The first concert I went to was an all ages punk show at a long-gone venue. I think I went to see Eve 6. I was 18 and had never been to a concert and I think I wore heels and took them off to mosh barefoot and walked away with a few bruises.
In second year university I took a job on campus as a Red Shirt – as concert security. I was mostly working with big tall bouncer boys, but they needed a few girls and I was strong and had an angry lesbian haircut, so was hired on the spot. I worked at the job until I graduated. I figure that over the years, I easily saw more than 250 bands perform. Most were totally forgettable, as it was the city’s main small punk/mental/indie venue. I worked awful things, like all ages punk shows, and the endless Billy Talent shows; bizarre things like a pow wow with the grossest clean up ever; played Spot The Nipple at hip hop shows; had to tell the lesbians in the bathroom at a Tegan and Sarah show to get a room… I watched people resist arrest – that was always scary. I infamously missed GWAR and the nasty cleanup because of an art history class. I saw some decently big names over the years: Bad Religion and Frank Black of the Pixies. I saw some stellar shows – Great Big Sea’s Kitchen Party, for example. Sold out Ballroom (800 people), 50 cent Screech shots and music I love? Fabulous. Finger 11 isn’t my music at all, but they played One Thing in their encore and thinking about it still gives me chills. And disappointing shows, like Amanda Marshal, the first show I worked. The job itself was only okay – lots of standing around and picking up cans at the end of the night and shoes that smelled like beer. But the money was adequate, the tip out was nice, the people were a ton of fun, and it totally worked around my schedule. I don’t miss the job, but I enjoyed the hell out of it while it lasted. (Except for the all ages punk shows. They were terrible.)
My first job out of university had some pretty great perks, like tickets to arena concerts. I got to go a couple of times a year for free, and saw a really random assortment of shows: Cher, Meat Loaf (<3), Bare Naked Ladies, Feist, Billy Joel, Sarah McLaughlin, Blink 182… The corporate seats were good, and it was nice sitting down for a concert. The concerts and hockey ticket perks of that job helped me to stay longer than, in retrospect, I should have. So, figure, with opening acts, another 30 odd bands.
I also started going to the Calgary Folk Fest, because I got cheap tickets through the social club at work, and that’s at say, 50 bands per summer, and 4 years in a row… 200 groups, give or take a wide margin. I really enjoy the Folk Fest. Sitting outside in July as the sun sets can be a lovely experience. (Unless it’s raining, and you really, really want to see Ani DiFranco despite the torrential downpour.) The main stage can be pretty hit or miss – they’re appealing to a wide range of tastes. I am way more in to the indie-folk stuff, and have no real interest in ‘world music’, so there’s a lot that doesn’t do much for me. But the side workshops are great – lots of good exposure for lots of people you’ve never heard of, and every year I buy at least a handful of cds.
And then there are all the indie/rock/alt concerts. Billy the Kid, Matt Good, Tegan and Sarah, Jeremy Fisher, Tokyo Police Club, Wolf Parade, Our Lady Peace, Raine Maida, Chantal Kreviakuk, Goo Goo Dolls, Manic Street Preachers (in Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom), Bloc Party… Shows at the Ballroom, MacHall, the Gateway, Liberty Lounge, Coke Stage, the Corral, the Republik, Saddledome Arena, Jubilee Auditorium, Jack Singer Concert Hall… From the small rock venues to the big shows, I’ve seen shows in all of them.
But as time’s gone by, I’ve become less tolerant. Of the crowds, certainly, and the pot smoke, and the fact that everyone is taller than me. Of standing in line and overpriced drinks and more standing around between sets. Of the ringing in my ears afterwards. Of the late start times and badly run shows. Of broken toenails and elbows in the head. Of opening acts that fail to impress. Of standing around unable to talk for the loud music between sets. Of wishing they would hurry up and get to the encore so we could go home.
Which brings us to last night – second concert in two weeks. The first one was Mother Mother at MacHall, and we went with a coworker and it was weird because people I used to work with before I graduated in 2004 are still there, so that’s surreal. And I ran into a bunch of people in the crowd I knew, which is always fun. Still, the opening act (some name that involved a whale) didn’t do much, and Mother Mother is more David’s music. It was a fun Saturday night out, but still, long lines, loud music, pat downs, overpriced drinks. Last night was Tokyo Police Club, which I was really excited about. On a Sunday night – less excited. Doors at 8, first band at 9, second band at 10 and main act at 11. They went until 12:30, and I had an 8:30 meeting today. Standing in line at 8:30 in below zero weather, I could feel my desire to do this again passing, and said as much. The opening act was okay, and then we actually got a table and chairs for the second band (Said The Whale) and that helped. But sitting there, between sets, we raised an overpriced toast to the End of an Era, because this was probably it. The end of the time we want to go to loud, intimate clubs for loud, fun music. Of outdoor rock festivals, like SonicBoom last summer in Edmonton. (Folk Fest is still on the table, because it’s all done while sitting on tarps in the sun.) Of going to shows because I like a couple of songs on the radio, or because I got tickets through work. Of rolling in at 1:00 am and going to work the next day. Of elbows in the head and sore feet and moshing. (who are we kidding? I stopped doing that around 25.)
It was a good era – almost a decade of music. A ballpark of 550 musicians and bands. More money than I want to admit spent on tickets and cds, and yes, I buy cds at shows. A decade that will surely cost me in hearing later, but one that was worth it.
Still, it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to something that’s been a huge part of my life. And I know I’m hardly saying goodbye to music, or even live music. Just to a certain type of concert, of club, of music. Of experience. But when it’s time, better to do it gracefully. End of an era indeed.