Saturday, March 26, 2011

Juno Block Party

Upon reading the Toronto Star a few days ago, I happened upon an insert displaying the various events being held around the city in celebration of the 40th Juno Awards this year, hosted once again by our glamourous, if a tad snooty, city.

Most of the concerts and gigs were taking place in seedy bars, often late into the night, some 19+ and all costing some sort of cover charge. Much as I do enjoy some of the showcased bands, I concluded that watching the awards themselves would just have to do for this year.

Just as I was about to recycle the paper along with its bright Juno companion insert, I noticed that there was to be a free concert outdoors on Thursday March 24th at Metro Square. I thought that this would be an interesting way to see some great Canadian music, and noticed that City and Colour would be headlining, along with my favourite rapper, Shad. I have seen City and Colour twice before, at the Rogers Picnic in the summer of 2008 and again last summer at the Molson Amphitheatre, both outdoor venues if you will note. He is a marvellous live musician, never disappointing in comparison to my horrible headphones, and a delight stage presence to experience. Shad, I had seen once before in January of 2009 at Nathan Phillips Square as part of the WinterCity festival, and I didn't want to break my tradition of being his outdoor-Toronto-free-numbingly-cold concert groupie.

And so off I went, bus to subway to our most honourable PATH system, up through Metro Hall, and into a swarm of a crowd, ten minutes after the show was scheduled to begin. There were a lot of booths around the stage, selling various foods and Juno merchandise, which was also peddled by the MC of the night, Andréanne Sasseville.

We wedged our way into the crowd apologetically (as my fellow concert companion stated to be very "Canadian" of us) and waited apprehensively for Shad to make his way to the stage.

The specimen pushes its way into the crowd, but apologizes while doing so. It makes polite chitchat with other patrons, so as to further itself into the crowd even more. The specimen does not care for the well-being or viewing capacity of those around it, but is somewhat appreciated all the same.
Annoyance factor: 20%

All three of us were there to see him, and we were not disappointed by his surplus of charisma and energy. We seemed to be the only ones, though, because everyone was either too cold to appreciate his music or didn't think much of him.

The specimen has made its way to the concert solely to see the headlining act, and although it knows full well that it could have attended the show at a later time in the evening, it asserts its usually large stature into the middle-somewhat-front of the crowd early on in the show and stands aloof with a look of disinterest in its eye. This look does not leave the specimen's eye when the headliner appears onstage, but the specimen does appear slightly less aloof as it sings along to well-known songs when it thinks no one is looking at it.
Annoyance factor: 85%

The person standing beside me would not stop smoking cigarettes through what came to be almost the entire show, and the wind was blowing right at me. Since when did people forget that if you must inhale gross things during a concert, you're supposed to tilt your head back and blow the smoke up into the air, not directly into the face of an unassuming girl trying to enjoy the show?

This specimen is a slightly rare breed, only being found at outdoor shows. The specimen is addicted to nicotine and cannot spend the better part of an hour without its fix. It is very disrespectful to those around it, and reflects all dirty looks and rude comments directed at it like a funhouse mirror. 
Annoyance factor: 35%

As I motioned towards this human chimney to my friends, we started to laugh, as did the girls behind us. We shared some snide comments about the offenders with them, and started to chat about the show and other things. The girls were also on the shorter side, so we did our best to make appropriate space between our shoulders for them to see.

The specimen initiates contact through a positive or accidental way (such as stepping on one's foot), followed by chitchat discussing opinion of the talent/appearance/relevancy of the performing act. If the specimen's opinions are interesting or mirror one's own opinions, concert friendship is achieved. The specimen will now have one's back if "sh*t were to go down", and will protect one from any and all heavy crowd surfers, where applicable.
Friendliness factor: 75%

We moved forward in the rush between Shad and the second act, Hannah Georgas. One of my friends is not as assertive as my other friend and myself, and so she was pushed a little behind the two of us, but still in sight. Luckily, the man sandwiched between us allowed her to go in front of him, for which she was grateful and I was surprised.

This is also a rare specimen, the polite concert goer. The specimen's mother raised it with strong morals, and it knows when it can do something nice for those around it who are in need. It gains as much enjoyment from ensuring the enjoyment of others as it does from the show itself.
Friendliness factor: 60%

Hannah Georgas was allotted much more time than was ever necessary. I had not taken the time to listen to her songs at home before I went to the show, so that may have accounted for my mild dislike of her slow and repetitive songs, but it seemed that the rest of the crowd was much less forgiving than myself. No one clapped and there was dead silence between the songs, and she seemed to go on forever. By the end, people began to boo at her to get off the stage. They may have disliked her music, or they may have been cold, or they may have just had a really big crush on Dallas Green, or maybe it was a mixture of all of those things, but I think the crowd was much meaner than it needed to be.

The specimen takes concerts very seriously and generally has high expectations of life. It has little to no shame and will make catcalls if it feels they are necessary. The specimen has no patience for underground, little-known, or indie performers, and will not hesitate to shatter their self-esteem into tiny little pieces.
Annoyance factor: 50%

We moved close and closer to the stage throughout, so that by the time City and Colour came onstage we were about four heads from the front. Not shabby, considering we arrived 10 minutes after the show began, to a crowd full of people. Simply trying to pass the time that Hannah Georgas was taking up with her...performance, we started to feel the cold more and more. My friend had the stroke of genius thought that we should take advantage of the excess of tall people in the crowd and crouch down so that our heads were at their chest level. A mere 10 inches lower to the ground added about 10 degrees to the atmosphere, and we made jokes until Dallas Green chose to drag his arse onstage.

Finally, at last, it was time for City and Colour. He played an amazing show, and it was time for the entire crowd, friend or foe, to unify and belt out the popular songs along with Dallas. I don't think he minded much. Everyone was having a really good time (on our side of the crowd, anyway), until he abruptly stopped playing in the middle of a song. He motioned for his band to stop as well, and stared out into something on the far side of the crowd that we couldn't see. Then, he said, rather sternly, into his microphone, "STOP F***ING FIGHTING! THIS ISN'T A SLAYER CONCERT!" And we just about died laughing. As per my friend, if City and Colour is staring you down through his hipster spectacles with a look of vague anger in his smouldering eyes, you had better stop what you're doing to piss him off and stop it right quick. He just kept staring, and apparently the people who were fighting did not move (they were probably mesmerized by the amazingness of the event occurring) and he told them that he was not going to finish the song until they left the crowd. At this, the entire body of people started to chant, "LEAVE-THE-CROWD! LEAVE-THE-CROWD!" You just know, when the crowd turns against you, there is no hope. They left, and he played his last song with a little more intensity than I can recall from last summer.

This specimen feels the need to become incredibly inebriated either before or during each and every concert it attends. It cares little for the talent and love of music usually found in the average concert goer, and simply attends these concerts as a change of scenery instead of getting wasted at home. More often than not, the specimen will make a spectacle of itself by either starting a fight, passing out, making rude remarks, or other unwelcome behaviour.
Annoyance factor: 95%

All in all, as any concert is, this show was all about the Canadian music, and it delivered quite well for a free show. I can say that the three of us enjoyed ourselves very much, and watched the Junos from the safety and warmth of my house, where we allowed ourselves to be as annoying and crazy as we could be.

I leave you with one of my favourite songs by Shad. He is one of those gems in the rough who can actually rap (well!) about things that matter like civil wars, sexism, and a clever take on living at home well into your thirties.

"He held a tough job down, held my mother's hand; 
handed down proud roots from my motherland"

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