For this Throwback Thursday we are visited by the ghost of festivals past, the late Snow Jam.
The year was 2002 and the place was JetForm Park… You know that stadium you see from the 417 at the Vanier Parkway exit and always ask yourself “Whatever happened there?” Well in the good ol’ days it hosted the Ottawa Lynx (farm team to the Montréal Expos) and also hosted the last Molson Canadian Snow Jam in Ottawa. Let’s not forget the short-lived day of the Fat Cats too!
A skier launching high into the air off the huge quater-pipe at Snow Jam in Ottawa
What made this festival so cool (pun intended) was it was more than just music. They built a massive five-storey ramp covered in snow that led into a huge quarter-pipe in the parking lot. Snowboarders and skiers would bomb down the ramp for trick competitions and big air challenges. They also set up a half-pipe and a street section for skateboarders, BMXers and inline skaters. So there was always some extreme sport to check out.
Musically, the festival had a pretty strong line-up for the time and hit Ottawa in late September when most teenagers were just starting to dislike school again and miss the summer freedom. I might be forgetting a few but the bands that year were Goldfinger, Unwritten Law, Rascalz, Treble Charger and Simple Plan on the first day and on the second day were Swollen Members, Dropkick Murphys, Mudmen, Chuck Calibre, Moka Only, Bowling for Soup and Sam Roberts & the Secret Weapon (this was before he skyrocketed to fame as the Sam Roberts Band).
Sick height and moves by a snowboarder hitting the huge quater-pipe at Snow Jam in Ottawa. Photo: Steve Donnelly / TuneVault.com
One vivid memory besides all the extreme daredevils launching into the hemisphere was the mosh pit during Dropkick Murphys. The baseball field had been covered up with thin planks of wood and then a massive tarp, to protect the grass. While moshing someone caught me rather low and being tall, I flipped over him to land on my knee. I got up kept singing and rocking because life was good, but when I joined my friends after the band finished my leg was covered in blood and my white socks matched my red high-top Converse runners.
Snow Jam will always be one of the most interesting festivals I ever attended. The combination of extreme sports and music was awesome and well-timed. They really took it to the next level and gave us a show on snow during the summer… Pretty chill! Snow Jam was one of the best Canadian festivals no longer with us, will it ever be resurrected? Or will it forever lie dead & musty in the shadows of bigger, newer festivals that favour lawn chairs over acrobatics?
I was feeling nostalgic this morning as an Alexisonfire song came on my iPod. They are a band that comepletely changed my outlook on music and I loved them more than any other band since I fell in love with Nirvana as a kid. I had to dig deep into my vault of unpublished reviews and found this one from December 2010. I still miss this band very much.
With the sound of violins and drums from the baroque period, Alexisonfire, a band once considered screamo, brought their newfound hardcore sound to Ottawa.
Opening with a portion of “Vex,” an instrumental track from their latest EP Dog’s Blood they flowed seamlessly into hit single “Young Cardinals.” They began the show all business, not their usually chatty selves. But mid-way through the set they broke into “We are the Sound,” which finally prompted frontman, George Pettit, to address the crowd.
“Nation’s capital let me hear you sing along to this one, let me hear you repeat after me!” And they did. The crowd never stopped singing, on a night which had Phil Collins tunes playing beforehand to set the mood, Alexisonfire singing happy birthday to friend “Bruno” on stage and later covering Midnight Oil’s “The Dead Heart.”
Alexisonfire only played tracks off their two latest albums, Young Cardinals and Crisis, as well as a track off of Dog’s Blood. This was surely a result of the decision the band made to no longer have Petite scream, instead adopting a more hardcore style vocals. Just when I thought they had totally abandoned their old stuff, they delivered with the song that started it all for most fans “Pulmonary Archery” and “Accidents” in the encore. Kicking off the encore was an amazing rendition of “The Northern,” in which Dallas Green launched into a portion of the old blues classic “Lord, I just can’t keep from crying.”
The best band of the night not named Alexisonfire was Grand Rapids’ La Dispute, who unfortunately were the very first act and therefore had limited playing time. The band kind of has the sound of old-school At the Drive-in, with powerful lyrics of yearning and questioning intentions. The very strong lyrical content is a plus in a genre where it’s often lacking. Lead singer Jordan Dreyer is constantly jumping all over the place as he tears through his fast-paced singing. They are a definite must-see and are wasted as an opening act.
Hitting the stage after the opener was Four Year Strong from Massachusetts. The band blends four different singing voices into their Pop-core act (Pop-core is hardcore music with pop-punk vocals). They delivered a very fun-filled set full of energy and movement, which was impressive to see as the three guitars and keys run around while playing their instruments. They played a lot of music off their new album Enemy of the World. Guitarist and vocalist Dan O’Connor told the crowd that the band’s very first tour was with The Fully Down, “an amazing band from Ottawa, and that is still to this day the best tour we ever had.”
Rounding out the bill was veterans of the metal-core scene, Norma Jean. They had almost as much crowd interaction (requesting claps, bull horns, hands and fists in the air, movement…) as they played music. Lead singer, Cory Brandan, egged on the crowd saying “you guys are loud but motionless, did you all take your Tylenol PM before coming tonight?” Every song the band played came off a different album and they closed out their set with “Memphis will be laid to rest” dedicated to all their “old-school fans.”
Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performs at Bluesfest in 2011. Photo by Patrick Doyle/Ottawa Bluesfest/Canadian Press
Life is pretty hectic in Showboxland with festival season in full swing. So for this week’s Throwback Thursday let me take you back to Bluesfest 2011, to an article I wrote but that was never published. It was also included in my first email to Matias when I was applying to become a writer with Showbox. Here is my Flaming Lips experience.
Multi-coloured air raid sirens, smoke machines, huge balloons, confetti canons, rainbow covered gear, lead singer Wayne Coyne in a bubble walking over the crowd and a ton of people on stage dressed up as the cast of the Wizard of Oz, and that was just during the first song, “Warm Mountain.” (video below)
What can I say, it was a Flaming Lips show!
And just when you were thinking, what will these guys do next, they bring out a 12-foot tall inflatable man with a star head and a walrus man mascot to dance with the Dorothys, tin men, lions and scarecrows during “Vaseline.”
Coyne, who is always very vocal and always wanting more from the crowd and always wanting to be one with the his audience, explained why the band wrote “The Yeah Yeah Yeah song.”
“This song is so old it was written because we were frustrated at our former [US] President Bush,” said Coyne. “We often sing and write songs mostly about things you can’t control, but singing about it makes it less scary and you feel like you have more power. When people sing together we get a sense of all being one, we want to be one, we will sing together now to be one.”
Throughout the set, one of the members of the stage crew, hurled large balloons full of confetti at Coyne, who exploded it with the neck of his guitar. It was like watching a recreational soft ball league, but with way more confetti.
Just before the band launched into “Is David Bowie Dying?” Coyne said he had something very important to explain to the crowd. “This next song, Steven [Drozd] will not be playing his guitar, he will not be playing the keys, he will be playing his cell phone. I just don’t want you to think he is checking his ever growing Twitter account during the song.”
Coyne continued to interact with the crowd asking who was smoking “the pot,” then added “oh it must be the dudes from Edward Sharpe smoking all that.” Edward Sharpe had played earlier that day.
The Flaming Lips later launched into my favourite song “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2,” and the crowd erupted and sang along as they had been all show. Coyne stopped the song before the final chorus and had everyone turn around and look at the sunset, adding “Let’s make this a psychedelic Canadian summer sunset.”
Unfortunately all shows must come to an end, but it being the Flaming Lips you knew they were going to go out with a bang. Playing the very popular “Do You Realize?” they began to unload the confetti cannons on queue with every time Coyne sang the words “do you realize?” and to top it off there were fireworks going off overhead. Pretty epic to say the least!
The summer of 2003 in Ottawa, and a lot of southern Ontario, was one of rolling blackouts and energy chaos. The event was so “huge” it even has its own Wikipedia page.
While most people were swearing and angry about the extreme heat in August and having no access to air conditioning, I ended up experiencing an amazing event. The Bouncing Souls were scheduled to play on August 14, but I had to miss it due to football practice. The power was knocked out at Babylon for the sold-out show, so the band ended up playing an acoustic set in the backalley! Hot Water Music, who were touring with them, also played an acoustic set. I found this out and was even more bummed out that I missed out.
You are probably asking…where is the good news? Well a few days later, when walking by Babylon with my buddy Alex I saw that The Bouncing Souls were going to play an afternoon show to make up for their missed set. And the best part was they would be doing so in an hour. We pulled out our hacky sack and killed an hour in line super excited. Turns out the band played in T.O. on the 15th, London, ON on the 16th, and then drove back to Ottawa on their only day off in over two weeks to play an afternoon set on a Sunday. They then took off to Thunder Bay for their show on the 18th. Now that is dedication, and a way to make fans for life.
The show was amazing! Greg, the lead singer looked a little sluggish for the first few songs, but the band was flying through an excellent set. I think Greg fed off the energy of the crowd as all of a sudden he snapped back to his old dancing and joking self mid-set. I had an absolute blast singing and dancing all show. The show peaked when they played their encore and invited everyone on stage to sing “True Believer.” I was 14 years old and had never been up on stage with a band before. Sure there were a bunch of us, but it felt so special cause it was during my favourite song and it was with the freaking Bouncing Souls! Magical.
Check out an awesome excerpt I found from an interview published on Epitaph’s website in 2003: Adam (interviewer): So who is your weirdest fan? Peter (guitarist): This guy in Ottawa. Greg (Vocals): He was AWESOME! Tell the story! Peter: We were playing Ottawa the day of the blackout, and then the blackout happened and we couldn’t play. So we started playing acoustic outside, but there’s this kid with this giant red curly fro. He’s like screaming at us, like song titles and “YEAAAHHH!! OI OI OI OI!! I’M A HOPELESS ROMANTIC!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!” Like so loud, and we had no amplifiers. And it was awesome because there were all these kids sitting around us-it was a sold-out show and no one could go back in the club after the power went out. So we went out in the alley and us and Hot Water Music were sitting and playing acoustic guitars, and all the kids sat around. And this one kid was just SCREAMING. Greg: FULL VOLUME SCREAMING. It was amazing to see, this kid.
I found this piece of writing hidden away under a pile in a box. It’s about my first ever punk show that the one and only Eric Scharf dragged me to when we were 15. I’ve had this piece for 12 years and I think it was made just for Ottawa Showbox’s Throwback Thursday, although it’s longer than regular TBTs. I will transcribe it here verbatim (get ready for typos).
The Punk Show
Here I sit in my quiet room at 11:30 at night on the 15th of December, 2002. I’m writing to myself again and as stupid as it sounds, yes this is a diary entry. I’ve just returned from a Punk show with my friend Eric. He’d told me about the show two weeks in advance and invited me to stay at his house for the weekend since my family was going to Mont-Tremblant. I asked my parents and they were sceptical at first because it was at a bar. Steven Scharf, Eric’s dad, reassured my parents that it wasn’t 18 and over and no alcoholic drinks were given out freely and unresponsibily. My parents allowed for me to go and I did.
On Sunday at 3:55 we were at the line-up to get in Babylon, the club where Bigwig were starring, accompanied by District 7, If Tomorrow Comes, Jettison, Subb and another punk band which I don’t remember the name… To tell you (the reader) the truth, I was pretty nervous just going to that concert. It was my first “punk rock” show ever and I didn’t know what to expect from the pit or the bands. The crowd is what worried me most. I expected to be stuck in a club for 5 hours with 200 punks, just looking to break something… or someone…
Well I was wrong about everything.
As we entered the club and checked in our coats, I couldn’t help noticing that the only thing everyone going to the show had in common was that we wanted to see some punk. When we handed in our tickets we received a red stamp that read RUSH. Now everyone in the club had two things in common.
When we made our way to the stage, the show had already begun, If Tomorrow Comes were screaming and wailing and pumping up the volume. The first thing I noticed wasn’t the sound but the vibration. Every bass note made my knees shake involountarily. The drums were making my heart beat a different, irregular rythm in my rib cage. My stomach walls were vibrating violently and making the acid in there shake like the paint in the paint mixer at Canadian Tire. Every hair on my body tingled and my foot tapped all by itself. And I smiled, but that wasn’t involuntarily.
I found out that only a few people went in the pit, Eric for one, and others avoided it religiously. While Eric stomped and skanked in the mosh pit I went to the toilet and discovered a beautiful and seductive world of grafitti. But it wasn’t the kind of vandalism you saw in a bus stop hut or a school change room, it wasn’t even vandalism for that matter. It was like a signed year book, with hundreds of signatures from individual people just like me! There were drawing of cartoon caracters, magic mushrooms and stick men, with signatures of all kinds and the mirror was invisible through the stickers that covered it. Whatever it was, it was very artistic.
When I came back out, Jettison’s lead singer Steve was asking around if everyone was ready to rock. There was a roar of approval but Steve paused and looked back at his drummer called Monkey. Steve scoffed and turned toward the crowd: “I swear to god,” he said. “Everytime I say that our drummer’s like ‘Whoa whoa wait no blahblahblah.'” He turned back toward Monkey and spoke casually, “Fuck off you fucking cocksucker!” Another roar of approval came from the crowd and the mosh pit was thrown back into gear once again when the music started.
When Subb came on, the third song they did, they dedicated to all the romantics in the room. When the heavy love song began I saw two people walk up to the rim of the pit holding each others hands. The one who I guessed was the guy was dressed in black all over and had 5 huge spikes in his mohawk. The girl had a shaved head and one quarter of her face was covered in metal attachments and rings. They looked at each other and the guy whispered in her ear to ask her to dance. She accepted and they stepped into the violent pit and started running into people and each other. When the “romantic” song ended, they left the pit, her with a fat lip and he with a feeling of regret because it was he who had administered her the hit in the mouth. No matter what happened, they were still very much in love because she was smiling and he was kissing her big lip.
The main attraction that night was Bigwig, so when they came on, people went bat shit to get into the pit. I ended up being pulled in and found myself in a sea of moving bodies. When they started to play the whole crowd became just one big organism, moving to the music. A few bottles were smashed, a lamp was broken, I was stuck in between a huge man and a very good-looking girl. She asked me if I was ready when “Numbers” came on and I said I was a virgin at this so she should go easy on me. I made her laugh but that didn’t stop her from throwing her whole weight into me and trying to push me into the deeper part of the pit. I realized the mosh pit was hell on earth, filled with mindless zombies, pushing each other and head banging. When I finally struggled out, I heard Eric scream: “FUCK YOUR RULES! FUCK YOUR SCHOOLS! FUCK YOU AND YOUR BOUNDARIES!!!”
I asked myself what I had to lose either than my sanity, a limb or my life and threw myself right back in!
In April 2010 I had the pleasure of seeing Brother Ali live at Ritual Nightclub. On tour with Fashawn, this was my first time seeing Ali live. I grew up on the Rhymesayers Entertainment crew, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Eyedea (RIP) & Abilities, so this was a big show for me.
The thing about a medium like rapping is that your voice is your identity. Brother Ali’s voice is one of those voices that is in a category all its own. And no matter how many times you hear his voice through recordings, you will still be taken aback by hearing him in person.
Somewhere in the middle of his set, Brother Ali stopped between songs to address the crowd. He took the opportunity to explain to us all that he “had no fans” and everyone there was his “friend” instead. He also explained that he “doesn’t throw shows” he “throws parties.” “So we’re all friends, and this is a party, ok?” he asked. The crowd roared and he went back to his set.
Of all the shows I’ve been to, this moment is by far one of the most memorable I’ve witnessed. What Ali was addressing by this statement and mentality is the connection between artists and listeners that can so often be muddled by the transaction-like nature of that very same relationship. The music we feel the closest to often time plays the role of friend in a more literal way than we acknowledge. The music that matters most is often there at our highest, there at our lowest, it speaks to us on a profound level. And when we purchase that CD, t-shirt, or concert ticket we don’t think of it as transaction as much as we think of it as giving back to something that’s already given to us. To hear someone like Brother Ali take the time out of his set to address this dynamic was pretty refreshing.
The show as a whole was great. Brother Ali is an amazing live performer and his live set is very well put together. But what will always stick out in my mind is that I didn’t pay to go be a fan at a show. I went to party with a bunch of friends. And every good “show” I’ve ever been to felt more like a party with a bunch of friends. Check out some footage I found online from the party.
The year was 2004, the place Club SAW at 67 Nicholas Street, the band was The Acorn. I had recently developped quite the liking for this local folk band and was really into their debut album ThePink Ghosts.
My love for the band and the album were a little out of left field as I was mostly into punk, grunge and hardcore around this time of my life. But with such beautiful songs as “Darcy,” the German love song “Erster Tag” and the amazing instrumental piece “Outaouais Trilogy: YerDoin’It. YerFuckin’Doin’It.” I just couldn’t get enough.
The band decided to do an official release for the album, which I had already gotten my hands on somehow. So two of my best friends and I headed over to Club SAW right after school (the advantage of going to high school downtown). We sat down on the floor ready for a soothing and relaxing folk show. But this show was no ordinary performance.
Much to our surprise, when the time came for The Acorn to take the stage, five people walked in dressed in fury animal costumes, such as squirrels and rabbits. These animals took the stage and began performing Pink Ghosts from the beginning with a video overlay of someone biking by the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa countryside.
By the third or fourth song, the heads came off to reveal The Acorn, hiding in those costumes. I was very impressed, it was ridiculously hot and humid in SAW and, well, I had never seen a band perform in essentially sport team mascot outfits. Needless to say my love for the band grew and they instantly became a must-see act for me in Ottawa. Throughout high school and university I saw them several more times and dragged out many friends to have their ears tickled by The Acorn’s wonderful sound.
If you have never seen or heard The Acorn, don’t fret. The band recently re-issued The Pink Ghosts and Blankets (their first two releases) and are streaming them at Exclaim!, they played a new song during their set at Kelp 20 this past Saturday and will hopefully be announcing some local shows soon.
For this week’s rendition of Throwback Thursday, reader Elsa tells us about a bloody good show at Raw Sugar by July Talk back in December 2012.
That familiar café where so many of us had cuddled with friends while sitting on the floor to listen to folk singers was transformed into a rock n roll dance party.
It was during Christmas break that year that my friend told me that she had heard of this band called July Talk that were in town that night. The word was that they were the next big thing out of Toronto. I remember parking my dad’s car in a corner of Chinatown that night and trudging through the snow to get to the tiny lit café.
Once we got in and found some space to settle down, the band was starting their set. The lead guitarist started into a riff, and when he sang his first line into the mic, my friends and I all looked at each other with wide eyes. It wasn’t singing so much as it was growling, and definitely not what we expected from a band that also had a female singer who was spinning in circles in a black dress and a faux-fur shawl.
After we all had our WTF moment, we were sold. Everyone stood up and crowded close. That familiar café where so many of us had cuddled with friends while sitting on the floor to listen to folk singers was transformed into a rock n roll dance party. Peter and Leah were opposing forces, fighting, pulling, biting and spinning in the small stage space between the mic stands and the back wall of the café.
There were lots of pauses between songs where there was chatting with the audience. “I bought this dress off of the wall of the café just before the show. I asked Peter what he thought and he said it was too long,” Leah jokingly complained.
The band then broke into their song “Someone”. The stage was chaotic – Leah was head-banging and Peter was jumping with his guitar, and half way into the song, we all noticed Leah touching at a spot at her eyebrow where there was blood trickling down. She had head-banged right into the neck of Peter’s guitar.
When Peter and Leah met the first time, she told us he was wearing a football helmet, singing at an open mic. She said “it was an omen” that she ended up injured that night.
Conveniently enough, bassist Josh’s wife is a nurse, and she was at the show that night. They ordered up some vodka from the bar and his wife was dancing in the front row and spotting Leah’s eyebrow for the rest of the night.
We chatted with Leah after the show. She graduated from Concordia for Contemporary Dance, so it’s no wonder that she really knows the meaning of “The Show Must Go On.” She has since become the girlcrush that singlehandedly stole the hearts of my friends and I in that one fun, chaotic and intimate show.
Here is the footage of that song – note Leah using Peter’s shirt as a napkin at the end of the song (credits to Youtube User Crystal M Hanley):
I am going to take you back almost a decade to the summer of 2005, more specifically to the lawn behind City Hall for Bluesfest. Yes, Ottawa Bluesfest used to be held smack dab in the middle of downtown and had several stages all around City Hall.
I was a teenager and super excited to see my favourite band at the time, Alexisonfire. But I barely remember their set compared to the raucous-filled opening set by local band Million Dollar Marxists (7 songs still streaming, god bless CBC).
This would be the third or fourth time I had seen the Marxists play at this point, but this was without a doubt my favourite. Everything was going on as a normal, just a high energy show by the punk rockers. Lead singer Luke Nuclear was singing and dancing all over the place as per usual, and I was having a blast singing and dancing along in the hot sun. All of a sudden, Luke begins to climb up the right pillar of the stage. He was going little by little while singing the song “Pang of Creation”. I thought this was one of the coolest things I had ever seen a musician do live. It was then taken to the next level when Luke put the mic in his mouth and climbed up high enough to stand on top of the huge double stacked speakers and continued to sing the song. I was mesmerized, blown away, in a trance…this was so cool, so punk rock! Forget the stage you are suppose to play on, make your own stage and rock out your way.
Unfortunately as the song ended, the organizer threatened to pull the plug on the set if Luke did not get down. Knowing that he would not be able to keep rocking with the organizer cutting the sound, Luke returned to the normal height, on the normal stage. The rest of the show was still great, but that decision of “man wouldn’t it be awesome to sing up there?… hell yeah it would, I am going to do that right now,” really moved this teenage music fan. And still to this day this is one of my favourite live music memories.
Million Dollar Marxists have since broken up, but the members still play a huge role in the Ottawa music scene. Luke Nuklear, is part of the Ottawa Explosion team (who put on the best festival in Ottawa), the White Wires and plays in Boyhood‘s live performances. Steve Adamyk and Davey Quesnel, the band’s guitarists play in the Steve Adamyk Band and the bassists Johnny O is the bassists and lead vocals of Big Dick.
Check out the following video of the event below (disclaimer, the video and audio quality is terrible, even for phones back then).
Ottawa Showbox isn’t just a place to find out what’s going on in Ottawa’s music community. It’s also about discovering, remembering, and giving this city’s artistic underbelly some much needed attention. Yes, Ottawa is a cool place. It always has been. Part of our responsibility is to document the present, as well as the past. After all, what good are experiences if they can’t be shared?
Thus, here we are. The Throwback Thursday. It’s not exactly in line with that trend of people posting old pictures of themselves in hopes of ego-inflating responses, such as “awwwwwe so cute” or “OMG YOU LOOK SO MUCH LIKE YOUR DAD WHEN HE WAS YOUNG” or “Wow, you’ve aged so gracefully.” No. We’re doing something different, unique to us here in Ottawa. One of the ways we want to show our love for the city is by having a weekly post about a memorable music-related event or experience that happened in Ottawa at one time or another. Some of these posts will be written by us at Showbox, and some will be written by special contributors who have stories and memories to share. In fact, if you can think of a good story (or bad, crazy, funny, sad, angering one, etc…) then YOU should email it to us at music[at]ottawashowbox.com. Just be sure it takes place in or is connected to Ottawa in a defined way. And be sure to keep it a succinct story, ideally between 300-500 words. We’re pretty easy going.
So my story begins on a cool September night in 2009. Our peculiar destination: Barrymores Music Hall. At this time, Barrymores still put on some good shows now and then. Those were the days. My friend Spencer and I were looking for a different show to go to, and it just so happened that Atmosphere (Rhymesayers) was rolling through town. Now, I’m not a crazy hip hop fanatic in the sense that I won’t be dropping any names or claiming to have listened to every rhyme ever thought up. I like good hip hop, the real Golden Age late 80’s/early 90’s type stuff. Intelligent music that doesn’t hinge itself on degrading women, discussing (at length) the degree to which my bling is better than yours, or how tough me and my crew are. Hip hop is an extremely powerful, effective force in the world. Unfortunately, like many art forms, it gets a bad rap because of a select few that dump the aforementioned shit on us constantly.
Atmosphere is one of those underground groups that break through and connect. There’s no fluff or filler – just great production on the beats and incredible lyricism and technique. I would say that this Minneapolis entourage was one of the reasons why I gained a new appreciation for hip hop after years of abuse handed down by the likes of Soulja Boy, Lil Wayne, and Fiddy. Anyway, we were pretty excited that Slug and Ant decided to stop in Ottawa.
Back to that chilly Ottawa evening. As we made our way down the unextraordinary and familiar Bank Street sidewalk, we were greeted with the best thing a concert-goer could ask for. An ID line. Normally ID lines suck, a lot. At least at this point in the year it was still relatively warm in Ottawa. So we had that going for us. Plus we had a great show to look forward to, which helped.
I casually pulled out my pack of cigarettes and lit my death stick. Spencer and I were killing time, shooting the shit, and talking about life as we waited in line. All of a sudden, we looked over and MC Sean “Slug” Daley was OUTSIDE. This guy had been my unsung hero for a few years, and the only other time I had seen him in the flesh was at Rock The Bells in New York City when he was playing in Felt. Needless to say, I couldn’t believe he was just standing there.
As I thought this, I did a double take and realized that he was walking closer. Not only was he walking closer, but he was walking right up to us. “Everyone around here got tickets alright?” he said casually. He became eternally cool for coming out and personally asking if the promoter had taken good care of us. We were all kind of dumbstruck, and no one said anything.
He looked right at me and walked up. “Nice night. How are you guys doing?” Ok. Play it cool. “Really good man. How’s the road treating you?” I said. “Ah you know, same old. Yo got a light by any chance?” I proceeded to give him a lighter, which went against my strong desire to match his coolness by lighting his cigarette for him. Too risky. We continued to talk for a few minutes as I began to realize that he really was a normal guy.
At this point I could tell you that Slug invited my friend and I backstage with him, where there were endless amounts of free alcohol and more cool people to meet and develop lifelong friendships with. But that would be a blatant, filthy lie.
As we smoked with Slug outside Barrymores, a homeless man came up to us and walked right in between us as we conversed. “Godda smoke for me you guys?” he said, unapologetically. “No man sorry, I’m working,” Slug said. You’d think that the homeless gentleman would leave at this point. You’d be more wrong than you have ever been. He stayed, awkwardly and endlessly. What should have been a wonderful conversation for the duration it took to smoke a cigarette became a nightmare. We did not, in fact, want to hear about how many smokes this homeless gentleman scored off people.
The story ends with Slug finishing his smoke, walking into Barrymores, and then playing an incredibly memorable set for all of us in attendance. No backstage parties. No liquor fountains. No gold bras. Just an unceremonious end to a potentially riveting conversation on Bank Street in the summer of 2009.