and on the third day, He created the Gordo
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Day three at the 2003 Ottawa Bluesfest.

the lowdown:

the torture king: caught most of another set by this crazyman. this time he ate glass again, poked the needle through his head, but failed to swallow the sword (he tried four or five times, but he said he'd been doing it too much over the past few days). to make up for it, though, he swallowed a long piece of string, then made an incision in his belly with a scalpel, and pulled the string out of his own body with some forceps. what's mindblowing about all this lunatic nonsense is that he's doing it a few feet of in front of you, and there's very very little room for trickery (you could see his skin being pulled by the string, etc.) he's a little low on the charm, but his feats of daring are, er, daring indeed.

gordon downie and the country of miracles: in "coax me," chris murphy (Sloan) sang the now-famous words: "it's not the band I hate / it's their fans." And the Canadian band towards which that statement has most often been launched is none-other than Gord Downie's Tragically Hip. Today proved the addage absolutely true. I somehow managed to find a seat at the very front of the mainstage area, a couple meters away from mr downie himself (and, more importantly, the lovely ms julie doiron). sad thing was, some drunken, stoned, exuberant Hip fans were also nearby. i swear, they spent the entirety of the hour-long set yelling "gordo!" i watched with gritted teeth as downie tried first to ignore them (assuming they'd give up trying to get him to look at them), and then tried to appease them with some token smiles and glances. unfortunately, this only egged them on. though it was really nice to hear songs like "chancellor" and "vancouver divorce" (from downie's excellent first solo record, coke machine glow), their appeal was substantially undermined by audience contributions such as "gordooooooooo!" and "gordo! yeaaaah! woo! gordo! beer!". I haven't yet heard Downie's new one, Battle of the Nudes, but i hope that it's not the rock-and-roll album that much of his performance hinted at. save that crap for filler on tragically hip records, gord, and leave the offkilter poetry for us. (one of the Hip fans described coke machine glow as "really fucking wild, man. it's such a trip.") "steeplechase" and "into the night" are the new songs i'll need to seek out. i continue to believe that downie is one of canada's finest and most fascinating artists - a fine singer (like a more vicious Michael Stipe), a talented lyricist. i'd love to see him in a more intimate environment. as it is, the set floundered in the noisy bits (though these were the parts the hip-fans loved), as subtlety was tossed aside for chugging guitar noise. julie doiron contributed a ton of backup vocals, though, and it was wonderful to hear her singing so loud and free. she even looked like she was having a good time.

cesaria evora: given the forty-five minutes it took Ms Evora's people to set up (and given how much my legs were acheing), I was expecting a pretty fine show. instead, it was mostly disappointing. cesaria paled in comparison to her reputation - it's not that she's not a good singer, but rather that in her old age her voice no longer has much verve, and her interpretations of the songs were lacklustre at best. like reciting words from memory, the emotion disconnected. (it didn't help that she had all the stage-presence of a peanut.) her band presented a lush folky backdrop, but cesaria simply failed to convince me that she cared, or to create a laid-back groove. I enjoyed hearing some classic songs performed in-the-flesh ("Besame Mucho," for instance), but i don't think i was the only one in the crowd who left nonplussed.

cinematic orchestra: pleasant. certainly more adventurous than the new deal, whom I heard a few songs from earlier in the day. both of these bands, though, are essentially dance music, so it doesn't seem fair to evaluate them from a purely concert-listener perspective. a pity no one was dancing! (does this say something about the bands?) I liked Cinematic Orchestra's sax player - he did some really nice improvs (my jazz knowledge is a little truncated, but if i say he was doing like miles on the bari sax - short, midrange phrases - i figure you'll get my drift) - and filled the choruses with passion and restraint. i was disappointed by the singer, however - the cooing was a little too typical. the smattering of lyrics didn't help - vapid housemusicspeak ("come on home / to the hot red fire / come on home ...": that sort of thing).

I realize it sounds like every band I've been hearing has been middling-at-best. that's not actually true: but talking about someone's fabulousness is boring - it's much for fun to write about the niggling little flaws.

Posted by Sean at July 6, 2003 11:51 PM

So I think your Grados have ruined you for outdoor music (no, I will never shut up about headphones).

Maybe a beer in hand would improve the sound. (Bone conduction effect from wrist to ear or something - beer is required because it has the ideal specific gravity)

Posted by Andrew at July 7, 2003 3:35 PM

So I think your Grados have ruined you for outdoor music...

That's quite possible, but not this week, because I traded my stock "bowl" pads for a custom-modded pair of senn414 "comfies," and the SR-80s are bare while I wait for the package to arrive. I'm currently trying to find a pair of high-quality isolating phones, for bus trips to Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto. Senn-280s and Koss-3aa/4aas seem the best bet, but it's the challenge of finding a good price. *grumble* (no, I will never shut up about headphones).

In order for me to enjoy concerts more, I think I have to give up listening to albums altogether. Nothing ever sounds quite as good (except maybe Radiohead performing "Just" or "My Iron Lung," Cat Power doing "Knocking on Heaven's Door" or, well, anything by the Arcade Fire).

Posted by Sean at July 7, 2003 4:24 PM

I just saw the new deal at the montreal jazz festival, and they truly and surely rawked. The crowd was hyped and there was crazy dancing galore going down. I don't know how much of it was 'songs' and how much was just jamming, but they would just go on and on flowing from beat to glorious beat. If you have another chance to see them you should take it.

Also, in regards to the above poster's beer comments, I humbly suggest listening to some music after getting high. I can't explain it well, but my experience is that weed just makes music sound better somehow. It's my favorite aspect of the wacky tabaccy.

Posted by dustin at July 8, 2003 12:04 AM

weed + music = superdupergreat

Posted by smackmastah at July 8, 2003 11:27 AM

I've seen the new deal quite a few times before and I'm surprised that you would categorize them as "essentially dance music," without any concert presence. On the contrary, while their sound is certainly house-derivative, they are far more enjoyable in concert than on albums/in clubs. I liken them to other jam-scene bands like particle and sound tribe sector 9, although slightly more up-tempo. Cinematic orchestra, on the other hand, is definitely more of an album-band.

Posted by Matt Bridges at July 10, 2003 12:55 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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