John Fogerty’s top-notch set kickstarted Week Two of this year’s Ottawa Bluesfest … and triggered some bittersweet thoughts and memories for me.
166. Lookin’ Out My Back Door: John Fogerty & more, Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 (Pt. 3), LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Tuesday July 12, 2011, $19.17 (pre-sale, per night).
Weekends may have been made for Michelob, but it appears as if Tuesday’s were made for John Fogerty as the 2011 Ottawa Bluesfest resumed for Week Two with this much-anticipated, mid-festival headlining slot by the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman.
Your textual compare, VariousArtists, ventured out alone on this night, arriving early to sample, well, various artists on the other stages. Blimey, that turned out to be a mixed blessing.
As I entered the main area, Three Days Grace were bombasting it out on the Claridge stage. For those outside of the maple nation, 3DG are a Canadian outfit very much in the Nickelback vein — yes, another interchangeable corporate MOR-rock entity, combining the dopiest, cheesiest elements from the grunge spectrum mixed with flourishes of metal-lite and standard issue anonymous hard rock pop. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate this stuff.
The label of my copy of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1970 45, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.” I’ve had this since age 7.
Making substantial haste, I found myself momentarily over at the Subway stage, segueing from contemporary-to-classic rock hell via one, Dana Fuchs. I didn’t initially know who it was up there but similarly disliked this fingernails-on-a-blackboard screechy-white-girl-murdering-old-blues-memes fifth-rate Janis Joplin knock off. Enduring it long enough to finish a slice of pizza, I suffered through Dana blathering on in between utterly gawd awful re-hashes of “Helter Skelter” and “Whole Lotta Love,” with stage patter that essentially telegraphed as “gee, weren’t all the changes in the late ’60s just fucking great, maaaaaaaan, but boy I’ve hated almost every new thing and idea to emerge since.”
She later pontificated some crap about “you can drink all the booze you want, take all the drugs you want, and have all the sex you want, but youre gonna pay a priiiiiiiiiiice.” Fantastic — some prudish, sanctimonious neo-hippie with a large side-dollop of Phyllis Schlafly/Michelle Bachmann-style moridbund religo-moralism, delivering sermons in a Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf-styled voice, championing abstemious living in between covering and lionizing Led freakin’ Zeppelin.
Where are the irony police when you need them?
Note to Dana: Some of us hedonists can actually go out there and enjoy ourselves without necessarily turning into all-consumed vice goblins, and without so much as a single, solitary shred of guilt. I’ve certainly had my fill of all three with precisely zero moral quams and plenty of funsky times in the process. Fuchs off.
All was not lost as I also caught part of Montrealer Ian Kelly’s set over at the Hard Rock Café stage. He reminded me somewhat of the now-deceased R.E.M. at their jangly best. As I climbed up from the back of the hill and on over to National Bank Stage, Kelly’s singer/songwriter tones faded into some funky sax melding with a chuggin’, groovin’ band. Could it be …. Yes, it could be. It really was … that rarest of beasts: actual blues at Bluesfest! Who’da thunk it?
It turned out to be Andrew Jr. Boy Jones from Texas. I hung out for a few numbers enjoying he and the band before deciding that it was Fogerty time.
“I am so fucking excited to see my hero, John Fogerty,” fuchsed Dana as I zoomed back past the Subway stage. “Yeah, me too Dana,” so I continued to hotfoot it over the mbna stage where a huge crowd had accumulated by this point. I waded into it as deeply as I could and then bid my time eavesdropping on a group around me who were debating as to what their favourite mash-up is (I hate mash-ups), reliving the adventures that occurred during their sojurn to the U2 gig in Toronto the previous Friday (I get it, I get it … you saw U2), and wondering which one of them remembered the British children’s character, Noddy; Mark Hudson of the Hudson brothers — and Kate’s Daddy-o; and the Hilarious House of Frightenstein (affirmative on all three, good buddy).
And then, at the stroke of 9:30, the houselights dimmed and, voila!
Ottawa Bluesfest’s interview with John Fogerty with snippets from his performance.
The first thing one notices about Fogerty when you see him is how incredibly well-preserved he is. Does he rest in brine at home, perhaps? His voice still has all the range, tone, and power of his heyday — something truly rare among his peers. As someone who’s seen Dylan shamble half-assedly through a number of concerts, and recently saw Brian Wilson give the best he could but with uneven results, Fogerty stands out as a sharp juxtaposition: someone who has lost none of his onstage faculties. It’s pretty stunning to behold.
He and his crack band hit their mark the moment they kicked things off with “Hey Tonight” and never flagged throughout the 90 minutes on stage.
The CCR-heavy set never felt like a spent oldies show but more like someone still in his prime as both musician and performer, tearing it up and digging into his classic repertoire with obvious pride and joy, volleying ascending spirit back and forth between he and his audience.
Perhaps it’s because he spent so many years not performing his Creedence material that he can come at it so freshly these days. Whatever the reason, this show never came off as phoned in and Fogerty’s love for the copious crowd that showed up — and of his simply being up there — came off as genuine.
Performing “Green River” at Bluesfest, his second song of the night, via this fan-shot video from YouTube.
One classic after another appeared, from both his CCR days and solo career — “Up Around the Bend,” “Centerfield,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “The Old Man Down the Road,” “Born on the Bayou” and many more — turning the evening into one continuous massed singalong. But it was the fifth number of the evening that was special for me: “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.”
I’ve always had a particular attachment to this song as it’s one of the first singles I ever owned as but a wee bairn of 7 in the summer of 1970. I have distinct memories of my sister and her friends, then in their mid-teens, hanging out in our backyard on hot summer afternoons, hauling out our portable, grey-black, single-unit stereo record player with the pop-up lid and clasps on either side to keep it shut when not in use.
Two shots of our old stereo record player in 1970 & 1972 (Photos by VA Snr).
My kinder-pals and I would hang out and play in the backyard while they’d drink Cokes and chatter about their mod teen crises and the latest pop culture gossip while spinning the latest tunes for all of us to groove on: albums like The Beatles’ Let It Be or double and triple sets like The Who’s Tommy or the Woodstock soundtrack (the vinyl sides arranged in those days so that they would be spindle-ready stackable and flipable) and singles such as “Spill the Wine” by Eric Burden and War, “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and C.C.R.’s “Lookin’
That last one belonged to my sister’s then best-friend. I fell in love with it, asking them to play it repeatedly until I finally got my parents to buy it for me. Even then, there was a part of me that had a fondness for the twangy stuff. My parents probably didn’t mind me liking that one either, owing to its less freaky, country-ish feel. It probably came off as less threatening to them than The Rolling Stones or The Doors.Out My Back Door.”
Promo film for “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.” I had totally forgotten this even existed. When I found it on YouTube, I had an instant flashback to seeing on TV at some point in my childhood.
I not only loved the music but also the lyrics in that it mentioned a real, identifiable person (Buck Owens), as well as also the absurd imagery in the lyrics, such as “a statue wearing high heels” and that “tambourines and elephants are playing in the band.” I’ve since read the Fogerty wrote it for his young son, so it makes sense that I connected with it as a boy.
I played that 45 to death — and still have it (see below).
Hearing Fogerty sing it live was a particularly sentimental and poignant moment because of the association that song will always have for me with my darling, beloved sister who died 20 years ago this September.
As Fogerty performed the good-timey tunes, I sometimes shut my lids, envisioning my family’s pre-renovation kitchen as it was during that summer. Clear was the memory of actually looking out our back porch screen door and seeing my sister and her girlfriends at the start of what transpired to be a transformative decade for all of us. For those few moments, with Fogerty’s voice, live and ringing in my ears, I was transported back to that place and time, singing along with every word.
I miss you, Sis, and think about you every day. I wish you were here.
(Above) VA at age 7 and my much missed dear sister, being snapped just before heading to Toronto International for our 1970 family holiday in the UK; (Below) Here I am again during the summer of 1970 in our backyard with our gone-but-not-forgotten dog, Pete.
Mr. CCR and the band not only served up many great tunes but also treated us to some tasty playing: the long intense instrumental passage during “Ramble Tamble,” the Allman-esque guitar workout on “Keep on Chooglin’.” Closing out the main set was a spirited “Fortunate Son,” with the encores of “Rockin’ All Over the World” and “Proud Mary.” And with that, the big wheel stopped turning, although there may have been some rolling on the river as people had one more, post gig.
John, please come back and play centerfield at this festival any time you like.
And thanks for the bittersweet memories.
Next On Stage –> Bluesfest wraps up with a triumphant Saturday night and then a tragic Sunday ….
167. Stop!: Jane’s Addiction and Death From Above 1979, Ottawa Bluesfest 2011 (Pt. 4), LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Saturday July 16, 2011, $19.17.
… and still to come …
NOTE: I simultaneously cross-post over on my Open Salon blog, where I also have a deeper backlog of entries.
© 2011 VariousArtists