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nero NYE

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Stardate 123111, Cafe Dekcuf, Ottawa, Ontario

Sitting in a booth going over the guest list while the band finished setting up onstage seemed so normal and right. It's something we've done hundreds of times together and it felt just like being home again. Which of course it was. You could almost hear the spurs jangling.

The fact that we don't do this together anymore seemed very far away, the familiarity of okay, can we get some snare drum crack crack crack okay now some bass guitar just a minute while I check something immediately transcended novelty and nostalgia and settled into the here and now of our former daily life.

It was a long time ago that nero held down a regular Tuesday night stint in this room, working out a sound that fourteen years on would sell out the same venue in less than twenty-four hours. It was also a long time ago that the band virtually lived on the road, briefly visiting Ottawa for tiny sporadic snatches of home life in between playing 150 shows a year throughout Canada and much of the USA. And as I stood by the door and watched a virtual This Is Your Life of people parade through the gate it occurred to me what a blessing and a godsend it is that we can still get together and do this thing.

After an hour of hugs, handshakes and holiday “Cheers!†the band stepped onstage and started things off with what was to become a raging Miko Mard. Midway through the first song the guys already sounded like they were in the middle of the second set and the crowd surged accordingly. High fives and smiles all around, the evening was off to a great start.

The room filled up nicely and sounded great. There was a last minute email flurry from people that had found themselves ticketless but I think we managed to get everybody in. It was crowded but nowhere near uncomfortable, there was plenty of room to shake yer bones and getting a drink wasn't that much of an ordeal. The bar had taken out the middle booths giving the room a more spacious olde-school vibe.

Partway through the first set I found myself perched in the little upstairs booth where I could survey the room. There was the band enthralled and enthralling, smiles and eyes closed tight; the tapers quietly grooved beside their mic stands occasionally checking recording levels with little flashlights; there was the crowd, turned to the stage and locked in that old symbiotic sway. And there was Whitey right up front, his air-guitar almost set aflame trying to keep up with the band.

When he had arrived earlier that evening Whitey seemed tired. “I've been working out with a rubber ball and the new Hendrix album,†he told me. “Last time Dave kicked my ass, this time I'm ready.â€

“Someday there'll be a statue of you in this town,†I told him.

“There'd better be,†he answered, with more than a hint of exasperation.

I ducked out for a quick slice next door and made it back just in time for the countdown. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!†More hugs and handshakes, with a few kisses thrown in, tickets were traded for champagne and the band Auld Lang Sine'd everyone's asses off.

What a great, great first set of music.

With the setbreak came the usual mass exodus as smokers and friends of smokers gathered outside in little groups of friendliness just like we always do (did). It was a beautiful night outside and spirits were high in the wake of 2012.

Back inside for round II was more of the same, which is to say a crowd that just kept getting happier and happier as the band continued to deliver like they had never gone away. There's little question that the band was playing as well as they ever had since they stopped touring, each player better individually than they have ever been while the band's history lends them a cohesiveness that has become almost unavoidable.

Zedonk, Medicated, Chocolate Monkey Machine, Condor, the music was heavy and relentless, making it all the more surprising at how perfectly they nailed Maneater by Hall & Oates. The juxtaposition alone was enough to ensure it was a crowd pleaser, but the fact that they sounded so total pro propelled the surprise cover beyond whimsy.

I was honored once again to join the band onstage for the encore. With a foresight that bordered on masterful, a song was picked that was so easy to play that even in the case of severe impairment and a dearth of monitors I would have minimal difficulty stumbling through. It turns out that the acoustic guitar in Flutes Of Chi by Ween involves little more than strumming a G chord in ¾ time so I was free to concentrate on how fun it was to stand onstage with one of my favourite bands and look out into a crowd of some of my favourite people, each one smiling like we had all just won the lottery.

One more tune and the show was done, though the night would prove to be far from over.

A quick enough pack up, the business end of things were taken care of and the crowd dispersed. The band came back to my place to relax for an hour or so before we hit the suite-est party in town eight storeys above Albert Street. The fun continued well into the daylight – I hope to gawd the hosts have the room for an extra night or two to recover – and I found myself staring down a wholly unneccesary Elgin Street poutine at approximately 10am, the evening's final rare act tinged with the scent of past familiarity.

The last thing I remember Dave saying before I stumbled out the door:

“I wish we were doing this again tomorrow night.â€


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“I've been working out with a rubber ball and the new Hendrix albumâ€

Another classic Whitey-ism!

In 25 years of being his friend, I've collected hundreds of his brilliant quotes - several of which would be suitable for inscription on his forthcoming statue.

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fluffhead mouthing the words "I love you" at the start of the video is classic and really sets the mood for the cool groove of the extended into.

Ha, ha, glad you picked up on that. It's so true!

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nero sounded phenomenal, super tight, solid work gents!

It was great to see Ottawa so lively and it was the first time I remember my entire time there.

I brought my buddy and his wife from Chatham and they were blown away, my only message from him in the morning was 'dude needs a meaner looking guitar'

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