At the heart of the nexus of the Ola Hammarlund and Mac Campbell demographics lies the Island audience for Fred Eaglesmith. Or so it would seem from the performance at Pat’s Rose and Grey on Tuesday night, for everywhere I turned, I saw Mac. Or Ola. Or at least Mac and Ola dopplegangers. Combine the Mac Campbelloids with the people who wandered in off the street, and you’ve got an audience. What they lacked in mosh pitty frenzy, they more than made up for in sedate enthusiasm.
Feeling that I should seek positive alternatives to having my heart ripped out by Island Tel, I wandered down Richmond Street around 11 o’clock to catch this accidental performance of Fred and his band, arranged only at the last minute when a gig on the mainland fell through.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that and his band included Washboard Hank (of Hank and the Honkers, Reverend Ken and the Lost Followers, among other groups), and Willie P. Bennett, both stalwarts of the strong Peterborough, Ontario music scene we left behind when we headed east.
As to Fred himself, I must say that I suffered immediately from an impression that he looked an awfully lot like Rory Beck (who used to sign my cheques when he was Deputy Minister of Economic Development) and also somewhat like Sting. Once the initial unnervingness of these similarities wore off, this became a pleasant distraction.
Now Pat’s is not exactly the best performance venue in North America. Or even in Charlottetown. Only about 15 people actually get a clear view of the stage, and the acoustics of the building are tuned for a drug store, not a live band. That said, that only 30 people or so were still around when I showed up made for a pretty “intimate” setting, and Fred and the band certainly filled every nook and cranny of the place with music.
I must admit to some ambivalence about the whole idea of Fred Eaglesmith, as Catherine was an is a Big Fan of his, and this traces back to the hallowed Time Before Me, when she was a footloose and fancy free Toronto chick. But I should get over this. And I did. These guys are all fantastic, polished musicians, accustomed to each other and the music, but not going through the motions (and Lord knows you could fall into the trap of going through the motions playing Charlottetown on a Tuesday in early June to a crowd full of Mac Campbell droids). They rocked the place. And I realized that I should get out more.
Disclaimer: The use of Mac Campbell’s spirit in this concert review was done without the permission of Mac Campbell. I think probably, in the end, Mac Campbell wasn’t even at the concert, however much it seemed that he was. This review should not be considered an endorsement nor condemnatio of Fred Eaglesmith, or of louder music in general, by Mac Campbell, nor should the use of the term “Mac Campbell droids” be considered a negative comment about Mac Campbell the actual person. Mac Campbell’s a great guy. We miss him on the CBC. Ola Hammarlund was at the concert. Island Tel has never actually ripped my actual physical heart out; however certain actions of Island Tel and its service providers and affiliated companies have created a psychological effect in me similar to that which I imagine having ones heart ripped out would cause. The fact that Rory Beck looks like Fred Eaglesmith is purely coincidence.