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God love you, JONNYTSTICLE

I’d forgotten a lot since last year about what Bluesfest is like. I’d forgotten that ninety-five percent of the crowd always misses the first song because they’re too busy jockeying for a spot closer to the stage, or they’re texting “WHERE R U?” to friends they can’t find, or they’re making poor-quality cellphone videos of a band that’s at least half a mile away. (I find this all alternately annoying and endearing.) Another thing I forgot was that, at the bottom of the giant video screens on either side of the stage is a ticker tape displaying text messages sent in by the crowd. There, you’ll find DRUNKUNKLE’s insightful: “Tragically Hip RULES!” There, you’ll read the profound “I like beer” courtesy of JONNYTSTICLE. So very inane and yet so strangely compelling.

Where last year it took us a week to reach Bluesfest exhaustion, this time we’re coming in tired. We haven’t had a lot of downtime lately, so the thought of eleven days of concert-going has sucked the life out of us in advance. Knowing this, we’ve decided not to kill ourselves trying to see everyone.

And so, we showed up later in the evening and caught just one band: The Tragically Hip. I think I’ve seen them about six times in my life, and I remember not liking Gord Downie all that much at first. If you haven’t seen a Hip show, Gord is a headcase from start to finish. He’ll delivered stream-of-consciousness rants in between verses (check the famous killer whale tank rant from a performance in 1996), he’ll have weird props (a banana that he uses like a shaker; an endless supply of handkerchiefs), and he’ll dance and shout and mime and be as crazy as fuck. First time I saw him, I hated it. But it grew on me until I totally looked forward to it. But that appreciation has reached it’s apex at some point, because I’ve gone from eagerly anticipating it to just being amused by it, and in another three of four years I’ll be complaining, “Why can’t he just sit still for once and sing us a nice song.” Gordie was in fine form last night though—bending mic stands, paddling an imaginary canoe, performing fourth-rate magic with handkerchiefs. Not many rants though. There was only one that I remember: “To survive together, at an event like this, we have to become a family. We have to BECOME A FAMILY, GODDAMNIT!” He reminded Sarah of my Dad at this point. True enough, although my dad will more typically shout something like, “If you’re married to a woman for twenty-five years, you should get a MEDAL FROM THE POPE!” Or, “Where are the boys? Tell them to quit fucking around and GET SOMETHING TO EAT!

Great show, though. Not a lot of new stuff, which is okay because I’m totally unfamiliar with their new album. They played “Wheat Kings,” “Fireworks, “It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken,” “Poets,” “In View,” “New Orleans is Sinking,” “Grace, Too,” “The Lonely End of the Rink (Ugh),” and “Ahead By a Century”. Far and away my favourite line of the night was when Gord introduced that last one: “They’re all for the girls, but this one’s for the girls.”

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