Ottawa, Canada
December 15
Greetings! I am a terminal music fan who will be writing about my life as a concertgoer from 1975 to the present. It’s about the music but also about the lives lived along with it. Many entries will feature a scan of the original ticket as well as a recollection of each gig as a whole experience rather than simply being a description of the performance. Therefore, this blog will be a mixture of memoir, concert review, music history, and philosophical musing. Concurrently, I will be writing about shows that I am seeing in the present. Thanks to Cublet for artwork assistance. **** I’m on Facebook ( mylifeinconcert) ... and have just launched a YouTube channel, VATV ( I also re/cross-post on my stand-alone blog ( Non-OS members who wish to comment can do so over at that site. *****

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OCTOBER 11, 2011 10:46PM

My Life — In Concert! 165.Erykah Badu/T. Hip/Shpongle, 2011

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165. On & On: Erykah Badu, The Tragically Hip, Shpongle, and more, Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 (Pt. 2), LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Saturday July 9, 2011, $19.17 (pre-sale avg., per night)

Ottawa Bluesfest 2011, Erykah Badu, Tragically Hip, Shpongle Ticket variousartists    Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 rolled on and on with Erykah Badu ...

Saturday thankfully marked a return to hot dry weather following the previous night’s wash out (for us) of Wanda Jackson and The Black Keys. Returned in a non-moist state, we headed back down to the Flats for an early evening performance by hip-hop soul diva Erykah Badu. A literal sea of fans saturated the Claridge stage for Ms. Badu’s first ever performance in Ottawa, scheduled for 8 pm. We luckily got in early, staking out a close-quarters spot that would have been impossible to land even if we had gotten there 10 minutes later.

As the crowd continue to swell, time was a-tickin’ with no sign of Erykah anywhere. As part of the sound check, some keyboard players and a percussionist from her band riffed on a deliciously chilled, jazzy groove as everyone swayed in the early evening heat, making us even hungrier for things to start. At 8:16, the crowd started chanting her name but it was for nought.

At 8:30, the stage was still Badu-free. Was she going to show? ‘Twas a nailbiter.

Erykah Badu, "On & On" from Later, 1997.

Shortly thereafter, Ms. B finally emerged (straight from her vehicle as I later found out), striding imperiously on to the stage, rocking the rather odd sartorial choices of a poncho over a purple t-shirt’n’pants combo topped off with a fedora. She initially appeared proper ornery, sternly surveying the massed human landscape that lay at her tootsies before breaking into a big smile. "I don’t believe I’ve been around these parts before, but I already feel at home," she later purred while noodling on her keyboard.

Erykah Badu at Ottawa Bluesfest 2011, variousartists 

Erykah Badu at Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 (All Photos by VariousArtists and Cublet)

She proved worth the wait. Erykah and her band were in top form, with a set that delivered a laidback yet compulsive vibe to a rapt audience undeterred by the sun’s hissing rays and Gouda-thick humidity, both inescapable during the first half of her show. The set list spanned her career, including "On and On," "The Healer (Hip Hop),""Didn’t Cha Know," and an extended "Soldier" that delved into tale about personal and indigenous land rights.

Erykah Badu riffing on indigenous land rights during the latter part of "Soldier" during the 2011 Ottawa Bluesfest. I’ll eventually be posting some of my own footage via the forthcoming VATV on YouTube.

It must also be noted that her band has a bass sound so impossibly deep it was gut churning — in a great way. You literally felt the music.

Erykah Badu Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 variousartists 

Tri-Lit Erykah at Bluesfest.

Post-Badu, perennial Bluesfest favourites The Tragically Hip were already into their next door, main stage set. While most non-Canadian readers probably won’t recognize their name, up here The Hip have been bona-fide megastars for well over two decades. While I genuinely admire the band for how they’ve handled their career, with lots of hard work and wise choices along the way in addition to the obvious respect they have for their fans, they’ve never much done it for yours truly. For me, they’re sort of like The Guess Who for a later generation: a group that seemingly everyone in this country has a boundless love for, whereas I have no strong opinion one way or the other, musically speaking. 

Having said that (and as is also the case with The Guess Who), I genuinely like a few of their tunes, one of which, "Ahead By A Century," they played during the time we spent hanging out at the back of the crowd, taking in a few numbers from their set.

The Tragically Hip at Ottawa Bluesfest with "New Orleans Is Sinking"/"Nautical Disaster" via a fan-shot YouTube video. Anyone with even a casual acquaintance with Canadian rock radio over the past 23 years will unquestionably be familiar with the former tune in particular, it being a perennial staple up here.

Someone who is a big fan is OS’s Scarlett Sumac. She and Jack were in Ottawa for the gig, and Scarlett had tried to contact me via an OS PM a couple of days in advance, in hopes of arranging a meet up. As I was on my staycation and unplugging from a number of things, I was not readily checking my e’s and didn’t discover her message until a few hours before the gig.  Damn.

Furthermore, owing to non-synching schedules and me misreading something on my cell during Badu’s set, we most unfortunately were not able to meet in person. Damn, damn, bugger, damn! Next time, next time …

Tragically Hip Scarlett Sumac Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 variousartists 

Who knows, Scarlett may just write about some aspect of all this herself. 

As for myself, I'll be talking more about The Hip later on down the line in this series, with a clustered entry chronicling a clutch of gigs from 1989, the year they exploded here.

A fan-made video using the second half of my favourite Tragically Hip tune, "50 Mission Cap," from 1992's Fully Completely.  It's about hockey legend Bill Bariklo. Yes, the Tragically Hip are Canadian.

Meanwhile, Cublet and I meandered around the other stages, seeing what else was on offer. Cruising by the Hard Rock Café stage, we stumbled onto Kirk Franklin — good lord! Not being a fan of contemporary gospel, we didn’t hang around long. However, as we navigated through the crowd, we heard Franklin beseech everyone in the audience to hug at least three people close by who were of a different race, saying "white people, that means seeking out someone who looks like they wouldn’t live on your street, and people of colour, don’t be hugging no one named Tryone or Jerome — find a Brad or a Connor or a Timothy ..."

Kirk Franklin has a sense of humour! Who knew? Chuckle props for that one.

We ended up laying down among a group of other Taking Five-rs on for an extended pause underneath a beaming moon, on top of the hill at the back of the National Bank stage’s area. Staring up at the stars in the night sky, we relaxed to some great indie/rootsish music that turned out to be a Portland-based singer/songwriter named M. Ward. We had no idea who it was at the time, but loved what we heard. Add another one to my "Check Out Further" list.

That’s always one of the bonuses of festivals: the discoveries you make along the way.

"Hold Time" by M. Ward (2009).

Good finds continued on to our final destination when we wandered into the Subway stage area to find a trippy, electro performance going down by someone from the UK who we later found operates under the stage/project name Shpongle. After that chilled hilltop break, I was in a body moovin’ mood: long, pounding techno pieces with odd world music flourishes was just what the doctor ordered. I spent the final hour of the night dancing my ass of with the rest of the revellers.

shpongle ottawa bluesfest 2011 variousartists 

Shpongle at Bluesfest. Note glowing cube.

The visuals were pretty fly, too. DJ Simon Posford ensconced himself up in a booth at the top of a large Asian-flavoured structure sporting a variety of panels displaying pulsing light and image projections in time with the psychedelic trance, topped off with a large eye beaming a laser over the audience. Meanwhile, someone had brought a large dayglow cube that kept changing colour, bopping it above the heads in the crowd, while another had an umbrella’s skeleton kitted out to look like a throbbing electric jellyfish. Since there had been much enhancing going down throughout evening, the audio/visual dance treat turned out to be one of the festival’s highlights for me and Cublet this year: an exhilarating conclusion to the first Bluesfest week.

A video from YouTube shot during Shpongle’s audio-visual treat at this year’s Bluesfest. I have some video of the set coming as well, etc ... you know the drill by now.

Next On Stage àI have already written about the following Tuesday ...

166. Lookin’ Out My Back Door: John Fogerty & more, Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 (Pt. 3), LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Tuesday July 12, 2011.

Bluesfest wraps up with a triumphant Saturday night ... and then a tragic Sunday ....

167. Stop!: Jane’s Addiction and Death From Above 1979, Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 (Pt. 4), LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Saturday July 16, 2011.

NOTE: I am now cross-posting current (and previous) entries on my Wordpress blog.

© 2011 VariousArtists

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Hey V.A., Just saw this as I was going off to bed. I'm sure your "clustered entry chronicling a clutch of gigs from 1988, the year they exploded" would be far more interesting than mine. Though challenging, I just might have an finished angle once the tryptophan wears off; soon to be replaced by whatever the maxio-facial dude serves up. Good writing here as always. Glad you and Cublet had a good time.

How did you know we found safe haven in the crowd firmly ensconced in a couple of empty chairs awaiting us in the Wine Garden?
I could see Scarlett dancing from here.. I am not in love with The Hip but with all their mega wattage in Canada I still do not udnertand how they never broke it big in the states.
Erika looks fantastic..
Sounds like great fun. I'll look out for opportunities to see Ms. Badu live (and yep, definitely a unique sartorial choice, but she seemed to pull it off).

Also, one of my closest friends growing up (who then lived in Vancouver and Toronto) loves the Tragically Hip, but I'm still somewhat unfamiliar with them. Any recommendations on albums?
Scarlett: I'll have some great pics for one of those 1988 (actually, I think it's '89) Hip gigs, courtesy of Ms. P, and a great ticket/pass for the other. In a more serious matter, here's hoping you're recovering well. Dental surgery can be the worst.

As for the Wine Garden, well, I'm one of the Pychic Friends ;-)

Linda: Or elsewhere, really. But I find that both fascinating and kind of cool that just about every country has superstar acts not much known outside their borders. That might make for a good blog entry sometime.

Chiller: The two I would recommend would be the fan favourites too: "Up To Here" from 1989 -- their first full length album -- and, even better, "Fully Completely" from 1992. Both sold (and sell) by the bucketloads here, going Diamond = 10x plantinum. So, in Canada, theoretically between one to two of three people will own one or both of these albums.
Well, I do know Badu from "On and On" which I am shocked to see is 14 years old! Most likely I discovered it a few years ago. I'm dragging, V.A.
:) Your eclecticism and energy amaze me! Nice phrase: Gouda-thick. Glad I tagged along per usual. (r)
Hey VA. Another one where your writing makes us feel like we were there. Except this time I'm glad I wasn't. The M Ward tune was the only one I really liked. And I'd never heard of him either. Shpongle was kind of interesting and was probably better live than on Internet. That video array was impressive.

Didn't care at all for the Badu rap. To me it came across as condescending and simplistic. Thumbs down too for the voice of the Tragically Hip's singer.

But it doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the review.
And more's the pity you didn't have the pleasure of meeting Scarlett. A charming lass she is.
dirndl: Today, 14 years ago feels like what 5 years ago used to feel like once upon a time. Scary, isn't it? Thanks for coming along.

abra: Yes, was a real shame that I never got to meet Scarlett but I know it will happen sometime. Otherwise, glad I saved you the trip. I can see what you're saying about Badu's piece but, as with Shpongle, it had more impact live, meanwhile her voice and band were knockouts. As for The Hip comment, his voice is probably one of my impediments also.
a bass sound so impossibly deep ~
...I love that, when that happens.
Too bad you missed Scarlett under the same moon that night.
Glad you had a great time.
Great writing. Not that familier with any of these acts, but you got me curious about them, though I'm just not sure about anything that would call itself Shpongle!
catch-22: Yep, I love it when the bottom end of the sound is so deep you feel it.

Kevin: LOL, well, we didn't know the name of the act until the set was over and we asked someone. Erykah Badu would be the act to check out. She AND her band were marvelous.