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In the Know 

Alt-country choir Jon-Rae and the River makes the difficult trip east for a show this weekend. And Shannon Webb-Campbell gets what she needs.

Life as a touring Canadian musician is, at the best of times, wearisome. Three days into Jon-Rae and the River’s ambitious cross-country tour with The Constantines, the van breaks down and the band gets stranded in Newfoundland. Instead of huffing and puffing, the indie-rockers soak in the sights and sounds before making their way to the Marquee on March 23.

“We were supposed to be on the ferry en route to Sydney,” says ringleader Jon-Rae Fletcher in between drags, calling from his cell phone in St. John’s. “But instead I’m standing outside of The Duke of Duckworth, smoking. It’s really beautiful here. We went up to Signal Hill earlier.”

Usually the band pulls into a town as quickly as it rolls out. Fletcher and his musical ensemble, known as The River—including Anne Rust-D’Eye (backing vocals), Ian Russell (bass), Mike Stafford, Jonathan Adjemian (keys), Paul Mortimer (guitar), Dave Clarke (drums)—are enjoying a drizzly, overcast evening with a round of local pints.

“No, we haven’t been screeched-in yet,” he says. “Isn’t that when you kiss a rotten cod or something?”

Perhaps Fletcher and company might spend their last night in the city of legends smooching stinky fish, or puckering up for a puffin and raising their glasses while poring over sentiments like “long may your big jib draw.” Or they might make their way back to the hotel and catch some shut-eye.

The band’s latest effort, Jon-Rae and the River Knows What You Need, is a haphazard collection of insights into sex, travelling, playing music and everything else in-

between.

“I don’t know what we need,” he concludes after a long haul on his cigarette. “I thought I did, I thought I had found it, but I guess not. The title is really a bit tongue-in-cheek. We recorded live for the most part with Paul Aucoin,”—brother of Dr. Seuesster Rich—“he gave insight when it was needed and shut up when it wasn’t.”

Jon-Rae and The River have three years of touring now under their belts— the outfit hosts a legendary annual boozy New Year’s stint at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, performed multiple sets at last year’s Pop Explosion (a rowdy one at The Marquee and a quieter performance at St. Matt’s, accompanied by local indie elites as a back-up choir) and has criss-crossed the country a few times.

“We lose money every time we tour,” Fletcher says. “We’re down to our last $200 and it will cost at least $500 to fix the van, it’s only been three days. With that said, it’s still a good excuse to go out and see the country with your friends, it’s great to play music and visit different cities.”

The Constantines rounded up Jon-Rae and The River to join them on their current Canadian tour in support of their latest light-shining effort, Tournament of Hearts. Unfortunately, the quintet had to plunge on and go to Corner Brook sans Jon-Rae and company.

“It’s really too bad, as we’ve made it all the way out here and couldn’t play Corner Brook,” says Fletcher. “We’d like to come back sometime, maybe in the summer, it might make more sense. But we’ll be back with our friends the Cons for the show in Sydney, hopefully.”

Sackville’s Shotgun and Jaybird join in on the touring circuit just in time for their Sydney gig. Afterwards, Julie Doiron and her bird pelters stick with the musical circus until Toronto, where Vancouver’s Ladyhawk take over on the wheel to cover shows from Ontario to Tofino.

When our local crew In-Flight Safety hit the TransCanada on their tour with Raising The Fawn, the bands merged members and formed a seven-piece outfit dubbed Night Danger, who paid homage to Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago,” Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” and The Constantines tune “Working Full-Time.” Fletcher hopes that a similar bond will occur between the various bands on this bill.

“We are covering a few Constantine songs, while they are covering a few of our tunes,” he says. “We’re definitely looking forward to getting something together for up and coming shows, for now we just hope to be back on the road and play together.”

Jon-Rae and the River w/The Constantines and Shotgun and Jaybird, March 23 at The Marquee Club, 2037 Gottingen, 10pm, $15 adv/$18 door, 494-3820.

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