Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hippiefest 2008
Toronto ON
Featuring: Eric Burdon and the Animals
Jack Bruce
The Turtles
The Hollies

In a year where I've bought tickets to see Lesley Gore, George Jones, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Robert Gordon and Bob Dylan, I couldn't very well turn down a free invitation to see this 60's flashback. It seems being a steady customer of LIVE NATION has it's benefits. Received an email the day before the show with an offer of two comps. Very nice seats too.

Hippiefest, almost enough to keep any self-respecting counter-culture wannabe away...but not me.

I'll start with this: I never was a big fan of these bands when they were in their heyday. I'm too young for Cream and The Animals and both the Turtles and Badfinger were kind of marginal pop-bands in my view. I've since come to love Flo and Eddie, if only for persevering, likely in the face of advice to do otherwise. Jack Bruce or Eric Burdon don't need my vote to validate their impressive contributions to the rock pantheon. (Burdon's biggest contribution came when he copped Dylan's arrangement of the very familiar House of the Rising Sun, which Dylan had dutifully stolen from Dave Van Ronk, short-ciruiting any chance that guy had at mainstream success. Jack Bruce was in that band with god.) Joey Molland of Badfinger is also on board, reminding us that someone actually tried to fill the hole The Beatles left behind. Toronto resident Terry Sylvester of The Hollies, opens the night, which makes this a pretty hit-laden show.

I wouldn't normally come down to this hell-hole of a venue on purpose. It's windy; if it ain't muggy and hot, it's damp and cold. The thing was built to insure that 1/3of your body gets fried by the setting sun. Let's not even talk about the swarming, swooping, sea gulls.

The food at this place leaves a lot to be desired...for your animals. It's like a colon-based version of Russian Roulette if you're human and want to eat before a show. (note: The Marina Grill has decent fare, don't let this scare you away from the park.)

The parking rates are usurous, if you can get one. The nearest transit interchange, before you exit the downtown core to traverse our sprawling, industrialized waterfront, is miles away, should the parking not be available. And then there's all those happy-smiling people enjoying the Provincial park. Uggghhhh.

Not to mention the security, which is very tight. After watching the yellow-jackets molest hundreds of incoming guests I decided to remove my mics from the collar of my shirt because their process would certainly have uncovered them. I do have an alternate subterfuge and it worked.

Strange crowd. I guess for "Hippiefest" that should be assumed. My guess is 25% of the people here haven't been to a concert since their kids were born. 10% of those have dragged their kids out to this show. 50% haven't been to more than one show a year since they were still popping zits. About 1 in 2 patrons are impaired beyond belief. 24 % are out here to enjoy the evening. Cece and I are here for the music. We are outnumbered. And yes, if you're doing the math, we did make up 1% of the crowd. (hyperbole alert!)

While oil may be at an all-time high, concert etiquette is at an all-time low. And getting worse. Let me give you a short-list of the annoyances:

Your ticket has a section, row number and's not rocket-science to figure out where you're supposed to be sitting. If you don't know, recognize that I don't work here and really don't give a sh*t if you find it, except to get you away from me.

While the patron in front of you may like beer, it's unlikely they use it as a cologne. If you can no longer keep your beer in the cup, it's time to stop drinking.

If you're gonna clap, get rhythm.

If you're gonna sing the words out loud, get laryngitis.

It's about $130 cheaper to chat with your girlfriend/boyfriend/bunkmate/significant other/hooker on hire OUTSIDE the venue, than inside. And you'll hear just as much. I'll hear more.

If you talked through the song, don't clap. You're not fooling me and you're only expanding your disrespect to the artist.

By now you might be wondering why this surly b*astard even bothered to head out on a Friday night. Well, I like the music. To paraphrase Denis Leary; you see this scar on my wrist? I got that when American Idol hit the air.

Just another note before we start. The sound was brutal. Whoever was in charge could not decide on which version of "not nearly good enough" to settle on. I've seen a few shows where the acts were marred by less than stellar sound but the sound was usually bad in the same way all night. These guys managed to find a myriad of manners to muddy the music. The first two acts suffered from being mixed too low, the vocal mics were almost drowned by the bass. The Turtles should sue for the treatment their set got, from the lack of a working microphone for Mark Volman, to the 30 decibel spike in volume that just let us hear that mic distorted. During Bruce's set, which was already hampered by having the lead instrument be the bass, another spike in volume during Sunshine of Your Love resulted in my recording getting a little 'hot'. It also marked the beginning of the 'concusive' portion of the show, which lasted through to the last Animals song, where, I swear, the volume was increased yet again. Whales that had wandered into the Island waters from the Eastern Gap beached themselves in search of the droning call.

In spite of that I managed to obtain a capture that's 'listenable', and, if you don't listen too hard, enjoyable. MP3 samples are marked by the * and hyperlink.

One of the first songs I remember taking a shine to as a kid was The Herman's Hermits cover of Bus Stop. This eventually led me to The Hollies, who didn't break in America at the level of some of the bands that preceeded them in the extended British Invasion of the '60's, but produced a handful of classic pop tunes. Ironically their biggest hit Stateside was the 'unHollie' like anthem, Long Cool Woman in A Black Dress, devoid, as Terry points out, of the trademark harmonies that made this band so listenable. But the song didn't suck, either. The early sets never get enough volume and the crowd is just not settled enough to let you soak it in, but song after song elicits a smile and a chorus of cheers from the audience. Every song a hit! Though Terry wasn't around for the early years, he replaced Graham Nash in the band in 1969 joining them for the "Hollies Sing Dylan" album, he placed his mark on their history with the mega-hit He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.

Terry looked happy to be included, he enjoyed playing these songs as much as we enjoyed hearing them. For bottom billing he was an added bonus.

Terry Sylvester (formerly of The Hollies)

Track 01 Flo & Eddie Intro

Track 02 Carrie Ann

* Track 03 Bus Stop

Track 04 Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress

* Track 05 He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Joey Molland looked happy to be alive. He survived the blessing and curse that was being a member of Badfinger. He got in just under the wire, after McCartney had offered The Iveys his left-over track from The Magic Christian, Come And Get It. Last minute band changes resulted in the Liverpool native being added to the roster on lead guitar just before the release. And a new band name. All those good could they be refused. The Apple label, McCartney producing your first hit record, Harrison providing the slide on your biggest hit...always a price to pay and this band has had a history marred by industry squabbles and member suicides. All sorts of sad stories in rock...and all sorts of survivors. Molland laid the hits down and the audience ate it up.

Joey Molland (formerly of Badfinger)

Track 01 Flo & Eddie Intro
Track 02 Baby Blue
Track 03 Come and Get It
* Track 04 Day After Day

Track 05 No Matter What

The Turtles are a gas because they are so camp. They've been camp since the tour where they fronted Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Truth be told, they were putting us on from day one when they happened upon a monster hit with a Dylan tune and found themselves as real rock stars. They are the Cheech and Chong of popular music. Imagine if Corky and the Juice Pigs had recorded Paul Anka's My Way. Ok, don't imagine. They fronted the evening as MC's and put in a rather loose set of #1 hits. Terry Sylvester had noted earlier that the bands from the '60's are now in their
'60's. Howard Kaylan proposed that The Turtles are now, as they always have been, a drug-band. 'Course the drugs are no longer hallucinogenic, they are more along the line of diuretic or selective inhibitors.

The Turtles (aka Flo and Eddie, aka Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan)

Track 01 Flo & Eddie Intro
Track 02 You Baby
Track 03 It Ain't Me Babe
Track 04 Elenore
Track 05 Band Intro
* Track 06 She'd Rather Be With Me
Track 07 Happy Together

Flo & Eddie lay the love-juice on Jack Bruce. His long list of accomplishments are read, his closeness to god is remembered, and his set hit's the two high-marks of Cream's career while tossing in a wonderful surprise in the guise of the Mississippi Sheiks' Sittin' On Top of the World. (note: second of three "dylan-related" occurences onf the evening, Bob covered this on one of those mid-90's roots records, and wrote The Turtles first hit and introduced the greater listening public to VanRonk's arrangement of Rising Sun.)

Way too much bass on this set but Bruce lends a gravitas to the proceedings, his accomplishments grander, his talent more enduring, he's a real-life link to the glory days of modern Rock. (Just kidding about the bass. I dig DFA79, The Carps, and The White Stripes, who don't have a bassist but Meg kicks a bass drum that will concuss you back to the Stone Ages.)

Jack Bruce (formerly of Cream)

Track 01 Flo & Eddie Intro
Track 02 As You Said
* Track 03 Sunshine Of Your Love

* Track 04 Sitting On Top Of The World
Track 05 I Feel Free
Track 06 We're Going Wrong
* Track 07 White Room

Eric Burdon was another pleasant surprise. Unlike all the performers before him this evening he is still developing his art. This ain't the album version of any of these songs. His renditions of the hits challenged the audience. Lots of energy and not nearly as brooding as you'd remember them. The only things missing to make this a perfect set were Sky Pilot, Monterey and Spill the Wine!
The dub mix of Rising Sun, with the wonderful Louis Armstrong snippet to open, was the highlight of the evening.

Eric Burdon and The Animals

Track 01 Flo & Eddie Intro
Track 02 We Gotta Get Out Of This Place
Track 03 San Franciscan Night
Track 04 Don't Bring Me Down
* Track 05 When I Was Young
Track 06 It's My Life
Track 07 Paint It Black
* Track 08 Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
(L.Armstrong)/House of the Rising Sun

Track 09 Boom Boom

No comments: