Category Archives: Brushes With Greatness

near misses with greatness

As followers of this series (both of you) will be aware, I’ve had the great honour of talking to some famous folk over the years. However, that exclusive club is greatly outnumbered by the famous folk with whom I have never spoken.

People like Marilyn Manson, who kept me in suspense and distracted me from an outdoor Wilco performance, as I waited for a rumoured phone interview that never happened. Or The Pet Shop Boys, with whom I had arranged an interview, only to be told last-minute-like that a change of marketing strategy meant the duo would henceforth only talk to gay publications — our “alternative” paper, however bias-free, did not qualify. (It was still officially ‘alternative’ at the time. That changed in 2001 when the paper was purchased by a big eastern syndicate and converted to an “urban weekly” — whatever that is. Anyway, I don’t believe The Pet Shop Boys talk to urban weeklies either.) Continue reading

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brushes with greatness: chapter 6

It began as a lark. I think.

I had received a call from a friend I’ll refer to as Steve. No, Neil. Let’s call him Neil. Anyway, the city was trembling with excitement over the upcoming concert by teen idol Britney Spears. Neil insisted I pull some strings to get us a pair of tickets to the show. The way he figured it the two of us should go, the better to understand this latest pop music phenomenon.

So we did, leaving a party hosted by a respected local authority on roots and blues music in order to do so. “Sorry,” we said to all present, “but we have to get to the Britney Spears show.” After we’d left, I’m told, the guest of honour asked where we were really going. Sadly, he was not completely surprised to hear we were going to the Britney Spears show. Continue reading


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brushes with greatness: chapter 5

Our story today begins with the announcement of the entertainment lineup for the Central Canada Exhibition. SuperEX.

You remember SuperEX. It’s the annual event that for 123 years was a highlight of summer in Ottawa — one of the city’s defining celebrations. Only two things managed to keep the Ex from happening: the Second World War and apathy. When, in 2010, it was announced that SuperEX would be no more, proud locals responded as one with a shrug of the shoulders. Over a century of tradition, you say? Well, it doesn’t affect me. Besides, those oppressed Glebeites had for years resented the fact that no sooner had they moved into a quiet, upscale neighbourhood than a noisy summer festival that had been going on for a century or so, caused mild mayhem a few blocks away. So good riddance.

But I digress. (Frequently.)

The news release trumpets SuperEX’s free concert series, to be held as usual at the Civic Centre and to feature as usual the level of talent one might expect of a SuperEX free concert series — yer array of April Wines and tribute bands and talent-show runners-up. And, according to this, Violent Femmes.

I’m sorry. Does that say Violent Femmes? At SuperEX? Continue reading

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brushes with greatness: chapter 4

It was Canadian Music Week in Toronto. Toronto Music Week in Canada, if you will. (Or perhaps it was North By Northeast. Same diff.)

I was loitering in the lobby of the conference’s host hotel, plotting my next move — a move that likely involved walking to the nearest record store, or taking the subway north to purchase walnut cakes. The one commitment I had for the afternoon involved catching Patti Smith’s keynote address to the conference, not far from the very lobby in which I was standing. I had seen her perform on more than one occasion in New York, and was anxious to once again experience the warm, glowing glow that is being in the presence of one of America’s greatest living musicians, poets and philosophers. Continue reading

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brushes with greatness: chapter 3

Dring! Dring!

(We were residing in Lowertown at the time.)


“Yeah, this is Garry Peterson. I was checking my phone bill and it says I made a call to this number.” Continue reading

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