Gordon Downie sees Bruce Allen in a Subway ad at Another Roadside Attraction



By Steve Newton

The Another Roadside Attraction show at Seabird Island two years ago was one of Gordon Downie’s all-time favourite gigs. The Tragically Hip vocalist told the Georgia Straight recently that it was the natural beauty of the Agassiz location—surrounded by nearby mountains and dense woods—that made the concert so special, and he admitted that the change in Roadside venues to UBC’s football stadium would undoubtedly take away from the potential for magical moments.

But whatever the 1995 version lacked in scenery last Thursday (July 13), it made up for with an impressive lineup of bands, fine sound, and a near-capacity crowd of 29,000 (9,000 more than the previous week’s Lollapalooza count). Not even the absence of 1993 coheadliners Midnight Oil could put a damper on things.

The show kicked off right on time at 1 p.m. with the Inbreds, a Kingston, Ontario, duo comprised of singer-bassist Mike O’Neill and drummer Dave Ullrich. The guitarless band looked tiny up there on the massive six-storey stage, but its stripped-down approach actually resulted in some bouncy, surprisingly rounded pop tunes in the old Grapes of Wrath tradition.

The Inbreds’ half-hour set was followed by another 30 minutes with Moncton’s Eric’s Trip, the first Canadian signing to Seattle’s influential Sub-Pop label. The quartet’s strident, psychedelic noise-pop made it the weakest link in the eight-act roster, though; its grating approach would have been more suited to the previous week’s grunge-fest.

Ontario’s Rheostatics helped ease my ravaged eardrums somewhat with a nurturing, percussive vibe and polished vocals courtesy of Dave Bidini and Tim Vesely. The group’s fluid material showed a keen grasp of dynamics, subtly building intensity before homing in on underlying melody. The crowd showed particular appreciation for the gently rocking ballad “Claire”, from the acclaimed Canadian film Whale Music.

The afternoon’s first droplets of rain splattered my notepad as the Rheostatics finished, and though the drizzle offered a welcome respite from the muggy heat, it was all the incentive this scribbler needed to head backstage in search of liquid sustenance. From the media beer tent, a sound of jangly guitars and gorgeous harmonies could soon be heard, but it wasn’t an early start by Matthew Sweet, just the house DJ teasing all with a tape of the Odds’ similar-sounding “Horses”.

When Sweet did appear 10 minutes later, the first of the crowd’s overactive types got to moshing—bodysurfing to the provocative strains of his current hit, “Sick of Myself”—but it wasn’t till the next-up Blues Traveler plugged in that things really started to burn. The most technically adept group on the bill, Blues Traveler is also one of the most adventurous rock bands around, and whether churning out a ferocious improvisational blues romp or revitalizing a crusty crowd-pleaser like “Low Rider”, it couldn’t lose. Tragically Hip manager Jake Gold certainly pulled off a coup when he got this seasoned outfit on the tour.

By the time Vancouver’s own Spirit of the West went on at about 5:15, the stadium’s bleachers were jam-packed and latecomers searched the grounds for the odd patch of open grass. The only western Canadian entry on the Roadside tour had its loyal local following bouncing madly to the catchy politico-pop strains of “Shake the Tree” and the new “Two Headed”.

It was totally fitting that during the environment-conscious “Save This House”, the sun peeked through the persistent cloud cover for the first time all day—and what better way to set the mood for Jamaica’s Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers? That band’s slinky, buoyant mix of reggae, R&B, and hip-hop relayed an uplifting message of peace and love and got the masses joyously geared up for the arrival of Roadside’s main attraction.

“It’s good to be on traditional Musqueam territory again,” announced Downie as the Hip rambled onstage, its arrival resulting in a swift surge toward the stage and the instant perching of multitudes of young women on male shoulders. The band launched right into its popular concert rave-up, “Blow at High Dough”, and continued bashing out its rough-hewn hits—plus new tunes such as “Springtime in Vienna” and “Gift Shop”—for the next 90 minutes.

As usual, concertmaster Downie held the Tragically Hip’s reins in a loose grip, mostly allowing the riff-driven beast to run wild, but reeling it in when the time came to lecture some goof on the hazards of tossing shoes at the stage. At one point, the charismatic crooner gestured at an airplane that was circling intrusively above, trailing a banner advertising a fast-food franchise. “Hey, look everybody,” he proclaimed, “Bruce Allen!”


To hear the full audio of my 1989 and 1996 interviews with Gord Downie subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

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