Station: Ticket to rock

Joe Barry - Andrew Leong
Joe Barry
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Hey, Joe, what ya doin’ with that iPhone in your hand?

When Joe Barry is shooting the breeze about music, it just triggers a reaction. He grabs his iPhone and goes directly to where there’s a listing of every concert he’s ever attended.

“Five hundred and 15 concerts that I’ve accounted for,’’ says Barry, who’s certainly no ordinary Joe. “That total is probably more around 535.’’

The most recent additions were Steve Winwood and Rod Stewart at Madison Square Garden in New York in early December.

By day, Barry, 53, is the corporate secretary for the Cowichan Valley Regional District. By night and during his free time, it’s like he stepped into a phone booth and emerged as Musicman Joe.

“When it became that way was email because you had to come up with a handle,’’ he says. “When I switched to Shaw, Musicman was already taken.’’

Tacking on the Joe part did the trick and fit his persona. Musicman Joe is also lucky. He’s won tickets and prize packages to 26 concerts.

“If I see something music-related, that gets my attention,’’ he says.

Winning became a product of his diligence. Without giving away any of his trade secrets, Barry says the key to winning is quite simple.

“You have to pay attention to the radio, newspaper, television and now Facebook.’’

Some contests don’t receive many entries because people don’t notice or don’t bother entering. The payoff can be huge like when Barry, with a little luck, found himself heading to Seattle for a Paul McCartney concert in July 2013. He felt like he wanted to jump after winning tickets to see Van Halen in Vancouver on a Good Friday that included transportation and hotel accommodation. Kool and the Gang was the opening act and that was cause for further celebration.

I Love Music would be a logical title for Barry’s autobiography one day. The turntables and eight tracks of the time first put that spin on his life at Killarney Secondary School in Vancouver.

“I started as a DJ at the high school radio station playing music over the lunch hour,’’ Barry recalls.

As a promoter, he brought in many big-time acts to the school like Sweeney Todd and Trooper.

“We were devastated Nick Gilder left Sweeney Todd. They said, we’ve got a new singer. Guess who it was? Bryan Adams.’’

Barry felt like he was in heaven. Students loved the new singer, who turned out to be rather famous, and heaped plenty of praise on Barry for bringing in the group.

D.J. duties got more serious at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“The last two years I was program director for the residents’ association. I still have copies of contracts at home — Powder Blues Band, Klattu, bands like Doug and The Slugs, Streetheart — all that early ‘80s stuff I booked.’’

Barry was clearly doin’ it right but that strangely didn’t translate into a permanent career in the music business despite all that experience. Bruce Allen’s job was safe, in other words.

“I graduated and started working for local government,’’ Barry says. “My first job was issuing parking tickets and catching dogs for a local government. Then I became a bylaw enforcement officer.’’

Barry’s career and main interest area continued to stretch in opposite directions by the time he relocated to Prince George.

“I still had the itch for music. I approached the local paper and offered to write a weekly column on music.’’

The itch was scratched by covering concerts for the Prince George Citizen on a freelance basis at $20 per column.

“Here’s the bonus — all the free CDs,’’ raves Barry. “At that time record companies would mail CDs to the newspaper.’’

People gotta move and The Musicman Joe moniker followed him from Prince George on subsequent moves to Squamish, Merritt and the Cowichan Valley in 2003.

Barry had the foresight to document the many concerts he attended back in the early years so now it’s all laid out on setlist for all to see.

“I thought having a list of all the concerts I went to would be cool. So then I just kept adding to it.’’

There’s also a Pop Culture side to Musicman Joe. He had a gas visiting the production site in Rouleau, Saskatchewan of the Corner Gas TV Show that he appreciated for its humour and oh, what a thrill it was for him and his 90-year-old dad.

“My dad’s from Saskatchewan. I knew this would be the last trip he’d ever make back there and it turned out to be the case.’’

Barry’s also a big sports fan and it’s on his bucket list to watch an NHL game in every NHL city. He’s up to 20 so far.

He also wants to visit the Coke Museum in Atlanta, Georgia someday for its historical significance.

But music will always be the heart and soul of his existence.

Lyrics to three songs ring loud and clear to the Musicman — The Doctor by the Doobie Brothers, 18 Til I Die by Bryan Adams and Thirsty Ears by Powder Blues.

“Ya it sure feels good to be alive,’’ goes a line in Adams’ hit.

“Someday I’ll be 18 goin’ on 55.’’


Backstage pass: More from Musicman Joe

What is your favourite concert that you won in a contest?

Paul McCartney, Safeco Field, Seattle, July 19, 2013

Reasons: chauffered trip provided aboard Rock 101’s Magical Mystery Bus from Vancouver to Seattle, complete with onboard refreshments; accommodation provided at the Seattle Hilton; concert tickets provided in Terrace Club level seats; outdoor concert on a gorgeous warm summer evening; Sir Paul played 39 songs; sound was exquisite; surprise appearance by surviving members of Nirvana.

What is the favourite concert attended that you paid for?

Rolling Stones, Skydome, Toronto, Dec. 3, 1989

Reasons: Seats were Row 7 on the floor with the massive Steel Wheels stage looming above; sound, pyrotechnics and energy were all first class; Mick (Jagger) had a miscue and messed up the lyrics during Sympathy For The Devil so he stopped the song and started over from the beginning; The Stones proved they were live and not Memorex; a classic live music performance complete with subtle mistakes and expert recovery; Bill Wyman even smiled and moved.

Who are some of the famous musicians you’ve met?

Rick Allen and Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard), Donnie Walsh (Downchild Blues Band), Long John Baldry, Doug Bennett (and his Slugs), Frankie Venom (and the rest of Teenage Head), Streetheart, Trooper, George Belanger and Ralph James (Harlequin).

My favourites were Belanger and James. I booked them three times back in my concert-promoting days and hit it right off with the band. Great guys from Winnipeg with one of the greatest Canadian rock debut albums ever (Victim Of A Song). The band even sent me a T-shirt and card for Christmas.

Artists seen the most times in concert: Rolling Stones 8, Harlequin 6, Loverboy, Wide Mouth Mason, George Thorogood and The Destroyers, and Cheap Trick 5 times each.

Song heard the most in concert: Miss You 9 (eight times by The Stones and once as a cover by someone else).

Venue of the most concerts attended: The Ottawa Civic Centre.

Most active concert years: 1981 and 2004 (36 shows each).

Least active concert year: 1999 (only one show — Sammy Hagar in Seattle).


Paul is dead!

Hidden within the above article, other than the three explicitly mentioned at the end, are the titles of 10 hit songs. And there may be more. Did you notice them? If not, take another look back for:

1. Hey Joe (Jimi Hendrix), 2. Winning (Santana)

3. With A Little Luck (Paul McCartney & Wings)

4. Jump (Van Halen)

5. Celebration (Kool And The Gang)

6. I Love Music (O’Jays)

7. Heaven (Bryan Adams)

8. Doin’ It Right (Powder Blues Band)

9. People Gotta Move (Gino Vanelli)

10. O What A Thrill (The Mavericks)

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