Category Archives: Winnipeg Music Scene

Gord Downie and what it means to be Canadian

I can’t even begin to try to count the good wishes and kind words since Tuesday morning and The Tragically Hip Management released a statement. Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer.  I know many of my world wide friends will not know his name or the band’s music but believe me when that announcement went live across Canada. It was like an arrow was shot into the collective hearts of a nation.

There are very few artists of any genre that capture the soul of a nation, Pierre Burton, Tom Thompson, Gordon Lightfoot captured the rough and tumble nature, angst of my father’s generation.  Leonard Cohen encapsulated the Montreal vibe and took the 70’s not just here but in the heart of the New York jungle with his verses.

To try to understand The Tragically Hip in a few paragraphs is like trying to catch smoke in your bare hands.  I don’t honesty believe that Canada has ever produced an artist quite like what he and the band are together. The often misused word synergy comes to mind, if you’ve seen them live or on youtube you’ll know what I mean.  Watching Gord Downie on stage is like watching a force of nature dipped in gasoline, set on fire after a huge bong hit and energized by his rabid Canadian fans.

But I digress how does this speak to the nature of Canadians?  Well every truly Canadian heart possesses a few key things to live on in the cold of winter and then live in perpetual exuberance in summer.  We tend to be a quiet people, not prone to flag waving, but we are tough as hell. There is a reason why Logan aka Wolverine is Canadian. We will not stop, we earned the respect in every war Canada has been dragged into by other nations. 

Canadians like Gord and The Hip have a very multifaceted soul, this country is not a Melting Pot, but rather a cultural mosaic. Very hard to get your head around at first but if you travel across the country by car or train you’ll see that every community is distinct. Some Metis French, some Quebec separatist, some Hutturite German.  Across our breadbasket, Ukrainian, Finnish, Polish. Every little town and hamlet a different community, but tied together in this huge ides called Canada.

Somehow The Hip have managed to capture the Canadian ideal, the Wheat Field Soul. The hockey rink, that first love, the desperation of a man wrongly accused.  The lyrics take Canadians home, but get us live at a Hip Show and you’ll see another animal all together. Gord riffing, ranting, begging, destroying and creating.  His off course mid song sojourn from song to song. When he’s live you never ever see the same show twice.

And that I guess is the Canadian soul, rock steady, steeped in the traditions of many cultures. The resiliency that our climate brings, it melds people together expecially in the Prarie where the winter winds can kill in minutes and then in summer we celebrate.

These things the great Canadian artists understand. The things that make every part of Canada different but also make us great. 
The power of Canada has never  been in military force, but in uniting as a people when the chips are down on last call.
I think of the Fort McMurray fire, Terry Fox and his selfless run across Canada on one leg, and now to rally behind one of our poets and song writers in his family’s moment of need.

If nothing else speaks to the Canadian soul it’s our resilience. Our sports have months long playoffs where people regularly lose teeth, sometimes get an artery cut and almost bleed to death on the hockey ice.  Football in fog, mud and the chill of a Canadian cold snap going down into -20c.
But we hardly bitch and moan.  Lest to say it’s a dry cold.

These artists really get that Canadian enui, our cold silent nature.  All the while giggling at anyone that doesn’t get us.

Winnipeg Indie Music Lovers Rejoice: The Real Love Music Festival is Almost Here!

Real Love ButtonWinnipeg has always been a hotbed of musical innovation.  From the 60’s community club scene that saw The Guess Who and Neil Young dominating the Rock and Roll charts.  To smaller bands like The Jury who never quite got the big break they deserved.  Some music scholars have theorized that it’s all part of the isolation Winnipeg enjoys geographically and meteorologically.  Let’s face it although Winnipeg is in the center of the continent we’re in the middle of nowhere and our winters can be brutally extreme.

What this does to people is debatable but one thing is for sure it breeds creativity.  The Real Love Music festival, happening June 6-8th, is proof of that in spades.  Taking place at Gimli Motorsports Park in Gimli, Manitoba The Real Love Festival hopes to give people of all ages and backgrounds an affordable and memorable music experience.

Real Love Festival Poster
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Bringing Bruce Springsteen to Winnipeg: An Idea that’s Born To Run.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know almost instantly that I have three over-riding passions in life. I am crazy for our local sporting scene, being a huge supporter of the Winnipeg Jets and a Winnipeg Blue Bomber season ticket holder. I crow endlessly about Winnipeg food and the mavericks that slave day in and day out to feed this fickle city.  But one thing trumps both of those my love of live music and the ongoing spectacle that is Rock and Roll.

In fact the very reason that I began writing this blog is due to a trip Darlene and I won to New York City 4 years ago. We were lucky enough to win an all expenses paid vacation to see two nights of concerts honoring the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Two stellar nights of shows spanning the entirety of rock and roll as we know it.  One man was part of both nights, a singular rock and roller with gravel in his voice, hammer and anvil guitar style and Arlo Guthry in his soul.  I’m talking about the one and only Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello Belt out The Ghost of Tom Joad. (Photo Credit - Rolling Stone)

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello Belt out The Ghost of Tom Joad. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts.  (Photo Credit – Rolling Stone)

As a devotee of rock and roll, I’ve seen more acts than most people will see in a lifetime, but I’ve never seen anything the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. As concert time approaches random cheers and whistles grow into a single unified voice “BRUUUUUUUUUUCE” the people exclaim! Even now into his 60’s Springsteen is powerfully built yet charismatic and kind, like a favorite uncle who sits you on his knee to tell you a story. He commands not only his band but also the audience with a gentle iron fist. From the first second he strides on stage you know why he’s called “The Boss”.

Bruce Springsteen Working Hard as Always (Photo Credit Brooklyn

Bruce Springsteen Working Hard as Always (Photo Credit Brooklyn

Last week I was approached by Diane Geddes who is heading up the Springsteen2Winnipeg campaign, a drive of like-minded people who are rallying to bring Bruce and the E-Street Band to our city on the prairies. She asked me to add my voice to the growing number of Springsteen fans to spread the word Winnipeg Loves the Boss. How could I possibly say no?

There will be the naysayers among the crowd who say that Winnipeg is too small, too flat, too boring to have a hope in hell’s chance of attracting The Boss. These of course are the same people who said the Winnipeg Jet’s would never ever be back and that the Blue Bombers would never get a new stadium. I like to call those people WRONG! Just sitting here writing in my basement I can think of tons of reasons why Bruce would love to visit Winnipeg and why I think he would get just as much out of a visit as the fans. In fact I think I have enough for a top ten list!

Top Ten Reasons Bruce should bring the E-Street Band to Winnipeg.

10. Winnipeg is a blue-collar town. We work hard for our money, suit and tie is not the dress of the day. Bruce is an outspoken supporter of the working class.

9. Winnipeg is a Rock and Roll town. Radio stations like 92 CITI FM have been around for 35 years and show no sign of slowing down.

8. Howard Mandshein the Godfather of Winnipeg rock radio would lose his mind… Seriously!

7. Winnipeg is really just a collection of small towns.  People know their neighbors and friendliness is a way of life.  Our license plates say “Friendly Manitoba” for a reason.

6. Winnipeg has great food. From a plateful of North End Perogies to a Steak Dinner at 529 Wellington Winnipeg will feed you well.

5. Little Steven can shop for some new headscarves in the Exchange District. Stars from all over the world love shopping for trinkets at Ragpickers.

4. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is opening next year. Because Bruce’s Rock and Roll has a conscience, always has always will.

3. Investors Group Field is a great place to feel the love. Rock Royalty and Bruce’s buddy Paul McCartney just played to a packed house here.

2. Our Summer evenings last forever. In the Summertime the sun doesn’t set till almost 11:00!

1. Winnipeg Loves Bruce and the E-Street Band. From humble beginnings the Springsteen2Winnipeg movement is growing and growing.

Bruce wows the crowd. (Photo Credit - American

Bruce wows the crowd. (Photo Credit – American

We need everyone to jump on board here and make noise, tell your friends, tell your family, hell tell your dog and cat. Kevin Donnelly is listening, The E-Street band’s management is listening and Bruce Springsteen is listening. The time to act is NOW! Be vocal, be active and be proud to live in Winnipeg. Together we can bring the E-Street Band to Winnipeg, if only we believe!

To join the cause visit

Here’s a little Snippet from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert that I was lucky enough to have been to.  Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello with the Ghost of Tom Joad.

Dropping in for a cause: The Easter Seals Drop Zone Challenge.

This year Darlene and I were fortunate to have a superhero in our circle of friends.  Debra Stockwell, the wife of Ray Stockwell, drummer for Winnipeg’s 60’s rock band The Jury.  Debra like us, tries every year to do one big charity drive and a few months ago she began raising funds for the Easter Seals Drop Zone Challenge.  For a minimum of $1500 raised she would get to do something incredible.  Namely repel down the side of a 17 story building located on the windiest corner in Canada Portage and Main.

Ray Stockwell on drums for The Jury!

When we arrived on the day of the repel the wind was howling though the urban landscape and must have been truly vicious at the top of the Royal Bank building. The normally vertical repelling lines were becoming pendulums sending the brave souls attached to them four or five windows over from their assigned drop lane.

The wind was a serious factor in this repel. Check out the wind action on that cape.

But we Winnipeggers are a hearty folk and everyone seemed to be having a great time of it.  Music was playing courtesy of Hot 103. Station DJ Adam West even repelled and has the video to prove it.

Fun was the order of the day for this brave couple.

Mingling with the crowd and looking for our friend Debra and her husband Ray I began to notice a certain trend among the brave souls who were going to go over the edge.  Costumes seemed to be the order of the day, many superheros were prevalent but not exclusively.  Some people wore Hawaiian shirts complete with coconut bras. Others like our friend Deb became their favorite television personalities, she chose to become geek extraordinaire Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.

Debra Stockwell becomes Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

As the time drew close Debra introduced us to her drop companion Jodie Brown who would be going down at the same time on another line, she was clad from head to booties as a hilarious looking sock monkey.  Both women were incredibly pumped up about the opportunity.  Deb confessed to having slight butterflies in her belly and being scared of heights.  But if you know anything about Debra you know that she always faces her fears head on and was super impressed by all the safety precautions that Drop Zone had taken.

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Bryan Adams: The good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s been a couple of weeks since Dar and I got to see Bryan Adams at The MTS Centre and I think I’ve cooled off enough to be able to write this post with some level of objectivity.  To put it simply, things did not go as planned and we almost ended up leaving the show in disgust with the way we were treated.

As all of you who read my pages regularly know, I am an avid concert goer.  I’ve been attending rock concerts since my early teens when I would have to bicycle to the Memorial Arena in Fort Frances to catch the likes of Teenage Head and Platinum Blonde perform.  So I know a thing or two about how a show should be run and how it fails absolutely when it it managed poorly.

As the title alludes the Bryan Adams show can be broken into three distinct sections. For reasons of personal preference, let me begin with the worst of it and allow Bryan to save some face with a review of his performance at the end of the piece.

The Ugly

As I detailed in Meet and Greet Canadian Style: Bryan Adams, Darlene had won a meet and greet package to the show including two prime tickets or so we had thought.  Perhaps naively on my part, I went on-line to the Ticketmaster webpage to see what we had won, figuring that if it was a one-off grand prize that there would be a comparable package for sale.

Going into the VIP section of Ticketmaster there was indeed a comparable selection of meet and greet tickets, with a gift package and prime seats!  Whoopee we had scored, all we had to do was take my phone with the QR code ticket conformation to the Rogers Wireless window at the MTS Centre and we would be taken care of.  Right?  WRONG!

As is our usual procedure we arrived early downtown for dinner and to take care of any hiccups along the way leaving plenty of time to relax and enjoy ourselves before the show.  We approached event staff, phone in hand eager to get our tickets and head to the secure lower level of the MTS Centre for dinner.  Warning bells should have gone off in my head at this point.  When we approached event staff they said we had to wait for the Rogers booth to open about one hour before the show but she would be happy to escort us downstairs for dinner.

After having a relaxing dinner we noticed a line was forming at what is typically the meet and greet room, also in the lower level of the MTS.  Excitedly we rushed upstairs to redeem our QR code for tickets, gift package and meet and greet.  Thankfully the Rogers window had no one waiting at it so we breezed through and talked to the representative behind the glass.  Darlene for two I said as I held out the my phone screen opened to the conformation given to us by Rogers.  Ah, she said meet and greet?  Yes, I replied.  She began looking through a pile of folders at her window and found us in the pile.  Then she looked puzzled, the QR code made no sense to her, they did not have the equipment to read such an animal. But no worries, we would be taken care of. Darlene stepped in and mentioned a contact name, Joanne she said would know about our win.

So she runs to the back and she and Joanne appear,  thus the train-wreck ensues. We are informed by Joanne that apparently we do not have tickets to the event, only meet and greet.  We would be escorted back downstairs, this time under heavy suspicion and allowed to meet Mr. Bryan Adams.  Two representatives Joanne and the woman who escorted us for dinner then brusquely take us downstairs without allowing us to talk to the gift person or gain access to the main concourse to at least purchase something for Bryan to sign.

Being kept outside the meet and greet until the paid VIP’s are done.

The meet and greet is in full swing by this time, the happy VIP’s are chatting away, getting posters and programs signed all the while posing happily for professional pictures.  No photography past this point, damn.  My mind is spinning, if we are not on the VIP list how are we going to get our pictures?  Where is our gift package?  Are we even going to be allowed into the show?

Ourselves and another couple who have meet and greet are kept out of the room until the happy few are done with Bryan.  He appears ready to leave when our people approach his people.  He accepts and we are ushered into the hall, paperless and pen less. I can not fault Bryan for any of this, his conduct was first rate as any Canadian boy’s would be.  We chatted briefly and having just seen Roger Waters – The Wall a few weeks before hand, I had to ask him about being part of the Wall in Berlin 1990.

I think this question caught Bryan off guard a bit, but he came back with a surprising answer.  “I was terrified, you have to understand that there were a good 250,ooo people out there” he said.  “But Roger, is a fucking musical genius, pardon my language.”  “He had us all do a full dress rehearsal the night before and recorded it all to a click track to keep in our headsets for the big night.”

The click track he explained were to keep everyone in time and on cue, then the unthinkable happened.  The sound went down on the night of the performance but thanks to the recorded rehearsal Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison were able to continue on with the show.  “The sound came back up just prior to my performance, so I had to go live” he explained.

Now with only a half hour till showtime we were escorted into the ticket office for more bad news.  Meeting with Joanne and Dianne, they explained that we did not win tickets to the show.  Beyond wits end I pulled my phone out and showed them the confirmation e-mail.  They looked beyond puzzled and eventually gave us what I term  “Shut the fuck up tickets” and escorted us to the concourse, no doubt happy to be rid of us.

Tweeting my displeasure to the Bryan Adams camp.

The Bad

With five minutes till showtime and no clear recourse Dar and I took our seats in the lower bowl.  By this time she was madly texting our contact with 92 CITI fm and he replied with disbelief.  “They are dead wrong, I’ll take care of you one way or another” Bubba replied.

Taking our seats we noticed that our row was almost entirely empty, they had just stuck us in a section with available seating to shut us up,  I was livid.  Had Darlene not wanted to see the show so badly I would have walked out of the joint that instant.

Bryan and crew waking up the neighbors

In one way having an aisle seat was nice, it gave me the chance to stretch out my bad leg to give it some relief.  However having an empty row also prompted people from the rows behind and in front of us to use our row as a thoroughfare. Forcing me to keep standing up on a throbbing leg or have people jump around me spilling beer on me in the process. All the while having sweaty asses shoved in my face instead of being able to concentrate on the show.

18 Till I Die

At one point during a selection of Bryan’s ballads I had beer dumped on particularly badly and stormed out in search of a bathroom to clean up. Thankfully there was no line and I got attended to promptly. Attempting to make a horrible situation better I figured that I would grab a couple of t-shirts and maybe a poster for Darlene and I.  Once again there was no line up, lucky me, or so I thought.  The reason for the sparse line was not that the show was on, it was that there was no merchandise left.  Winnipeg was the last show on Bryan’s Canadian tour, apparently no one had thought that Winnipeggers like to spend money at rock concerts too and had neglected to order more merchandise.  When I arrived all they had left was a tiny choice of small t-shirts, any one who knows me can see that a small would hardly fit over my head let alone my 200 pound torso.

This pretty much echos my sentiments for the people cutting in front and spilling beer all over me for most of the show.

The Good

Yes, believe it or not there were good aspects to this show.  However, the complete failure of event staff and merchandising left me so disappointed and outraged that I hardly heard the music for all the complaints in my head.

Using every pot and pan plus the kitchen sink for a drum solo.

Being 52 Bryan can still rock out the tunes like a young twenty year old.  He brought up two sets of ladies to join him on stage.  Angela, a MTS Telephone dispatcher, who did a shy but spirited version of When You’re Gone.  Long time fan Darlene (not my Darlene), was scooped up from the floor thanks to a brightly coloured sign, and the boo’s of the crowd when Bryan said he had already had a fan up on stage once in the evening.  Darlene got to give Bryan and at his insistance, the rest of the band big hugs and kisses on the cheeks.

A very shy Angela joins Bryan onstage.

Angela lets loose and rocks out When You’re Gone with Bryan.

All in all he gave a spirited and long performance.  28 songs in total, spanning almost 3 hours of his classic hits. The only really odd thing about his encore is the way it ended with a ballad.  All For Love, capped the evening and he simply walked off stage.  Strange but I was expecting more for a kicker at the end.

All in all, Bryan gave a solid performance worthy of 4 out of 5 stars.   Sadly, the ineptitude of event staff left a sour taste in my mouth.  Thankfully CITI fm and Bryan Adams own people helped us rescue our picture from the internet.  Without their help we would have not even had that much.  Thank you Bubba and Michelle so very much.

Bryan, Darlene and Myself, the highlight of the evening. Bryan was a complete gentleman to us both.


House Arrest


Here I Am

Kids Wanna Rock

Can’t Stop This Thing We Started

Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven

This Time

I’m Ready

Hearts on Fire

Do I Have to Say the Words?

18 Til I Die

Back to You

Summer of ’69

If You Wanna Leave Me (Can I Come Too?)

Touch the Hand

(Everything I Do) I Do It for You

Cuts Like a Knife

When You’re Gone


Please Forgive Me

It’s Only Love

Cloud Number 9

The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You

Run to You

There Will Never Be Another Tonight


Straight from the Heart

Winnipeg Bound

All for Love