071207 Ndidi Onukwulu, Ottawa, ON

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On Thursday, July 12th, 2007 I once again raced from my teaching room in the basement of the Ottawa Folklore Centre to the Ottawa Bluesfest at LeBreton Flats, a not unpleasant eight kilometre ride upon one of the city’s most scenic bike paths: along a good chunk of the Rideau Canal, down the steep locks between the Chateau Laurier and the Parliament Buildings which would give me some serious speed for the final stretch alongside the gurgling Ottawa River.  And all of this just for…Blue Rodeo?

I don’t think so.  As many of my friends are quite aware, I have a curious and rather unprecedented hate-on for Blue Rodeo, a disdain that sprung from the most perfunctory of listens to just the hits, and I doubt I’ve often gotten all the way through one.  I can usually find some redeeming quality in even the most blasé sonic junkpiles, but for some reason when it comes to Blue Rodeo I don’t even feel like trying.  I did see them once – for maybe three songs – when I was working their Frosh Week show at my alma mater, a show I was happy to leave even after being severely blown away by my first hearing of the great Bob Wiseman on keyboards.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to learn that he was quitting the band.

Blue Rodeo is one of the cliché Ottawa Bluesfest bands; it felt like they played there every year.  (The Tragically Hip seemed to be the other side of that coin, a band who were also often booked in to the fest for a show, but I never missed The Hip whereas I always missed the Rode.)  And here they were headlining once again, which was all I needed to bee-line my sweaty, out-of-breath self straight from the bike valet to one of the smaller stages.  

In just such a pinch I would usually default to the generally-fantastic Black Sheep Stage, where on this night I found a Canadian singer/songwriter named Ndidi Onukwulu playing laid-back thoughtful pop-ish material fresh from her debut album.  No, I had never heard of her either but that was one of the things about the Black Sheep Stage: it was full of great secrets waiting to be unwrapped.  Now, I won’t say I went on to be the biggest Wuluhead in the world or anything, but I can promise you that she filled my time a damn sight better than Cuddy et al could possibly have.

I wonder if I steadfastly avoid BR because I’m afraid that I will like them and realize I have been wrong all this time.  Like how I regret the countless dill pickles and sides of cole slaw I’ve given away over the years, thinking I didn’t like these common delicacies.  Oh the regret!  And to translate this horror into a live music situation?!?!  I couldn’t even…

I guess that’s why I don’t Try.  


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