042322 Drive-By Truckers/Lydia Loveless, Ottawa, ON

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On April 23rd, 2022 I was in Ottawa for a social visit arranged to coincide with a Drive-By Truckers concert at the newly-awesome Bronson Centre (as well as a surprisingly-fantastic Kim Mitchell show in the same venue two nights earlier).  I woke up on one couch (Brucey’s) and headed to another (Gord’s), where an afternoon of cheeseburgers, beer, and friends morphed into a warm-up gathering of more friends and more beers.  By 8pm we all caught up with each other and we collectively made the short walk to the venue.

When I walked in* a woman named Lydia Loveless was onstage opening the show, singing and accompanying herself on solo piano.  I only caught the last half of her set and only half-paid attention to what I did see but she was still the musical highlight of the evening, which surprised me.

Not that the Truckers weren’t good – they were – but they are usually great, and I was surprised that they weren’t.  Their gritty songs didn’t sound so gritty, their rages didn’t rage, their commentaries on social justice didn’t rile my senses…I mean, I certainly witnessed a good, solid rock and roll show but I definitely didn’t feel one.

And yes, I did spend the bulk of the concert huddled near the back amongst my circle of peeps, a circle which on this reunion-like evening unquestionably commanded the main focus of my attention, but in all fairness I did join a couple of friends near the front for a song, maybe a song-and-a-half.  I liked it down there just fine but even when standing within ten feet of the band there was still not enough oomph being generated to keep me up there.  

Which reminds me: I really, really liked the venue.  The Kim Mitchell show there earlier in the week had been assigned-seating, with wide rows of comfy red plush seats stretching from the stage to the back of the hall but for this concert they had removed all the chairs, creating a large GA section on the floor (the balcony was its own, separate GA section).  With the chairs gone there was plenty of space for an extra pair of bars halfway up the room, which kept the drink lines dangerously short.  The sound was crisp, the staff was super-friendly, and the bathroom situation was good.  Downtown-ish Ottawa needed a 1,000+ seat concert venue and now they got one.  I spoke to someone at Irene’s a while later who told me she thinks Adam from the old Babylon was doing the booking for the place.  Makes sense to me.

After the concert the now-enlarged group of friends that had coalesced at the show tromped back to Gord’s and filled his apartment with laughter, drinking, and good times until I curled up on an ottoman around 2:30am (which was ridiculously early in comparison to everyone else).  I leapt for the relative spaciousness of half the couch around 3:00.  My slumber was interrupted often, mostly with good-natured condemnation for flaking out so early (“We all came to see you, after all…”) and the occasional call to stop hogging so much of the available seating but hey, I was on a different time zone (and nothing else, unlike the rest).

Bottom line: Great times in Ottawa.  4 stars.  Would visit again.

*Immediately upon entering I bee-lined it to one of the bars and ordered an IPA.  Though I was masked and wearing a different jacket than I had been wearing two nights previous, the bartender instantly blurted out, “Hey, you were here for Kim Mitchell the other night!”  Had I really drank that much?  Nah, it must be my charm, right?


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