041004 The John Henrys/Too Drunk to Dance, Ottawa, ON

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There was a chance that this ticket could have become a real artifact.  It might have ended up in a Hard Rock Cafe somewhere or at least been framed up nicely and hung on my wall.  This, my friends, is a ticket to the first-ever show by The John Henrys*.

To which most of the world might understandably respond, “The John Who-rys?”

The John Henrys were an alt-country band made up of friends and coworkers of mine and they were fantastic.  Their songs were just gold – crunchy singalongs rooted in instantly-familiar Cancon imagery with smoking guitar solos and killer vocals.  I even managed them for about three days.  When that fell apart (no fault of their own) they ended up signing a horrible management/record deal (their own fault entirely), released two really good albums, toured a lot in stupid places like Texas and Florida and unceremoniously died out like a thousand other bands that shouldn’t have.

I remember the evening of April 10th, 2004 quite vividly.  Another colleague from the Ottawa Folklore Centre was opening the evening fronting his frenetic, punk-ish group Too Drunk To Dance.  I had seen them before but was quite unprepared with how great the headlining act was.  The John Henrys came out of the gate sounding polished and professional and oh the songs!  It was hard to believe it was their first gig.  It really felt like something they had been hiding, keeping this great band under wraps until it was ready to be unleashed on the Cafe Dekcuf, a half-full attic of a venue that had a legal capacity of 58.

Of course the band just got more and more impressive over time.  I saw them whenever I could (which was plenty) and loved every show.  Heck, I loved every song of every show.  The band even played my fortieth birthday party some years later in (what was to me, at least) an epic evening at Irene’s Pub.

And then it was all over.  A demise that was sadly predictable and completely avoidable, save for one signed contract.

The John Henrys were deserving of better things – both as a band and as individuals – but that’s not how it turned out.  As it turns out the Canadian music scene (and music in general) was robbed of something potentially quite significant, and the ticket stub that was to be my relic has remained just another piece of paper stuck in a photo album.

*My very good friend (and John Henrys lead guitarist) Doug has since informed me that this was not in fact their first gig, adding that they had played a gig at Carleton University and another in Cumberland, Ontario before this.  Of course like any good music journalist I don’t let the horse’s mouth influence my strongly held opinions whatsoever.  

As a matter of fact, since I first wrote this I have discovered compelling evidence suggesting that I saw The John Henrys in Wakefield, Quebec on November 22nd, 2003, and I can only assume that that was their first gig.  If so there would have been no ticket stub to collect and/or save as La Mouton Noir would have been just charging cover at the door.

So I maintain that this is probably still the first John Henrys ticket stub possible, irrelevant as it may remain to be.  

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