Westfest spotlight: “Uncle” Bob Cabana

By Bradley Turcotte – 

Rock band Bone’s performance at this year’s edition of Westfest will be a riff of nostalgia for drummer “Uncle” Bob Cabana.

The founder and proprietor of FabGear64 clothing shop spent his youthful summer days playing sports and swimming at Laroche Park, the new site of Ottawa’s largest free music festival. Bob grew up in a house that still stands on O’Meara Street and recalls that in the ‘50s, his stomping ground was the “badlands” of the city; a hangout notorious for “fisticuffs.”

“Uncle” Bob Cabana says a reinvention of FabGear64 is upcoming. In the meantime, his trademark rock attitude will be taking centre stage at Westfest on June 5.  
“Uncle” Bob Cabana says a reinvention of FabGear64 is upcoming. In the meantime, his trademark rock attitude will be taking centre stage at Westfest on June 5.  Photo by Bradley Turcotte

The new, formerly seedy, festival location will “create a vibe, a sense of community,” Bob predicts, and commends Westfest founder Elaina Martin for keeping the festival alive.

“If you think Westfest was fun on a hard city street, just wait ‘til you see how we party on the lawn at Laroche. We can’t wait to have the grass between our toes,” Martin exclaims, adding that Bone’s performance will show attendees that “rock and roll is here to stay.”

At 66, Bob is the senior member of Bone, which also features brothers John and Paul Fenton. The group have played together in several incarnations for over three decades. Neal Ford Sundet brings the group together as a vocalist.

The band covers everyone from Lou Reed to The Animals to The Beatles, adding their own “crunch/slide trip” to classic rock favourites.

Bone will open for Foreigner and Styx in Belleville this summer and release an EP of new material later this year.

“We’re getting our mojo back again,” Bob contends. “I hate to harp on being 66, but when I look at the road behind me it’s really long and when I look at the road in front of me it’s really short. That’s why we’re pushing to get the band out more playing around Ottawa,” adding that at their ages playing music seems easier and a lot more fun.

“The Bone project for me is just my joy of playing with them. We’re not a garage band,” Bob says. “If you take a listen to the [latest] CD, it was recorded in two and a half hours, live off the floor, take no prisoners kind of thing. The band comes on and blows people away; a lot of thunder, a lot of space between the notes and an attitude.”

With FabGear64 and designing merchandise for Bluesfest and CityFolk Festival, Bob exports his unique brand of attitude to the masses, selling one-of-a-kind rock and roll clothing.

Like his musical outfits, Bob’s FabGear64 has morphed over the years. Bob first set up shop on Merivale Road before hanging his shingle in Westboro and eventually moving to Hintonburg. He has since dropped women’s clothing and the café component of the store, opting to focus exclusively on funky men’s fashion.

A “reinvention” of FabGear64 is imminent, Bob previews, but says Uncle Bob isn’t retiring.

“I’m an Aries, so I’m optimistic,” he smiles. “Uncle Bob is not going to go away. He’s just going to look different. My passion is still there.”

Bone plays Westfest on Sunday June 5. Check the schedule at westfest.ca for details.


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