Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Let's go to the Ex II

We took the special express bus from Dundas West to the Ex on opening day. We queued in the sunshine to pay our $1.75 entry fee (normally $15). The city are bribing us with our own money but we pocket the insult. I wanted to see this Ford Tractor, with seventies-style clamshell body, which tows a road train around the exhibition grounds. We also noted the very politically correct bicycle parking.

The highlight of the visit was the concert "The Spirit of Woodstock" at the CNE Bandshell. The wrinkly rockers and bluesmen were wheeled out one more time to celebrate forty years since the mudfest in New York State. The show was stolen by Canned Heat (below) from California, who like Mountain and Johnny Winter, played at the original Woodstock gig.

The show was opened by a Paul Butterfield tribute band fronted by Michael Pickett. They set off at the gallop with "Shake Your Money Maker," "Got My Mojo Working," and "The Train I Ride," in the set list. Pickett invites the audience to make a peace sign, getting into the spirit of the occasion. Every old hippie in Hogtown has turned out for the "free" concert. You expect the furry freak brothers to turn up any moment. Pickett has a voice like a foghorn, an authentic blues shouter blowing on the mouth harp.
Next up Canned Heat, here a six-piece. They open with "Bullfrog Blues," "On the Road Again," and "Time Was." The light-hearted "Let Me Drive Your Automobile" follows with the band working both drumkits and the audience - you'd book this band. As the flute signals the opening bars of “Goin’ Up The Country” the hair is standing up on the back of my neck. The instrumental "Wade in the Water" is next featuring Harvey Mandel on guitar, a "psychedelic gospel" or sonic trip which draws a standing ovation. Mandel's second, or was it third, gig with Canned Heat was at Woodstock. These battle-hardened veterans give us "Work Together" then John Lee Hooker's "Boogie" with alternating drum solos to close out the set. With their heavy touring schedule these boys certainly put on a show.
A three-piece Mountain take the stage with "People Get Ready" as various members of Canned Heat are watching off. The band play with no guitar leads and move about the stage. Leslie West the front man is a shadow of his former self in size but still a formidable performer. Rev Jones on bass camps it up by twirling a long topknot as he spins around like a whirling dervish. "You don't play the bass, you play the hair" says West calling him a "F***ing maniac." Drummer Corky Laing has a finely developed shtick of launching drumsticks into the audience. The roadie looks like he's escaped from Noggin the Nog. I lose track of the set list as the opening tune morphs into "Blowin' in the Wind." A sample of "Paint it Black" was in there somewhere and we eventually get to their signature song "Mississippi Queen."
By now it is dark and we hang on for Johnny Winter who is assisted on stage and remains seated. Is this a gig too far? He starts with "Super Cool" and Jimi Hendrix's "Red House," then "She Likes to Boogie Real Low." A duet with Leslie West doesn't really chime. He warms up eventually and is the bluesman of old with "Miss Anne," and Ray Charles' "Black Jack." I wish my old friend Pat Barton was here to see him. After some five hours we leave the Texan to the late crowd and head for the bus before chucking out time. Far out man.

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