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.
Photo of Barrymores: Stéphanie Amesse
Be sure to catch Atmosphere at Ritual Nightclub in Ottawa on June 1, 2014!