News Index
The Solo Shows

13 September 2004 - I was fortunate to be able to see one of the solo shows on this leg of the tour.The following is a review and commentary from the 21 August 2004 Solfest show in Hopland, California.

Solfest Banner for Bruce Cockburn show 21august2004 - photo: bobbi wisby

21 August 2004 : The Solfest Show:

This is a benefit concert for the
Solar Living Institute which is dedicated to providing inspirational enviromental education. Promoting sustainability and providing the tools you need to make positive changes in your life is their year round mission. Some of this years speakers included, Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! and Michael Toms from New Dimensions Radio. There were dozens of exhibits to help you learn about solar energy and sustainable living and to purchase products that make that a reality.

The festival is held at the Solar Living Institute and Real Goods store location in Hopland California. There were thousands of people there. This is a beautiful location and teaching center. We often stop there on our treks to and from the bay area to rest and relax by the pond and feed the fish.

Pond at Solar Living Institute  - photo: bobbi wisby

A bright sunny slightly windy day, often this time of year finds the temps more in the triple digits, but we were spared a bit with temps in the 90's. A scramble for seating to be out of the sun and just to be sitting started at about 4:30, I was a bit late to the party so to speak, and found myself full on in the sun for about a hour...finally a space opened up under the canopy and we got seats just off the center aisle to the right. (Normally I go to left of center for better view of Bruce and better pictures.) We were just relieved to get seated out of the sun.

Leslie - Bruce's stage manager - photo: bobbi wisby Leslie was busy tuning up the guitars and Bruce received a standing ovation just for walking out on stage, he comments "usually people wait until I have done something to clap that much, thank you" with a wide smile. He only had two guitars on stage with him, and Leslie was running the mikes (I think). Bruce played to a full sun drenched house starting at 5:30 starting with Lovers In A Dangerous Time.

He spoke about the making of his latest album, You've Never Seen Everything, and then played to a rapt audience, Open. He then went into three songs without speaking to us. Mighty Trucks Of Midnight, Pacing The Cage, and Tried And Tested, which started an impromptu clap along for the first minute or so.

I was a bit concerned as he was often coughing and taking sips of water (I assume it was water!). It seemed to me that he may have had a sore throat. He didn't mention it, and his voice wasn't noticeably suffering either.

But he did start talking to us, "This is a type of song, the song I'm gonna do now, some people really don't like this type of song, but I do. My manager,[ Bernie Finkelstein] keeps begging me not to do these songs. Fortunately, his advice on other matters is very good."

Bruce Cockburn at Solfest - photo: bobbi wisby "What I mean by this type of song is, spoken word, sort of thing. Some people like that stuff, some have an aversion to it. If you're in that latter category, this would be a really good time to go get a hot dog, corn dog." (Much audience laughter at this point.) The he goes into Postcards From Cambodia. I didn't see any one leaving.

The beautiful instrumental Down To The Delta was next and we were happy for it.

"I went to Baghdad back in January, I went there for seven days. It was a very interesting experience as you can imagine, very touching in terms of what the Iraqis had to deal with and how generous they are in both material and spirit in the face of the political difficulties."

"On the way there, I went there with a few American friends, we weren't really a formal delegation of any sort we just went. But one of our group was a Catholic bishop named Thomas Gumbleton some of you might be familiar with his work in lots of different areas. Through his church connections he was able to get us on a UN flight from Aman, Jordan into Baghdad, which saved us a rather dangerous drive across the desert."

Bruce Cockburn at Solfest - photo: bobbi wisby "The plane was a little 30 passenger size plane, there were about ten of us on it, the four of us and some other folks, I ended up sitting next to this guy, he indicated to me that he was Kurdish and a member of the Kurdish Workers Party and he was on his way back to Baghdad after breaking up with his wife in Brussels. He was married to a Belgian woman and he asked me if I had ever been divorced, and I said, well actually yes. And he said, "Well how do you stop the pain?" and this guy’s flying to Baghdad!! This just goes to show you that human shit just happens everywhere under all circumstances. Well, time, I think. Time is the answer."

"Then he asked me what I did for a living and I told him, and he says, 'Oh I'm trying to organize a songwriter’s festival in Kurdishstan [correct spelling) in September, perhaps you would like to come?'" (audience laughter) "I gave him my manager's phone number and we haven't heard from him, I don't know if he is alive or dead or if the festival ever happened, I kind of doubt it. But it was an interesting encounter in an unexpected place."

"And this is a very round about introduction to this song, and I always kind of thought of this song as a little bit of an exercise in Kurdish rock-a-billy..." which is Wait No More.

Audience banter while he is tuning up includes "YOU ROCK!"

"Here's a song I wrote soon after I moved to Montreal. I've been living in Montreal nominally for at least the last three years or so. I say nominally because I haven't really spent much more than a couple weeks at a time there since I moved there."

"I woke up one morning, having lived in Toronto for about 20 years and realized that was how long it had been and I thought, 'I need to move',so I did. That's material for the song because I ride a bicycle a lot, that's my way of getting around the city." (Cheers from the crowd.)

"I was playing in Aspen [Colorado], I mentioned bicycles and a female voice calls out, "Did you get your bionic thighs from riding a bicycle?"

"That's a first for me!" (Quite a bit of laughter from Bruce here.) His response was more like, umm errr... " its more like eating too much ice cream, but I ride a bicycle too and one of the great things about moving to a new city with a bicycle is discovering all the new places to ride and where you have to watch out for what and that sort of thing." Bruce Cockburn at Solfest - photo: bobbi wisby

"If you're gonna be an urban cyclist, as you probably know, you need to be very much 'in the moment' because 'everybody out there is trying to kill you'. In Montreal that includes the pedestrians, even the dogs. You have to pay attention. This song is a celebration of discovery of new places to bike and of being 'in the moment'." And of course he plays My Beat.

"So you have an election soon. We're all watchin'. [I wish all of you could have heard his voice and seen the look on his face!] We all watch all your elections. We who don't get to vote who live in other countries. I've had people say to me, 'what gives you the right to pass judgment on American politics, you don't even live here?'." "I'd say, yeah I would love very much not to have the right to mess in American politics, but since America feels its ok to come and mess with my politics, they’re fair game."

"Anyway, after that last thing that was like an election there were a lot of expressions of dismay, and I know where you guys are coming from, I know I am not speaking to a hostile audience. But there were many people who were of course chagrined and dismayed at the outcome of the last thing that was like an election. One of the expressions of that feeling came my way, passed on by a friend who got it off the Internet, purports to be a quote from the sage Nostradamus, he is alleged to have said, "Come the millennium, month twelve, in the seat [home] of the greatest power, the village idiot will come forth to be acclaimed leader."

"He even got the claim in there! He is pretty hip! If he really said that, my hat would be off to him, if I were wearing a hat right now. I don't know if he really said that or if its the work of some clever individual passing himself off as Nostradamus but in any case it was too good to pass up so it ended up finding its way in a form into this song." All Our Dark Tomorrows. [The frogs were missing.)

I know Bruce has a bumper sticker on his amp that reads, 'Somewhere in Texas there's a village missing an idiot.' And as luck would have it, I bought that same bumper sticker earlier in the day at a booth there at Solfest.

Bruce Cockburn at Solfest - photo: bobbi wisby

"This song came out of that trip to Baghdad. When we were there, we were told by people, by the Iraqis that we met, that this was the quietest week that anyone could remember since the war allegedly ended the previous day.That meant that there were gunfights audible every night, it meant that people were going around in a general state of fear. But there was only one big bomb that went off while we were there.

I happened to be looking out my window in the general direction of it when it happen, it was far enough away that it didn't have an effect on the window or me, it was a couple miles away, but the boom was unmistakable. It was about 8:00 in the morning, [Sunday?] and people were in the street going about their business. I was the only one who paid attention. No one else even looked up. No one hesitated what they were doing. It was clear what it was. It was a measure, I suppose of, of how familiar they are with that kind of sound and what it means."

He then plays the new song which I believe is titled This Is Baghdad. [Go to song page for partial lyrics.]

This one brought about a standing ovation from the first few chords, And They Call It Democracy, and again after playing.

"I've only got time for one more. This is kind of a sequel to that song."

Leaving  Solfest - photo: bobbi wisby "When I wrote Call It Democracy nobody was using the word globalization yet, it was all cold war rhetoric, it was all about saving the world for democracy. Toppling newly elected governments in order to accomplish that. But of course now we know that it was it was all about money. Now we are free to say that we just want the money. We don't have to worry about saving the world for anything any more, just commerce. So things are more truthful than they were, I suppose that's something to be cheerful about."

"I wrote this song with a guy named Andy Milne, a young jazz pianist based in NY. It's called Trickle Down after the fashionable economic theory of the same name."

Bruce leaves the stage only to return instantly for the only one song encore.

"Couple of people calling out for this one earlier" and he played If I Had A Rocket Launcher.

I don't know if this is the festival cutting his set short, actually not having two sets, as I was told there would be, or if this is what Bruce wanted and needed at the time. He was off the stage and out of the festival quickly, before I had a chance to meet up with him. I was told that he was staying in the area and would be at the festival the next day, Sunday. Unfortunately for me, we had other plans and were leaving the area. I hope he enjoyed the time spent there as much as we did. ~bobbi wisby

Related Links

  • Bruce Cockburn Iraq Bound
  • Bruce Cockburn is back from Iraq - interview by Mike Ferner
  • Bruce Cockburn is Back From Iraq - Interview by Bob Doran
  • From the Road - Part VI
  • From the Road - Part V
  • From the Road - Part IV
  • From the Road - Part III
  • From the Road - Part II
  • From the Road - Part I

    Photos & Transcription of show commentary - bobbi wisby
    Thanks - Todd Cory

    ~bobbi wisby

    News Index

    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.