Phew! What a rollercoaster night of drama the Canadian Music Fest served up for us on day one. It was certainly never meant to be this way. Setting out at 8pm my girlfriend and I had high hopes for a charming opening night spent at Lee’s Palace, enjoying the upbeat pop of local artists Zeus and Broken Social Scene’s Jason Collett. Instead, what we got was 2 hours of unprecedented, stubborn snobbery from the staff at Lee’s Palace, who did a fine job demonstrating the arts of unfair queue management and outright lying, with their outrageously disrespectful treatment of $60 paying festival-goers. Never in my ten years of gigging have I witnessed such a shambles.
Ok, I’ll try to keep this rant brief, for the anger still dwells within me, even now, 24 hours later. Lee’s Palace split the waiting spectators outside into 2 queues; one for people who had bought individual gig tickets, the other for people with 5 day festival wristbands (where I found myself). Now, instead of doing what any fair and logical venue organisers would do, and sell a certain quota of individual gig tickets and allow a sufficient quota for festival-goers, they practically sold out, let all the ticket people in first regardless of when they showed up and left the wristband queue static and annoyed the whole night. We turned up at 8pm, when the doors opened and a whole hour before the show was to start, and by 10pm our queue had not moved an inch. Individual ticket-holders were casually arriving at 9.30 and just waltzing right in! Then, when finally there were no more individual giggers showing up, they said it was full to capacity and no wristband people could get in (they didn’t offer to tell us this by the way, we had to berate them to the point of yelling for them to even acknowledge our existence). Needless to say there were hundreds of mightily peeved wristband-wearers dreaming of making better use of their wristbands by throttling some snotty venue staff with them. Now don’t get me wrong, I love paying 60 bucks to stand around in the cold with the greasy aromas of Big Fat Burrito swelling my nostrils, so long as I get to see some goddam live music at the end of it! At 9pm my girlfriend went to the front to ask when wristband people were allowed in and the bouncer brazenly responded “right now”. We were still standing in the same spot, with rain drizzling down on us to complete the ignominy, an hour later. I told the staff, which included an obstinately silent owner, exactly what I thought of their disgraceful treatment of paying customers and stormed away to salvage the night.
But boy did we salvage the night! Fuck Lee’s Palace, we don’t need them. Not when just up the road at Clinton’s young Irish rockers ‘Nightbox’ were bringing the house down with their high-octane energy levels. Hats off to the geezers, their fast-paced, jaunty riffage and keyboard spliced instrumentals were just what we needed to get us back in the festival mood… well, that and a round of tequilas. They gave it everything, even shedding blood for the cause when the drummer suffered a mysterious wound from his rather battered drums. Maybe they were giving him a taste of his own medicine. So from the bloody mess of a queuing system at Lee’s Palace we arrived to this bloody mess, pictured right. Suffice to say, one was infinitely more satisfying than the other.
Following Nightbox came ‘The Barettas’, a sexy, sultry trio of ladies that pounded forth a monotonous blast of guitar rock, that had some of the local Mohican-hairstyled “punks” (though hardly punks, more like cunts… or “cunks” as I rather affectionately dubbed them) head-banging brainlessly. Such was their “cunkishness” in fact that one hollered out “I so want to do this band!” and invaded the stage mid-song for his fellow cunk chumps to take pictures of. The Barettas handled this well but sadly their largely unoriginal clamour didn’t have as much of an effect on me.
On from Clinton’s we stopped by The Central on Markham Street on our way home and caught a very pleasing set from the badly named ‘Family of the Year’. Their six members somehow squashed themselves into the uncomfortably narrow venue and whittled out a highly engaging menagerie of toe-tapping folk and well-executed harmonies. Plus, having a very pretty bassist with a rather see-through t-shirt didn’t harm their cause one jot!
Overall, an opening night we shall not forget in a hurry. With a guitar-synth mash-up and a band that actually play with toy instruments on the cards for Day 2, here’s hoping that tonight goes a tad more according to plan…