071107 Steve Miller/Todd Snider, Ottawa, ON

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There are many great advantages to being a private guitar teacher aside from the fame and fortune, and one of the biggies is the hours of employ, which generally run from 3-ish to 9:30-ish, and all of it in the blissful post meridiem* (aka after noon**).  Right there I saved twenty bucks on owning an alarm clock***, plus working such hours allowed me the luxury to do things like make a full meal at midnight or stay up until 4am on a Thursday without any remorse or negative introspection whatsoever.  

The only time this schedule seemed to be much of a hindrance on living life was each summer during festival season, and while teaching hours always plummeted in the summertime I still missed my fair share of shows because I was busy teaching Stairway to Heaven**** to incubating rockstars.

Which can be the only reason I skipped the Bluesfest day that featured moe., Randy Newman, and P-Funk…I mean, come on!  That said, I can pick things up the next night on July 11th, 2007, when I got off work in time to catch Todd Snider’s theatre set in the 9pm slot.

You’d almost think that I wouldn’t bother to race down to LeBreton Flats straight after work just to catch a single act in the tiniest venue of the pentastaged fest, but I sure am glad I did.  As a matter of fact I have a few notes here that I took from that year’s fest and they sum things up thusly: “My best of bluesfest list: Todd Snider, Toumani Diabaté, Todd Snider, Todd Snider, Bob Dylan, The New Bohemians, Todd Snider”.

I liked it, yes I did.

This may have been my first time seeing Todd Snider since I first heard of him, when I opened for him at the Black Sheep in Quebec.  That show had blown my head just about right off and this one verified Snider’s greatness.  It was just Todd and his acoustic guitar and a bunch of brilliant songs squished between a thousand jokes and stories that were tall on entertainment and steeped in experience.  Every song was another nugget of brilliance delivered with a sharp wit and an unmitigated wisdom that left me gaping in wonder, my head shaking.  

Aside from the eye-widening songwriting, I was shocked to the core twice (at least) by the banter.  First, early in the show Snider made the stunning admission that when he first started writing songs he thought you just had to put new words and melodies to pre-existing songs; he had no idea that you were supposed to write your own music too.  And so for the rest of the show he’d finish some long, rambling introduction by telling you what the song had originated as.  “…oh, and this one is The River by Bruce Springsteen…” and sure enough…

The other shock was when he was speaking about his love for John Prine (no surprise there) and someone in the small crowd shouted out asking him to play a Prine song.  “Well, which one do you want to hear?” he asked, adding, “I know them all.”

Really? I thought…and then the guy yelled out a title I’d never heard of and without missing a beat Todd Snider launched into the tune.  I think he did one or two others during the show too.

Anyways, long story long: I don’t often bother to pop into the Barney Danson Theatre for shows – which is probably too bad – but I sure am glad I did this time.

After the show there was still another twenty minutes or so left of Steve Miller’s set outside on the mainstage so I stuck around for a few radio staples.  Probably Jungle Love or Freeze Frame or something.

(I know, I know…it’s a joke.)

*It’s always mystified me that twelve noon is called 12pm.  So the system goes: …nine am, ten am, eleven am, twelve pm, one pm, two pm, three pm…  Isn’t that kind of a) stupid and b) obviously wrong?

**Curiously, here in Newfoundland people refer to the afternoon hours as the evening, so 2pm is called “two o’clock in the evening”.

***Just kidding.  Not only do I have an alarm clock, ironically I can’t sleep without one.  Also, on those rare occasions that I do have to set it I have a crazy knack for waking up just a few minutes before the alarm goes off.  Seriously, like, every time.

****I’ve often joked that I’ve made more money from Stairway to Heaven than Led Zeppelin did.  I haven’t, really.

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