A few weeks back I wrote a huzzah for the way the White Stripes were approaching their Canadian tour, going to every province and territory, playing gigs in small venues in remote northern communities for no discernable financial gain. As the tour proceeds (we missed the Vancouver gig, but heard that it rocked most hard), I can’t resist a follow-up huzzah for how they’ve busted out of the Rock Star bubble while jaunting across the Great White North:
They’ve played youth centres in Burnaby and Edmonton, a park in Whitehorse and even a city bus in Winnipeg. In each case, the gig was arranged only hours in advance, with strict instructions from the band’s management not to tell the media.
Ed Whitehead, who co-owns two bowling alleys in Saskatoon, returned a call on Saturday from the Stripes’ road manager, who wanted to know if it would be okay for Jack and Meg White to play a short set at the Eastview Lanes.
“I’d never heard of the band before, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Whitehead said. But his lanes had been visited by “lots of celebrities,” including Mr. Dressup and the road crew for Nickelback, so he said yes.
…People who happened to look at a White Stripes online message board in advance of Monday’s bus performance in Winnipeg were told merely to assemble at a specific intersection at 3:10 p.m. A bus pulled up, about 20 fans got on and, one stop later the Stripes climbed aboard, to play The Wheels on the Bus and Hotel Yorba.
The most remarkable may be a clip of the Stripes at the Forks in Winnipeg, in which Jack is shown sitting near a local busker, strumming a few supporting chords while the other man plays the blues.
And in Toronto yesterday, they played a YMCA:
During the short set, Jack pulled four of the children up to the makeshift stage to sing and show off the masks the campers had been creating before the arrival of the rock stars.
During songs like Hotel Yorba and Martyr for my love for you he’d peer over the mic, smiling fully at the kids waving to him.
Meg joined in the giggling too as one camper, 8-year-old Dylan Pires, sang his own version of I Believe I Can Fly, and another very small boy pumped out The Wheels on the Bus to his excited camp-mates.
Jaded Gen-Xer that I am, I can’t help but wonder if this is just very clever marketing in the age of viral media and YouTube. But ultimately, I don’t care… fact is, the kids in that bowling alley in Saskatoon or that bus in Winnipeg are getting an experience they’ll always remember, and a much healthier example of real rock star cool.
As an aside, the new White Stripes album Icky Thump is about the only hyped release of the summer not to disappoint me. Maybe because they remember that one of the things we need our rock bands to do is, um… ROCK?