Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Country Rehab at the Black Sheep Inn, Wakefield, Quebec

one of my favourite bands in high school was a Canadian instrumental post-rock band called Do Make Say Think. Just after I graduated, they released an album called Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn (long titles were all in the rage for indie music back then). One of the tracks on the record is called Auberge Le Mouton Noir, named for the place where they had recorded the song, in beautiful Wakefield, Quebec, about forty minutes outside of Ottawa. It's a haunting tune that turns into a hopeful waltz that remains in your head for years after you've first heard it. For some reason, when I listen to the track, it reminds me of snow, of long drives in the winter, of the strange sensation of having cold fingertips but a warm chest because you're with your best friends.

do make say think, auberge le mouton noir

Driving to the Black Sheep Inn reminds me of my high school days, when my friends and I would pile into Tim's car and drive to indie shows in Wakefield. We would drive and drive, listening to bands like godspeed you black emporer or Broken Social Scene, out of the city and into the middle of nowhere Quebec, past the Jean Burger, past the highest bungee jumping spot in North America, and into the quiet little village. Wakefield seemed to be so very far away for a daydreamy teenager excited to spend time away from the suburbs of Kanata.

I was hit with this nostalgia again when I drove down to Wakefield this Sunday with Meg to catch the matinee performance of New Country Rehab, whom Meg was interviewing for her radio show on CBC.

While Meg talked to the boys in the band, I took a walk down the main strip of the village. Wakefield is this weird pocket of vibrant arts culture and slight hipsterdom nestled in the middle of the Gatineau wilderness. With a population of, what, maybe 2000 residents, it has a disproportionate number of trendy cafes, restaurants, pubs and galleries. Seventeen-year-old Gloria loved it, and twenty-seven-year-old Gloria still does.

I stopped by Aries Coffeeshop, which had just opened a month earlier and by its apperance seemed in the process of converting into a furniture store. The sign read, in pure defiance of Quebec's language laws, ANTIQUE, PATIO, WICKER, LEATHER, WIFI. The Wifi was a myth, but there certainly were plenty of wicker furnitures lying around the store with price tags. The patio also seemed to be a myth, but the cafe worker, a sweet Irish lady, let me sit on a chair outside the cafe by the road so I could look at the lake. The Irish lady gave me a hot cup of cappucino and a cold nanaimo bar. It was very good.

Eventually I made my way back to the Black Sheep Inn in time for the matinee show. I was impressed with New Country Rehab, with each of their fiddle, upright bass, drum, and guitar players showing highly skilled proficiency at the instruments and flowing together quite well. The guitarist in particular seemed to have all sorts of tricks up his sleeves, putting his steel bodied resonator through all these guitar effects that I've never seen tried before.

I'm convinced that the Black Sheep Inn is one of the best venues "in" (near) Ottawa. These matinee shows in particular are quite unique, with its relaxed atmosphere where a little pug dog wanders around from bar patron to bar patron, and babies bounce on their fathers' laps in time the music's beat. The Inn is situated such that the audience has a beautiful view of the lake behind the stage. I ordered a glass of Quebec's St Ambroise beer, which I had missed dearly while in Africa, and a plate of poutine, which I had also missed while in Africa. Upon my return to Canada, I had sworn that I was not going to order poutine at some chain restaurant or a trendy place in the Market, but in Quebec, where they properly knew how to prepare a cheese curd poutine. So I was glad to have my first poutine here at the Black Sheep Inn, with a friendly crowd, a lovely band, a little dog ready to eat my leftovers, and an afternoon of nostalgic memories.