The image of a lone man on a motorcycle with a guitar slung over his shoulder, cruising down the highway and living on rock and roll, is undeniably romantic. Even more so when it's not an image from a movie or the distant past, but is the simple existence of a simple man who is accessible, here and now.
Scott Cook is a wandering poet/singer/musician who is currently on tour in Taiwan, driving from town to town, from Kenting to Taipei and everywhere in between. He writes often of life on the road: Listen to that old, cold steel engine roar/ Going where I've never been before.
This is a solo tour, though he also has some dates scheduled when he will be playing with his well-known band, The Anglers. For the last year he has toured extensively in his home country, Canada, where he got his "first inkling that things would turn out and that this could be sustainable."
Cook will be doing another round from Vancouver Island to Halifax and back through the US on his return.
When we spoke during Spring Scream he was very excited and happy to be back in Taiwan, and expressed an obvious affection for the country and his many friends and fans here.
"I love this place," he said in a phone interview on Monday. "I love it because it's free, and I hope it stays that way."
On Sunday, Cook staged an impromptu show in Taichung, relying on friends he had made here previously to spread the word: "It was so sweet, we set up a show with only a few hours' notice, and a flurry of text messages went around and filled the place."
He was on the road when we spoke and by tonight will have played in Tainan, Chaiyi, Pingtung and Kaohsiung. He's excited and says he "hopes to see monkeys" on the trip.
What: Scott Cook's all-Taiwan Tour
When and where: Wednesday at Bliss, 148, Xinyi Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市信義路四段148號), one block east of Dunhua South Road (敦化南路). Call (02) 2702-1855 or log on at www.bliss-taipei.com for more information; Thursday at Dream Community (夢想社區), 95 Minzu 2nd St, Shijr City, Taipei County (台北縣汐止市民族二街95號) near the intersection of Huqian Street (湖前街) and Kangning Road (康寧路). Call (02) 2695-9393 or visit dreamcommunity.org.net.tw for more information; Saturday, April 26, at 89k, 21 Takuan Rd, Nantun Dist, Taichung City (台中市南屯區大觀路21號). Call (04) 2320-7010 for more information
Tickets: NT$200 for the Bliss show; NT$250 for 89K; there is no cover charge at the Dream Community but a donation is requested
On the Net: A full list of venues and shows for Scott Cook's tour can be found at scottcook.net
Many of Cook's songs are about traveling and wanderlust; his feelings about taking the Southern Cross-Island Highway for the first time sound like the lyrics from the title track of his new solo album Long Way to Wander: One of these days I'll go rollin' back/ To all the things I left lying around/ For now I'll keep on wandering along/ Long way to go, don't know where I'm bound.
Tomorrow he'll be in Hualien at the Pine Grove Center (松園別館) for a Peacefest pre-party from 5:30pm to 8pm with Mister Green, and The Admissionaries.
On Wednesday, he'll be playing, along with other musicians, at Bliss in Taipei. Then on Thursday, he plays a set in Shijr City (汐止) at the Dream Community (夢想社區). Cook is planning a performance with the Anglers in Taipei next Friday, April 25, but as of press time has not secured a venue, and in Taichung on Saturday, April 26, at 89K. A few more shows are in the works, and his farewell gig is on Wednesday, April 30, at Bliss.
Cook starts his solo shows with folk songs, playing ukulele and guitar for his first set. The second set involves the use of a loop station, so he can layer sound to create what he calls "hobo hi-fi." The second set has elements of reggae and hip-hop, but what stands out most in all of his music is his rumbling, rambling, growling vocals and original lyrics.
In person Cook is incredibly welcoming, charming, and laidback. There is a warmth and sincerity about him that you hear in his music, which is why he has so many fans. The songs on Long Way to Wander relay his experiences with an intimacy that is both poetic and accessible.
He sings of a long-distance journey across North America by bus that anyone who has traveled this way can relate to: There were Bible-belters arguing their doctrinal schisms/ There were also rednecks advocating vigilante-ism/ We were just outside of ludicrous and headed for profound/ On that armpit-smelling, leg-cramping, smoke-colored Hound.