Dan Frechette Rambles into Town
~ by Fred Middleton
A band of one, I thought ā¦ how much could there be to write? Well, as it happens, writing about a Rambling Dan Frechette performance can fill a page with words as easily as Dan fills a venue with music and personality.
I met Dan Saturday afternoon. The first thing he said to me as I approached was, āHi, do you have a camera? ācause Iād really like to get a shot of this.ā He was referring to the sign in front of the Whaleās Rub that read: Rambling Dan Frechette, July 28th, 8:00pm, blues, bluegrass and folk. That is, before some jokester rubbed out the āgrā in ābluegrassā and somehow made the āolā in folk look like a āucā. As unamusing as these little pranks are, no doubt, to the signmaker (or parents of budding phoneticians), Dan found this one too funny. I went home for the camera.
Rambling Dan beside the poster he arrived to in Sointula
That was shortly after Dan arrived on the 1:45pm ferry. With guitar in hand, he was already entertaining Sadie, her young charge and any passersby. When I passed by about 25 minutes later he was still playing. He seemed to have no interest in his accommodation or where he was playing later, he just wanted to play ā¦ right now.
The next time I saw him, aside from a brief sighting in the Bistro, where R.D.F. was seen catching up on Facebook, etc., was when I arrived at the pub. It was about 20 minutes before 8:00pm, the posted start time, and Dan was already entertaining the massesāall three of them.
R.D. began his current tour July 2nd in Winnipeg, where he was living. It was time to leave, he said, due to the cold winters and a ārelationshitā that, as one may surmise, didnāt work out. His next gig was a festival in Montmartre, Saskatchewan, followed by multiple venues in the Kootenays. In Creston he was asked to do a radio show from October to December ā¦ heās deep in contemplation about that ā¦ then a date at Zocaloās, in Courtenay, and directly here.
From here itās off to Vancouver, back to Pritchard, Artswell in Wells, Barkerville, and back to Vancouver Island. At least, thatās the plan for the rambling of Dan.
Back at the pub, R.D. is playing, more or less in background mode, while I chat with Bruce, whoās sitting at the bar with one eye on the football game. Shortly after 8:00pm a few more people amble in, and Iām thinking Dan is probably finished with his āsound checkā and ready to take a short break while the place fills in. Wrong. He greets the newcomers and switches from background to full engagement mode. One of his first stories was about buying his current guitar, a left-handed Gibson J200, in Florida about four months ago, mostly because the salesman said it was the loudest in the store.
Dan Frechette totally inside a song
Once R.D. began entertaining in earnest, most eyes and ears were uncontrollably directed stage-ward so as not to miss anything he was saying or playing. Dan went from his hard-driving Going to Hell in a Hand-basket Blues, which involved harmonica, guitar and some serious foot-stomping, to a soft, sweet folk song about Canada, to a reggae number, and back to the blues with a song about doing eight years in The Internet County Jail where ā(he) was on Facebook and Spacebook all night long.ā Many top-notch original songs (with very original lyrics) later, Dan took a short break.
The second set finds Dan inviting David Essig to join him. What a treat. They started out with a favourite of mine, Deep River Blues, then slipped into Doc Watsonās Southbound. I was too busy taking it all in to write anything down after that. Between R.D.ās malleable voice and fine picking style, and Davidās great accompanying slide guitar or mandolin, the audience was notably impressed, evident by the rapt attention and audible between-songs appreciation. Hey, wow, does that mean any time David recommends a musician, heāll play with them? Sorry; my opportunistic inner voice sneaks out once in awhile.
Dan and David met at a V.I. festival (I believe) in 2009 (I think). R.D. had broken his arm and had someone else playing guitar for him. He was less than pleased on two counts: he couldnāt play Davidās National and he couldnāt play with David. āNow I can,ā he said.
Dark Side of Town was R.D.ās excellent third set opener, followed by the very funny Everyday Iām Everything All at Once (Iām happy, Iām sad, Iām good and Iām bad, Iām smart and Iām a fool, Iām a loser and Iām cool ā¦ and so on). Then he introduced Grandpa Was a Spaceman as ānot one of my best, probably one of my worst, but itās funny and I like it,ā (Grandpa was a spaceman, worked a porn store in Moo-oo-oosejaw). At some point, R.D. finally played a cover. He introduced it as āa song by Woody Guthrie, and if you havenāt heard it, I feel sorry for you.ā
After a few more songs, including I Should Know by Now, which Dan wrote in a laundromat and dedicated to āall the people I havenāt met yet,ā and another kickinā blues song with the word āprognosisā in it, he took a short break.
Rambling Dan was back on stage shortly for a fourth set. This one was almost all covers or, more accurately, impersonations ā¦ exceedingly humorous impersonations. There was the history of Bob Dylan and his ever-changing voice, along with Willie Nelson, John Prine, Genesis, Tom Petty, Stompinā Tom, a Bruce Springsteen/Leonard Cohen medley, and Neil Youngās Rock and Roll Will Never Dieāregular version and bluegrass version. Then there was Girls Just Wanna Have Fun ā¦ Dan let us know when to imagine a banjo, bass and dobro. And, of course, Dan ārescuesā songs from the eighties. He just ātakes out the reverb,ā etc. and prestoāa decent song. This self-professed āvicelessā performer (and the audience) was just having too much fun.
At one point during the Dylan songs Mike Garwood leaned over and said, āClose your eyes. Itās as close as youāre going to get to the real thing.ā He was right.
Finally, at about 12:35am, R.D. announced his last song: āone of my best,ā he said ā¦ a lovely song about his dad, who passed away six years ago. But wait, the crowd calls for an encore. Dan responds by playing not one, but multiple tunes, until after 1:00amāa first. The Rambler played four sets, about five and a half hours, with only three short breaksāanother first.
But Dan is not about quantity over quality. Not only does he play guitar (while playing harmonica) as though he has an extra hand, he has many fine voices and is a prolific and an excellent songwriter in a multitude of genres. And such a comedian/storyteller.
Once again, I had to step off the island the following morningāa SeaFest engagement. I did manage to hook up with R.D. at the Bistro, however. Rambling Dan must really be an engaging conversationalist, because I had finished breakfast and was looking out for the ferry (hard to miss) when, after a short ship-to-shore conversation with Randy Stark, a tourist came in from the deck and said, āIs there someone here named Fred? The ferryās waiting for you.ā I donāt think I said thanks to the messenger or goodbye to my tablemates, but I did make the ferry. Only in Sointula.
Next up: Friday, August 3rd @ The Whaleās Rub Ā The Roper Show, southern blues. This band is very hot, very danceable. Check them out on YouTube.
On deck: Friday, August 10th @ The Whaleās Rub Ā Beyond the 10th, with special guest David Essig. Mostly blues, very danceable. Maybe Davidās on YouTube.