The White Stripes continue to conquer Canada with surprise visits to unusual locations, this one aboard a Winnipeg Transit bus...
It's all part of one of the most unusual rock tours to ever cross the country, already the band has played Western Canada, Northern Canada and now wind things up in the East with Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and Newfoundland still to get their share of White Stripe Fever.
It's hard to see how they're going to make a cent considering the far and wide locations that they've provided concerts for, but one thing is certain, they've conquered the nation in a pretty short order.
The impromptu appearances (like the one above) have been showing up on YouTube and other video services as startled Canadians realize that the duo on the bus, the guy and gal at the city hall fountain or hanging out in the bowling alley are rock stars..
It's a phenomenem that has been duly recorded by the Globe and Mail
Jack and Meg go back to school
The White Stripes are surprising the country, jamming in schools, bowling alleys and even while riding a bus
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
July 5, 2007 at 1:14 AM EDT
Any rock star who won't get out of bed for less than 10,000 people should ponder the counter-example of the White Stripes. The duo from Detroit has played free shows for small groups of hastily assembled fans at nearly every stop on their “ocean to permafrost” tour of Canada.
They've played youth centres in Burnaby and Edmonton, a park in Whitehorse and even a city bus in Winnipeg (there's a YouTube clip of the bus "concert" here). 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.
About 250 people, alerted mainly through text messaging and word of mouth, were waiting when the band walked in from the bowling alley's back entrance. They played four or five songs, threw a few balls at the pins and left, Whitehead said.
“I asked the manager why they were doing this,” he said, “and he said, ‘We just choose different venues in different cities.'”
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.
Video clips of several of these wildcat sets have been posted to YouTube (search on “white stripes secret show”).
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. (The Stripes also played their own material for the 100 people gathered there, with drummer Meg on maracas; there's a YouTube clip here) The audio on some of these clips is almost overwhelmed by the screams and shouts of the disbelieving crowd. The Stripes, whose latest album hit the No. 2 spot on the Canadian album charts last week, is most often seen live only from a seat in a stadium.
YouTube itself doesn't seem to have cottoned on to the unusual nature of the secret-show clips. None has yet been featured on the site's home page, which is probably why some had only a few hundred views by the time this article went to press.
Bands often play “secret shows” before or after their main touring concerts. Most choose places already known for music, such as clubs or small theatres. But the Stripes had already tossed away the road-show rule book when they announced their Canadian tour. The itinerary for their chartered plane included stops in Whitehorse, where the band played for 428 people, and Iqaluit, where the sold-out house held only 600.
It's hard to see how the band could make a penny from such engagements. In other currency, however, the remote gigs and wildcat sets have been wildly profitable. Response among the Stripes' online community has been rapturous, and the Winnipeg bus caper was picked up by Pitchfork Media and Britain's New Music Express within hours of the performance. The music world still clings to the myth of the rocker who stays in touch with the people, and the Stripes have delivered the myth in living colour.
The band also has a history of delivering its music in ways that deliberately go against the maximalist tendencies of the industry. Top Special, a three-inch recording sold only at touring shows in 2005, was playable only on the obsolete Triple Inchophone player, of which only 400 units were made. Live in Las Vegas, a three-disc LP set, was given free only to people who had won a radio contest to attend the 2004 performance it captured. Playing secret shows publicized only through text messaging between fans is more of the same, and a clever way to keep the fans loyal and attentive.
For all those who missed the band's impromptu shows, or who find the YouTube videos a bit too rough, the Stripes' Canadian adventures are being filmed by their own small camera crew. No doubt the results will show up on a DVD, possibly as an added feature for a live concert disc. So far, the band and its management are keeping mum on the whole issue. The Stripes' best comment on its populist experiments may be contained in the lyrics of Hotel Yorba: “I'm so tired of acting tough, I'm gonna do just what I please.”
The White Stripes' Canadian tour continues Thursday at Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre and Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, with subsequent shows in London, Ont.; Ottawa; Moncton; Charlottetown; Halifax; Glace Bay, N.S.; and St. John's, through July 16.