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Alanis Morrisette at the Summerset Music Festival

by Heather Denning

I have wanted to see Alanis perform live since my first devastating break-up was soothed by Jagged Little Pill’s “You Oughta Know.” The soaring vocals, the angst. Oh, that angst. I craved it like a drug.

My visit to the Summerset Festival was an interesting one. On one hand this was the venue of my dreams—a natural amphitheatre, copious and adequate toilet facilities, only mildly over-priced beer and fantastic fries (shout out to the ladies who gave me a new serve after I threw mine all over the grass accidentally—you guys ARE rock and roll!). On the other hand…where was everybody? Yes I’m going to admit that I wouldn’t have paid five dollars to see the half of Good Charlotte that did show up endlessly slur into the microphone how happy he was to be drinking “Anne of Green Gables with vodka,” in between belting out mediocre hit after mediocre hit while about six teens bopped, but seriously, was it free beer day at the Confederation Centre or something? It wasn’t even raining!

Pre-Alanis highlights also included a seemingly illogical walk around a woodpile on the way in, allegedly to avoid trucks that were not there, a free drink from the adorable K-Rock boys, easy service at the bar and the hilarious ‘theft’ of a golf buggy, allegedly by one of the support acts. This involved a Keystone Cops-esque chase through the crowd to the clown music provided by Good Charlotte. Who, I might add, ignored the most obvious pun of the night and left unsaid the fact they were playing in CHARLOTTEtown. Too much cordial.

By the time the Tom Petty and the Heatbreakers CD rolled around again for the sixth time in between sets, I had become tired of cracking jokes about the Perspex cage around Lani’s paranoid drummer, and I just wanted to go home and sleep. But then the lights went down, kinda turned a meaningful shade of purple and that voice that is at once so angelic and so earthy echoed through the amphitheatre. We craned our necks, stood on tiptoe to see her, and when she finally arrived on stage, all smiles, no angst, I was so glad I had stayed.

I am warning you now, I am a fan.

The last time I saw Alanis up close and personal was when she came into my living room as the voice of God via the movie Dogma. She is older now, and prettier in real life. Her hair is a seething mass that she flicks and flirts with, I haven’t seen hair that independent in its life force since Princess Jasmine in Aladdin.

She is a thoroughly enigmatic performer. She owns the stage—she paces constantly, almost annoyingly, and when she does stand to sing she holds her hands like a child straining for control. She is child-like—she and her hair spun like whirling dervishes until it seemed she must fall down, but she didn’t even stagger. She plays the guitar and her voice with aggression, but the tone is content. Ironic, that collection of annoying co-incidences related with fury actually seemed almost tongue-in-cheek. She even cracked a joke. Could the angst be gone? I understand that she has sung her songs a thousand times but she seemed mellow, almost matter-of-fact. And that crazy banshee voice that took my anger and set it free seemed to be caressing, gentle, almost spiritual. Two encores, blown kisses—I felt like I was getting milk and cookies when I expected ashtrays and rum.

Thank you Alanis—I like you even more now we are friends.

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