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Ottawa Bluesfest


Stardate 070308

Live Music Review

Review By: Velvet

Gord Downie of the Slip

Gord Downie - The Tragically Hip

photo courtesy of - jessica @ flickr

Alrighty boys and girls, it’s time again for the bestest time of the year in the nations capital, the Ottawa Bluesfest! The lineup is stellar again this year, a warm and fuzzy constant we have come to rely on in these parts, and the endurance test began tonight with The Tragically Hip.

It’s not like me to forsake acts I haven’t seen before, especially acts like The Blind Boys Of Alabama, Taj Mahal, or even Cassandra Wilson. But they were all playing against the Hip tonight, and boy, I likes me my Tragically Hip.

I booted down to the site straight from work and was happy to see they learned from the massive mistake that was last year’s first night. A year ago it was a chaotic mayhem that had thirteen-year-old volunteers on the street dragging hundreds of wristbands behind them all the while being descended upon on all sides by decorum-allergenic lawnchair wielding maniacs scrambling to get settled in before they missed Brown Eyed Girl. This year it was a simple walk-up ticket scan, and a short onsite lineup for those requiring festival-long wristbands. I was sadly in this group, being demoted from semi-access lanyard to plebian wristband. Don’t worry folks, I’ll still get just as drunk.

I saw out of the corner of my eye as I bee-lined it to the beer line that the River Stage and the Rogers Stage are both set up differently this year. We’ll have to wait for another night to see if it’s any improvement. TV On The Radio finished up their set while I lined up for beer, but I was too busy maneuvering the line to pay much mind. I am wholly unfamiliar with their music, and had I the time to catch their set I would of, but alas. I did score a remarkably fast beer line, one that had me start twenty feet behind Stapes in another line, and had beer in my hands before he seemed to move.

Off to The Hip.

For those that have given up on The Hip, well, they’re back. World Container is the most recent album, their first produced by rock-god producer Bob Rock, and I think it’s one of their best, second perhaps to Day For Night. Seriously. Bob Rock made these guys step up to bat, and step up they did. And man, does it show when you see them live. They have regained the confidence they seemed to lack for the last lot of years in their live shows and are back at the top of their game.

The sound tonight was excellent, and you could hear every word Gordie screamed, which was both rare and ironic. Where I find Gord Downie’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings is what constitutes the ‘jam’ aspect of The Hip, I usually have to struggle to hear it. Tonight he came through loud and clear, but he handed off the ‘jam’ to Bobby Baker, who uncharacteristically (I’m a huge fan, but let’s be honest here) stepped up and laid down the best guitar playing I think I’ve heard from him. Downie instead satisfied himself with theatrical antics that got the better of at least a couple of microphone stands and thoroughly captured the attention of the approximately 35,000 in attendance. Baker even pulled out a Dobro for Wheat Kings and played it lap-style while we all soaked in the quintessential Canadian moment in the shadow of the Peace Tower. ‘Twas lovely.

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The band played a smattering from World Container and dipped heavily into their iconic discography. The crowd sang along for every tune, but thankfully the sound was good enough that it was only a hushed background reverb, though one that showed that this band is, and will always be, very well known and loved.

For the encore we were treated to a couple of songs featuring the man that kicked these complacent bastards in the ass and got them rocking again, Bob Rock. They played the leadoff track from the last album, Yer Not The Ocean, and right there I can’t believe you’re not buying the cd. Great fuÇking song, and I just know it was Bob Rock who got Downie to go up high for the second chorus. Love it. They closed out with the only song of the night I didn’t recognize. I may well get chastised for that, ‘cuz it sounded like a Dylan tune or somethin’. Anyways, they gave Rock a solo and he burned it up. You can see how he might have got in their faces a bit in the studio and reminded them of a thing or two.

All in all a kicking start to what should prove to be a great pile of music to come. I’ll hit as much of it as I can and report back accordingly. Stamina is my only concern. And maybe lawnchairs.

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