At The 2010 Winter Olympics With Corb Lund
Well folks, the Olympics are over. Whew, good party. We had a fantastic gig at Whistler, the mountain town where they hold most of the Olympic skiing events. I’ve played there a ton but always in bars; never in the town square. It was packed to the gills. In fact all three Olympic shows that we played were. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the performances, because sometimes at big free outdoor shows people just wander in and out, and aren’t necessarily familiar with the artist. But that’s not how it was. We also played a huge outdoor show downtown Vancouver, probably 6-7000 people. And people knew my songs so well sometimes I couldn’t hear my monitors for people singing along. It was pretty moving. As I said to the audiences from the stage a number of times, Vancouver really did a great job of things. It was the best vibe I’ve ever felt in that city, and I’ve been playing there for at least fifteen years. Surrey was the same way. A little more of a country crowd in Surrey. And a couple of RCMP officers had me take pictures with them. Lots of police around, as you’d expect for an event like this, but they’ve been impressively passive and have shown a lot of restraint from what I’ve seen. Lots of drunks on the streets. Not me of course.
I can understand why there is a lot of security. It could easily be a target for the maniacs. For the most part, the ‘terroristas’ don’t scare me at all. It’s all odds. I’m constantly annoyed by the way North America has become so goofy about terrorist threats. I fly all the time, and idiots with bombs are WAY down my list of things to worry about. If you think about how many tens of thousands of flights there must be, EVERY DAY, and then think about how many actual incidents there are, it’s nothing to worry about. Some jerk with gunpowder underwear every two million flights is not a formidable threat in my book. It’s way more dangerous driving to the airport. I agree with metal detectors, and basic inspection when boarding planes, of course, but the shampoo-in-the-plastic-bag and no pocket knives and one-lighter-but-not-two stuff makes me mad and tired. If it was the crazies’ goal to screw up our lives, well they’ve done it. I had a friend of a friend who’s a commercial pilot who went through security on his way to go fly the plane, and was asked to relinquish his tiny eyeglass screwdriver by the genius at the security check. The captain handled it well; offered it up, but informed the guy that he was indeed the guy FLYING THE PLANE and if he really wanted to cause trouble with the flight, it wouldn’t be with a tiny screwdriver. And as he walked away said “You know, I don’t want to completely screw up your day, but there’s a hatchet in the cockpit.” Nice.
The Brits know how to respond appropriately to terrorism. When their transit was bombed, they shrugged, shed a few tears, stiffened their Anglo Saxon upper lips and kept on with their lives. They’re used to IRA shit anyhow. In North America we’ve gone half bananas trying to child proof our lives. Maybe we should arm ALL the passengers. Then the idiots wouldn’t get away with anything. Anyhow, off on a tangent again. In the case of the Olympics, I think the heavy security presence is probably warranted and they seem to have struck a good balance between surveillance and non-obtrusiveness. So far, so good.
Anyway, the shows themselves were outstanding. I was genuinely moved by the feeling in the air. You gotta understand that I’m usually kind of a cynic about this kind of stuff, so it’s meaningful when I say that it was a great experience and I’m kinda sad that it’s over.
Stompin’ Tom Connors
I thought I might take a couple of paragraphs to introduce some of the American readers to one of our Canadian national icons. I think he’s in his mid-seventies now, he lives in eastern Canada’s maritimes and he’s roughly our version of Johnny Cash. Tom plays ‘boom-chicka-boom-chicka’ old fashioned country music, and has written album after album full of Canadiana. He is rightfully suspicious of the mainstream music business, and keeps his distance from the industry for the most part although he still tours quite a bit. Arguably his most well known tune is called ‘The Hockey Song’, and it’s known by just about everyone in the country. We covered it at all three shows at the Olympics, it seemed appropriate and I often play it during the playoffs up here too. I kind of like to think of the song as our second national anthem, and in my opinion should have been the replacement theme for ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ on the CBC when they lost their rights to the old theme. (HNIC is a decades old hockey national NHL hockey broadcast program. CBC stands for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, our federally owned television/radio network).
Anyhow, when I played the song at our Whistler gig, I did it wearing the Canadian flag like a cape, and it was probably the closest I get to raw, unembarrassed patriotism. Canadians are known for being a little coy about that sort of thing. We are just as proud of our culture and history as other countries, but we tend to be rather subtle about it. Vulgar displays of overt national pride are generally thought of as being a big gauche up here, except when it comes to hockey and a few other special circumstances. Ours patriotism is more of an inner glow kinda thing. So check out Stompin’ Tom, and specifically ‘The Hockey Song’ if you’re interested in a window on understated blue collar Canadian pride. ‘Sudbury Saturday Night’, ‘Bud the Spud’ and ‘Tillsonburg’ are good choices, too. Here are the lyrics, to the best of my recollection.
The Hockey Song
Hello out there, we’re on the air it’s ‘Hockey Night’ tonight
The tension grows, the whistle blows and the puck goes down the ice
The goalie jumps and the players bump and the fans all go insane
Someone roars and Bobby (Orr) scores at the good old hockey game
Oh The good old Hockey game is the best game you can name
And the best game you can name is the good old Hockey game
Where players dash with skates aflash the home team trails behind
But they grab the puck and go bursting up and they’re down across the line
They storm the crease like bumble bees they travel like a burning flame
See ‘em slide the puck inside, it’s a 1-1 hockey game.
Oh take me where the hockey players face off down the rink
And the Stanley Cup is all filled up for the champs who win the drink
Now the final flick of a hockey stick and the one gigantic scream
The puck is in, the home team wins the good old hockey game
With due respect to Mr. Connors, for the Olympics I changed the first two lines of the last verse to:
Oh take me where the hockey players face off in the cold
And the podium will welcome them when the boys bring home the gold
Ah? Ah? And the crowd goes wild!!!!!
Ok, I’m not going to belabour this, but I have to talk about the hockey tournament itself a little here, or my head will explode. It’s hard to explain how fantastic it felt for us to win the gold medal. Or better still, how crushing it would have been to have NOT won the gold medal. Maybe the Russians understand. Anyway, it was as storybook as it could be. (I should really say ‘medals’ here, because the ladies won too. And they had a beer and cigar party on the ice afterwards, God bless ‘em.) Anyway, I’m sure at the outset most Canucks would have told you they wanted to see dominance all the way through the tournament. But it turned out to be a ‘damn near run thing’ to quote the Duke of Wellington. In the end, I won a pretty good sum on my bets over the course of the tournament, too. Hit most of my over-unders, and cleaned up on the final game, due to my American buddies’ overconfidence…heh.
We looked good against Norway; the first period a cautious feeling out of the situation, followed by a rout. But then the Swiss took us to a shootout and the States beat us. Yikes. Within minutes of the American game ending, I had about a dozen texts and emails blowing up my phone, from my aforementioned US friends twisting the knife. Bastards. Then Germany. I wanted to see limbs and ears and brains on the ice to get the smell of blood in our guys’ nostrils. We slaughtered the Germans, and as my soundman Franchuk mentioned, you know what happens when you humiliate Germans; you gotta face the Russians afterward. And face them we did. We sent Ovechkin and the boys packing, and I gotta say, it felt pretty damn good. I don’t think I’ve seen better passing and playmaking in my life. I think the Russian hockey team even slinked out of town early, probably on their way to re-education camp. But then another hiccup…the Slovaks closed a 3-0 lead to 3-2 in the last part of the third period and were all over us the last couple of minutes. Luongo held them off and got us into the gold medal game.
Finally, the American game for the big prize. High drama. 2-0 Canada till the third, then an American goal to make it 2-1. It’s weird, I remember thinking at one point earlier in the third period that the whole thing might end up being a little anti-climactic, but on cue, the Americans turned up the heat and scored the tying goal with less than a minute left making a hush fall over the nation. Waiting the few minutes before the overtime felt very surreal; time sort of stood still.
It ended the best way it could have; Oginla to Crosby for the GOLD! Then I got drunk.
Thanks for reading, folks. See you down the road, I’ll be out there.
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