Hillbilly Highway – Back on the Road

by Sheldon Birnie

Like The Boss said, “Summer’s here and the time is right for racing in the streets.”

And while it aint quite summer, and it aint quite racing in the streets I’m talking about, we’re hitting close enough to home here for my liking. Now that the snow’s melting, the rivers thawing, and the Highway clearing, we’re about to get an influx of top-notch musical acts pouring in and out of our great city here.

Only a crazy person is keen to hit the roads in mid-winter here in Canada, when winds whip loose snow across the prairies and the black-top turns to black-ice. Now that those days are (for the most part) over for another year, musicians are hitting the road in a big way.

On the other hand, for those hardcore troubadours mad enough to take to the Highway during the depths of winter, it can be a tough sell convincing folks to rouse themselves from their comfortable hibernation hole and trek across town to check a show out. I’m guilty of that myself, at times, and it can be a bummer loading in and out of a half-empty venue.

But praise the good lord, those days are done! Proof was in the pudding last night, when I convinced a couple pals to make the trek to the Times Change(d) to catch the final engagement in a month of Tuesday night gigs by the Magnificent 7s. The place was packed, people were rowdy, and the good times were rolling. The band was in fine form, and Ida’s ol’ dad even hopped on stage at one point to wail on the banjo with the band for a couple tunes.

But that wasn’t the only side-show in town. Down the road at the Pyramid, Victoria’s Northcote was opening for Murder by Death and Big John Bates, which from the looks of it was bumping. Across town, local loverboy John K. Samson sold out the West End Cultural Centre with his Provincial roadshow. After the Times started draining out, we headed on down to the Cavern – also packed – where the Solutions were getting sexy. Not bad for a Tuesday night in March in Winnipeg.

And the horizon only looks brighter, friends. This weekend alone, there’s a ton of great gigs going down. I’m playing in two of them myself, one at the Edge, one at the Standard, both on Friday. There’s shows at the Times, Pop Soda’s, the Lo Pub, hell, everywhere’s got shit going on, and it doesn’t let up anytime soon.

Summer’s here, and the time is right, friends, for drinking in the streets. Get out and see some dang music this weekend, and throw a little cash at the entertainer. Gas aint cheap on the Hillbilly Highway. Let’s roll.

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