are not leaving Portland until I get my hands on some of those doughnuts.

Fortunately I found agreement on the listening side.

So anyway, we went downstairs and found a huge line‐up in front of the store. The line appeared to move very slowly, so we figured we’re going to have to wait in line for quite a while. Alex asked me to briefly describe to him the origins and trouble of the Israeli people—which I happily did. Now and then, the guys took some photos:


An hour went by quickly and then we experienced the sensation of importance when we switched from the line‐up outside into the line‐up inside the store. It’s a tiny store, can host around 8 hungry people.


They have an interesting selection:


On display, they had a few interesting items. Look at this huge doughnut:


Another doughnut had maple glazing and bacon (!) on it:


And of course the day wouldn’t be complete without The Weeny—a doughnut shaped to cater for really interesting people. Also the perfect gift for a bachelorette party:


After about 20 minutes in line inside the store, our turn to order has finally arrived. A box of 15 doughnuts cost us just under $10. We rushed outside, I called Fiona and announced “We have the doughnuts!”. The next stop was Umbria Cafe—an Italian‐style coffee place Fiona has been raving about.

On our way, we tried the doughnuts. Nothing special, really.

The entire gang met there again. Took breakfast there—a delicious sandwich and an even more delicious espresso; this place has some great atmosphere, certainly not your usual coffee place. Refreshing decor, lots of space and mouth‐watering dining selection. We spent around an hour there—Fiona, Steven, Alex, Jeroen and myself—chatting, sharing a few laughs and having a great time:


I then got introduced to a co‐owner of the place—a rather nice Italian individual who just got back from a bike ride and had some very interesting things to say. Soccer was playing on the TV screen and so we talked about Italy’s chances of winning the upcoming world‐cup. He didn’t sound too optimistic about it but hey, wasn’t it a surprise last time they took the title?

I decided to make him famous:


On our way out, we encountered Bernie—an interesting and colourful persona that frequents the place. He has a very interesting story to tell, and I really liked his clothing so… why not.


We then left the store. Sunny outside, a bit windy but who cares. Loaded ourselves into the car when Fiona suggested to take a “goodbye Portland” photo (Alex is holding the doughnut box open):


And off we drove to Eugene!

Took us two hours to get into this small town. I crossed it during the last tour, so the name sounded familiar. The concert was scheduled to take place at the Hult Centre of the Performing Arts, so we chose an inn about 500 meters away (unlike Alex, who managed to Priceline a room at the Hilton—adjacent to the venue—for $50).

While passing the time in the room, I got a shout from Ryan Dunne saying he’s in town. I met Ryan in the Jacksonville, OR concert two years ago, and we kept in touch ever since. He attended Portland’s concert and we were going to see him again at the Hult. We all decided on an early dinner before the show, at the Sixth Avenue Grill right across the street from the venue. The entire six‐piece went there, what a great experience—we had a good time. Good food, too.

An hour or so later, my craving for coffee prompted me to suggest some caffeine intake before the concert. As this is a small town and it was Sunday evening, chances of finding an espresso bar were slim to none so we decided to hit a place that we were told open all the time. It’s not even a store—it’s a drive‐thru coffee booth called “Dutch Bros. Coffee”. It’s located in a parking lot. Now how bizarre is that, huh? I’ve never seen anything like it—neat idea. Fiona mentioned that “this is Oregon”.


A decent macchiato costs here $1. Better than Starbucks’ coffee, and for quarter of the price. As my body was absorbing the caffeine, I found it appropriate to head to the venue now. Isaac’s got his coffee, and nobody gets hurt.

The Hult Centre is one great venue. The concert hall itself is absolutely gorgeous and the location has great facilities, lots of space and cheerful atmosphere:


Got the tickets—front row centre, again—and passed the time chatting with my friends for an additional 30–45 minutes until Pieta Brown came on stage.

Someone from the tour’s production—if you read this, please reduce the lights when Pieta is on the stage, no need to waste energy; she lights up the hall herself. I took a couple of pictures; yes, people, her voice is just as sweet:


After Pieta’s performance, the six of us realized that this may be the last time this tour we’re going to be together, so we bid each other farewell and took some pictures. Here’s Ryan:


And Fiona & Steven:


A few minutes later the gang came on stage. Eugene’s a quiet town, much unlike the audience—everyone cheered pretty loudly when the band showed up; I looked back, and this wonderful venue filled with standing, cheering people was a really great thing lo look at.

Border Reiver started the show (as it has so far in the tour), when I finally concluded that Mark tunes his Strat half a tone down (this is a Cm song, he appears to play as if it is C♯m). Interesting. Might be more convenient to do so, I’ll have to try myself.

As in every concert so far, the setlist changed a bit. While most songs remain, the band is trying new things every night. The sound at the venue was phenomenal—similar in quality to that of Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre. It was great to listen to Get Lucky live again, the Marbletown jam session involving brilliant work by Mike and Tim… and then the band surprised us with Mark taking a guitar I haven’t seen yet, as well as a slider. A short yet brilliant 2 minutes intro, and we got an extremely interesting performance of Donegan’s Gone from the album Shangri‐La. The best thing about this performance was Tim’s work on God‐knows‐what‐instrument‐was‐that (a tiny mandolin?). Mark and Tim were having sort‐of a conversation with each other. Beautiful song, beautiful performance.

Telegraph Road boasted an exciting outro guitar solo, and then the encore with the sweet Piper to the End to seal the show.

Wonderful day, wonderful concert—what more could one ask for, really.

Here are some photos taken by Jeroen:


10:38am Monday morning. Today there’s no concert—the next one is tomorrow in Oakland, CA so we’re going to explore the drive along the beach. Sunny day today. We’ll have breakfast first as I’m starving.