In 2007, the minimalist rock duo The White Stripes embarked on a special tour across Canada. Jack and Meg White vowed to play in every province and territory from P.E.I. to Iqaluit, creating spontaneous shows wherever they went.
This led to some pretty strange one-off gigs, including a one-note show in St. John’s and bowling alley performance in Saskatoon. It was a bizarre tour that was filmed for the documentary The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights, out on DVD today. Shot in a low-fi style that mimics the band’s aesthetic, the film is a love letter to The White Stripes and Canada that should please fans and local audiences alike.
Surprisingly, this documentary was almost an afterthought for frontman Jack White, who was more interested in the experience of touring across Canada than he was in filming it.
“The tour itself came first and the documentary came second,” White told Metro. “Meg and I wanted to explore this gigantic frontier right next to where we’d grown up in Detroit that was so untouched by not just our band, but touring bands in general. After doing some research we couldn’t even find a Canadian band that had toured every province and territory. Also, half of our family goes back to Nova Scotian roots for about three or four generations and we thought it would be a perfect place to have our 10th anniversary show.”
Though it wasn’t the impetus for this specific project, White did admit that he’d always had a desire to make a tour documentary: “When you’re on tour you tend to watch a lot of films about bands on the tour bus. I kept saying that this is definitely one of those movies that would be the first thing we would buy before we hit the road.”
However, White was also quick to point out that he has an uneasy relationship with these types of projects and was nervous about the production.
“I’m not too big of a reality TV fan or a peek-behind-the-curtains fan, especially in this day and age there’s so much of that going on and so little mystery about the world of music and creativity,” claimed White. “Sometimes it was hard to watch the film as it was being put together.”
But despite any trepidations he may have had about the documentary, White does feel proud about the project if only because it highlights some of the strange free one-off performances that he played for audiences completely unfamiliar with The White Stripes.
“I live for those moments and the energy that comes from playing with an audience that has no interest in what Meg and I do,” said White.
“The free shows we were doing in the daytime made that happen. One day we played at a fort in Halifax with a marching band and those experiences were why we did the tour.”