If I could use words the way The Slip plays music this sentence would not end superfluously. Which is not to say that this festival was about The Slip, for it was not, but they certainly made it their own. Canadian heavyweights such as the Burt Neilson Band, Grand Theft Bus, Jimmy Swift Band, Nero, Aaron Macdonald Band, Downtime, Caution Jam, Hunoo and Heavy Meadows played the best shows I've ever seen them put out. Simultaneously, the weekend was complimented by a diverse program geared around generating awareness. Friday was highlighted by The Slip's melifluous set no more than Burt Neilson's epic groove. Saturday began with the polyrhythms of Kojo from the Sudan accented further by select sets including Nero, AMB and Caution Jam capping with a thrilling Slip and Friends collaboration (featuring in single file Dave Lauzon of Nero on guitar, Jeff Heisholt of Burt Neilson on organ and Keith Mullins of Jimmy Swift Band on percussion). Sunday served as a much needed wind down with some of the weekend's brightest shows being put in by the likes of the Great Balancing Act, Amelia Curren and the Sense Amelia Project pinnacled by the incomparable Heavy Meadows.

Jimmy Swift Band
With these short words past and my debt of gratitude far outstanding, I would like to embark down a different road. There would be no way to describe what this experience meant to me, consequently, the form must respond. In the spirit of improvisation pioneered by the great lights of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, guided by the great black Bird buddha, whipped by a band beyond description so that we could feel good, I would like to embark on an experiment in spontaneous prose in the style championed by Jack Kerouac accented by what Burroughs appropriated from Brion Gyson as the 'cut-up' method. On the stage we must have what is superb and wild in reality and people have grown tired of the false joy given them in place. As in life, the musician cannot recover what has been passed once control is finally wrested.

Grand Theft Bus
The crescent moon emerged from between the blue and planes of light that made up our sky. All the hours we spent inside the coliseum crested around us like a natural border. Dizzy with anticipation and unknowing. Free with all that is good and fine and grand. Our friends and peers walked in a not-too solemn congregation, mingling noisily the throng gathered outside the temple, once inside the initiation into the Mysteries took the consolation from silence. Digging into that horde which each of us carries one by one they layed down true relaxation and knowledge. Worlds collided for the Jimmy Swift set, glinting with the promise that they might bear this cross into broader countryside. With no one to drive, getting there no longer seemed a forgone conclusion. The RV finally in tow a quick scavenger's mission for spirits and nourishment led us further down the road. "Hot damn," said the kid no sooner then he was poached off the roadside, Antigonish cardboard sign in tow. Night falls and hope of seeing the Grand Theft Bus passes. The distance between stars and the slowness of my feet. With schoolchild's glee we run up the highway shoulder tacking singposts to signs of Caution. We comingled like waters over a sandy shoal. The fuel seeped in and we found strength. Not knowing that the strength of Solomon would never be enough.

Then out of the sky in full resplendent blue sweeping heron grace, The Slip emerged. They loved each other like Duke loved Billy Strayhorn, they consummated that love every night. Delusion surrounded us and the Trickster played his hand. The Slip charged upstream like spawning salmon with the confidence of knowing that this is a stream, the force of the current playing over grey scales, each one sensing the fine eddys of water, light and sound. "How fortunate are they," thought the man. To know their place, to know that they are in a stream, not a lake, pond, cess pool or ocean. To know that their stream is one of many fingers spread out like arteries of some impassive creature. And why, with all this force of nature bearing down on them, would it be in their nature to struggle ceaselessly against it. Why have we forgotten? How can we too exhibit grace?

Burt Neilson Band
Burt startled me like a moose roused out of the low lying grasses. Charging towards me the sight of sinew, saliva, those broad horns, hot steam rising from their collective nostril. I turned the blade of my canoe paddle flat against the surface and slapped it like a beaver's tail. Their papa was a rolling stone and no moss grew. Full of sound and fury, the DJ's but a few, signified nothing. We gathered at dawn like huddled beasts. With matchboxes, flints of metal and six able thumbs Kojo played the song of morning for us. Dark as African night, with hearts pure as snow, their humility shone the beacon.

Nero the brutal emperor frothed from his psychotic mouth. With absent look in eye the spirits ushered forth from the deep running fissures. The magma slowly cooled in laminary flow. The Band Aaron Macdonald took us by the hand and swung us back and forth. What is this feeling as specks receed on the plane in the distance behind us? It's the too-huge world vaulting us and it's goodbye. The Pharmakon arrived but in different form: drug, philtre, love potion, wizard, charm, drug, scapegoat. We broke bread with Caution Jam like the Barfly and all his frands. Wiping crust from eye's world corner we shook down. I came up in the hills. And who would swim with The Slip upstream? The strongest swimmers thrashed around in the surging surf. Those who emerged from the froth knew without gesture to turn themselves to the undulating course of the school. Night passes again but the moon and sun collide, stars fell from the sky like figs. Morning comes.

Amelia sings with conviction and we are one community. The horns sense her and ring out the order that would be. The gypsies from the Powder Keg regaled me with their stories. Breaking bread and music as one The Great Act balanced. Rising up from out the ashes the newfound pranksters and their circus of light. Downtime circled in the sky, a crow or gull from a distance, then coursed underneath the sun revealing four hawk fingers in perfect silhouette. They closed the distance in seconds flat and ripped the red worm from the earth. A peal of starlings and laughter, your pettiness, your fear of pain, you think these birds all look the same. But Heavy Meadows lay onward. These men of conviction sang a new chord and broke out with the joy of certitude. In the fields of our lord lay down in heavy meadows.

With this my short song passed what is their left to say fair reader? What tale will we tell to help us pleasantly up this next hill? Sakyamoni delayed his Exit so that we should not suffer. Without love, our voice is like sounding gong and tinkling cymbal. Love and Action are indivisable and it has always been so. Go back in the cave my sisters and brothers, those shadows on the wall are the musings of a cynic - pale reflections of an ancient fire. Paths crossed like bunched chromosomes before their ordered migration. What had this place been for us and why had we come here? Across the great divide we trekked. All things exchange for fire and fire for all things said good old Heraclitus. Nature loves to hide and love is not a victory march - it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah.

Luke Bowden
JamBase Northern Head - NorthernHeads.com
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[Published on: 9/2/01]

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