White Stripes, eh?

White Stripes free show in Whitehorse shared CC by nordicshutter

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?

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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8 Responses to White Stripes, eh?

  1. Sadly, when they’re playing here in Moncton (July 10) I’m going to be in Deluth.

  2. clever marketing or genuine coolness? I really believe it’s the latter. I just bought Icky Thump on iTMS, so maybe it’s the former as a happy side effect? Regardless, that busker clip on YouTube is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in awhile. I hope they dropped a nice surprise into his guitar case!

  3. Brian says:

    — Stephen, at least you have a good excuse for missing them. Me, I have to admit I was scared off by the ticket price ($65 or more once TicketRipofMaster got their cut)… reviews I heard make me wonder if it was a rare show worth that kind of money (I normally top out around twenty bucks), especially if thought of as a subsidizing those less profitable shows up north…

    D’Arcy – Maybe this is one of those rare instances where genuine cool and good media buzz come together… I’ll give them benefit of doubt in this case. Hope you enjoy the album, it sounds best played loud. I still feel a bit guilty for driving our elderly neighbour off of her deck last night (didn’t know that she was out there until she left).

  4. Hi,

    I came across your posting as I was searching for White Stripes fans. This might be something you’d be interested in:

    We’re contacting you about an exciting opportunity to talk back to the garage/blues duo Jack and Meg White from the White Stripes.

    Get in your video questions for the singers/songwriters by Monday July 23rd and they might answer them on ABC News Now.

    We are also asking you to consider posting this message on your blog or website to spread the word and inform your readers of this opportunity.

    It’s easy! Here’s HOW:

    1) Via cell phone
    Record a 15-45 second clip and email it to: seenandheard@abcnews.go.com

    2) Via the web:

    Should you have any questions about this project, contact ABC News producer, Dena at 212-456-3373 or email us back at this address.
    Thanks & look forward to hearing from you!

    – The ABC News “Talk Back” Team

  5. What perfect irony. On a post about how the White Stripes are being genuinely cool by going off the big media circus, one of Them chime in to tempt with the chance that “they might answer them on ABC News Now” – big freaking deal, ABC chick. And thanks for spewing advertising boilerplate comments across the web. My life would so much more fulfilled if I was blessed by the Big Media Gods for a fraction of a second by maybe (possibly) having my question answered LIVE!

    I’d rather just comment on Jack’s blog. If he had one, that is…

  6. Brian says:

    Yo D! Thanks for abusing my commenters so fiercely!

    But yes, something like “irony” occurred to me as well.

    Jack doesn’t have a blog, but I’m pleasantly surprised by the Beastie Boys videoblog (alas, I’m lukewarm on the album itself): http://www.beastieboys.com/

  7. Ken says:


    I’ve been following this discourse, and I have to start my bit by saying that the only way I’d be able to identify a W.S. tune would be if someone asked me to listen to ” …six songs; five are by Pink Floyd and one is not”.

    Having said that, I checked my cynicism at the door and followed the link to the busker and the Whitehorse one-off. What I saw seemed to be a legitimate love of music and performance.

    What other successful pro band would give free performances on make-shift stages with local music store P.A. rental equipment?

    I doff my chapeau to the White Stripes, and if their ploy was simply commercial, I guess it worked on me, because I will be happy to check out their recorded offerings.

    How cool if this started out a whole new trend (not that musicians follows trends, snicker), and someday [ your favourite performer here] showed up at your local watering hole on Saturday night for a short set!

  8. kevin says:

    In Whitehorse,I think they genuinely enjoyed it. Thanked fans after the show, Jack signed a kids guitar, took a spin in an old hearse, (mine) ,HAD FUN ! way to be.

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