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ALICE IN CHAINS Live At The Ottawa Bluesfest

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Monday, August 5, 2013 @ 9:33 AM

KNAC.COM's Ottawa Correspondent Finds Himself In The Sun At Alice In Chains' Show At The Ottawa Bluesfest, July 14, 2013 (Oh Yeeeaaahh)

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While the climax of the Ottawa Bluesfest for the season is not always a happy moment - particular for me as my week-long vacation away from my contract job of helping Canada solve the world's problems came to an end - it still ended on a perfect note. The day before, I was supposed to meet up with a couple of friends to cheer them on at the HOPE Volleyball Tournament but our paths never crossed. Not to mention that I didn't know the name of either volleyball team that was participating until after I read their Facebook statuses and saw their photos when I got home in time to get ready for my volunteer shift doing crowd control at Bjork's concert that evening. And not since 1997 when the WALLFLOWERS' "One Headlight" reigned supreme on every radio station has a song followed me everywhere this summer like DAFT PUNK's "Get Lucky" has. On boat cruises, on regular rotation during HOPE, on the PA at the DIXIE CHICKS concert I was working crowd control at three days prior....hell, even the crew of bikers that passed me while I was cycling down Sussex Drive on my way to Bluesfest for my shift that same day had that song blaring from their stereos.

Now I sympathize with folks that say that STEPPENWOLF's "Born To Be Wild" is completely played the fuck out in the biker culture but really......the new alternative is DAFT PUNK's "Get Lucky"? Unless the next season of Sons Of Anarchy involves SamCro opening a chapter in Ibiza because Chibs has some other "connections" from the Belfast chapter living in exile, I can almost get behind that. Otherwise, like the Russian mafia and the Aztecs, keep Euro dance music out of Charming, sheriff.

Turning to the day after HOPE Volleyball and having fulfilled my volunteer duties at Bluesfest I could resume enjoying its beneficial amenities as a concertgoer. And it was time to purge my brain of Pharrell Williams' crooning and check it with my first experience of seeing grunge rock titans ALICE IN CHAINS on the Bluesfest stage. Or on any stage for that matter. In fact, back when the original lineup consisted of Layne Staley and Mike Starr and they were fresh on the touring circuit with their debut album Facelift they were fairly consistent on the live touring circuit in the early 90's, their dark melancholy-driven lyrics aligned with solid heavy musicianship landing them gigs and touring slots ranging from opening stints with POISON and VAN HALEN to sharing larger arena stages with the likes of ANTHRAX and MEGADETH on 1991's Clash Of The Titans tour as songs like "We Die Young" and "Man In The Box" planted them on par with their erstwhile flannel-wearing peers such as NIRVANA and PEARL JAM.

And yet while AIC's own personal drama wasn't quite as public as the justification of Courtney Love's music career or fighting Ticketmaster over price-fixing by going on strike it was by the mid-90's and following the equal success of their sophomore album Dirt that the live touring circuit was starting to shorten Layne's own circuits as the pressures of constant touring and landing more high-profile tours helped send him into a downward spiral as he turned to heroin to escape, which in turn secured its death grip on the singer in 2002 when he became another one of its grim statistics. Bassist Mike Starr also met a similar fate in 2011 on the ninth anniversary of Layne's death. Grunge never died, you say?

Luckily, in spite of the turmoil that followed the band, it never stopped AIC co-founder Jerry Cantrell from being active as a recording or studio musician as he briefly enjoyed a healthy solo career during much of the down time his regular day job was amassing over a period of 5 years; in fact, he was already preparing for a third solo album in 2005 when he reunited with Mike Inez and Sean Kinney for a charity concert to benefit victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami disaster. The chemistry between the musicians resurfaced a year later when they performed on VH1's Decades Rock Live! and were celebrated by many of the peers as diverse as the Wilson sisters from HEART to Duff McKagan to Phil Anselmo.

And a little-known band known as COMES WITH THE FALL featuring frontman William DuVall who was probably the biggest fan of them all as he later became ALICE IN CHAINS' new singer. Two albums in (including their latest The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here) and counting the Seattle quartet are as big of a crowd draw as ever and it was evident during their late-afternoon Bluesfest performance.

Opening with "Them Bones" on a hotter-than-hell afternoon the foursome braved facemelting temperatures of at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit as the 10,000 strong crowd were treated to many of the standard AIC classics and newer material while security personnel and crowd control staff were on hand with hoses and water guns to prevent any hints of sunstroke and fatigue. You were SOL if you were lighting one up in Layne's memory because that just made you an even more visible target for a burly security guard with a hose. That was Bluesfest's no-smoking policy in full effect. And did I mention earlier that this was one of the hottest and driest summers in living memory? Jerry Cantrell duly noted this, proclaiming it to be "a hot sonofabitch" among the very rare interactions with the audience but after the show he was going fishing anyway. Meanwhile him and the rest of the AIC crew took the crowd forward with new cuts like "Hollow" and "Stone" and then back with classic jams like "No Excuses", "Man In The Box" (which blows away every bar band cover I've ever heard including mine when I sang it once with MORALLY SOUND during my Saskatchewan university years), ,i>"Would?" and the closing number "Rooster" - a number, I may add, that once spoke of the experiences that Layne's father endured as a Vietnam War vet but on this closing performance it became a humble yet defiant plea for peace, with the word spread out across the background screen once the sounds of the crooning chorus died down and the band took their bows to the enduring crowd, showering them with guitar picks and drum sticks.

All in all, this was a straight-up rock show that you could tell from the relaxed atmosphere of the band members was what they had been aiming for in their early years and beyond, with Jerry, Mike and Sean focusing on the music and shutting out the outside drama that comes with being in a famous band while William is focusing on comfortably asserting himself as the new frontman for one of the 90's most prolific and enduring modern hard rock bands as he brings more of his own experience to ALICE IN CHAINS' ongoing journey.

That alone merits a quiet fishing trip. Whether they're chilling out listening to DAFT PUNK while pilfering the Rideau river of its musky population is their decision.

In fact as a bonus, here's a link to Jerry and Mike's fishing story courtesy of John Anderson of local radio station CHEZ 106:http://www.chez106.com/2013/07/20/alice-in-chains-rock-the-ottawa-river/



  • "Them Bones"
  • "Dam That River"
  • "Hollow"
  • "Check My Brain"
  • "Your Decision"
  • "Down In A Hole"
  • "Stone"
  • "No Excuses"
  • "Man In The Box"
  • "Would?"
  • "Rooster"

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