Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In the mix

First I went to the Rogers Stage to see a bit of Guitar Explosion. I've already seen a lot of Trevor Findlay since he's been introducing bands and giving shout-outs to festival sponsors hither and yon, but the other two axe-slingers, Paul Deslauriers and Jean-Sebastien Chouinard were unknown to me. The three guitar lineup was cool, but the blues rock was slightly too doctrinaire for my notoriously snobbish tastes. Their cover of Folsom Prison Blues had people shaking their booty, though.

Alejandro Escovedo had nice things to say about Grady during his Tuesday show. I popped over to the main stage early to get a front row seat. It's a couple of Texas-based Canucks and a drummer from El Paso doing heavy duty stomp rock, like Melvins crossbred with ZZ Top.

I left the Grady show a bit early. While I like that loud guitar stuff their songs began to sound a mite similar after the third one. I was sure I could hear them from the Rogers Stage so I traipsed back to get a front row position for Cat Power. I've been a fan since Dear Sir (criminy, I bought that CD 12 years ago!) and like her new, more soulful direction as well. She also has an ace band featuring guitarist Judah Bauer of the Blues Explosion, drummer Jim White of The Dirty 3, organist Gregg Foreman from The Delta 72 and bassist Erik Paparazzi, who has a few interesting projects of his own. I like Martha Wainright and Feist's 21st century Stevie Nicks updates more, but this was a mighty swell show by any measure. She played a few covers (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and Dark End of the Street were okay, The Tracks of My Tears was a tad bombastic. Unfortunately, as with Randy Newman's performance the day before, the sound from the River Stage kept creeping into the background.

At this point I had a choice. Hang around the area and watch Steve Miller from several hundred metres away, or go check out Tagaq at the Black Sheep Stage. I decided to go for the more intimate venue (no surprise there). As I made my way to the War Museum through which one passes to reach it, I heard Miller and Co. launch into a rap version of Fly Like An Eagle. Unfortunately I didn't have the lens on my camera open enough to catch the cool light backdrop in this next picture.

On to Tagaq. Tanya Tagaq Gillis is a solo Inuk throat singer (usually it's performed by a pair of women). After a little chat with the audience about throat singing and the role of Michael Red in constructing the loops and computerized backgrounds for her visceral chants she got down to some seriously gut-wrenching vocalizing.

She asked if there were any throat singers in the audience; Ben Jammin called out "How about beat boxers?" and he and Rise Ashen got on stage to give it a go. This was not as improbable a mixture as you might think, since Ben has in fact collaborated with Tagaq's cousin Celina Kalluk up north. Kalluk showed up a few minutes later and the two ladies performed a couple of traditional numbers.

There was a lot of laughter at this show (and not just when Rise Ashen took a pratfall) - the competitive aspect of throat-singing involves trying to make the other singer crack up. I ran into fellow blogger Elan Vital at this show, and he vouched for her earlier show at the Black Sheep Inn as well.

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