Rockstars Rolling By

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – May 12, 2005

Shy of being a total starfucker, I just can’t help it: I heart rock stars.

Hell, I can’t say I’ve ever ran as many errands about town as I have this month hoping for a chance encounter with big star Howe Gelb of Giant Sand, rumoured to be recording right here in O-town. And with Tulip Festival in full bloom – and July’s Bluesfest promising a killer lineup including Calexico, ZZ Top, Holly Golightly and Daniel Lanois, and Westfest presenting Danny Michel – get ready for some serious stargazing, folks. An impressive whack of incredible rock stars is coming to a stage (and eatery and pub and public toilet) near you.

But here’s a question for you, Shotgun reader: If you’re like me and get giddy for great talent, then what do you think it is about a rock star or ‘music industry type’ that is so darned sexy? There’s something about them, isn’t there? You can tell when a rock star has walked into the room – something about the way they carry themselves or their “look.” Would Mick Jagger have half as much appeal for us with those big lips and that teeny ass if he wasn’t a Rolling Stone?

I’m sure Dr. James Houran’s book Celebrity Worshippers: Inside the Minds of Stargazers would be able to tell us a few things. Unable to locate the book in Ottawa, I had to resort to my own experience with meeting a few “famous” people. This is what I came up with.

When I dated a producer for a radio station in Toronto called CFNY 102.1 FM, now The Edge, I learned how folks in the music biz are pretty connected.

I met Him at a hockey game-CFNY vs. The Rheostatics. I was 18 and naive and didn’t really understand the music business well enough to not feel guilty about all the freebies He would shower upon me. I felt a constant pressure to return a kiss for a free tape. Never mind what I thought I would have to do for U2 tickets! And Dad let me run wild with Him because He was a “Somebody” – as though He was going to announce responsibly, while hosting the All-Request Nooner, His secret plans to slip virgin Sylvie the meaty weenie.

But the attraction of the big-shot radio guy is that He introduced me to a whirlwind of people and places that were exciting for a young woman totally into music. And He drove a wicked car. Problem was, before a party He was hosting, He would always caution me not to be too surprised to see girls falling all over Him. I deserve an Oscar for acting not surprised when he started dating my friend.

For some reason, my image of the Rheostatics’ modest frontman Martin Tielli doesn’t quite fit the same mould of lofty self-importance. Here’s why: One evening before the Rheos took the stage at Barrymore’s, I saw Mr. Tielli walking into Dunn’s Deli on Elgin Street. I said “hi” and asked to join him. He said sure. And then there we were, sipping soup and talking about poverty in India. A real gentleman, he lent me his corduroy suit jacket to keep warm while we ate, and after dinner he walked me home and I gave him directions to Bank Street. Let’s just say that when it comes to integrity in the music biz – and hockey –Tielli carries the team, and the Rheos come out points ahead.

The idea that a “music type” is just a normal person fascinates me. I mean, I find it endearing to learn a seemingly arrogant musician is just painfully shy. Or that they do “normal people” things. Heaven help me if I see Joel Plaskett buying deodorant at Shoppers Drug Mart before his headliner show May 16 at Tulip Fest – I may faint. Seriously, there’s a big attraction to having a window in on the singer’s intimate world through his or her tunes, then meeting them face to face over meatball soup or having them write you back on e-mail. It carries a bit of intrigue, no?

Okay, so short of these experiences being trite and boring, there are spicier tales, like the time at Zaphod’s II when I was playing drunken pool with the Stereophonics’ drummer and my jokes about lead singer Kelly Jones’ sweater escalated into a swearing match. I now know how to call myself a “cunt” in Welsh. But that exchange taught me there were such things as patient rock stars, and that I become an obnoxious attention-getter after too many Molson Canadians. I was so riled up I’m surprised I didn’t return home and trash my digs, G n’ R style. (The ‘Phonics are back in town for a sold-out show at Zaphod’s, May 12. If anyone has an extra ticket…and a muzzle…)

But in the spirit of Tulip Fest’s “Peace & friendship” motto this year, and with all the awesome musicians rolling in, I propose a love-in. We can pucker up and pelt them with our own two-lip kisses to thank them for the wonderful soul-expanding tunes and mood-enhancing remedies they churn out in audio for our listening pleasure. I would start with Lynn Miles on May 15, Lowest Of The Low on May 16, and work my way up to Ron Sexsmith and, of course, Hawksley Workman, who closes the festival on May 23.

Smoochie smooch!

– Sylvie Hill