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- Posted on Apr 14th 2010 2:30PM by Lonny Knapp
Normally, Newfoundland isn't a regular tour stop for Canadian acts, much less international bands. So it was a big deal when the White Stripes rolled into the capital in 2007 for the cross-Canada tour captured in new documentary, 'White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights.'
For the band's 10th anniversary, the White Stripes performed in every Canadian province and territory. The extensive journey saw Jack and Meg visit such far-flung locales as Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Glace Bay, and the arctic tundra town of Iqaluit. But they made history in St. John's by playing the shortest concert ever with a secret single-note gig. (The White Stripes literally played only one note, a C-sharp, though they also did a proper set later that night).
The question on everyone's mind at the time was...why?
Well, White Stripes' guitarist/singer Jack White grew up just a few miles from the bridge that links Detroit, Mich. to Windsor, Ont. and admits his neighbors to the north always fascinated him.
"We lived right next to the bridge to Canada. It's amazing to go a quarter mile from your home to find such a different culture. It felt like going to England," White tells Spinner.
For fans not lucky enough to witness those unusual performances first hand -- which also included playing a daycare, public bus and fishing boat -- director Emmett Malloy's first feature, 'The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights,' documents the duo's off-stage antics and captures blistering performances throughout Canada on stripped-down stages swathed in the band's signature colours: black, white and red.
Coincidentally, the latter two hues are Canada's national colours and the band seized the opportunity to become a rock 'n' roll manifestation of the Canadian flag.
"We made sure to put maple leafs on everything," White tells Spinner.
But he adds that their predisposition towards Canada's national colours has little do to with the American band's success north of the border. In fact, Japan's flag features the same colours, and according to White, the Japanese aren't all that crazy for the White Stripes.
"When we first went to Japan people kept saying that, because red and white are such important colours to the Japanese, that they would love the band. But it never happened -- Japan still doesn't like the White Stripes."
While the band toured the Maritime provinces, they reunited with Jack's distant Canadian relatives. White recently learned that his ancestors hail from Nova Scotia and that he shares a bloodline with bad-boy fiddler Ashley MacIsaac and Celtic music legend Buddy MacMaster. When the White Stripes performed their 10th anniversary show at the Savoy Theater in the small Nova Scotia town of Glace Bay, his recently discovered kin were on hand to celebrate the milestone.
"Buddy and Ashley played our 10th anniversary show. That was nice," he said. "It wasn't until a few years ago that I realized what an amazing musical heritage my family has."
Up until 2007, White's success with the White Stripes and Raconteurs kept him too busy making records and touring the globe to claim any great familiarity with the Great White North, but he's certainly glad to have finally taken the opportunity.
"We felt Canada was untapped. It seemed like this gigantic frontier both musically and artistically that people just don't explore enough."