It's Canada Day today! Time to get together, fire up the barbecues, watch the fireworks, and revel in all things Canadian. I was shocked to learned a few days ago that skill-testing questions for contests is a "Canadian thing" after years of thinking that was perfectly normal. Ketchup potato chips are apparently not common south of the border... again something we just take for granted. Canada Day, coincidentally or not, is also the first day of NHL free agency, traditionally a frenzied period of player activity, shuffling team rosters for the upcoming season. And really, it's very Canadian to frantically call/text/e-mail everyone you know saying "_______ just got traded to Montréal!" or "Did you hear who the Oilers just signed?!?" and so on.
Some Canada Day events, as swiped from CBC Radio 3:
Juno-winning artist K'Naan is headlining tomorrow's festivities, which also include aboriginal blues artist George Leach and Zimbabwean music makers Chikoro Marimba, on the lawns of Victoria's legislature.
Pour yourself into a pair of leather pants and head for Surrey, BC where classic Canadian bands The Payola$ and Loverboy will be rocking a crowd of thousands with ‘80s camp. Another local ‘80s favourite, 54-40, is performing at Canada Place in Vancouver.
Vancouver singer-songwriter Jeremy Fisher will wrap up a day of festivities in Calgary's Princes Island Park, where classic Canadian singer-songwriter David Wilcox will also perform along with many others.
Hop aboard a free shuttle and head for Canada Day events in Osborne Village and the Forks, where there's lots of live entertainment - or head for the Garrick Centre where the Drive-By Truckers are playing.
THE Canada Day party is happening in the nation's capital, where you'll find tons of great bands, including Joel Plaskett, Shad, Hawksley Workman, Serena Ryder, Basia Bulat, Torngat, Eccodek, Blue Rodeo and more.
The Montreal Jazz Festival is full swing, and recently returned ‘90s stars Bran Van 3000 is playing a free General Motors Stage at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Jeanne Mance - or you can turn TV on the Radio's show at the Metropolis into your very own Canada Day party. Legendary musician and producer Daniel Lanois is also playing at Cabaret Juste Pour Rire.
Quebecois favourites Malajube will join Montreal rockers Simple Plan, Marilou and Hedley for a free concert on the Plains of Abraham, followed by a full fireworks display.
A couple other gigs I know about:
Bedouin Soundclash in Lake Louise, AB
Paper Lions in Spruce Grove, AB
In London, England they got started early yesterday with a 2-day Canada Day celebration in Trafalgar Square(!) with street hockey and a free concert with Kathleen Edwards, The Trews, Jesse Cook, and The McDades.
Here are a handful of Canadian covers if you need something to spin at your Canada Day shindig:
Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson featuring Terrance & Phillip - O Canada
Two-thirds of Rush singing our national anthem with Terrance and Phillip, a bit of, uh, CanCon from South Park.
Mike Ford - I've Been Everywhere [made popular by Lucky Starr]
Covered by Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Rolf Harris, Willie Nelson, Stompin' Tom Connors, and more, I've Been Everywhere written by Geoff Mack and first a hit in Australia for Lucky Starr is unique as a cover song in that the lyrics are changed up to reflect the home country of the performer. The song is a increasingly fast-paced listing of all the local towns/cities visited by the song's protagonist. Since Moxy Früvous's hiatus, Mike Ford has released several solo albums and has been visiting high schools across Canada singing original songs about Canadian history. Nope, never quite had a social studies class like that! This cover is from his first collection of these songs, 2004's Canada Needs You, Volume 1. Where else can you hear songs about Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Sir John A. MacDonald, or um, Thanadelthur? The follow-up Canada Needs You, Volume 2 just came out last month. All his CDs can be bought at his live shows or from everyone's favourite exclusively Canadian online music retailer, Maple Music.
Dirk Doom & The Overdrive Orchestra - Having an Average Weekend [originally by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet]
Even if you don't recognize the title, you should definitely recognize the song, which served as the theme to Kids in the Hall in the late 80's/early 90's. The gang has been touring over the past few months and will be inducted later this year to Canada's Walk of Fame.
Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet - Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) [originally by Cher]
In high school I discovered the Shadowy Men's CD Dim the Lights, Chill the Ham at the library and it got more than its fair share of spins in my discman. This was the first time I had ever heard Bang Bang and I didn't find out it was a cover until years later.
Cross Canadian Ragweed - Hey Hey, My My [originally by Neil Young]
Cross Canadian Ragweed - The Needle and the Damage Done [originally by Neil Young]
Despite their name, Cross Canadian Ragweed are NOT Canadian, but instead an American alt-country band(!) drawing their name from the combination of three of its members Grady Cross, Cody Canada(!!), and Randy Ragsdale. Honouring their non-existent Canadian origins, they do a couple Neil Young covers. Though kinda like their contradictory name, this doesn't sound like country music to me, just straight up rock.
The Hanson Brothers - The Hockey Song [originally by Stompin' Tom Connors]
Canada's second national anthem may have switched TV stations, but there's still a chance that the, uh, third national anthem The Hockey Song by Stompin' Tom Connors could kick off Hockey Night in Canada next season. It pretty much gets played at every hockey game anyway and everyone knows the words already! The Hanson Brothers, sort of a hockey-themed Ramones named of course for the goons from Slap Shot, are the alter-egos of punk rock band Nomeansno. Originally a side project, they've released three full length albums of hockey-themed songs including this cover. It's tempting to say "Gee, only in Canada!" if not for The Zambonis who hail from Connecticut.
Pezz - New Orleans is Sinking [originally by The Tragically Hip]
The Tragically Hip are pretty much the epitome of Canadian rock, you don't get any bigger than them (and no, Nickelback doesn't count). I remember one year biking through the river valley in Edmonton with friends to see the Canada Day fireworks and some guy whose house was near a prime viewing spot had speakers set up as he and his literal garage band cranked out covers of the Hip, which seems like a pretty typical Canada Day celebration to me. Ontario band Billy Talent were formerly known as Pezz before being threatened with legal action by a US band with the same name... ack, struggling mightily with temptation to say "typically American"-- oops! I kid, I kid... In this hidden track from their indie release Watoosh!, they do a cranked up version of The Hip classic.
Stereophonics - Fiddler's Green [originally by The Tragically Hip]
UK band Stereophonics, who are no strangers to cover songs (good and bad), started off as a cover band called Tragic Love Company... guess what the "Tragic" refers to? Yes, apparently they were big fans of the Hip! There's my Canadian trivia factoid of the day. Wait, did you know Trivial Pursuit was created by Canadians? For the pie!
Happy Canada Day!