Monday, April 26, 2010

Somewhere in the swamps of Jersey

EDITORS NOTE - This entry was originally published in October of 2009. During some site migration work, this entry was inadvertenly removed. It has now been returned for your reading pleasure.

“Seeing Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey is like seeing a panda in China.”-Jon Stewart

For years I have been trying to explain to friends the significance of seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. “It’s like I walked into church and was instantly converted,” I’d often say of my first show, which was back in 2003. I have never seen the Bell Centre as alive before or since.

Seeing him in the USA was something I had always wanted to experience. After hearing that Bruce would be performing the final concerts at Giants Stadium this fall, I relished the opportunity to see him in his home state, and in the venue that gave him the reputation as one of the few artists worth seeing in concert in a football stadium.

I woke up early, left Montreal before dawn, and made it to my friends Sam and Sarah’s place in Chelsea by noon. We were left with ample time for a pre show meal at the Chelsea Market and a quick look at the High Line, an amazing addition to what has become my favorite part of the city (

A quick change into my Rosalita shirt (“Now I know your mama she don’t like me ‘cause I play in a rock ‘n roll band”), and Sarah and I were off to Penn Station to catch a train that would take us through the swamps of Jersey to the Meadowlands.

We got there early, walked past the throng of tailgaters, and started talking with the amazing cross section of fans who were waiting with us at the gate. There was the family from Texas, dressed head to toe in Aggies gear out of fear of wearing their Cowboy colours in enemy territory, the dad and his son dressed head Bruce bandannas and tight jeans, even a lady in her 70’s, with a walker and a Greasy Lake t-shirt. Everyone was talking about who would show up to say goodbye to the stadium….Mick? Sir Elton? Southside Johnny? Did Bruce really pay a $3 million fine so that he could play till 2am?

Well, no. He didn’t. He "only" played for 3 and a quarter hours. And nobody else showed up except those who were expected. There was no disappointment to be had. At this party, the invited guests were all that we needed.

I’ve seen the Hip in Kingston, and Arcade Fire at the Bell, but I have never seen a crowd embrace their hometown son like they did that night. Bruce crowd surfed during an entire song, helped facilitate a marriage proposal in the pit, sang a duet with a little girl, and brought a bald guy on stage to dance with him (there’s hope for you, Melnick!). It didn’t matter where you were in that stadium, from the furthest distance you were still in the palm of his hand…

Twenty-five years ago, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band played Giants Stadium for the first time, on the Born in the USA tour. Twenty-Four sold out Giants Stadium concerts later; they would bring it full circle, and play the Born in the USA album from front to back. Hearing the one two punch of the plaintive and beautiful Bobby Jean and a stripped down and emotional I’m Goin Down brought the crowd to euphoric heights, at least it did in section 129…

One of the highlights of a Springsteen show is request time (if you’re close to the front at a Bruce show, bring a sign with a song you want to hear- if you’re lucky, he’ll play it!). Surprisingly, they played ‘I believe in Miracles’- “Where you from? You sexy thing!”. Fittingly, they also played the slowed down version of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, aka The Last Time by The Rolling Stones.

As the night began to wind down, and he started to play the opening lick to Kitty’s Back, I thought back to the first time I had heard the song, many years ago on Conan O’Brien. Watching Springsteen carry the song into the credits with Conan and guest Al Gore rocking along with, I wished that one day I would hear it in person.

Not exactly world peace, but I did get my wish that night. After he closed with Jersey Girl (the last dance, he called it), the lights came back on, and as if on cue from above, it began to pour.

Nobody cared. There’s praying at the church of rock ‘n roll, and then there’s attending Vatican mass with the Pope. Besides, like Catlong, ooh ooh what can I do?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Written by: Dave Jackson

What an Easter Monday night! I went to Club Il Motore on Jean Talon to see Deer Tick and arrived at 9:30 for an 8:00 show. There were two opening acts that I’d hoped to avoid, since I’d never heard of them. To my chagrin, the first band had not even taken the stage. What a blessing in disguise. I spent the next three and a half hours in Rock n’ Roll bliss.

The first band to take the stage was The Sunfields, a recently formed local act from Montreal. Fronted by charismatic Jason Kent (formerly of The Dears), this band had everyone in the club paying rapt attention. The fact that these guys remain unsigned, can only be temporary. They played an inspired set that reminded me of Neil Young, C.C.R., and The Band. They have warm, fuzzy and distorted guitar riffs reminiscent of Cowgirl In the Sand. The keyboards would make Garth Hudson and the late Richard Manuel smile, and they can quickly change gears to come at you with southern sounds and lyrics typical of John Fogerty. Their new album, Palace In The Sun is ready and due for release this fall. Visit them at :

Next up, came Those Darlins. Three girls, Nikki, Jessi and Kelley Darlin on guitars with Sheriff Lin on drums. Hailing from Murfreesboro, TN, they bear no resemblance to your mother’s Nashville. They were a full frontal assault of every rock genre you could imagine with a hint of Patsy Cline thrown in. Add a touch of The Ramones and you start to get the idea. From their opening number that resembled a punked-up Dick Dale surf tune, they launched into a dozen or so, high energy, sometimes raunchy, straight ahead, rock, punk, country fusion numbers. All three accomplished guitar players took turns playing bass, and Nikki often played an amped ukulele. Their energy was infectious as they jumped off the stage and played guitar while they sang and danced with the throng of fans. They loved bantering with the audience and seemed genuinely at ease with cynical sarcasm. Many of the songs were off their self-titled debut album which has a touch more country influence than you get in live concert. To see them live, makes you wish that you could play guitar and drive around North America being a rock star! These girls are the real deal and leave nothing on the table at the end of the night. Another highlight was their cover of, Shakin’ All Over (written and recorded by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and then made popular in North America by Chad Allen and The Expressions) They played it pretty much as written but with as much or more energy and attitude than most boy bands could hope to do. As an opening act, they left the stage with the crowd wanting more.

Finally, Deer Tick took the stage. Lead singer and songwriter John McCauley did not disappoint. Despite copious amounts of alcohol (especially vodka) he was amazingly lucid and clear when he began to sing. He hit every note, both verbally and with his guitar. It became quite clear that this band enjoyed a party. I haven’t followed this band long enough to know their entire backstory, but suffice to say, I believe that their classification as ‘Christian Rap’ is a sly inside joke. It reminds me of an episode of South Park where the boys form a band and then label themselves ‘Christian Rock’ to attract more followers. I applaud their irony! Their set was a mix of songs spanning “War Elephant” “Born on Flag Day” and their upcoming new release, “The Black Dirt Sessions.” The band was tight and the sound was clear throughout the show. As the drinks flowed, so did the songs. The set began with John announcing,“the last time I played this song, I ran off the stage and puked.” Next came, “Easy” and the intensity continued to increase for the next hour. As the set came to a crescendo with a rousing rendition of ZZ Top’s, “Cheap Sunglasses” The entire room was in a frenzy and hot with the anticipation of a smokin’ encore when the truly bizarre occurred. Everyone was watching and yet no one seems to be sure what happened. The keyboardist was wailing on the sax, one of the boys was shredding his axe while straddling an amp and John was playing guitar with his back to the audience. Unexpectedly, John launched himself awkwardly and face first into Dennis Ryan’s drum kit. He dove right onto the drums with his guitar and all. As the drums scattered and rolled away, Dennis attempted to continue playing. All eyes were on the fallen lead singer, wondering if he was ever going to get up. Dennis, the drummer abruptly stopped playing, gave a one fingered salute, and stormed off stage. As he got closer we could see that he was bleeding profusely from above his left eye. He looked like someone out of a Rob Zombie movie. He literally left a trail of blood from the stage to the back door. We all tried to figure out what had just happened. Was it a cymbal or guitar that did the damage? As the crowd stood in stunned silence, the erstwhile flying guitar-man ran back to apologize. The story coming from Dennis is that he had been hit with a thrown beer bottle. Wow! What an ending to a rock extravaganza! You couldn’t have written a finer ending (with apologies to Dennis.) No one knows what actually happened. Theories abound about a grassy knoll and one lone bottle. Apparently, three homeless looking concertgoers were seen leaving the show wearing new shoes.

Where is Mr. Warren and his Commission when you really need him?