I Ain’t Missing You at All

Ottawa XPress & The Hour Montreal, Shotgun, August 19, 2004

I have a nice tuque with a patch embroidered on the front. The patch is a twirling middle finger salute. It’s a Wilco tuque and it’s a deep red, the colour I was seeing when I was flipping off Mother Nature in early August, seething that I had to miss Wilco playing a SOLD OUT show at the Capital City Music Hall because of some badass PMS.

That’s right. The Woman’s Curse. Maybe that’s why there are so many men in rock ‘n’ roll: more rock and less talk about Kotex moments, man.

Speaking of talking, everyone around me on Wilco night was making big plans for the show. What to wear? What songs would Wilco sing? As for me, the only question I was asking was “WHY ME?!”

I risked getting a knock-me-on-my-ass-for-three-days migraine if I trekked out, so I sold my $40 ticket and went to bed at 7:30 p.m. with the only consolation being that a) I wasn’t pregnant and b) I’d be able to make it in to work the next day in good health.

How very rock ‘n’ roll.

But then I learned from a local Wilco correspondent, (we’ll call him “Agent DT”), that the lead singer of Wilco, Jeff Tweedy, suffers seriously from severe migraines too! Could it explain the egg theme on the band’s latest album cover? But supposedly, Tweedy hasn’t gotten his period since his fertile mind recently gave birth to a ghost…

In the past, Tweedy was reported to have overmedicated on painkillers ’cause his head was so bad at times. I suppose if I had gone to the A Ghost is Born tour, I would have been in good company. Plus, the concert was guaranteed to blow my head right off anyways, said the Agent.

Bye-bye migraine.

This whole unfortunate experience got me to thinking about some of the greatest shows in Ottawa that I’ve hit or had to miss and about Ottawa concert culture this summer overall.

It’s so exciting how this town offers such a variety of venues and fantastic festivals from which to choose. For me, it all starts with Tulipfest, then Westfest, then Jazzfest, Bluesfest, Ladyfest, Chamber Music fest and then I have No More Money fest.

Actually, I lied. I have never been to Jazzfest. I don’t even have one of those fancy lawn chairs. And I don’t go to the Chamber music one because I’m not sure if they’ll let me in with my tuque.

But I did take in the majority of the Tulip festival shows this year, for an easy $20. My friend and I saw everyone from Hawksley Workman to Trooper. Crowds changed from preteen Billy Talent punks in black hoodies and piercings to pot-smoking, middle-aged drunks at the Honeymoon Suite gig.

And parents worry about their kids at punk shows.

In fact, the happiest and safest concerts to be at this summer was probably Bluesfest with its impressive democratic vibes. I didn’t buy a pass this year, but was very welcome to use Bluesfest porta-johns just outside of the grounds. Also, the non-paying public shared space with the homeless campers stationed at the Human Rights monument to catch a lot of the Birdman Sound Stage shows.

Something I noticed during evening summer concerts nowadays is that lighters, historically held high during slow, cheesy songs, have been replaced with a swaying sea of blue lights from the screens of cellphones. And cellphones by the way are a much better way of navigating your friends through a crowd than the landmarked picnic table near the shwarma stand to the left of the chipwagon.

Concert T-shirts are also more appealing. Gone are those oversized ones that girls could only wear to bed.

In addition to the festivals, for all the venues that exist in the downtown, including Capital City Music Hall, Barrymore’s, Babylon, Dominion, Aloha and Zaphod’s, some things remain the same. Drinks are still expensive, doormen are still checking ID, but the shows, thanks to PRS Concerts, are getting better.

Over the years, Ottawa has given us some good ones: The Cult, Soundgarden, Face to Face, NOFX, SNFU, National Velvet, Lowest of the Low, Sarah McLachlan, Rheostatics, Radiohead, Beth Orton, Joseph Arthur, Peter Elkas, Nash the Slash, Kathleen Edwards, Hawksley Workman, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, All Systems Go, Danny Michel, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Neil Halstead, Daniel Lanois, Sarah Slean, Ron Sexsmith, Trans Am, Sloan, Dr. John, Platinum Blonde, The EELs, Soft Canyon, Stereophonics, Englebert Humperdink, Julie Doiron, GOMEZ, Sonic Youth, soon the Pixies.

So what that I missed Wilco? Missing Jeff Buckley playing Zaphod’s to about five people in ’93, now that’s something to have a good cry about.

Listen, some of us won’t be able to go to shows this year because of exams, or work, or a wedding, or a death, or a Sens-Habs game, or menstrual cramps. But, when you do have to miss that great concert or festival, for whatever reason, you just think of my red Wilco tuque. It is a solid reminder that we all just have to learn to say “fuck you” to fate sometimes and just settle for listening to our CDs, curled up in a fetal position in anticipation of the next big show we can make.

Let my tuque be as a beacon unto you, lighting the way like an old fashioned Bic at a John Waite gig.

– Sylvie Hill