The lineup announcement for the Ottawa Jazz Festival’s 2013 season was an excellent read. I got more and more excited as I scrolled down a list that included such wonderful acts as Willie Nelson, David Byrne, Boz Skaggs, Wynton Marsalis and so many others who were slated to appear just a short stroll from my house. And then I spied a name that made my mind reel. Aretha. I had to read it twice, just to be sure it wasn’t a tribute concert or a film or some other fakery. But no, it was true, she was really coming. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Freakin’ Franklin*! Oh, I was excited.
And then she cancelled, just three weeks before the show. And can you believe that the jazz fest actually managed to book a replacement? Try not to get too excited now. Instead of Aretha Franklin the jazzfest was now presenting…are you ready? Are you sure? Okay. You’re sure now, right? All righty then, here it comes: the jazz fest replaced Aretha Freakin’ Franklin with…deep breath: The Doobie Brothers. Yes, the Doobie Brothers, who are not the Queen of Anything, as far as I know.
And get this: Not only did they put on a really fun and surprisingly excellent concert, The Doobie Brothers ended up shattering all previous jazz festival attendance records. Crazy huh? Or is it? Takin’ It to the Streets, Jesus is Just Alright, Black Water, Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While), China Grove, Listen to the Music…these guys have a lot of huge crowd-pleasers. Good thing too, because they had a huge crowd to please. And they did. Hugely.
Sure, it wasn’t Aretha Freakin’ Franklin but I got to see her when she made up her cancelled show at the jazz festival the following year, so it all works out and then some, as life tends to do.
Buoyed with this high-quality nostalgic injection I headed to the late night tent after the Doobies and was overly pleased with what I discovered there, which was a curious show called 10 Years of The Triplets of Belleville that placed a half-dozen musicians in front of a screen playing an animated feature that was drawn to look every bit as old and nostalgic as the Doobie Brothers, though it was only ten years old. I’m a sucker for live musicians playing along to film so I was “in” from the get-go, but I gotta say this show was exceptionally awesome.
(Incidentally, I have long had a Doobie Brothers story, though indirectly so: For a couple of years back when I was a kid my dad drove a taxi, and one evening over dinner he told us about an unusual fare he’d had that day. Turns out he got a call to drive members of The Doobie Brothers to and from their hotel so they could soundcheck for their concert at the Moncton Coliseum that night. He said they were nice guys and they even offered him free tickets to the concert but of course he had said “no”.
I was mortified. Though I was only about eleven years old I listened to enough Top 40 radio to know who The Doobie Brothers were (this would’ve been around their commercial peak) and I certainly knew I wanted to go to the show! But no, my country music-loving father had refused free tickets from the band themselves to what would have been my first concert. And I bet it would have been a doozy. I suspect my dad thought that a band with a name like The Doobie Brothers were probably some sort of musical death cult who made unlistenable noise by playing their instruments as fast as they could and probably bit the heads off of sheep and yaks at every concert too.
What a Fool Believes indeed. I spent the rest of the evening acting as sullen and sour as I thought I could get away with while the rest of the family watched The Love Boat.)
*Not her real middle name.