Ashley to Johnny

Ashley MacIsaac writes in to my brother Johnny’s guest book, in response to a post from December 2000:

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend Jodi said to me, “Hey Johnny, do you want to go see Ashley MacIsaac at the Commodore?”  I said, “I guess so” and she said, “Good, because I already bought the tickets”.  

The element of choice being removed, I started to get excited about going to the show.  We had seen Ashley a few weeks before performing with the Chieftains and he had stolen the show.  But to be honest, I was most excited about going to the Commodore Ballroom.  Basically, I would go and watch my own ass perform at the Commodore.  Its that kind of place.  

As fate would have it, Ashley MacIsaac turned out to be a far better performer than my ass and a good time was had by all.  In fact, Ashley MacIsaac turned out to be brilliant.  Poor old Ashley seems to have fallen on hard times of late.  He’s had highly publicized drug problems and earned a reputation as a difficult badboy, having walked out in the middle of several concerts and, apparently, urinating on an audience at some point.  Despite his early success, apparently MacIsaac is broke and his most recent album has sold only 20000 copies, just slightly more than Glass Tiger’s latest effort.  Furthermore, MacIsaac has gained about fifty pounds in the past few years and to put things charitably, he looks like Hell.  This made the whole experience of seeing him something like watching David Wells pitch a perfect game.  For about two and a half hours, he played the fiddle and danced and stomped around as though possessed by the devil, and he was fantastic!  Accompanied by a piano player and guitarist, he played a nice repertoire a traditional Cape Breton fiddle tunes and even a medley of Christmas songs that reminded me of the Christmas album by Don Messer and his Islanders that my Dad still plays every year.  Except that it was like Don Messer and his Islanders were on acid.  We stood about a foot from the stage and jigged like wee leprechauns for the whole show and generally had a grand old time.  It was a sublime experience to witness that level of dizzying technical skill and profound artistic sensitivity totally unaccompanied by pretension or arrogance.  It made us totally forget that, given our proximity to the stage, there was a real risk of beeing peed on.  I went from being a semi-curious observer of MacIsaac’s to a real fan of someone who takes obvious joy in playing music that is culturally and historically important to our country, and is lots of fun to boot.

Small world. Weird world.