Owen Sound, Ontario - Reviews
Aug 18-20, 2000

From Danielle Bourque

I won't never forget this week-end! I didn't know what to expect, first of all. I'm not a "folk" fan and I went there because Larry told me one day, how fun it was. I had so much fun there myself! I've discovered such of good bands, hilarious performers and an incredible organization! The whole thing was a big party. Gowan's name brought a lot of his loyal fans there so, I could enjoy their company, most of them are good friends now. Larry spend the weekend on the field. On Friday night, he came on stage, performing "Dancing On My Own Ground" without being announced...On Saturday afternoon, he played a duet with Susan Werner. On stage they played a married couple with 2 funny names...Suzie the saloon singer and her beloved husband Larry, the lounge lizard. Their performance surprised the crowd by their ability to improvise and answer each other with different songs. Susan, in spite of her illness was very fast and even Larry had to rush to follow her on the keyboard! Pure delight! After that, Larry became a member of the Summerfolk Quizz, kind of wacky game, before he agreed for an autograph session. He took time with everybody, with pictures and autographs for more than 1 hr. In evening, despite the very COLD weather, a warm crowd was waiting for him. A bit disappointed, he wasn't the only performer and his time had been cut......too much! On Sunday afternoon, this part was a treat for the fans...Larry was interviewed by Bob Roper about the very beginning of his carrier since today. The show was called " Up Close & Personal". Larry tried to play different songs that he performed the night before and he was very generous, voluble and funny. Later, he played Rock&Roll Jam songs with Valdy and the Trout fishing in America. Again he proved his incredible talent of piano player and rocker. (I'd loved it!) The highlight of this jam session was, without hesitation, his wonderful performance of "Pretty Woman" on guitar! Larry stayed with us after this show, enjoying this time with everyone who stopped to say good-bye, very generous and happy about the whole weekend Thanks again to my friends and Larry, of course because you've convinced me to come and...you were right...again! See you soon!

From Fran, Lisa and Karin

Long long long and long some more. The Cyberbabes are posting from a rented Mustang Convertible on a highway outside Shelburne, Ontario. It's too cold to drop the top but we are rockin' out to the Au Quebec version of "I'll Be There in a Minute" and life is good.

These California Styx chyxs (Fran, Lisa and Karin) are on the return from a weekend at the Owen Sound Summerfolk Festival, where we came to get a dose of Gowan solo and got all we'd hoped for plus a whole lot more. In addition to heaping servings of Gowan we got to absorb (and purchase) the music of many cool acts we might not otherwise have been exposed to. Thanks to Holly and Barbara for covering our butts and helping make sure we didn't miss a thing.

Here's a list of the Gowan related activities we got. Bob Roper's panel discussion on Tips and Tricks; Larry the Lounge Lizard; Main Stage Gowan set; Up Close and Personal with Lawrence Gowan and Bob Roper; Play Me a Rock and Roll Song; and two autograph/photo ops.

The weekend opened at the Homemade Jam stage ("no we don't need jam, we're looking for the stage") with a panel discussion headed up by Bob Roper entitled Tips and Tricks and offering advice to less experienced musicians on everything from recording technique to getting their songs heard to the role of the internet. A quick move to the Down by the Bay stage (the very popular "Beer Tent") and a scramble for seats and we were ready for Suzy the Saloon Singer and Larry the Lounge Lizard.

A quick note: the Summerfolk Festival is made up of three Main Stage evening performances (we missed the opening night including Gowan tossing off "Dancing on My Own Ground" on guitar), and dozens of Workshops on Saturday and Sunday spread across 5 stages.

The Suzy and Larry workshop consisted of Susan Werner (on guitar) and Gowan (on keyboard) swapping comedic renditions of all those tunes you are sick of hearing on the radio. Feelings, Rocket Man, La Bamba, Michelle (with touch of Gowan's Stephanie), Dust in the Wind, Come On Get Happy, Yesterday, and the Cheap Trick song that we can't remember the name of (Fran is going to lose her Power Pop membership card when she gets home).

Before our eyes Larry discovered that Stairway to Heaven and the Theme from Titanic are the same song. (Go ahead, play them in your head). Suzy noted that they were in dangerous territory when they spoofed Celine Dion in Canada, and Larry at first avoided Styx, declaring it his untouchable territory. But he eventually bowed to requests and gave a fairly straight version of Come Sail Away (although we think we remember a snip of another song dropped in the middle for fun.) Susan's rich and comfortable vocals, along with her quick wit resulted in CD purchases by the chyx.

Gowan's Wardrobe: Stylish purplish windbreaker coordinated with Suzy's purple boa.

We split forces and Lisa, Karin, Holly and Barbara lined up for autographs and photos (unfortunately two of the cameras may have been toast). Fran's authority obeying Canadianism acted up and she went ahead to hold the lawn space in front of the Main Stage that Barbara and Holly had staked out. We squeezed the five of us onto two blankets and it was a very long and chilly wait for the Gowan set. Hey! Even the locals were complaining through chattery teeth.

During the change over between each act the audience was entertained for a song or two by one of the other acts appearing at the festival and this is where we got our first taste of Joel Morelli. (20 year old Joel's youthful intensity, vulnerability and just plain sweetness throughout the weekend resulted in three of this native Owen Soundian's CDs heading home to California and maybe one or two going to Minnesota as well.

The Main Stage set was the first opportunity any of us had had to see Gowan do a solo show and we were psyched. In 40 minutes we were treated to these songs: Like a Rolling Stone All the Lover's In the World King Chanticleer Rag Out of a Deeper Hunger There in a Minute Lost Brotherhood When There's Time for Love Strange Animal (Cartman version) - by request Moonlight Desire Criminal Mind

The main stage performance included the spinning keyboard. Audience response indicated that Lawrence was clearly one of the weekend's favorites. The hair remains two-toned as does the chin caterpillar which seems to have been getting some good meals lately and has added perhaps as much as a ½ inch to its length. Wardrobe: All black. The jean jacket came off a very short distance into "There in a Minute" a la the video. Things were definitely heating up. This was what we had come for, Gowan doing Gowan, but it only got better the next day.

By getting to the Acoustic stage early on Sunday (but not as early as Barbara and Holly who saved us again by staking us some space right up front) we were able to catch more of Joel Morelli as well as Clay Tyson (son of Ian and Sylvia of Great Speckled Bird fame) and a new band out of Toronto called Staggered Crossing. Tyson brought an energetic and surprisingly light touch to some topics he obviously felt deeply about. More CDs were sold, and it wasn't just because the man has a great head of hair. (Ladies, you HAVE been tipped-off, don't say we didn't warn you. Staggered Crossing (kind of a cross between Hootie and the Blowfish and Counting Crows) were moody but melodic and we might have made a purchase if CDs had been available (they come out next month).

Then we got Up Close and Personal with Lawrence Gowan. Yes, we were close and he was personal. Lawrence gave us a 45 minute tour through his career to date with the assistance of Bob Roper (who in the best manager fashion, kept the tale moving as if it were a meet-and-greet line). We heard stories and song snippets, gleaned new information and laughed along with Gowan's well known humor and talent for impressions (including his former producer, Joe Cocker and, our favorite, his very Scottish mother). We are actually jealous of ourselves for getting this, as advertised, up close and personal peek at Lawrence Gowan. Too soon, the participants for the next Acoustic stage workshop appeared and we were off like clowns out of a cannon, headed to the Down by The Bay stage for the next event.

Gowan's next workshop was hosted by Valdy, an ancient Canadian folk singer who Fran remembers from his big 1972 hit "Play Me a Rock and Roll Song", the title of which was borrowed for this workshop. Also performing were Trout Fishing in America, a Mutt&Jeff duo consisting of Keith Grimwood on bass/vocals and 6'9" Ezra Idlet on guitar/vocals. We think we need a whole other post just to describe this set.

The topic was good old fashioned Rock'n'Roll songs and we are kicking ourselves for not writing down the set. Some of the songs played include "Margaritaville", "Brown-Eyed Girl", "Lady Madonna", and "Good Golly Miss Molly". Fran was teary-eyed when she found that even though she hadn't heard the song in 25 years, she remembered nearly every word of "Play Me a Rock and Roll Song".

The pocket of grass we scored was to the side of the stage, but Lisa and Karin landed on a picnic table bench that was almost an extension of Gowan's piano bench if there had been one. When Lawrence came on he joked "Couldn't you get any closer", but then took advantage of our proximity by asking Karin to hold onto his sunglasses. However, when it came time to take off his leather jacket, Roper leapt up secure it. We were sitting immediately behind Gowan (as close as 2 feet of grass and 2 feet of stage to the stool) and were able to watch his keyboard work throughout the set. The man plays keys the way most of us breath. Fran was so fascinated she spent half the set under the stool in a futile effort to get a photo of Lawrence's right hand work (others may tell you different, but that's what she swears she was doing down there).

Things really started to cook after the performers restarted "My Baby Wrote Me a Letter". As this was a casual workshop there had been some confusion when the song was called, with half playing the BoxTops version and half playing Joe Cocker's version. Cocker won out, and Lawrence's rendition on both keys and vocals justified every good word that has ever been said about the man's music. All the performers made the tune totally rock, but Grimwood was so impressed that he passed on his turn at lead vocals and insisted that Gowan take the next song too. This led to one of the weekend's funniest moments.

Lawrence suggested that he and Ezra switch instruments, and he crossed the stage to strap on a guitar and step up to Ezra's mic. Except the mic was set for Ezra's 6'9" height and towered a full 4 inches above the top of Gowan's head. He did a double take when he realized that he was literally standing underneath it with lots of clearance and everyone had a great laugh. Not even Lemmy from Motorhead could have made the set-up work.

The great rock and roll and the laughter had the audience feeling good about life, and we thought things couldn't get any better, but Gowan proved us wrong. The song next song he picked was Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman". This song has been much covered, but it may never have been done better. We learned amazing new things about Gowan's vocal capability and he brought the audience to their feet. Fran says that if she were given just one minute to choose a dream and stay there in it, it would be a moment like this.

After the set Lawrence again made himself available in the autograph tent and was his familiar charming self. He was patient enough to let us re-take the photos we fear we have lost in the toasted cameras and spoke of how much he enjoyed doing the Summerfolk Festival.

We heard that Gowan might do one more song on the Main Stage Sunday night so we were happy to go and watch our new favorites Joel, Susan and Jeff Lang at that evening's performance. Australian Jeff Lang won over Barbara and Fran with his self effacing style and the amazing sounds he made with, what might have been, a cross-bred lap steel guitar (in other words, we have no idea what that was he was playing, but it sounded great, and we bought CDs. His guitar playing reminded Fran a little of Neil Young)

A couple of other groups that won us over this weekend were The Arrogant Worms and Barachois. The Arrogant Worms had great harmonies and were VERY VERY funny (heads up Barenaked Ladies fans) Barachois are kind of hard to describe. Mix Acadian folk music and Lords of the Dance with Second City TV, toss in fiddles, a sousaphone and a vegetable steamer shaker, add audience participants in Co-op drum hats and put up Jim Carey and Pee Wee Herman as front men and you still haven't begun to get the picture. We laughed until our sides hurt.

Unfortunately, Lawrence did not appear to do the set transition after Susan's set but we could not complain. We had two days full of wonderful new revelations about an artist we already admired. Our only regrets were that we didn't think to tape any of it (arrggggggghhhhhhhh) and that we can't do it all again tomorrow. The good news is Lisa took 9 rolls of photos, of mostly Gowan, so we will have those souveniers of our weekend trip.

Thank you to Bob Roper for recommending that Gowan make room for the Owen Sound Summerfolk Festival in his schedule and thank you to Lawrence for taking the advice and for giving us a weekend we will forever cherish.

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