032296 Edgar Winter, Ottawa, ON

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On March 22nd, 1996 a countless quagmire of karmic loose ends tied themselves tightly around a small group of musicians and created a perfect storm of musical effrontery and insolence that resulted in the worst concert experience of my life, hands down.  

Ironically the small group of musicians in question wasn’t the Edgar Winter Group, the evening’s (soon-to-be-much-maligned) host and karmic swirl emanator.  No, the musicians in question were myself and my three cohorts for the evening, Wayne, Doug, and Lorne.

The show happened in a very ugly nightclub on St. Laurent Boulevard that I had never seen or heard of before (or since).  I swear, it’s like the place never existed.  I truly wouldn’t be surprised if The Hippodrome was conjured up by Satan for this one night stand, only to be dismantled and returned to Hell in a puff of brimstone directly after last call.  

Three of us arrived in Wayne’s Honda.  I believe Lorne was travelling separately.

It’s funny, though Wayne and Doug and I were good friends this was probably the only time I ever hung out with Lorne socially and I remember looking forward to getting to know him better (he was Wayne’s best buddy and the drummer in the band Wayne and Doug were in at the time).  I say it was funny because shortly after the concert started I leaned in and yelled something into Lorne’s ear and he quickly informed me that he doesn’t talk (or listen to talk) during live shows.  

Respect.  But I don’t really feel like we got a chance to hang out at all.  Lorne passed away several years ago.

The reason I was yelling into Lorne’s ear is because the band was painfully loud.  I mean, this was a bar and it might have been the loudest concert that has ever attacked my ears.  Heck, it might stand as the loudest thing I’ve ever heard, right up there with the time some random stranger threw a firecracker at my head on Bank Street.  If I have any permanent hearing damage I blame Edgar Winter and/or that random stranger.  I say “and/or” because you never know, that random stranger might have been Edgar Winter too.

Anyway, this wasn’t the worst concert of my life just because the band was way too loud – though it was – but oh, there was so much horrible going on…

The band was so very, very cheesy, to the point of parody.  Without a word of a lie, the drummer stuck his right stick straight up in the air every time his left stick came down on the snare drum.  He did this every.  Single.  Time.

Would it be honest to say that the young, hairsprayed guitarist played every single one of his solos behind his head?  Probably, because that’s the only pose of his I can conjure up in my mind; it was so disgusting; unbecoming of a musician really.  

I think the bass parts were canned, thank ye gods.  I shudder to think what sort of cheesiness a bass player might have conjured up for the night, had there been one.

For his part, Edgar Winter spent most of his time playing the keyboards, if pressing “Start” to set off the preprogrammed synth and bass parts and half-heartedly faking along counts as playing.  At some point he pulled out a saxophone and though I only have the faintest memory of this I’m sure it was utterly atrocious*.

Now go ahead – quickly now – name one song by Edgar Winter.  Uh-huh.  

To give a real sense of just how bad, how inexcusably and unrecoverably horrid this show was, get this: the four of us collectively and unanimously decided to leave just as the band started into the only Edgar Winter song anyone in the world cares about, Frankenstein.  We simply could not stand the volume, the cheese, the fakery, none of it any longer, and we got out of there.

Out in the parking lot we found that Wayne’s Honda had been expertly broken into.  A small hole had been bored into the trunk next to the lock and I guess the latch just clicked open.  While we had been standing in the bar having our musical souls brutally assaulted the contents of Wayne’s trunk had been emptied.  

And just what had been lost?

Wayne’s rehearsal bag that contained his lifelong collection of effects pedals, many of which were small boutique components that were virtually impossible to replace, the guitar strap that he’d had since he was ten years old, and his American-made Gibson Les Paul Standard.  I think there was an amp head lost too, I don’t quite recall, but suffice to say as we stood there stunned in the parking lot the night had somehow – impossibly – just gone from bad to worse.

You know, the strangest thing about the whole night** is that I remember it all with a sort of fondness.  I don’t think I had a bad time really – which seems very unlikely – though of course there was nothing good about the night at all.  I really don’t know why but I can say this with certainty: I’m glad I was there.

*Though I must point out that Edgar Winter played the sax parts on the groundbreaking, earth-shattering musical masterpiece Bat Out Of Hell – the whole album, not just the song – and for that he deserves some decent respect despite his aged shortcomings.

**One could easily argue that even stranger was the fact that Wayne recovered his stolen Les Paul an astounding twenty years later when a random internet search revealed it was being sold by a guy in Gatineau.  Wayne called the cops and they went and got the guitar back for him.  Imagine.

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