In Canada, Labour Day weekend is often referred to as the “unofficial” end of summer. It is almost tradition for many to escape up to cottage country one last time to squeeze out a final swim in the lake, a final BBQ’d burger and of course a final sing along with friends providing someone remembered to pack the guitar. All too soon the leaves will change colour and the long days of winter will be upon us.
The weather over the 2016 Labour Day weekend could not have been more perfect, sunny and warm without the oppressing humidity that has plagued most of our summer. So on Saturday morning, my wife, our puppy and I hopped in into the car for a beautiful drive through Prince Edward County. For those unaware, Prince Edward County is an area located along Lake Ontario between Toronto and Ottawa. It’s rich soil and off-lake breeze foster the numerous world-class wineries that populate the area. Where there is good wine, there is often good restaurants and the views of the lake are completely breathtaking. It is one of our favourite destinations.
After a wonderful afternoon traversing the wine trail we were on our way back to the cottage when we heard the “concert calendar” announced on the radio. I mentioned to my wife that vocalist Carl Dixon (Coney Hatch, Guess Who, April Wine) sometimes plays here at a place called The Waring House. No sooner had I spoken the words when the DJ announced that Carl was indeed in town for this very same weekend! Unfortunately, we were already on our way back and we still had the dog travelling with us, but it was revealed that Carl Dixon would be performing again the next night. So it was decided that Sunday would bring a totally unexpected evening of live music.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to see the mighty Coney Hatch live on numerous occasions, both back in the day and post-reunion. Vocally, he remains one of the best singers in rock today. Need proof? He was recruited by the Guess Who to fill the shoes of mighty Burton Cummings, enough said! I had also seen Carl Dixon rocking solo when he released his first solo CD One back in ’93 but until now I had never been able to catch any of his acoustic shows. I was pumped.
Carl and Kris delivered two sets of rock classics with a smattering of Carl‘s originals thrown in for good measure. From the Tragically Hip, Journey, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, John Mellencamp to a smoking acoustic version of Dan Hartman‘s “Free Ride”, this was just a taste of the music to come. Between songs, Carl would laugh and joke with the crowd as he made everyone feel invited to the party. There was plenty of Guess Who numbers but of course, my personal favorite of the night was the Coney Hatch number “Hey Operator”.
After almost two hours, two sets were complete and Carl said a quick goodbye to bassist Kris for the evening. The music, however, was far from over. Carl quickly strapped the guitar back on and dove headfirst into set number three which clocked in at just under two hours!!! This was the ultimate Labour Day Weekend singalong with friends as Carl relaxed with a cold beer and took requests from the crowd. He nailed almost all of them. If he didn’t know them he would give them a shot and occasionally would change key mid-song if it was warranted. During one tune he called out that it was time for the harmonica solo and asked the audience to provide it, he lowered the guitar volume and the crowd indeed sang the harmonica solo. Hilarious!
He encouraged one of the guitar playing bartenders at the restaurant to take over for a very animated rendition of the Beatles song “Rocky Raccoon”. The best memory of the night, however, came when Carl started in on the Guess Who classic “These Eyes”. A couple was at the pub had finished their dinner and decided to call it a night. As they walked across the room to the exit door Carl called them out saying “You chose “These Eyes” as the time to leave?”! The couple stopped in their tracks right in front of the door and stayed to watch the entire song. Carl was laughing halfway through pausing to ask if they had a babysitter to get home to? It was so funny that they just stayed put until the song was over.
“Clap For The WolfMan” and “PinBall Wizard” had the audience singing along beers hoisted high and Carl closed the night off with his original lullaby, “Look For Me In Dreamland” and the Eagles‘ “Take It To The Limit”. When it was over it was just under 4 hours of non-stop music that made for a perfect end to a perfect weekend. So if you ever have the chance to see Carl Dixon live, get there early and clear the evening because it don’t get better than this and my God don’t leave during “These Eyes”! 😉