Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Evening to Remember

Our youngest son is going to be 10 in September. Being a kid, he has been thinking about and planning for his birthday since just after Christmas.  Oh, who are we kidding? He’s probably been thinking about it since about 10 minutes after his last birthday party ended.
But he started speaking about it to ME after Christmas. Being 9, his birthday wishes changed at least once a week. “I would like this!” “I would like that!”. I waited it out, knowing that eventually he would solidify his plans on his own.

Like his mama, he is a big lover of music. He even has a favourite band-
Great Big Sea. A few months ago, he told me that what he’d really like the very most in the whoooooollle wide world for his birthday was to go to a Great Big Sea concert.

In the interests of wish fulfillment, I looked into where they might be playing in and around his birthday.  Sadly, their only posted gig for my timeframe was in August, in Newfoundland. Now believe me, this would *not* be a personal hardship to have to travel to Newfoundland, along with my son, in order to take him to see his favourite band ... Financially, however, that is another matter. Driving is too complicated, and flights are rather expensive (for about $300 more, I could take both of us to Ireland. This would not Go Down Well with the other Minions of Chaos, Not At All).

:sigh:  But then came a concert announcement from
livenation. Alan Doyle, a member of Great Big Sea, was going on tour to promote his d├ębut solo album: “Boy on Bridge”. And there was a date local to us, as well, although it wasn’t anywhere near his birthday.

After some discussions back and forth with the Littlest Man and Himself, it was agreed that this was a pretty decent substitute for the desired concert (there went my personal hope for the trip to The Rock, alas).

Tickets were purchased, and the excitement and countdown began.

The concert was last night, and he showed remarkable self-restraint in only calling me at work once yesterday ... “What time are you coming home, and when are we going to the concert?” was what I heard through the phone line after I said “Hello?”.

As it happened, I got home from work with just enough time to quickly change my clothes, grab the tickets, and grab him. The concert was being held downtown and the doors were set to open at 7PM, so I didn’t want to be cutting our time too fine, in case we had difficulties finding parking nearby.  I ended up finding parking in a parkade one block west of the venue, which I thought was pretty decent.

It was precisely at the moment that we exited the parkade that the rain changed from the light drizzle it had been all day into a near-torrential downpour. I’m really not exaggerating here, the streets went from looking shiny from the water, to having puddles stretching half-way across the road.

We didn’t have an umbrella, nor were we wearing raincoats. I covered Boo as best as I could with my hoodie, and we did our best to hop over the puddles.  By the time we got to the shelter of the canopy, we were both pretty drenched. One helpful fellow, at the head of the line, offered us his umbrella (haha, very funny!). We managed to just fit under the end of the canopy, and people who came after us, basically huddled beside us, rather than standing in the wet ...

Not exactly sure how long we had to wait in line, but it probably wasn’t more than 10 minutes or so, and while we were wet, and now cold, too, we were both content to stand and smile at our fellow concert-goers. Everyone watched and cheered (jeered?) loudly at a person’s efforts to parallel park their car in a rather tight spot across the street. They definitely bumped the car behind them, at least twice. The clapping and cheering that ensued gave me reason to believe this wasn’t the first car to attempt to part in this spot, and that said attempts had been the pre-show entertainment for those people who were ahead of us in line (who had probably been waiting an hour).

Before too long, the doors to the hall were opened, and we were able to go inside (and attempt to dry off).  Since we’d been rushing to get out the door, Boo was hungry, so we got into the line for the canteen in the hopes of securing a snack to tide him over. While we were waiting in line, a man approached asking if anyone in the line-up would like a copy of Alan’s CD. Several people, including both myself and the Littlest Man, said “Yes” (I mean, DUH!). He handed a copy to the guy waiting behind us, and another copy to Boo.

And to think I’d assumed he was selling them, and was about to ask him how much they were ...

So by this point, Boo was completely over being wet. After all, he just got a Slush Puppy, a chocolate bar, AND a Free CD!  I quietly pointed out to him that things like that don’t normally happen at a concert, fearing his expectations be put way out of whack by this awesome, yet rare, occurrence ...

He shrugged.

We went into the hall itself to find seats (the tickets said it was “rush seating”- another reason to get there early). The hall used to be a movie theatre, you would enter from under the upper level seats, and the front section was divided from the upper section by an aisle way with a low wall on either side. This was still the basic set-up, only the seats from the lower section have been removed, and for the concert, several round tables had been set up around the edges, with a large area in front of the stage for standing and/or dancing. There didn’t appear to be any tables with spots open, and looking up into the seats, most of the open seats were so far back as to be unsuitable for a small-ish boy to enjoy his first concert, so I suggested to him that we stand up front, instead.

He was reluctant to do this at first, telling me he wanted “to sit to be able to enjoy the concert”, but I pointed out that the free seats in the upper level were pretty far back, and he might not be able to see over other people’s heads. I said “Why don’t we stand up here for now, and decide later?”.

 We ended up standing right in front of the stage, off to our left (which I believe is considered “Stage Right” in theatre terms- but it’s been awhile). Thankfully, we weren’t right in front of the speakers, but we were pretty close ... Boo ran back to the lobby a time or two to get more snacks, and to see if there was a Swag table set up.

Otherwise, we passed the time looking at the instruments on stage- Boo recognized the Yamaha symbol on the drum set, and we mused over whether or not two of the guitars in the guitar rack (there were 4 or 5!) were Takamine guitars (same brand as his guitar teacher). (they were, btw- this boy is definitely his Mama’s kid). Boo was getting restless, wondering when the show was going to start, so I took the time to explain to him that there would be an opening act prior to Alan hitting the stage, and after he asked, explained why there was such a thing as an opening act.

The opening act, Dustin Bentall, hit the stage at about 8PM. Boo was transfixed. It was a great set, and at the end of it, Dustin mentioned he’d be selling CD’s in the lobby after his set. He had two available, and we bought one of each, which he signed for us, personalizing one specifically for Boo.

This concert stuff’s looking pretty good to him now, let me tell you. I’m starting to wonder how anything else he goes to after this will hold up ...

Before we knew it, it was time to go back in for Alan’s set. We resumed our “seats” by the stage, and from our vantage point, we caught a glimpse of his musical hero before he took to the stage.

He had a blast. I had been slightly worried he’d be disappointed, not knowing too many of the songs, but he wasn’t. He danced a little (I think he was worried about looking too silly in front of Mr Doyle), he clapped a lot, he shouted “Whoo hoo!” as appropriate ... All in all, a fantastic set.

He got confused when Kris MacFarlane, who he recognized as the drummer from Great Big Sea, came to the front of the stage where we were standing and offered him his hand. By the time he got over being star-struck, Kris had given up on the handshake, and offered him his drumsticks, instead!

The band left the stage, and the audience started shouting and clapping- I explained the concept of an Encore- and then he got right into that, too. (But he was still awestruck over the drumsticks in his hand).

Of course, the band came back on for an encore, and during their encore set, they called Dustin to come up and play with them. It was during this song that Mr Doyle himself came up to the front of the stage where we were and gave Boo the guitar pick he was using for his mandolin ... (in case you’ve lost track, he has now received: one free Alan Doyle CD, two signed Dustin Bentall CDs, a pair of drumsticks *and* a guitar pick).
After the show, Alan came out to the lobby to meet his fans, sign CDs and get his picture taken with people, etc. (Alas, we did not bring the camera- ARGH!) Boo went and spoke some more with Dustin (he was very polite and down to earth, btw). People kept coming up to us and were surprised to see the drumsticks- evidently they had seen the pick hand-off, but not the drumstick one ... Several people asked if Kris had signed the drumsticks (he had not).

We waited patiently in line for our turn to meet Alan and get our CDs signed- by this time, Boo was wondering, loudly (for the benefit of those around him, I’m sure) if he would get in trouble if he was late for school in the morning ... two of the women standing in line beside us turned to him and said he should ask Alan for a note if he was hoping to be able to sleep in. They were teachers, they told us, and they would know if he didn’t. It was quite funny to see his reaction.

When it was our turn to get autographs, Boo smiled hugely and thanked Alan for the pick, and then told him how this had been his first concert ever, and how Great Big Sea was his favourite band. Alan was gracious (though he seemed quite exhausted). “Thank-you, brother”, he said to Boo before we left. 

Sadly, there was no sign of Kris MacFarlane. We decided to ask some of the venue’s staff if Kris might be around to sign the drumsticks, but they said they figured he was already on the bus.

So we headed out to the car, taking the lane beside the building instead of going the way we had come, as it was shorter. As we passed the back lane behind the theatre, we saw a rather large tour bus. I didn’t need to tell Boo what that was about! I suggested we could always knock on the door of the bus and see if Kris was there- he was uncertain, but we decided to “go for it”. I told him the worst that would happen was he wouldn’t be there, or they would tell us to go away...

 But Kris himself opened the door, and came out and chatted with us for a few minutes. He was incredibly friendly, was able to accurately guess Boo’s age (he has two sons himself), and just proved overall that he is, in point of fact, Steve Buscemi Cool.

And yes, he signed the sticks.

Now tell me, honestly, is *any* other concert EVER going to be able to touch that, nevermind top it?!

I don’t think so.


  1. Nope, no other concert he goes to will ever measure up to that! What an amazing experience! Entirely worthy of one's 10th birthday! I know that Connor already had his birthday dinner planned as we will be at Mom's for his 10th.

    Totally cool!

  2. I missed this somehow. Ambers fisrt concert was pretty cool too. Hers was also a 10th birthday gig. We saw Miley Cyrus and had to buy tickets months in advance. Two weeks before the concert Dustin lost his job due to downsizing and I didn't want to spend a ton of money since I was unsure when our monetary situation would improve.

    Standing in line Amber kept asking for a tshirt. The souvineer tshirts were $45. Ouch. Not in the budget. I told her sorry but we couldn't afford one right now since daddy had lost his job. A lady in the line somewhere behind us overheard our conversation apparently. About 15 minutes later this lady comes up to Amber with a huge bag of things in her hand and gives them to Amber. Here honey enjoy your concert. Someday remember this and surprise a kid when you are older.

    This woman had gotten amber 2 shirts, a memory photo book and some lightstick thingies. I was floored. It was the kindness of strangers moment of a lifetime.