Saturday, June 9, 2007

Kathleen Edwards at WestFest

Kathleen Edwards, a darling of the Canadian folk music scene, returned home for a concert at WestFest, one of Ottawa's newest outdoor music festivals, earlier tonight. WestFest is free and very accessible, which makes it a great venue to check out the all-Ottawa lineup, of which Edwards is definitely a highlight.

Her show was a bit uneven, but overall her peformance was energetic. Luckily for her, she had Jim Bryson backing her up, and when the two combined to sing on a few tracks, the results were beautiful. One could easily tell that both Edwards and Bryson grew up playing the Ottawa scene together, they were near flawless. For example, at one point Edwards berated Bryson for not using his electric guitar to its fullest capacity, so he proceeded to strum the power chords to AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long," but Edwards didn't miss a beat, as she plowed through the first two verses and chorus, before Bryson put the brief improv to an end. This was a nice little touch to an already enjoyable evening outside.

The major problem with the show was the sound, especially at the beginning. There was too much feedback coming from the lead guitar player, and this drowned out Edwards' voice somewhat. Also, Edwards can't always pull off the 'girl with a guitar' bit, she'd be well-served by aiming for a bit of a bigger sound.

Having said that, I found myself deeply involved in her lyrics on a number of occasions, especially on her new track "Bring me Flowers." Her strength lies in her stage presence, she's funny and witty, and in her songwriting, which is deep and sorrowful. She's definitely worth seeing again, maybe in a smaller, more intimate venue, even though I'm quite sure Edwards would disagree.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Hockey Passion is Offside

Let me be clear: I’m a hockey fan. I grew up watching French broadcasts of Le Tricolore on TVA and TQS. I’d sit there wrapped up in a warm blanket watching the action with my Dad, brother and sometimes my Mom. Since those early days cheering on the Habs, my allegiances have shifted to the Sens. I remember watching a game in their first season at the Civic Centre, they played the Minnesota North Stars and won. The feeling of excitement in Ottawa during that first season could be felt everywhere. We had finally made it big. As I’ve grown a bit older, my enthusiasm for the game has waxed and waned, but my love for the Sens has stayed more or less consistent. Thus, it’s with wide open arms that I’ve welcomed the Sens’ recent run to the Stanley Cup finals.

However, this interest has been put to the test recently by the expressions of militarism and nationalism that keep cropping up in my hockey-loving neighbourhood. First, it’s the CBC sending the Stanley Cup to Afghanistan for photo and video opps. with Canadian troops. In addition to this absurd exercise, the CBC, in its infinite wisdom, decides that we need to hear Gen. Hillier’s comments on the synergy between hockey, the nation and the military. It’s bad enough that Don Cherry does this every game, his raw-raw-raw for the Canadian military has never sat well with me, but c’mon, the military’s PR man discussing Canada’s role in Afghanistan as linked to our hockey heritage. Talk about propaganda. Are the military and CBC brass that desperate? I’ll take Ron without Don any day, thank you very much.

Aside from the CBC’s overtly propagandistic editorial coverage, what has happened to my beloved Sens’ fans here in the city? I left the city for Games 1 & 2, only to return to a militarized zone. Don’t get me wrong, I think Sens fans disguised as duck hunters in full camouflage brandishing plastic guns are clever, but really, do we need to express our support in such symbolically violent ways? But worst of all are the flags, banners and outfits proclaiming loudly that so-and-so is a member of the ‘Sens Army’. I’ve always understood that hockey, with its jock culture, thrives on displays of masculine power, but I can’t help but be sadly disappointed when inherently violent institutions, like the military and even the nation, are called forth to express ones support for anything, let alone a bunch of boys playing a game.

Apparently many of us adults think it’s ok to brandish about pretend guns, support real guns shooting and torturing people overseas, and unquestioningly lend credence to the conservative forces currently ruling our land, all in the name of hockey.

A few days ago, I decided it was best to be ambivalent about my support for the Sens, and that, in fact, my overall support for hockey had diminished considerably given the celebrations of violence I have been witnessing. Too bad, I hear it’s a good time to be a hockey fan in Ottawa. I’ll sit this one out though.