Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Shores Were Rocking!

   On Friday July 13th, the first ever Rock The Shores concert took place just outside of Victoria in Colwood and I got to be a part of it. The all Canadian show featured headliners The Tragically Hip with Sam Roberts, Current Swell and Jets Overhead.  It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.  As life would have it, it's taken me until now to finally sit down and write about my experiences. To be honest, I just haven't been able to figure out where to start!
   I suppose I should explain how I got involved in such a big event. During my time volunteering for the Canada Day celebrations on July 1st, I spoke to the promoters and told them I was interested in helping out with future events like that because it's something I can see myself doing and enjoying. I must have impressed the right people because I soon received an email telling me they'd hire me to help build and strike the big stage for Rock the Shores. You can't imagine how thrilled I was, especially since I haven't had a job for some time now, so I said I'd be there.
   We started work two days before the show. The concert took place in a large sports field, so our first task was to arrange enough plywood to cover where the big mobile stage was going to be set up. The stage itself was contained within an average looking 53 foot truck trailer - a big white box on wheels. But once the operator fired up the hydraulics it was like something you'd see Optimus Prime towing...

   A second flat deck trailer was delivered that carried additional frame sections as well as the black and gray walls. Some assembly required indeed! Once we got it all put together it was ready for the sound and light crew...

   I had the following day off, so fast-forward to the day of the show. Because I wore a stage crew ID badge, I was allowed backstage to hang out for a while, and I did, but my wife and some friends were in the audience so I chose to enjoy the show from up front with them and we had a lot of fun. I can't say enough good things about the artists. Local band Jets Overhead opened the show and used the opportunity to debut some new songs that were well received as the crowd trickled in.

   Up next was another local act Current Swell. They also played a very good set and are really nice guys, too. Since I was getting a snack during part of their set, I wasn't able to get a better photo than this one.

   The third performer of the evening was the always terrific Sam Roberts Band, but Mother Nature had her own plans and the show came to a halt mid way through his set.

   Mr. Roberts was a good sport about not being able to play a full set saying nobody can control the weather. A rare, yet spectacular, thunderstorm rolled over the site that produced a lot of lightning, so for safety reasons we were all told to wait. And wait we did. Not counting people stuck in lines for food and drink (I'll address that a little more in a moment), most people were in a good mood during the delay. We even broke out in a spontaneous rendition of O Canada!

  Once the worst part of the storm system passed, The Tragically Hip finally took the stage only half an hour later than scheduled. Those of us who stuck around were rewarded with and incredible performance by the band that included many of their best known hits. I sang along to every one of them! Even Mother Nature had a change of heart and would occasionally punctuate a song with well timed flashes and booms behind the stage!

My view of guitarist/vocalist Paul Langlois was obscured by the stage frame, but at least I had the big screen overhead. This man actually said hello to me backstage before the show! Being a fan, I was a little star-struck. All I could do was smile and nod politely.

   All in all I had a great time, even when it rained, but I feel I should take a moment to address something I find rather heart breaking, for lack of a better term. While people like myself and many others enjoyed the experience, there is a disturbing number of people who have done nothing but complain about every aspect of the show. The biggest complaints seem to be about the lineups for food, water and, not surprisingly, beer.
   I stood in line, just like everyone else, but I guess it didn't bother me as much as it bothered some people. I guess I had good timing or something because I really didn't miss a lot of the show and I figured it didn't matter anyway. If I couldn't see the stage, I could certainly hear what was going on. They were pumping a lot of power through the speakers!
   When I read the postings on the promoter's Facebook page over the last few days I felt sick. It seems that for every person that left a positive comment, several more would dump all over them with nothing but negativity and misplaced aggression. I posted a comment suggesting people take a moment to consider all the hardworking volunteers and staff that had to clean up the next morning and a girl replied with something that basically said she didn't give a crap about those people because "that's what they signed up for."
   That pissed me off.
   Yes the lines could have been more organized, maybe more food and water stations, but this was the first time an event of this scale has been attempted at that location. I only got a bit of food and didn't even go for beer. I had to be up early the next day to help take down the stage and clean up the site. Beer was my reward after all was said and done. Why do so many people feel it's important to consume mass quantities of alcohol at events like this? People complained that they ran out, which wasn't true. Perhaps if people would limit themselves to one or two and not ten that wouldn't have been an issue. There were kids present for crying out loud! Kids that watched plenty of drunk people falling around and puking everywhere while getting a good second hand dose of certain smoky vapors. Come on, people!
   It's unfortunate to hear about so many people that didn't have as good of a time as most of us did and I wish those people didn't feel so compelled to rain on our parade. For me, this was a personal milestone because it stands out as the biggest event I have ever taken part in. This could very well be my first step in attaining a very cool career as part of a production team and I am not going to let the whining of a few disappointed spectators ruin it, no matter how hurtful their words may be.
   Thank you. Good night. *drops microphone*
The Wandering Oak

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Roadie For Canada Day

   Canada Day is one of my favourite national holidays and this year's holiday will stand out as one of the best I've ever had. Because I'm still without work, I decided to volunteer to help out as a stage hand for the Canada Day celebrations in Victoria's Harbour. Simply put, I was a roadie for Canada Day, and I loved it!
   Now, in my previous post I mentioned that I was interested in advertising and marketing. Really I was hoping it would help me to tap into this city's rich arts and music scene. As it turns out, it may not be as simple as I thought it would be to get into advertising. People I've spoken to in the industry say that it requires all kinds of schooling and warn that even with all of that education there's no guarantee I'd be able to even find work in the field when I graduate. Although I'm willing to take the courses, I need something that will guarantee me future work.
   That's when the volunteer opportunity presented itself. I've always had an affinity for live music, and being a music nerd, it's not surprising I'd have an interest in the logistics of big concerts and events. Needless to say, I was pretty eager to sign up. This has turned out to be the best decision I could have made. It is the perfect way to get into Victoria's live music scene and meet not only the artists themselves, but other important people like event coordinators, stage managers, concert promoters, publicists and even local media staff members.
   It was fortunate that Canada Day fell on a Sunday this year because it gave this city the opportunity to create a two day celebration that drew record crowds to the harbour. I was given the opportunity to work at two locations. My first day was at Ship's Point and I found myself doing everything but help out around the stage. In fact I did everything from mopping up excess rain water to taking out garbage from all around the site, including the food vendors. It may not have been what I signed up for, especially since there was another group dedicated to housekeeping, but I was told at the orientation that even stage hands could be called upon to help out everywhere regardless of what it says on our ID tags. So I went with it and I did everything I was asked to do and then some. It felt good to be doing something productive and it felt even better to hear how much my hard work was appreciated. It's been a while since I've heard that!
   It wasn't long until I finally took up a more permanent residence backstage helping the bands load their gear on and off the stage. This turned out to be my element and I took to it like a duck takes to water. It helps knowing a thing or two about guitars and amplifiers because I found it easy to communicate with the musicians to ensure things were set up the way they wanted.
   My experience at Ship's Point was only just a primer for my second day at the Main Stage in front of Victoria's Legislature Building. This was the big show. Six and a half hours and nine bands leading up to the big fireworks finale. As soon as I arrived at the site I was immediately assigned to help the stage manager switch the gear between each band's set. This was rewarding in so many ways. Not only did I learn a lot, but I got to meet every performer and I had the best seats in the house while they did their thing. Some of the artists were very impressed with my hard work and one of the girls in the band Sidney York told me they'd never had so much help with their gear. I said it was nothing but the rock star treatment for our performers.
   As if my day couldn't get any more awesome, one of the sponsors gave a big speech thanking all of the volunteers throughout the entire site. Then she called another volunteer and myself up on stage where we were given a huge round of applause from thousands of people as we received small gifts (I got a really nice ceramic mug) as tokens of appreciation. I can't describe the feeling of that many people cheering for me. All my co-volunteer and I could do was take a bow!
   I really think I could get used to doing what I was doing that night, so I signed up to volunteer for future concert events. I was told that's the best way to do it. Volunteer, work my ass off, and someone will notice me. And if I impress the right people, it won't be long before I end up as a paid staff member. I may never be a rock star myself, but there's something to be said for being a part of a crew that helps performers bring their music to their audience.
   Without the roadies, there would be no show.

The Wandering Oak
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