I Kept The Ticket

Back in 2005, we somehow got our hands on a whole whack of lawn tickets at the Molson Amphitheatre. Six or seven of us–myself, Maymar, Scott, Shaw, Kimi, and I think maybe Leslie–went through the security check, climbed the concrete steps and staked a claim on a patch of grass as directly centered as we could find on what would promise to be the high point of the summer.

Amplifiers, busted televisions and other electronics stacked haphazardly across the stage. The crowd, filling in and the humming of a thousand half-heard conversations rendered down to background noise. Over the course of the evening, we became very well-acquainted with Mr. Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters, who were touring on In Your Honor and… well, they were pretty damn good, as far as I’m concerned. I didn’t like that record, but they played ‘Low’ and ‘Everlong’ and Dave can scream as loud as ever, so that was cool.

Anyway, in a ‘surprise’ that was blown early because of the T shirts and albums available at the merch booths, Sloan played a short set directly before the Foo’s. It was clouding over then, and looked about ready to rain, so I don’t remember much from that; my eyes were skyward. Also, I never liked them.

No, the real story lies in the first openers,  The Constantines.  I remember most of their set sounding like…. noise, with me distracted by a furious ex-girlfriend. Since then, I’ve never really given them a second thought. “Oh, that’s that band we saw while I was getting screamed at by that girl that time in front of everyone at the Amphitheatre. Fuck ’em.”

But it seems I’ve never given them a fair shake. I recently acquired a copy of ‘Shine A Light,’ and, to be blunt, so should you. It’s damn, damn, damn good. Gritty, gripping, intense, sort of indie, sort of accessible, with keyboards that aren’t cheesy and awful.

I don’t know why, but it’s really rare that I’ll hear something that I love right away. It takes a few listens for me to warm up to it almost every time. Some people seem to have that talent–ten seconds into an album, or a book, or a poem, they will go, “This is it.” And that will, indeed, be it. I don’t seem to be one of those people. I had attempted, and not really given a real shot, at reading Virginia Woolf several times over the years. Finally, I bought a pack of books at a yard sale this summer that included two of hers for a combined cost of maybe 20 cents. And guess what. She’s Virginia Woolf. But I was too stubborn, too stupid to see. Story of my life, eh?

Interesting non sequitur: Two exceptions to this rule of thumb are “Long Haul Driver” by Luke Doucet and “Devastation” by The Besnard Lakes. Oh–and Jones. Daniel Jones. Hey, that gives me an idea for another blog…

Maybe familiarity is part of what I crave from art–something of a sense of where everything’s going? Whatever it is, in the intervening 5 years between then and now, The Constantines’ excellent ‘Shine A Light’ album hasn’t changed, but I sure have. Maybe that’s moreso what has to happen–people aren’t receptive to art immediately all the time. They need to be in the right mood, the right frame of mind, to enjoy it, the right set of experiences and feelings to relate to it, and the right state of half-drunk ‘Ah, to hell with it’ to press play on something new.

So press play:

I guess that makes art much like love: a complex set of circumstances and chains of coincidence that result in something unique and powerful and wholly undependable. Something private that becomes wholly public in its exhibition and statement. There’s the shot behind art, at least when it’s spectacularized in such a fashion–the concert itself, with the Bell Mobility people who wouldn’t give me a poncho, the silent car ride home, the overpriced beer, and Dave Grohl all together, mixed up and smeared across every sense, my heart and my mind. There’s art in that evening, in any evening I have reason to remember. No matter how miserable.

Anyway,  it rained at the show. Not enough to make me hate the lawns at the Amphitheatre, though. I think those may be my favorite seats in Toronto.

I probably deserved to get yelled at that time anyway.

Don’t talk to me about simple things / There ain’t no such thing / All a man can build is his vision / And I love my man for trying.

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