By Dale Miller
If Dr. Stompin’ Tom Connors is the patron saint of Canadiana, then seeing him live is a religious experience.
My personal pilgrimage to see the Stomper started with the beer gardens and the Albertan insurgent country sounds of Corb Lund and his troop of troubadours. Corb Lund is Alberta’s own version of Dr. Connors singing songs about small town Alberta. Needless to say to those in the know, this is a band not too familiar with the Folk Fest circuit, more often than not performing in smoky dance halls and bars in rural towns to hordes of drunken singing fans. I tried to recreate this atmosphere as much as possible in the beer gardens, but beer was $16 a jug and I was the only one who knew the words. After belting out some songs and belting down some expensive beer, I headed out to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of the Folk Fest.
I didn’t know there were so many hippy types in Calgary. I suspect Folk Fest is like the Stampede and people break out their sarongs and Birkenstocks for three days a year. There was also a fantastic selection of vegetarian and vegan cuisine–go figure. Me and my posse of normals enjoyed the healthy food, but felt a little over dressed.
"I’m wearing socks and underwear, which is two things most people here don’t have," remarked one of my companions.
Enough about the pilgrimage–lets talk about mecca.
Dressed in a black shirt, black pants and a black cowboy hat, Dr. Connors appeared on stage singing the opening verse to "Bud the Spud". It was awesome. He sounded just like all the recordings I had heard over the years. There was none of the old man waver that Johnny Cash adopted in his old age. This was Dr. Stompin’ Tom Conner and he was as feisty as ever with the crowd.
There were some drunk, fuck-off hipsters in the crowd making devil horns and acting the fool, but Dr. Connors did a fine job of cutting them down. He agreed to play "Tilsonburg" to shut them up and referred to he incident throughout the show to remind them they weren’t the only ones in the audience.
Not a man to fool around, Dr. Connors played his set on the fly, with his band often joining him a bar or two into the song. His between song banter was equally rehearsed and he played some Alberta specific songs to flesh out the favourites.
All in all it was exactly what I expected–a premium slice of Canadiana not to be missed.