Ordinary Day

And it's all your state of mind...

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Great Big Sea at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, 7/29/07
Bouzouki Fandom
It turns out, ladies and gentlemen, that the ZooTunes series of summer concerts are an excellent showcase for Great Big Sea. We had a fabulous time in the open air with the sun at our backs and the B'ys before us, and even if most of us remained seated for the duration of the concert, I and mine made up for it by singing at the top of our lungs and clapping our hands with all the vigor we could muster.

Fewer of us got together beforehand than I would have liked, though. At first it was just solarbird, spazzkat, and myself, parking in the Lower Woodland Park where we had ourselves a little picnic and people-watched. After we finished our lunch we decided to kill time by going into the zoo proper, even though zoo admission was separate from our concert tickets--and once we'd decided to do that, I got a call from casirafics, who had arrived at the zoo's North Gate. She wanted to meet up with us and go through the zoo as well, so we agreed to head around the zoo perimeter and meet her at the gate.

On the way we discovered a pair of what looked like battleship guns pointing to the east, over which we marveled; who knew the zoo was so well armed? A bit of Googling found me this page in the Zoo site's history section, which talks about those guns thusly in the 1911 section of the timeline:

Cannons from Admiral Dewey's cruiser, the USS Concord, were placed in a plot on the southwest corner of Woodland Park, now called the War Garden.

And here's this bit as well, from 1914. We found the plaque, but not the howitzers.

On January 23rd, the southwest corner of WPZ, later known as the War Garden, was dedicated to the veterans of the Spanish-American War. Two Civil War Barge howitzers (small wheeled field pieces) were added to the naval guns that had been placed there in 1911. A plaque made of metal from the USS Maine was set there as well, to honor the personnel of the USS Illinois. It is not clear why the Illinois was specifically honored.

So yeah, that was pretty cool. And from there we wandered around the western side of the zoo, until we made it at last to the north side and started seeing all the signs that said "CONCERT LINE STARTS HERE". Upon learning that Jen was waiting for us inside, we bought our admission and headed in.

I went ahead of Dara and Paul to go catch up with Jen, who'd made it over to the Butterfly Garden. On the way I saw another of the concert lineup areas, already occupied by OKPers, who cheerily smiled and waved as they recognized me. *^_^*

However, I apparently completely missed Alan, lounging lazily on the grass at the edge of the meadow. When I found Jen and we were coming back to intercept Dara and Paul, they were pointing meaningfully at the meadow--and only then did I spot The Doyle from afar. Hee. Although several amused suggestions were lobbied in my direction, I opted not to go up to say hi, on the grounds that I am chicken and absolutely shy about going up to say anything to the Skeery Pretty Singer Man. ;)

Anyway, after that, we looked at critters. We didn't have too much time to see stuff, but we did look at a very sleepy jaguar, the tropical exhibit (quite muggy, and the highlight of which was the pair of golden lion tamarinds wrestling in their little enclosure), the gorillas (a couple of whom were giving us all this look like "so when are you guys going to do something interesting?"), a tiger (mostly hiding in I IZ STEALTH CAT mode), and the sloth bears (who kept hiding and then popping out again just as soon as we started walking away).

We had a brief interlude where I needed to meet up with another fan coming down from BC so that I could sell him my extra ticket. Then I and mine saw a few more critters: the raptors (featuring a gyrfalcon eying us with this "so, any of you got any mice? Squirrels? Any small rodentia at all?" look), one white wolf stalking around the edge of the elk pen, and finally, the brown bears. One of 'em was awake and active, and yep, that there was a big ol' bear. You never really appreciate exactly how big a bear is until you see one up close.

At last, as it was closing in on time to join the line, Paul and Dara got their hands stamped so they could hike back to our car and get the rest of our stuff, while Jen and I staked out a spot in line and hung out to chat. It was a good place to be in line, sitting on a blanket on a bit of grass in the sunshine.

But it was better when they finally let us in. We were sternly admonished not to run to go claim a space, but Dara walked hastily ahead to stake us out a good spot seven or eight blanket-rows back from the stage, more or less with a nice center view. Once we were settled inside, mamishka and fredpdx caught up with us--of course, right at about the same time I was over at the Swag Table picking up a hoodie and a t-shirt. We also spotted wingedelf, who came over to say hi, and Dara thought she spotted auntmonkey from a distance. Paul informed me later that he also ran into my boss. Hee.

By the time we got nicely settled then the cloudiness of the morning had broken up to let a good blaze of sunshine warm us up from the back, just in time for the show to get underway.

GBS has a solid history of decent opening acts, and this time around we got Jeremy Fisher, who was quite entertaining. He was enjoyable on the guitar and periodically whipped out a harmonica as well, playing both instruments at the same time--a very impressive little feat. Voice-wise, he had a slightly rough, high voice and sounded quite good.

He also had a very laid-back and funny way with the audience. At one point, after getting us to sing along with him, he told us after that he'd left his band behind in Canada and didn't need them, because he had us. "What're you all doing next weekend?" he asked us straight-facedly. "I'm going to San Francisco." *beat* "We'll need a lot of busses." Hee.

It turned out that he had even lived in the Seattle area for a while and had busked at Pike Place Market. A couple of his songs even mentioned Beacon Hill, and more than once I noted him talking about the Pacific Northwest weather.

He mentioned his new forthcoming album, Goodbye Blue Monday, and I think I shall have to look for that on iTunes. (He was selling it at the swag table too, but as I'd already dropped $80 for a GBS hoodie and a T-shirt, because the B'ys Need More of My Dollars, doncha know, I didn't want to spend any more.)

Now, I really liked the North Meadow in the Zoo as a GBS venue. Nice wide open space, the sun at our back, the sound echoing quite nicely and making everything wonderfully audible... but I have to admit that it was strange to be at a show where mostly everybody was sitting down. Apparently that's the standard at the ZooTunes shows, which I suppose is understandable if you're aiming for a family-friendly show where everybody can hang out on their blankets and their lawn chairs and such, and you don't want anyone to block the views of anyone behind them.

Clearly, however, the ZooTunes folks had no concept of a Great Big Sea crowd. Part of me didn't actually mind the opportunity to sit down for most of the show--if nothing else because it let me have more breath for singing--but it still felt wrong. An impromptu dance area sprang up over on the side of the crowd, to the right of us, and more than once Dara and I kept looking over there. Dara eventually in fact bolted to join them, and the only reason I didn't go with her was that we had an excellent view from where we were and the show was close to over anyway.

Folks on the OKP have remarked that Alan was a tad bit more subdued than usual, with nary a sign of a "get up get up get up get up GO" or a "vertical movement", which makes sense. One presumes that the band was advised that this would mostly be a sit-down crowd. Either way it was a bit of a shame.

But not enough to distract from the music. ^_^ Here's the Set List, as I scribbled it down:

  • Donkey Riding
  • Captain Kidd
  • Jack Hinks
  • When I'm Up
  • Lukey
  • The River Driver
  • The Night Pat Murphy Died
  • When I Am King
  • Charlie Horse
  • General Taylor
  • Scolding Wife
  • I'm a Rover
  • Straight to Hell
  • 80's Medley: I Fought the Law/500 Miles/Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Run Run Away
  • Sea of No Cares
  • Helmethead
  • Consequence Free
  • Mari-Mac
  • Ordinary Day
  • Encore: Old Brown's Daughter/Excursion Around the Bay/Fortune

Bit of a shorter set list than I'm used to, but again, this was probably due to the ZooTunes venue and due to needing to get everybody out before dark (presumably due to minimizing disturbance to the animals). The B'ys made up for it, though, with a boatload of banter.

"Give it up for the animals!" Alan bellowed after "When I'm Up", and he then thanked us for the show being sold out and added, "Just for that we're not going to suck ONE BIT! We went through the set list and took out all the songs that sucked, and now it's nothing but hit after hit after hit." Séan promptly added, "I'm not going to sing anything else for the rest of the show."

After "Lukey" Alan opined that this was the place for the "coolest garden party ever", and that this was "the most fun you can have on a blanket." Cue significant pause and a "well, no" look from Séan, and Alan hastily adding, "the most fun you can have on a blanket in the grass!" Another significant pause.

They went on to tell us about how the zoo had asked them which animals they liked, which prompted Séan to expound with great fervor on the giraffe. They are "very passionate animals," he informed us, a trait you could see about them because of their eyes--and that furthermore, they were telepathic. You could tell this because of how they're quiet all the time, you see. Snicker. He concluded by standing straight and tall, looking us all dead in the eye, and announcing, "I am a GIRAFFE!" Called upon to demonstrate giraffe telepathy, he informed us, "I know what you're thinking. Each and every one of you." At Alan's urging, he pointed to a random audience member and added, "YOU! You should be ashamed of yourself!"

Alan had to follow up with his own favorite animal after that, and offered that he was a fan of the good old-fashioned dog. "In Petty Harbour where I grew up, we had Petty Harbour dogs..." Beat. "I just bored the pants off thirty-eight hundred people." He then tried to claim the leopard, though Séan opined that that was more Bob. Then Séan broke into an impromptu and quite sweetly sung "Talk to the Animals", before adding to Alan that he was picking up a telepathic message: "For God's sake, sing something!" Alan countered by pointing down at the Set List: "It says right here on the Set List, 'mindless banter!'" Beat. "And that's just the first page. Set novel!"

I believe it was also somewhere in this bit of banter where Alan explained that the reason they kept yammering on was that they had to go home "tomorrow" and therefore were trying to make the show last for as long as possible. And! As I am reminded by the folks of the OKP, Alan asked Séan what rhymes with giraffe; all he could come up with was "carafe", which led to an impromptu Alan song about "If I were a giraffe", all he'd need would be a picnic on a blanket in the grass and someone to have a carafe of wine with, how all the animals would "have a dance", and that he wouldn't need to wear any pants. ;>

Finally, though, Alan yoinked his way around to the usual "We are Great Big Sea from the tropical island of Newfoundland!" introduction--though Séan wasn't quite done yet, and added that he was the only giraffe in Carbonear before we finally got "River Driver". Even though it took Alan two tries to get "River Driver" going, he was giggling so hard. <3

(Mmm, "River Driver". We were well positioned to get that wall of harmony rolling down off the stage, and whatever aspect it was of the concert setup causing the echo effect around the field was helping this quite a bit. Yum!)

The giraffe gag continued through "Paddy Murphy": "All the giraffes in the zoo got loaded drunk!" And after the song, Séan informed Alan that he wished to be addressed by his giraffe name: Jerome. Meanwhile, as Alan was trying to get them started for the next number, Bob headed over out of the way on his side of the stage, tweaking his instrument and startling Alan, who hadn't realized he'd stepped out of the way. "Bob is disgusted and bored with us," Séan surmised.

Alan headed into the intro for "When I Am King" by describing it as a song he wrote as an act of vanity, a fantasy (Séan: "not that fantasy") about what would happen if by some chance he were to become king. "Giraffes would be allowed everywhere!" said "Jerome" (aheh), suggesting then that Alan could be the Lion King. Alan blinked, grinned, and then nodded firmly: "Yeah! I could be the friggin' Lion King!" Séan: "A vegetarian Lion King!" (Alan is a vegetarian? The things you learn at a GBS show!)

The intro for "Concerning Charlie Horse" featured Alan saying with a bemused shake of his head that the things GBS fans cheer for sometimes worry him--like oh, say, horses dying when they fall through ice. One must admit he has a point, but they make the lyrics about these things so catchy! And as he was singing the beginning, he flexed his bicep on "stalwart men were chosen", noting with pleasure that this was the only song of theirs that used the word "stalwart".

"General Taylor" was most excellent, with Séan in excellent pure voice, and the voices of the audience resounding beautifully around the field.

More giraffe banter came in after "Scolding Wife", with Alan proclaiming that "this is not a bad place to be", and Séan chiding him to say "carefully constructed enclosures" rather than "cages" before dedicating the next song to "all the female giraffes in the audience."

Which was, of course, "I'm a Rover". Afterwards, still not willing to let Alan off the hook for song screwups, Séan devilishly quipped that "lions can't count". ;)

Then Alan began to plug the forthcoming new record, informing us in somber tones that we'd know when it was released because "the earth will tremble. Apple will go out of business and iTunes will be erased because nobody will download anything else. The entire history of recorded music will become irrelevant." In an uncharacteristic display of modesty (aheh), however, he amended, "Well, if it's half that good, it'll be cool." Beat. "Well okay, it won't suck that much." Beat, as he held his hand over his head: "Okay, it'll be quite a bit north of stinky!" (Raise your hand, Browncoats among the OKP and GBS-loving portion of my Friends list, if this made you think of Mal in "Shindig". Hee.) Not to be left out of any bit of banter whatsoever in this show, "Jerome" announced that he felt he should warn us that the record would be recorded entirely in giraffe: "It won't be very loud." Hee.

The actual song, once they got around to it, was "Straight to Hell"--and very catchy! Dara and I were singing wholeheartedly along with the chorus, and after Alan's little crack about the things GBS fans cheer for, I naturally had to yell "Yay Hell!" And after, Alan winningly informed us that the real explanation for the flavor of the performance was that "this is our third show ever."

Next up was the 80's medley that's become a staple of GBS shows, only this time around we didn't get "Summer of '69" and we did get "Bohemian Rhapsody", when Alan decided to throw us all something "a little challenging". That part was extra fun, as he kept trying to break the audience up into sections to get a call and response thing going. Hysterical. :) My only regret is that I do not know the lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody", and could not sing them if you paid me. Clearly I shall have to learn this song for future GBS show usage!

The last bit of "Run Run Away" had some extra final cheesy riffs, very snickerworthy. And Murray had a moment to shine in the middle of "Helmethead", with Alan doing his best to point him out and throw a few genuflections his way after his bass contribution to the bridge.

By the time we got to "Mari-Mac", the diehards in the audience had had enough of this whole sitting down thing. I see from other posts on the OKP that this was apparently brought on by somebody up front yelling "Let's get up and dance!" People quickly sprang to their feet as "Mari-Mac" got underway, and most everyone stayed standing through "Ordinary Day" and on into the encore.

We only got the one encore because of the time constraints I mentioned above, but it was a fine, fine encore indeed: "Old Brown's Daughter", "Excursion Around the Bay", and a blazing version of "Fortune", with a lovely little giggleworthy bit at the end where Bob was playing with such enthusiasm that it took him a few moments at the end to realize that he was the only one left playing. Clearly, the man loves his fiddle. We love it too. <3

The concert closed for me on an up note as a complete and utter stranger came up to me, while we were getting all our things together, and informed me that he'd never before been to a concert where someone knew each and every word of all the songs like I did. He high-fived me, and I thanked him profusely, feeling very much made of Great Big Fangirl Win. *^_^* And on the way out I saw several OKPers and exchanged happy words with 'em! Had I known there was going to be a contingent heading to Kells after, I'd have been seriously tempted... but alas, Kells was in the direction of downtown, directly opposite the direction of home, and our car was headed homeward. Maybe next time there's a show closer to downtown!

And on a final note, I left out an attempt to describe the B'ys' themselves and how they looked and what they were wearing, on the grounds that when it comes to that, pictures are worth several thousand of my words. Pics of the show can be found here and here (some really great ones here by a new OKPer! Some really fine Séan--oh, aheh, I'm sorry, "Jerome") and here. Enjoy, all!

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On the other hand, not having $80 scratch to drop on GBS swag, I bought the new Jeremy Fisher cd and talked with him for a few minutes. Nice guy ("So, what brought you to Seattle from Ontario?" "My girlfriend. She got a job here, and well, it was better than the next best option at the time..."), and the disc is much more polished and not quite so... Jeff Tweedie meets Simon and Garfunkel, but still enough to have a little of the S&G overtones. It was produced by Hawksley Workman (of "Striptease" fame), who is another one of the string of awesome musicians which seem to come out of the mill of south-central Ontario. I could zip the m4as and stick them somewhere as an evaluation copy for you if iTunes doesn't have it available yet.

*giggles merrily* It's been quite some time since I got any GBS Swag, so I wanted to indulge. ^_^

And no hurry on the music, I found his web page and will be checking him out further from there. I'm pretty sure I'm going to go ahead and buy the album regardless--which is kind of also why I held off on getting a disc there at the show, since he'd talked about it being the "unofficial" copy and I wanted to see what's actually going to be on the official US release. Thanks for the offer, though!

What was for sale was the official Canadian release. Delights me to no end to think of King County now being close enough. Then again, i had the tough decision whether to wear the Newfoundland Liberation Army bunnyhug or my Canadian national team hockey jersey.

Ahh, okay, I was just going by the jokes he kept making on the stage. ;)

.... wait, what? King County now close enough for what? :)

I really like the Woodland Park Zoo. They freely admit some of their exhibits aren't up to their standards, like the poor cougar, but they've got some real state-of-the-art exhibits there. The bears with the trout pool are something else, as are most of the primates - the orang-utans, wow. I love their use of islands and walkways instead of fences wherever practical, and the jaguar exhibit is fantastic - we saw it chasing fish round the pools there once, wow.

It is indeed a lovely zoo, and the jaguar run and the bear enclosure are definitely highlights. But I have yet to actually see the jaguar active! He was snoozing over in the corner both times I've been by there. Paul remarked on the irony of building it this humongous lovely jaguar pen, only for it to pick a spot and just snooze there. How so very like a cat. ;)

Sounds like a fantastic show! Yay! :D

The giraffe stuff is cracking me up. Hee.

I just went back in and added the bit about Alan giggling so hard he screwed up the beginning of "River Driver", too--brought on by asking Séan what rhymes with "giraffe". ;)

It was a very fine show indeed!

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Séan was hysterical. The man is a master at maintaining a running gag, and I strongly suspect he was taking great glee in making Alan giggle so hard that he screwed up the beginning of "River Driver". ;>

And yeah, "Straight to Hell" was fabulous! I'm very much looking forward to hearing the recorded version now!

Oh...I am so jealous! I know it's only been since March, but it's been entirely too long since I've seen these b'ys. "Jerome"? Only Sean... ~shakes head~ Glad you guys had a great time and that Dara finally got the chance to go with you!

Reading bits of that again it makes me giggle that, while Alan was talking about being the "Lion King", I was loading out "The Lion King" at the same time. Would have much rather been listening to him!

Séan was hysterical this time around. I swear the man is a master at sustaining a running gag. Does he rehearse this stuff beforehand, I wonder? ;)

I ran into you a couple of Norwescons ago, and from you found out about GBS.

I saw you at the GBS concert at Bumbershoot when your partner couldn't make it and you got the lads to sign a card.

I saw you, well your head, at the concert Sunday and thought I'd look up your report and add you to my friends list. I came with Kikki and Morgan who said they chatted with you afterwards while I was off at the bathroom.

So howdy!

Hello and delighted to see you here! Sorry I missed you at the show. :)

Had a browse for them on youtube finally. Nifty! Probably not holding my breath for them coming to Australia though :(

Lucky people next week in Drumnadrochit who get to see them and Runrig.

Yeah, GBS has teamed up with Runrig before; I keep intending to add Runrig to my list of "groups I checked out specifically because they've done shows with Great Big Sea". :)

Glad to hear the B'ys strike you as nifty! Though yeah, the band coming down there as a group is not terribly likely; to my knowledge, they've never done shows in Oz. Alan's been down there solo to do music with Russell Crowe, but that's the closest any GBS members have come.

We did have Battlefield Band here a few months back. And I know quite a few years back Capercaille were going to come but then I believe a gulf war broke out.

Oh well. Perhaps one day I shall do some travelling and see if I can attend some music stuff while I'm there.

Cool. :) The Battlefield Band actually were in on the same four-act concert where I first saw GBS, and I wound up buying one of their albums. I may get more of their music at some point!

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