July 12th was the penultimate day of the 2014 Ottawa Bluesfest and it was a long one. My notes tell me that I saw a half-dozen acts and the program that I saved from that year tells me the first act I saw on that day was Bob Saget doing an hour of stand-up comedy from the main stage.
Whew! As I write this Bob Saget has been gone from this Earth only a few short weeks so I am retroactively quite pleased with myself for getting onsite in time to catch his entire set, which I did. It’s not like I was a Househead or a regular watcher of AFHV or anything but based on his appearance in The Aristocrats (a hilarious documentary that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone) and his not-suitable-for-prime-time reputation I was pretty excited to see him.
And man, he did not disappoint. Decidedly not for the squeamish, Bob Saget’s humour seemed to have no limits when it came to taste or decorum and he was funny, man. His act felt completely off-the-cuff (though I doubt it was), and the fact that he was mentioning blatantly unmentionable things into a PA that was blanketing the vast mainstage area of a family-friendly music festival at 5pm on a sunny picnic-like Saturday afternoon made it all the more outrageous.
I must say, the guy had to be pretty brave standing alone up there saying stuff he knew would really, really freak some people out, and the Bluesfest folks were pretty brave to give him that kind of slot. Kudos all around.
Next up was Deltron 3030, an easy set for me to take in as it ever-so-conveniently started up on the other, adjacent main stage immediately following Bob Saget’s set. Like, immediately. I don’t remember Deltron’s set at all which leads me to think I probably found some friends and spent their set raving about Bob Saget’s set. At least I hope that’s what happened. Then it was off to the good old Black Sheep Stage for a double-shot of real blues (at the Bluesfest?!?) courtesy of back-to-back performances from Little Freddie King (no relation) and Thornetta Davis, two true-bluers who kept the Black Sheep boppin’.
Little sounded as authentic as he looked. Dressed in a white suit and hat and picking on a jet-black Epiphone BB King guitar he looked every bit like an old film reel, and he sounded almost exactly like John Lee Hooker, right down to his random on-the-spot time expansions and retractions. How how how how. Same thing with Thornetta Davis. She looked like a real-deal kickass blues singer à la Big Mama Thornton and she sounded like it too. In all, there was plenty of good blues available to keep the beer lines juiced.
The program in my lap tells me that Snoop Dogg (who was semi-going as Snoop Lion at the time) started up on the main stage at 9:15, which is the only reason I saw any of his set at all. It’s not that I don’t like the Snoopster; au contraire. The first ten minutes of his set seemed to pick up right where he had left off when I saw him on the same stage six years earlier and that was a-okay with me – I really enjoyed him last time though I still can’t quite figure out why – but I had
bigger different fish to fry back at the Black Sheep.
Just like Snoopy, this was the second and final time I saw Dr. Hook (so far), but unlike the Liondogg I knew every word to the Hook oeuvre, at least the stuff Shel Silverstein wrote, which is all their good songs. As far as I can recall Dr. Hook was my first-ever favourite band. I listened to their Medicine Show album incessantly and knew every word to songs like Penicillin Penny, Freaker’s Ball, Acapulco Goldie, and Get My Rocks Off by the time I was in grade six. The fact that I had no idea what phrases like “pass that roach please”, “necrophiliacs lookin’ for dead ones”, and “some men need some killer weed, some men need cocaine” meant did not stop my soul from being crushed completely flat when my mom wouldn’t let me go see them live in concert at the Moncton Coliseum back in the late ’70’s (I believe I pontificated on that particular childhood scar in a previous ticket story) and though only Ray Sawyer (the guy with the patch) remained in the band by this time, ten-year-old me wouldn’t let forty-six-year-old me miss a moment of their set.
And it was okay. Sure I had a blast singing all the words and everything but I tell you, that old classic era Dr. Hook was a seriously good band with really creative playing and awesome rootsy harmonies. Google “Dr. Hook” and “Shel Silverstein” and see if you can find any old videos. There’s some amazing footage taken from when they were recording on Shel’s sailboat that is very much worth checking out.*
Anyway, this set was none of that. Except for the great songs, which still remained. Of course Dr. Hook’s cheesy post-Silverstein disco tripe remained as well, so for every Queen of the Silver Dollar I had to endure a Sharing the Night Together; for every Carry Me, Carrie was another Only Sixteen, but that’s the price I was willing to pay. Plus, I was forced to the realization that I knew all the words to those ones too.
For that I can blame CKCW, the only radio station available to my young, impressionable ears. For knowing the good stuff I can thank Carla Horseman, a young tomboy who lived next door to my aunt and who possessed an uncanny early awareness of good music that was otherwise completely beyond my realm.
And though I haven’t seen or heard from Carla since I was maybe thirteen years old I suppose it was her early influence on my musical tastes that kept me from seeing all of Lyin’ Snoopy’s set on this night. Funny how life ripples along.
Or doesn’t. RIP Bob Saget (1956-2022).
*In case you haven’t noticed and/or don’t already know, I am a huge, huge Shelhead. Children’s literature, poetry, songwriting, guitar playing, theatre, cartoons, travel writing, working for Playboy…Shel Silverstein was my kind of Renaissance Man.