051601 Bill Frisell, Ottawa, ON

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For this ticket story we’re going to have to go all the way back to the Second World War, specifically January 19th, 1943.  That was the day that Queen Juliana of the Netherlands gave birth to her third daughter, Princess Margriet.  At the time the Dutch royal family was on the run from Nazi occupation and living in Canada.  Giving birth on foreign soil might have proved problematic with regard to the new baby’s citizenship had the Canadian government not had the class and foresight to temporarily declare the delivery room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital to be extraterritorial.  

With the place of birth (temporarily) not legally attached to any specific country the potential heir to the Dutch throne derived her legal nationality from her mother, making her wholly Dutch.  Soon after the princess was born the delivery room inside the Ottawa Civic Hospital went back to being part of the Dominion of Canada and the Dutch royal family continued sheltering here in safety until the war ended, when Margriet finally set her tiny foot on her home soil for the first time at the age of two-and-a-half.

After the war the Netherlands sent 100,000 of their famous tulip bulbs to Ottawa as a thank-you gift for accommodating the royals so well, with the promise to send 10,000 more every year.  As a result Ottawa became lousy with tulips (which is really quite awesome to see) and the city started an annual Spring festival to show them off.  For years the Tulip Festival included a pretty great and very reasonably priced concert series (consecutive years of bad weather resulting in bad attendance ended the live music element of the fest in 2006), and on May 16th, 2001 the fest brought in the very wonderful Bill Frisell for a concert in Major’s Hill Park.

This was only my second time seeing what was at the time one of my newest guitar heroes.  Bill Frisell had a band with him and he was playing lots of stuff from his Gone Like A Train album and it was positively sublime.  I remember Bill turning his back to the audience for most of the show but it was clearly in an effort to connect with his bandmates and not some sort of anti-audience statement.  Bill seems much too nice for that sort of thing.

I was standing with good friends on the thick grass watching a great concert, the park nearly devoid of the usual vendor stands and trappings and with the great, glorious, green-hued Parliament Buildings looming out of the dark behind the stage.  What could be grander?

It’s really too bad they stopped booking concerts for Tulip Festival.  Every year I make a point of going on a bicycle excursion to see the tulip displays and while they are really impressive, they ain’t no Bill Frisell.

Regardless, thank-you Netherlands royal family, and you’re welcome.

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