062205 Strippers Union, Ottawa, ON

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Barrymore’s Music Hall in Ottawa used to be a heck of a venue.  The first time I walked up those stairs I had been living in Ottawa for less than a month and it soon became one of my regular haunts.  I learned to keep my eyes on their concert calendar for fear of missing any of a surprising array of iconic acts.  In short, Barrymore’s hosted tons of great bands back in the day and I can’t understand why that came to an end, but it did.

It’s quite possible that the last time I saw a show there was this one, on June 22nd, 2005.  More than a decade of lost shows in what could have (should have) remained Ottawa’s greatest, most historic venue.  What a shame.

Strippers Union was a good band with a great name.  A Canadian supergroup of sorts, it was basically The Odds with Bobby Baker from The Tragically Hip on guitar.  They had just released their debut album and they had a song getting a bit of play on the radio.  I don’t think anyone expected them to be playing the Skydome anytime soon though; for the most part it was just fun, sweaty Canrock and Canroll.

The venue wasn’t sold out and there was plenty of room to move around.  I was on the floor rocking out with a drink in my hand the whole night.  Tall and lanky with hair to match, Bobby Baker looked ten feet tall from my vantage point just below his foot pedals.  He was obviously having a good time and so was everyone else, both onstage and off.

I was at the show with my Kingston friend who’s family has known Bobby Baker’s family forever so after the show the three of us hung out for a bit.  I had met the guitarist before if ever so briefly but this time I talked to him long enough to verify that he is 100% a cool dude with zero pretensions, just a rock and roll guitar player looking to have a good time and do some good work.  

Clockwise from top: The Hip’s Bobby Baker, bassist Doug Elliot and singer Craig Northey (both from The Odds)

Strippers Union certainly didn’t set the world on fire with this album nor did they with their second recording that came along six years later, but they did crank out some good barroom rock and roll, and sometimes that’s all a guy like me needs.

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