Friday, July 28, 2006

A Vacation on the Fundy Coast

For the first time since the Fall of 2001 my wife and I took an extended holiday that was not focussed on chasing Bob Dylan in different places around the world. We're just getting past the 1st Step of Recovery...admitting we had a problem. 2006 will mark the first year in 5 where the number of times we've seen Dylan is in the single-digits. Lowest total # of Dylan shows in the same 5 years.
And I will probably see another band more often that Dylan. It's like the new millenium is just beginning, I'm feeling good about the progress.

Of course this trip wasn't music free, that would be like going cold turkey. The weekend starts in Ottawa with a day at the Bluesfest. The holiday gets underway when we're on the road to Riviere Du Loup in northern Quebec, a waystation between Ontario and the Fundy Coast of New Brunswick.
If you look on a map of this area of Canada you'll see it's pretty well half-way between nowhere and no place. If you're looking to bed down for the night, it'd best be here or it won't be THIS night. With that kind of logic firmly in place we choose to stop at the first familiar name we see...a Days Inn for the bargain price of around $150 Cdn. Hmmmmmm. Paid that much for TWO nights in our nations capital and there were other things to do there. But I've passed the 'last outpost' before (that's Albany NY on the I90 East) and I didn't feel like driving another few hours. Besides the room has a lovely view of a red-night sky over the majestic St. Lawrence River. I'll take photo's in the morning.

We wake up to a blanket of fog covering the whole Gaspe peninsula down to Kingston ON. I could just as well take a close-up picture of the white walls of our hotel than capture the haze over the St. Lawrence. Oh well, we're not weather-dependent today as we're just covering some miles to Moncton where we'll meet a friend for dinner.

On the road we pass a couple sites of moderate interest, stopping for a rest at Grand Falls, the waterfall with the highest volume in NB, for what it's worth. A quick lunch at the County Line Restaurant and we're off to find, and drive through, the Heartland Covered Bridge. Longest covered bridge in the world. They can say that, I didn't measure the other ones.

The change in time zone prevented us from being too early but we did pull into town in time to go check out one of the biggest scams going...the Magnetic Hill of Moncton. OK, it doesn't cost anything, so maybe scam is a little harsh. It's a slight misdirection though as there is no magnet in the hill that pulls your car. I mean think about it. That would be dangerous. What if you had a plate in your head and had to tie your shoe? What if you had piercings in sensitive places? The irony is it attracts people to the general vicinity where there's a waterpark, a small railroad and other family-type happenings. Oh, and there's a little hill where you put your car in reverse and it 'climbs', we didn't find that part.
Cool looking entrance though.

With our minimalist schedule of site-seeing for the area well out of the way we make contact with our friend Beth. We met her through the Dylanpool back in the days when goodwill led to good times.(ie. early-2003) One of the gifts that place will always keep on giving long after it's imminent demise. Nothing fancy, dinner at St Hubert's (a chicken house), drinks and lolli's at the room, then we head over to Beth's to meet 'n greet with her parents. And imbibe some more. Until the late hours of the night, instead of the early hours of the morn, 'cause it is a school day after all.

The morning drive south to St. George affords us a few much more remarkable sites along the way. The first stop is at the world-famous Hopewell Rocks The Bay of Fundy is all about the tides...highest in the world, constantly in motion. They've done there work in this cozy little alcove, years of pressure carving out the Flowerpot rocks that are as instantly recognizable as Niagara Falls. At least to those who enjoy natural beauties that don't charge per hour to view them online.

If you're here at the right time, 3 hours on either side of low-tide, you can actually walk on the ocean floor that is covered by meters of water during high-tide. As fate would have it, we were there at exactly that moment. It's a slippery walk down the steel steps, covered with sea-slime of some sort. Cece sought to suck out of the sojourn but I steadfastly demurred. No 'she selling sea shells by the seashore' needed here. I digress. I did convince Cece to carefully navigate the steps so we could look for remnants of Atlantis and hum Donovan tunes while walking the beach. Getting back up the steps is not as much fun.

The area has a couple of well-placed lookouts where you can spy the ocean and the tides moving one way or the other but the Flowerpot rocks are the money shot.

And don't miss the Hopewell Floats at the cafeteria, for the more spiritualist, than naturalist, amongst you.

From here we venture further south, in search of covered bridges (we started making this a subtheme during a recent NE U.S. trip) and lighthouses, which can be found on either side of the continent and the Great Lakes. But you can go a long way before you find a lighthouse like the one at Cape Enrage. The most photographed lighthouse in the world! (Does no one ever question the veracity of these tourist trap claims? I mean this is not measurable.

They had a terrific little cafe onsite where you could have a light lunch or dessert. We opted for the dessert, a wonderful local specialty, similar to poor-man's pudding, it consists of a light biscuit smothered in local blueberries (the best in the world!) and covered with ice cream or whipped cream. To die for. More on the repurcussions later.

Cape Enrage has been awarded the "Best View in Canada" by the travel guru's, Frommers. It's nice alright, but I haven't been to the Mounties yet and it seems they may not have been either. Best view in NB I could buy.

Our trek to St George has us meandering through the wonderful Fundy National Park, climbing the Appalachians to a height of 366 metres above sea level before we begin following the meandering St John River towards the shore. While stopped for lunch a couple who were driving the Fundy Coast trail in the opposite direction suggested we get off the main road and take a 'river route'. It added a little time to the travel but also provided a more diverse scenic drive.

We back out of seeing the 'reversing falls' in St John, not being sure of the tide schedule and having already been bitten by the 'magnetic hill' gambit. It's basically the tide retreating over rocks, creating an upstream rapids, from what we can gather out of the tourist pamphlets. Instead we stop by a local farm for some blueberries...'cause they don't get any better than those that grow here.

We pull into Gorgeous St George (is that a monkey joke on the part of the town) in time to wander their streets, tramp through their cemetery to get a bit of the history of the town and settle down for dinner and drinks. Most of the long driving is behind us for a couple days as this well-located town, a half hour from the main tourist region at this tip of New Brunswick, offers us some moderately priced shelter from the crowds. The town doesn't have much but we did find The Chicken Coop, a local hang-out for the hot-rod driving kids and a menu to suit all tastes. The younger kids in town, the skaters, hung out by the Ice Cream Parlour where they compared rolling skills, both on the board and off.

Wednesday morning rolls around and we're up for breakfast, another local delicacy, eggs, homefries and toast with fried bologna instead of sausage, bacon or ham. My mom, recently deceased, came from these parts. Driving the province and reading the signposts has reminded my of her start in life all week. That biscuit in the blueberry pudding and this piece of fried bologna triggering the most vivid memories, funny as that may seem.

We head straight into the two main tourist towns, first St Andrew, where our whale watching tour will depart later today, then down to St Stephen, the Chocolate Town. That's a recently adopted nickname as they've converted the old Ganong Chocolate Factory into a museum.
Frommers voted this the "Best Indoor" attraction in New Brunswick, so we're knockin' em off the list fast. Interesting story of the growth and success of a small family business. They are the last repository of the art of making bon bons in Canada. And I didn't even know it was an art until a few minutes ago.

The piece de resistance was an almost lifesize chocolate sculpture of Acadian folk-heroine, Evangeline. Now technically Acadia was in Nova Scotia but this whole geographic region shares in the diaspora occasioned by the desire of the English to populate a colony with Scots until the indigineous people are in a minority. It wasn't going well, so they switched to the deportation plan. Evangeline or her persona) was immortalized by the American poet Longfellow, who'd never visited Nova Scotia but grew up in nearby Portland ME. And the Band did a nice tune as well. Of mild interest as my mother's family are Acadians. Mixed with Scots. Her mother's maiden name was Ferguson. Which means we're also mixed with Irish as the chief of the Ferguson Clan was an Irishmen who was purported to have brought the Stone of Destiny to Scotland. What goes around comes around I guess, which is how I ended up marrying a McNamara.

Back on the street I realize that all that local food, especially the blueberries, may have been too much for my 'citified' digestive system as I find myself doing the Acadian Two-Step all the way back to the tourist center where I locate an empty cubicle not a moment to soon. The thing about the Maritimes is if the rolling seas don't get you at one end, the fresh fruit will get you at the other. Everybody purges sometime.

I have just one quick question for the tourist people, we're looking for something called the "kissing bridges". Don't know if they're covered but we saw them advertised on a restaurant place mat and don't need more reason than that. I'm second in line. This shouldn't take long. Until the chick in front of me starts planning her Maritime vacation with the only available clerk. Do they not have the Internet where you come from lady? I'd have been less perturbed if the conversation didn't start with: "We want to be in Campbleton by nightfall, what can we see along the way?" Short answer: A gas station and a McDonalds. You're nine hours away from your destination so you don't have to worry about the tide schedule. It'll be where it is when you get there. This helpful information did not dissuade her from reading through 5 or 6 pamplets. Fortunately for us another clerk has just returned from lunch. Unfortunately, she has no idea about any 'kissing bridges'. Should have picked up the placemat.

Time to see some whales. Or, as it turns out, time to see some whale. The dock where we leave to find our way out into the Bay of Fundy is about 40 feet down another grimy metal staircase as we head out at lowtide. It'll be up about 15 feet by the time we return in a few hours. Now I've mentioned the tide but until you see the churning water as nature plays with itself, you might not comprehend the power of this natural phenomena. Most tidal regions see about a meter or two of water rising on the their beaches. Because of something called the Minas Basin the tides in the Bay of Fundy vary by about 12 to 16 meters. When it comes in, the beach is gone. The end result is not as interesting as the constant churning of the waters, whirpools form all around you, parts of the open Bay appear to be rapids, the water is moving so quickly.

We are blessed with fairly calm waters and very warm temperatures today, both a rarity. Unfortunately we're about 6 weeks too early for the peak whale migration season. We do happen upon one finback whale that was feeding in the area. He came up on four different occasions before our captain decided we'd best see some other wildlife. I tried my best to capture the mammal on film, while keeping one eye open to actually see it in the ocean. The 2.54 seconds I do have him on camera will have to do. We move around the Bay, seeing Harbour Seals (one white pup, a rarity at this time of year), fish farms and all sorts of birds. The most majestic site was a bald-eagle perched proudly, high above us all, at the top of his massive nest. That, and the constantly churning water.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Next day finds us trying out the ferry routes to Campobello Island. First stop is Deer Island, a free trip, it's part of the NB provincial highway system, technically, without the road. This ferry runs once an hour and takes about 24 vehicles. Which is the first time it occured to me you might not always have room. With an hour between trips if you're car #25 it wouldn't certainly suck big time.

People live on Deer Island, and deers to I believe, but there ain't much else. We drive the one road to the other end just in time to get on an even smaller ferry to Campobello Island. This one costs. $17, each way. If you live on this island you don't want to go into town for milk.

FDR probably didn't worry much about the cost of milk. At least not in the 1920's when he was spending his summers on the island. He worried a little more about it in the '30's. And this was the purpose of our visit, to see the FDR summer home. He was the last great American President. Nice digs. One slight surprise...but not really. There were designer matchbooks FDR had made up to hand out. Seems a little vain. But the rich are not like us. He contracted polio while vactioning here, so it's not all roses.

The island also afforded us a chance to snap a photo of another lighthouse. We could have crossed more slimy, metal staircases if the tide had been just a little lower. Oh, well, no big loss, it looked like a dicey climb down, then back up, in any case.

Our ferry back to Deer Island was not too crowded but after a rally race across the islet to the docks (i took an alternate route in order to make up time and end up in front of the family camper that got off the Campobello ferry ahead of us, blocking our way on the one-lane road). Which we did. Only to end up the third car from the front when the ferry was filled. At least this is the 1/2 wait, a little more tolerable. Didn't seem to bother much of the vacationers or locals in line who just took the time to get acquainted with each other.

Last day has us making our way to Bangor ME. An unwanted border crossing but we just couldn't stand coming all the way out here and not dropping in to see Stephen King's hometown. It's the least I can do for Cece, who's a big fan. So as I approach the border I'm thinkin' to myself...should I say we're staying one night in Bangor, or two? Why would they care? How could they check? Matters not 'cause now I've got some retro '80's tune going through my head and I inform the Customs Guard we are on our way to Bangkok...ummmm, never mind.

If you ever come here just go to Betts Bookstore. They'll point the way to King's house and even give you a map of all the area locales that appear in different King books. Mostly to do with the movie IT, which was filmed nearby. We did all the requisite dorky stuff...saw the Standpipe, the bird bath, the canal, the field from one movie and the airport where Langoliers was filmed. OH, and Stephen King's house.

We were befriended outside by an elderly neighbour who was happy to chat us up with all the "King history" he could muster. A pleasant stop in a sleepy, but very upscale, town.

Our trip back home had us crossing into Canada at the smallest border crossing I've ever seen. We actually ran over a gas-station bell hose to let them know we were there.

And that wraps it up for this week.

Off to see the Raconteurs in Ann Arbor and Cleveland with a sidetrip to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame!

Back at you next week.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Their Reputation Exceeds Them:
Roseanne Cash and Wilco
Ottawa Blues Fest

I came out here with the best of intentions, hoping to witness some quality performances from a couple of seasoned and respected artists. That's what we got, two quality sets. So, money-wise, I guess we're even.

But something was missing, I don't know what.

In fairness to the artists let it be said I am only marginally aware of their music. Wilco gets played on the radio here but I never remember saying..."who was that? I must find out!" afterwards. Nor do I ever remember saying..."ahhh, that's Wilco!", or any other exclamation that may convey recognition, when an unannounced song is playing. Roseanne I've heard on the odd bootleg record of her dad's and I've probably seen her perform on TV, paying her as much attention as I would Juliette. (Now there's a GOOGLE search for you.)Which is to say, I'm coming in with a clean slate.

Roseanne Cash is country royalty (like that's not an oxymoron). Her name alone gives her more legitimacy in her circles than being born in Detroit helps Eminem in his square. She's flogging an album (Black Cadillac) that's up for awards and receiving rave reviews from the unabashed "crowning achievement of her career" to the more clinical, but artistically non-commital, "deals with grief, pain and the enduring human spirit." Which is as informative as saying a cookbook deals with spices, meats, sauces and the danger of little bones. I mean what country album doesn't deal with those themes?

OK, enough of that, the album is an homage to her parents and her step-mom, June Carter, all of whom passed away during the previous 3 years. So I won't talk much about those songs but let me tell you a little bit about the show.

Actually I will say a little more about that because I just figured out what was missing: sincerity! She's gotta learn how to fake that if she wants this act to fly in Ottawa. I mean this is a government town. Peoples' bullshit meters are set to "HIGH". In her liner notes, at her website, she says the title song, Black Cadillac was written months before June Carter passed away. That's all well enough, a song doesn't have to be about someone, or someone real, to be good. In fact, if it's too much of the former, it's seldom the latter. Just don't shape a whole tour around the implication that it is. Roseanne chalks it up to the song being some kind of "postcard from (the) future". Perhaps I'm being picayune but it would be like Dylan releasing Love and Theft on Sept. 11,2001 AND THEN touring with "The Day The Sky Split Open Wide Tour". Opportunistic, if not crass. But hey, she's got the songs, she knows some people who died, so why not tour?

The bootleg should be titled: "How's My Hair?" That seemed to be as far into the depths of her soul as she was going to go for this audience. While admitting she was perhaps a fish out of water at this particular festival she insured us she'd prove she had her fill of the 'blues'. I guess she's filling those requests by mail, just like she mailed in this set.

This should teach anyone with a message not to play at a festival. The environment is not conducive to the mood required to properly enjoy the music. People are moving chairs about, some are screaming across great distances to get the attention of their friends. We're baking out here and have been all day so there's a steady stream of people getting up to seek shade or beer. Which is to say, it's a festival.

Roseanne opens by relying heavily on the new record and this probably did little to help the audience focus. Decent enough songs, done well enough too, but if the story is long, it's tough to follow for four minutes in this place.

But I was trying...I was looking, 'cause she is a premiere songwriter, or so I'm told. Black Cadillac opens the show. If it was about her dad it would be a heartwrenching tale of loneliness in the face of our fickle humanity. "It's a lonely world /Just a numbers game /Well, a hundred years /Will find me feelin' just the same" and the more sanguine, though no more cheery "Yeah, it's a lonely world /I guess it always was /Minus you and minus blood /My blood." Out here in the field it sounds like an advert for Blade.

She follows with a song about her mom and dad, back when her mother was the girl from San Antone and her dad was a Radio Operator, in a song with the same title, a feel-good tune about those innocent days...before children.

Before she gets the next song underway she gets to show a little bit of her true self to the fans. Someone calls out for a song, then another and another. She stops to say, in a patronizing tone, "What darling? Ya, we'll get there, and we'll get there and we'll get there and there." More callouts from the crowd and now she's getting snooty when someone calls out for a Johnny Cash song: "Oh that's funny, gee that's the first time anybody's called out a song of my dad's to me while I was on stage." WFT!?!?!?! I'd think you'd humbly take that as an homage to your dear dad, about whom you're doing a whole freakin' tour. But hold it, I think she's not only pissed off, but pissed, as she stumbles through the rest of her insult: "I think you just pushed that into the quardruple drig-b-digits actually." I repeat, WTF!?!?!?!
She launches into John Stewart's Runaway Train, a bluesy tune about long-distance love or forbidden love, it hard to empathize with the chick at this time.

I mean, what was that about? I know it's hot out here, the thousands of idiots risking dehydration and sunstroke sure know it. So they wanna holler out. You know some of us aren't being paid to endure the weather, we're here to be entertained. And don't be on us 'cause we like your dad. Your in Ottawa, not Nashville. Half the people here thought he might show up for a duet.

Trying to suck up now she comments she's happy to be at 'your' Blues Festival, even if she doesn't fit the criterion. She assures has she has lots of blues in her and is going to bring it out. The moody, funky guitar line and nimble drum skips are an inviting introduction to Burn Down This Town, a song about the ring of fire gone bad.
In between song patter is a call out to Junior Brown, or a name drop, depending on your mood. Still with the new album we get the sweet, beyond derision, God Is In The Roses. Well, it's not 'beyond' derision but we'll let it slide. There can't be enough space on this blog to address the 'god' issue.

Next song starts with an introduction that includes the word "unironically" and, if you have the recording, me ordering a Canadian. She breaks into the best song of the night to this point, the bouncy Sea of Heartbreak. Wonder who wrote that? Well she doesn't tell you. Just that she's collaborating to put in on an album of "classic country songs".

The crowd is only marginally more interested in the goings on that I am...maybe less. Roseanne slows the pace down and the conversation starts to pick up. I move, with beer in hand, in search of a more advantageous or quiet, spot. For someone so dismissive only a few songs earlier she's getting a little dependent on songs dad wrote, or made famous. Maybe she meant that to be the case, with the new record and all those funerals and all. Still begs the question...why the early rebuff?

Now she's enlisting her son and her dad, and her lineage, making it three generations who have loved Tennessee Flat-top. Add me to the list. It was cool.

Another cover from this world-renowned songwriter, Lucinda Williams' the now bittersweet, Crescent City. Roseanne shows a little of her real soul, and we should have seen more of it, when she comments "That song's a prayer to me now." A real goose-bump inducing song.

She follows with some patter about writing the next song when she was half the age she is now: "I was a very precocious 14 year old." Ahhhhh, she's coming along, a little self-deprecating humour never hurts. I still go and order another Canadian as she's singing....ummm, i don't know, can't figure it out. I'm roaming the grounds looking for another (or THE) quiet spot, to no avail. The song has the lyrics "what would I give to be a diamond in your eyes again." She was into it, she's getting a little more connected to the show, or so it seems.

She ain't wrong when she introduces Big River as a "great piece of American poetry". Now i'm starting to enjoy this and all my attitude is starting to fade away. Not so for the freakin' vocal audience now making plans for next weeks bar-b-que with friends sitting outside the venue in the public park. But she's rockin' on and I'm enjoying it as best I can.

Another original comes with the question: "How's my hair?" Ahhh, there's a real rock'n'roll question. If you're in Aerosmith. But like we said, it is hot and her 'do is lookin' like a 'fro. The song, not so remarkable.

So if you want a remarkable tune hang around for an "old gospel song" and listen to a nice rendition (not counting the now incessant crowd noise) as she croons out Wayfaring Stranger.

Show closes with a Commander Cody like song I couldn't make out, but it was about bad breaks and fast driving, so it could't have been all bad. Could have been something called Red River.

She turned it around somewhere in the middle, not a total catastrophe.

Which brings us to Wilco Also out of Chicago, like The M's, and that brings us full circle for this day at the Blues Fest.

Much like Roseanne Cash, what I knew of Wilco was only what I picked up in the atmosphere. That Woody Guthrie project with Billy Bragg sticks in my mind, though I've never listened to any of the music it kind of legitimized them in my mind. Whatever that's worth. Their rabid following garnered them even more respect in my eyes...that kind of reputation is usually based on a great live act. The fact some of my friends think they are a Class A musical act convinced me they were worth a listen. In the weeks up to the concert I gave a live show a spin. I wasn't too impressed. It sounded kind of ... soft. But still, it's Wilco! They're headlining the Ottawa Blues Fest!

Let's see what they have in store for their minions.

Well, at least they start with that part of Tweedy's career of which I have a little knowledge...Woody Guthrie's Airline To Heaven. Of course it may not be the best idea to start the concert with a hymn if you expect to engage the audience. The crowd is loud. Not attentive, just loud. This gets worse throughout the evening but is most pronounced during the 'quieter' songs...about 80% of this bands repetoire. A late electric guitar solo momentarily drowns out the crowd and all the talking stops for between song "whhhhoooooo's", 'cause, after all, we are Wilco fans.

Handshake Drugs starts out so low that the talking picks up again. When Tweedy is singing the refrain, "exactly what do you want me to be?" Quiet seems to be the answer. He does have a nice way about his phrasing, almost like Donovan, without the accent.

Another 'mother-theresa-like' hymn in White Light (or maybe What Light) some light, one you go towards when the human sh*t is getting you down. I ain't much for the afterlife when everyone around me is getting it in this one.

The Late Greats...I have no idea what this song is about. It has a line in it referring to a band called K-Settes starring Butcher's Blind claiming they are the best band you will never hear. Thing is, if you follow the link, they are playing in Ottawa this summer. Where we are now seeing Wilco. WTF is that about? It's followed by another, even less memorable tune named Impossible Germany. All this stuff is still a little 'soft' for my liking. Seems Tweedy misses the limp '70's as much as I miss the fun I coulda had in the '60's. Most of these tunes could have been written for James Taylor.

Then he surprises us with a very nice performance of I Am Trying To Break Your Heart with some wicked feedback to drown out the increasingly annoying audience.

A Shot in the Arm is another nondesrcript, shapeless tune ,to my increasingly impaired ears. Tweedy moves back to the aforementioned '60's with a 'hippy-wanna-be' tuned called Forget the Flowers.

That's a couple yawners in a row and I'm dancing now by bladders so full. It was those beers during Roseanne Cash's set. Anyway, I eschew my taping responsibilities to head to the loo during At Least That's What You Said.

When I come out Wilco are still trying to play louder than the audience can talk and near the end of Misunderstood they almost get there. This song's cool if you're listening to it for the first time in the car. You'll swear your cd is f*cked near the end.

And just when you thought there ain't gonna be anything in this set to get my blood up, Jeff Tweedy decides he'll talk. Now I hear most actors wanna be rock n roll stars. I think most rock n roll stars wanna be comics. Jeff should stick with his day job. Got no idea what got into him, maybe it was the fact all their effort onstage has done little to attract the attention of the assembled mutltitude, some of whom ostensibly came here to listen to them. There are some people seated to the right side of the stage in lawn chairs. They've been there a long time, having been insulted earlier by Roseanne Cash for calling out requests in an enthusiastic fashion. After 6 hours in the blistering sun, sitting on the black tarmac that is usually Laurier Ave., they seem a little tired. And there's a band onstage playing lullabyes, so they're not too active. To show his appreciation Tweedy looks over and comments that he didn't realize "we had so many fans in wheelchairs." He, he, that's funny dude. Paying fans are baffed and bored while you're being payed to sing songs for a very good living and you're making 'cripple jokes'. Too cool.

Then he plays Jesus Etc. Lots of religion, no soul.

Perhaps realizing he'd made a slight error in judgement he comes back with some patronizing crap about loving Canada (queue zombie like cheers) and wishing he could stay here. As Roseanne said earlier... that makes it about a quadrillion times we've heard American artists say that.

Back to religion with another incomprehensible song about Theologians and cherries. Tweedy won't stop beathing the dead horse that is his wheelchair joke as he holds a note on the guitar and exclaims: "This note has been known to heal people in wheelchairs." Got a bit of a Christ-complex goin' there Jeff?

The set closes with Hummingbird, more Laurel Canyon AOR.

The lukewarm audience response threatens to embarass the headliners. Most of the chattering in the crowd has subsided as they drop their conversations to figure out what's going on. 'Course we're outside and there's no house lights so the band manages to sneak back onstage.

Not having learned anything from the opening set Wilco opens with a somnambulant Ashes of American Flags. It was....ummmm, long.
A more lively acoustic guitar leads us into the circular War on War before Tweedy lamely tries to entice the crowd to help them sing the refrain in Heavy Metal Drummer. Little success and he's wise not to ask them to reply twice. The silence was deafening.

As the show nears it's unseeable, if inevitable end, the "wooooooo" quotient is growing considerably in the between song gaps. Kingpin closes the first encore set with some decent, rocking guitar work.

Tweedy comes back for one more encore and perhaps mistaking what was an exodus for some late blooming enthusiasm, takes one more opportunity to put his foot in his mouth when he comments: "You guys rule, 'cause up to 30 minutes ago you were in wheelchairs."

Recognizing he's fading fast he plays the "rock n roll" card, tosses out a song called Monday and hits the road.

So that's it for the BluesFest. Next time I get a hankerin' for the Blues I think I'll hit Healeys.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Amazing Junior Brown
at the Ottawa Blues Fest

After The M's had finished their set on the Main Stage we pick up our gear and move to the more cozy confines of one of three small stages that make up this Blues Fest.

Junior Brown comes to us out of Austin Texas and brings with him a little bit of authentic roots rock-a-billy, a drop of Tex-Mex, the odd nonsense song and straight ahead country. All this is propelled by his unique string stylings on his instrument of choice, a 'guit-steel'. This is a two-necked contraption with a red Fender Telecaster mounted on top of a steel-guitar. He deftly picks his slide from it's holder when he switches from one to the other.
On top of this he gets some terrific effects, Hendrix-like, out of his fuzz box. He's deft at the surf sound and you can hear a little of Duane Eddy and Link Wray in some of his more adventurous solos. A full orchestra coming from a single lead. He's joined by a one-drum drummer and a very adept bass player. Most songs evolve into some type of virtuoso display on the stringed instrument sitting atop a stand, center stage.
Oh, and there's an intelligent, if sometimes hokey, wit that I'm sure leaves most red-necks scratching their pate. He's country that non-country fans can like and modern country fans probably don't. Of course he comes to us from Austin via that hot-bed of country music, Kirksville, Indiana.

We've found some shade, some food and some drink and we're ready to be entertained. Fortunately, we came to the right place. Onstage is a man not too proud to be shamelessly joyous.

With little ado, not counting the local radio personality who feels compelled to come onstage before each act, the strange string contraption is in place and the show is moving forward sure as that Orange Blossom Special. Junior calls the audience out and his baritone voice if fast into a twang-fest called Broke Down South of Dallas. He fiddles some with his amp to get his sound just like he hears it in his head as he tells the story of bein' henpecked and lovin' it. "i got a wife with a fryin' pan/ and when she talks, i listen."

Party Lights tells a tale of a man avoiding the law while running with his demons. a little piece of fluff filled out admirably with some nimble picking.

Lifeguard Larry is the plaintive wail of every 90 lb weakling who has to watch the bronze adonis get the girl.

Apparently Junior did a cheezy video for My Wife Thinks You're Dead that has been hard to live down. I've never seen it but the song is funny and it's all there in the title. Sometimes you just gotta wear the albatross proudly. "I can see the kinda trouble you can get me in / you oughta pay attention to every word i said / you're wanted by the police and my wife thinks you're dead." It turns into a welcome excuse for a bluesy guitar solo. Reason enough to smile.

I Hung It Up is just a riff about the price you pay for love...and an excuse to let Junior go wild. a jumping jive exploration of strings and pedals. 8 minutes of impressive guitar and the closest this voice can come to singing scat.

The pace slows down with a gentle, swinging, Long Walk Back to San Antone. Junior's crooning and his voice invites you right up onto the porch to listen to his tale of travels... his wife's travels, that is, as she's out the door. Excellent bass line in support of yet another stellar guitar lead. The drummer is keeping time.

I Want To Live and Love Always gets us back on that runaway freight train, play-that-fast-thing one-more-time, swing. A song about the joys of having something to live for, "lovin' under the stars above." The answer may be blowin' in the wind but it's not that hard to discern.

Next is the highlight of the weekend. A Spanish song, the music sounds like a caliope, the mood like a carnival, the lyrics... I got no idea but it sounds wonderful. A cover of Jimenez Jose Alfredo's El Corrido Del Cabano Blanco, which translates rougly to The Run of the Lone White Horse. A convoluted tale of travel in the 3rd world before the days of the automobile. Or a classic folk tale of some sort. It doesn't matter, it sounds freakin' great.

Junior unleashes an extended instrumental medley backed by 'jungle' drums and showcasing that 'orange blossom special' twang.

A gool-ole-boys-only song in Highway Patrol, an homage to the man who wears "a star on (his) car and another one on (his)chest." He follows with another more traditional country tune, Ole Fashioned Love...coulda swore Loretta Lynn was gonna pop onstage to sing this one for us.

No country catalogue would be complete without a paeon to rugged individualism and Junior finds his in Freeborn Man. He almost yodels in this one. No matter, any reason for more extended guitar brilliance is fine.

Still with the traditional style country The Better Half pays some dues to the wife before the show closes with a 13 minute surf-medley instrumental that included Secret Agent Man in there somewhere.

Junior Brown is opening for Bob Dylan at a small town, minor league ballpark near you this summer.

Don't Dare Miss It!

Torrent might be running at DIMEADOZEN

Ottawa Blues Fest
Sat July 15,2006
The M's

Our weekend in Ottawa was off to a great start. We'd stopped in on Ryan and Teri before she had to make her way to work and were checked into our room at the centrally located Novotel in plenty of time for dinner. An evening stroll assured us we were well situated for an easy walk into the BluesFest venue, located in the commons area of the City Hall plaza. The Parliament buildings were also within striking distance and our concert day started with breakfast in the wonderful, if touristy, By-Market Pedestrian Mall.

Plenty of time to get a 'glow on' before we stagger over for the first of what I hope will be four progressively exciting sets (The M's, Junior Brown, Roseanne Cash and Wilco). Early in the day we have greats but no shade, except for the umbrella we brought along in case of rain. Rain wasn't gonna be the issue today as a bright and hot sun is beating down on the assembled, but somewhat disinterested, throng. Our friend Mike takes a seat next to Cece as I look for a spot in front of the main PA stacks for The M's

They come out of Chicago...that's about the extent of their association with 'the blues'. Tangenital at best, as can be said of all our guests today. They promote themselves, or have been pigeon-holed, as an 'indie' band. 'Course that only means no one thinks you're good enough to have a record contract. It doesn't say much about the style of music. You expect something edgy though, something emerging from the primordial ooze that is a burgeoning underground scene not yet known to the mainstream outlets.
Or 40 minutes of post-glam/glitter rock.
Today they are flogging their new Polyvinyl Records release "Future Women" while still relying on material from their self-titled 2004 debut release on Brilliante Records.

None of that mattered to me, or my friends. Initial responses ranged from Mike's "bland and unoffensive", to my "nondescript, bordering on boring". Ryan and his posse voted with their feet, heading back to the hotel room for beers and lolli's. Cece was underwhelmed, if that's a word. (stole that from Sloan)

Perhaps we were a little harsh. Most of our tepid response had to do with the venue. It was early afternoon under a blistering hot sun and people were milling about, setting up chairs, blankets and whatnot, in preparation for a 6 hour wait for the headliners, Wilco. Not much focus in the crowd.

The rest of it probably had to do with the lack of a magnetic personality on the stage. The boys were making some small talk, commenting initially that they weren't all that bluesy. A couple jokes about the wide-open, unoccupied prime seating areas near the front didn't induce any life-threatening stage rush. The most sardonic comment came at show's end when the lead singer invited us back to the dressing room if we were looking to purchase a signed copy of Jeff Tweedy's boxers. It's not that the anticipation for the closing set was palpable (it wasn't), it was more that the disinterest in the opening sets was hard to miss. If the band hopes to fill any void left by the demise of T-Rex, Ziggy Stardust or even Bryan Ferry, they'd best find a way to be more visually compelling...perhaps movement would suffice. But like I said, it was hot.

You might be wondering about the music by now, or not. I'll give it a try but my exposure to the band is limited, so apologies if I slam their epics and blow their filler.

Set opens with Never Do This Again, a song about fiery flames that burn out when you've pushed your limits on the party train. a pounding, almost plodding riff, nothing too spectacular.
Going Over It tries to find a groove as the band stretches out with melody, harmonies and a recognizable bridge! This might be a single. It just shouldn't be the first one.
Shawnee Dupree screams out, the guitar intro backed by a 'swamp music' rhythm line. The song sets you down in a shadowy world, evocative of the Bayou. The guitar cries throughout the song, mostly in the background of the verses, but a consistent melodic thread the whole tune is wrapped around.

The band moves back to their first release for Holding Up, a choppy, pop tune. They have an interesting effect going on when the song changes tempo. Each shift sounds like a tape-deck slipping, the notes extend and wobble.

Back to the new record for My Gun, a thick sounding song and I couldn't wade through the muddy sound to find a point. If I had this on vinyl I'd play it backwards as that Sgt.Peppery-stretchy thing is still going on.

Future Women, title track, gets us back to the harmonies, a strength of this band. A dreamy, lilting song more reminiscent of Brian Eno than Seals&Croft... but not by much. Just when you think they've explored this style as far as they can there's another verse, but one that degenerates into a final couplet that consists of humming noises, so maybe it had been explored to it's full extent. oooops, not done yet, repeat refrain and batter drums to outro.

Can't figure out the title of the next song but we're back to the Tony Jo White swamp-sound and a car tune, so it's not all bad.

Two more songs from the first album: Maggie, a little hint of the Kinks in this one. a ringing rhythm guitar gives the song some bounce. For a second there, I thought I saw something move. Dirty Old Dog was as confusing as it was forgettable. Back to the muddy sound (ftr, muddy = bad, swamp = good) with the tape whining sound.

The show closes with two strong songs: Plan of the Man has them back in their pop-mold. A quick three-minute romp, played fast, good beat, you could dance to it. Very good tune, it will be the single.
The show closes with a 6 minute mini epic, primarily an instrumental with a chant of 'you can start it all over' added on to the end, I believe it's called Darling Lucia and it's nothing if not ambitious.

They've got stuff to work on but they seem to have plenty to work with. I hear the album is much more 'produced', including horns and other instruments. Not sure that would make it better, I think they should keep it simple until they find their sound, clear away the mud, it's in there somewhere.

There might be a torrent running at DIMEADOZEN

Next up: Junior Brown, Roseanne Cash, Wilco, a week on the Fundy Coast and a visit to Stephen King's hometown.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

CSN&Y : 2006-07-10
ACC - Toronto ON
Neil Young, Two Hippies
and a Butler

had the unexpected pleasure of taking in the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young show at the ACC the other night. i'd initially passed on the top ticket price of $250.00 for what I thought would be a sad reminder of glory days gone past. as things often happen someone else's good fortune became mine. a pair of tickets in the $100.00 range became free due to an upgrade to a private box. they were the best cheap seats available, on the rail of the first balcony with a terrific, unobstructed, site line to the stage.

the evening starts with a yuppie dinner menu in a funky basement restaurant called C'est What? just steps from the venue. anytime wild animals, some possible extinct, outnumber farm animals on the menu, you know you're not in Kansas anymore, or at least not at Arthur J Bryant's. great ambiance in this little place. it's a mini-brewery as well so I had the opportunity, not being a beer drinker at all, to sample two rather peculiar brands; a pint of Saint Andre's, an award winning concoction from the Brampton Brewerey,Cool Beer it's kind of like Rickards Red, maybe thicker and not as red. this i followed with an ill-advised choice, though it may suit some tastes, a house specialty, some kind of Coffee Beer. peculiar beyond enjoyable. guess i'll stick to coffee crisps and coffee colored cadillacs.

Cece and I are joined tonight by friends Martin and Beth, who we'll be seeing for dinner in Moncton NB next week! it is a small world. everyone's hungry and steak fajita's, veggie burgers and dijon chicken are flying about between bits of conversation. Beth gives us some tourism tips for our Fundy Coast vacation coming up and Martin informs us he's looking to retire into a government job. it's a beautiful life we live.

sooner, rather than later, we find ourselves in our balcony seats, directly beside the stage, wondering how long we'd have to wait for the show. the 7:30 time on the ticket is only a rumour as the huge arena is about 20% filled. we got an old crowd tonight, a little slow getting in. i might have brought the mean age down. 'course the last concert they went to was back in 1978 when it was de rigeur for the bands to be an hour late. things are much more efficient nowadays. still, or still movin', they shuffle into their seats quickly, canes set aside, wheelchairs taken by the ushers, earplugs in place... and by 7:50 it's let's rock time!!

never saw these guys play during their peak years (or was that peak year?). not much of a fan of the limp, AOR-before-its-time music that came out of the drug haze that was Laurel Canyon back in the '60's/'70's. the radio hits were cool enough pop songs, from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne and the Eagles, but overall they were, how can i say this...a little self-indulgent, bordering on boring (and don't think I don't know what i'm talking about here).

there were some incomparable freaks there, Zappa key among them, but for the most part they were glorified buskers mistaking themselves for the artiste type of artist. that's got nothing to do with rock n roll music. at least that's what it became after the cocaine blues set in. early on, it must have been an exciting place to be.

especially on that night that Mama Cass Elliot picked up Graham Nash (who was in the area touring with the Hollies) and brought him over to meet Stephen Stills and David Crosby, one of who was looking for some help with harmonies and the other who was looking for a lesbian recepticle for his baby-juice and a new liver if you got one to spare. Graham was able to help one, Mama Cass said she'd give the other some thought, she might have a spare something hanging around.

it wasn't long before this meeting grew into the super-group CS&N. and within the blink of an eye the upstart Canadian was added to the mix and a Laurel Canyon contemporary was poking fun at them in song. (remember the Mothers' Do You Like My New Car? "three unreleased recordings of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fighting in the dressing-room of the Fillmore East!")

some of the music doesn't age so well, though the band has done a great job breathing life into new versions of old songs. other songs could have been written yesterday, so little has changed on the political landscape since "This Time Four, Next Time More" was a popular bumper sticker. this is no nostalgia show. Neil's in charge, his new record is up front and center (well, ok, it's left of center) comprising the bulk of the show. hits are spare in the first segment before intermission but it's a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes almost 3 hours to send the message. in the end, they deliver.

Neil Young can't be 60, can he? great energy, whether slashing at his guitar, bouncing across the stage to duel/duet with Stephen Stills or blowin' harp. he opens the show with a strong version of Flags of Freedom, his homage to Bob Dylan's Chimes of Freedom. the song is chock full of Dylan references; from the repeated 'blowin' in the wind', to the 'church bell' imagery, the chorus itself and a name check for Bob. the song is reminiscent of Dylan's "John Brown", but as seen from the departure platform, not the arrival platform.

during the song the backdrop to the stage is being changed from flag to flag. the Canadian, the American, the British and the Iraqi flag are alternately raised and lowered. a bizarre moment occurs as Neil leans forward to sing the opening line of the final verse, "today's the day our younger son/ is going off to war...". the crowd roars in what might seem joyous approval of this sad, recurring fact of life in this time of Nation States. at least that what it seems like on the audio recording. in fact, the Canadian flag was just unfurled on stage causing a knee-jerk, patriotic reaction more associated with our neighbours to the south.
f*cking morons, obviously they were only hearing, not listening.

Stephen Stills is up front with a blast back to the CS&N set at Woodstock (the First), Wooden Ships. i don't get it. something about berries, horrible deaths and the universality of the smile. i think David ate the berries. a missed opportunity in the time of Columbus or the sad by-product of two worlds colliding? i don't know but don't bogart that joint. Neil and Stephen engage in a blistering guitar duet leading to the outro refrain, bringing into 2006, a slightly dated song.

Crosby belly's up to the mic for Long Time Gone and it occurs to me this is pretty heavy sh*t for a little pop-concert. the song turns on what is quick becoming the theme of the evening, "speak out against the madness", and you can't help but think we, the Great White Empire, are stuck in the mud of time crawling forward.

nice stage set up. the flags at the back cover the entire stage. the floor mat is made up of a parchment colored rug. displayed on it, to great visual effect, is the Constitution of the United States of America.

next up Graham Nash makes it apparent the message is out: DO NOT DEVIATE! his version of Military Madness keeps us on topic. Stills follows with a non-political number, one of those "father & son" type songs about the wild world...this one's a Wounded World. Stills' voice is a welcome breather from the melodic perfection of Nash and Crosby and the persistent whine of Neil's voice. edgier, bordering on hard-core bluesy.

the stage is turned over to Neil for a four song assault on our entitlement problems. After the Garden, a song this band could have done 35 years ago. perfect sound for them and a nod back to Joni Mitchell's Woodstock on the closing couplet. brings a naturalist argument against the powers-that-be. an ecology song with a slight orwellian twinge.

you want orwell, check out Living With War. they got us right where they want us as Neil struggles against the history of how the west was won and the folly of thinking the rest of the world is available at the end of a Winchester.

the Restless Consumer left me a little restless. uneasy. it's like a mirror. i mean i get the general theme of the evening...slam Bush, slam power, and toss in a little rock n roll and even less mindless pop. one the one hand. on the other hand we all paid an average of $175 a ticket to have the priveledge of thumbing our noses at the "others" who drive this greed machine. there is no man righteous and sometimes being indignant doesn't work. there's a reason the world is f*cked beyond belief. those that rule understand the importances of affordable oil. what they do, while it may line their pockets beyond our ability to comprehend, makes our standard of living what it is and it is done in our name. which is where the shame is supposed to kick in, but it doesn't.

enough with the introspective analysis. we all know half of analysis is anal anyway. let's take another shot at that pinata known as George Bush. Crosby has already thrown out some Dubya insults. calling Bush a chimpanzee for one then he suggests(nay,threatens) he may move to Canada because he has some misguided notion we're smarter than the Americans who bi-elected George. obviously he hasn't met Stephen Harper. Shock and Awe laments the lost opportunity to avoid the current quagmire in Iraq. it hints at the hubris that is the gift Bush gives his country.

on a slightly lighter note, but no less indignant, is Crosby's shot at the corpocracy that rules our world and the symbol of that monster: Enron. They Want It All, says it all in the title.

and answers the question posed by the next song, why can't we Feed the People, a utopian dream for this distopian world.

lighter fare closes the first set with Nash and Crobsy on Immigration Man. Neil makes a little joke about understanding the humility of being at the mercy of the man at the customs booth. must be a few decades since that's been a problem though. Neil's Families sends us into intermission.

wow, almost half-way through and the family sitting next to me is looking real bored. Dad spent most of the pre-show time talking up the band, the '60's, 'free love' and all those great signposts of the past. the teenage kids are sitting slack-jawed, trying to figure out what they just saw had to do with 'flower children'. the guy behind me, who started the evening saying he didn't mind acoustic Neil but couldn't take that Crazy Horse stuff, was checking his ticket to make sure he was in the right show.

the second set opens with a series of acoustic songs that threatened to put me to sleep and rob the evening of it's power. all the songs weren't bad but the weight of them (not to be confused with the aggregate weight of the band) just slowed the pace too much. Helplessly Hoping from Stills, who's voice kept you connected, even when the lyrics didn't, was followed by a tepid Our House. don't know if it's the sentiment or the performance, but it missed the interest-boat. the drudgery is broken by the biggest 'goose bump' moment of the night, Neil at the piano singing Only Love Can Break Your Heart. worth the price of admission. a decent Milky Way Tonight, with a botched intro, something wrong with the time it was in, apparently, is followed by Guinnevere and Carry Me before Still's TreeTop Flyer shakes us from our slumber.

Roger and Out from Neil, a tune about the 'hippy highway' and signing up leads us into Southbound Train, Old Man Trouble, Teach Your Children, Southern Cross and Find the Cost of Freedom. a long stretch without Neil in the center, except when he's lending guitar support. once again Stills carries the day with strong renditions of his song. both Nash and Crosby find their moments but they are not as consistenly enthralling in their segments. perhaps if we were in a concert hall instead of a barn.

the second set ends with Hendrix' Star-Spangled Banner from Woodstock (do you see the pattern developing) screaming through the amps. speaking of patterns lots of use was made of the backdrop. images of soldiers helmuts, a running count of the dead in Iraq, clips of Dubya putting his foot in his mouth or insulting all intelligent life on earth with his spin, and the ever-present flags. the most unsettling one though was the use they made of the "peace" sign. it followed the flags early in the show, crisp, white, the single most recognizable symbol of the '60's counter-culture. then the picture is less clear, the bright white circle and lines are smudged, like they've been damaged in a fire. then the symbol breaks up slightly as it tilts to the left and comes out resembling...a plane! a subtle little trick that sent a chill down my spine.

we're into the closing stretch and by my count the 'greatest hits' crowd is losing to the 'fuck you, we're artists' sentiment by a score of 20-6, and that's being generous on the definition of 'hit'. gotta respect that in a band. they could have taken the easy way out.

Neil's back onstage screaming at us about Dubya in the most vitriolic of his new songs. pulling no punches he implores we impeach his President for lying. this song will not age well but it's fun to say out loud. it tries too hard...with the 'what if Al-Queda blew up the levees' and 'steroids/baseball team' stuff. except for the constitutional requirement that this mo-fo gets his cumupance this song serves little more purpose that taping a picture of the Pres on the floor and pissing on it. you look up 'diatribe' in the dictionary and the lyrics to this song will be found. (right under Bob Dylan's Hiding Too Long).

Stills delivers a slightly flawed but well intentioned For What It's Worth. now here's a topical song that has aged well. it's more a chant than a song and i'm sure most people mindlessly mumble the lyrics until they get to the chorus. (which is kind of ironic because that means they are NOT clear on what is happening.) 'battle lines being drawn' was the warning we didn't heed. in fact, Reagan adopted it as a progressive domestic policy option. Rove perfected it.

staying with the '60's we get Graham Nash's Chicago and Neil's Ohio. a little map music and an intersting juxtaposition of songs. Chicago is an anachronism, expressing a sentiment long ago slain by the politics of division. it's doubly ironic in that the call-out was in response to an event that coalesced the Nixon vote in the south, giving the Republicans those states for the first time since Lincoln freed the slaves. when they showed those pictures of the Chicago riots in the south you could bet your ass they were done with those Democrats.

Ohio, on the other hand, is still a poignant plea to stop the insanity. it occurs to me we can belittle the 'hippy mentality', or the 'anti-war' sentiment that gushes out of this show but there's a reason Neil is back where he is. there's a reason the other members have taken on this music with passion. they've been there. you worry about a government that wants to sniff your email for traces of fertilizer, these guys remember when the National Guard shot students for protesting a war everyone (in power)soon came to see as folly.

Crosby is back with What Are Their Names?, a kind of 'sister song' to They All Want It, a song about those that rob you with fountain pens.

i have 10 minutes and 17 seconds on the disc when the final song starts. Neil is into a crashing version of Keep On Rockin' in the Free World and neither he, nor Stills, will let it end. the song comes in at around 10 minutes even.

forutnately there's 20 minutes left on the first disc so when the band comes back for another call out to Joni Mitchell (why didn't she just show up and play?)i'm not left short of space. we get a rock hard Woodstock to send us into the streets, or adjacent parking lot, depending on how you got here.

excellent show, great performances, real live music, it can't be beat.

songs we missed by their abscence: Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Marrakesh Express, Deja Vu, Helpless, Almost Cut My Hair (i mean ALL those flags and we don't get the freak flag?), Southern Man and Just A Song Before I Go. there wasn't much room for the non-politcal tonight, though one or two of those could have fit the bill.

there should be a torrent running here

Monday, July 03, 2006

Artifacts of the Past:
Charlatans UK, Buzzcocks and Bauhaus
a few more thoughts
on last months shows

had the opportunity to see three '80's era's band (ok, maybe late '70's) over the past month. two of them came through town as headliners, the other opening for a band they spawned. each one offered something a little different.
so the question is: can you repeat the past?

well, you can, but some shouldn't try. the Charlatans UK (Monday May 22, 2006 Phoenix Concert Theater) put on a decent show that could have been great but ended up being mildly disappointing. the songs were all there, the sound was fine, but the lead singer seemed narcissistically detached. if the spotlight wasn't on him he was like rainman, just babbling away with the crowd and dancing spasmodically, seemingly unaware there was a concert going on about him. his 'rock star' gesticulations were more reminiscent of mick jagger with parkinsons (is that an oxymoron?)or that 'pretty fly, white guy' from the Offspring video.

of course that may have just been me. I was only tangenitally aware of the Charlatans when they were active. i'm paying homage more to the era than the band by being here tonight. in that way perhaps I am the artifact. as for the stage affectations, my interpretation may even be out of context if the band is playing the part of their name. that would be way cool as a schtick. maybe I missed the macro joke. wouldn't be the first time.

Rating: 6/10. nice venue, good sound, just missing a little heart.

which brings us to the Buzzcocks (Saturday June 10, 2006 Phoenix Concert Theater)who definitely weren't lacking anything in the attitude department.

i reviewed our evening with them farther down this blog and mention them here to juxtapose them against the other two bands. this band seemed happy just to be on the road and have someone show up. no sense we were obligated to be anything to them (in terms of deferential or reverential), just be there sweating with the boys. biggest surprise of the night was that their new songs sounded like their old songs, which was a good thing. Rating: 8/10

bauhaus (Saturday June 24, 2006 Molson Amphitheater) may have had age working against them but at least fashion didn't leave them behind...too far behind that is. there was an aura about this whole appearance, opening for a band that copped their attitude to a large degree. seeing them on stage, with the 'black and dark' motif, dry ice factory working behind them, everything brought into focus with blinding white spotlights, you could see where the likes of NIN and Manson got their stage shows.

visual highlight of the evening was lead singer Peter Murphy standing on a bank of amplifiers, white shirt billowing in the strong wind as dry ice gave the stage an 1880's London feel. Peter bends from the waist, his black pants and boots invisible against the stage backdrop, and seems to be floating, or suspended, arms waving, disembodied, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull heading for a cliff. this exact move was replicated by Trent during his set with NIN. can't tell if it was a passing of the torch or a kiss-off.
biggest disappointment of the night was not getting our share of their monster songs (they cut out Transmission, Telegram Sam and Bela Lugosi's Dead). a disservice to their meagre fanbase. these were dropped when the opening slot cut down on their stage time by a half hour. they did throw us a bone with a decent version of Ziggy Stardust to close the show. early in the set we had "She's At Parties", but overall it was light on the hits, such as they were. bauhaus' new songs also sounded like their old songs but unlike the Buzzcocks, that wasn't great news. they are heavy, turgid songs. it takes time to break past the overbearing sense of despair to find any hook to hang your hat on. at least with Bela Lugosi's Dead, I've had a couple decades to wade through the murkiness. Rating: 6/10

next up: Wilco and Whale Watching
coming in August: Raconteurs, Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, Jonny Lang and Robert Gordon.
coming in September: Bob Dylan (?), Virgin Fest w/ Raconteurs, and more Raconteurs.
coming in October: John Otway from NYC
coming in November: ?
coming in December: Levon Helm Ramble