We’re not groupies, we’re Band Aids. We’re here because we love the music. Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane got this great line in one of my all time favourite movies, Almost Famous.
I love music, all kinds of music and I love seeing great bands playing live in small venues. And although I have a wide taste in music, ask any of my friends who my favourite band is and without hesitation they will tell you “Blue Rodeo“. I first saw them playing at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto when I was at UofT in the “80’s. We drank at the Horseshoe because glasses of draft cost 10 cents and were delivered by the Irene, the craziest waitress ever, with her beehive hairdo, over the top make up and orthopedic shoes. She had been a waitress there longer than most of us had been alive and was an institution, as was singing “Good Night Irene” at the end of a long night of 10 cent glasses. The Horseshoe was also a great live music venue, showcasing all types of local musical talent.
So it was at the Horseshoe that my path first crossed that of Greg Keeler and Jim Cuddy. A few years later, a newly minted Poli Sci grad, I was having a lot of fun being a ski bum in Banff when they were playing the bar circuit out West and writing great songs like Western Sky and Cynthia. More Blue Rodeo shows. They popped back up on my radar in the 90’s in Vancouver. I had settled down into married life and they were enjoying a lot of commercial success in Canada. I saw them at the Queen Elizabeth theatre touring their record “Five Days in May” and it took me a while to connect the dots back to the Horseshoe days, but there it was. And I was hooked. Most years I get to see them play live a half-dozen times, and I’ve been doing that for close on 15 years now. Their music never gets old (although we all seem to) they have a huge songbook and they always put on a fantastic show.
So that’s the back story to last night’s adventure that was Way Past Normal. Call it my adventure in gate crashing. It started on Friday afternoon at work when one of my co-workers came back from lunch fairly bursting with something to tell me. One of their friends worked at an engineering company that was putting on a big formal bash at the Hotel Vancouver on Saturday night. And – here’s the kicker – the owner of the company was an old friend of Jim Cuddy’s and Blue Rodeo was the entertainment for the party. Well, with that challenge in hand, my weekend had a plan.
All good adventures need a steady wingman, so I immediately emailed by partner in crime with the goods and the idea that we had to find a way into this party. Of course she was in. Saturday night found us dressed up and headed downtown on the bus, suitably fortified by the excellent bottle of wine we had with dinner. Always play safe, no drinking and driving! We headed into the Hotel Vancouver to scout out the territory. I”m very familiar with the layout, having planned any number of corporate functions there, so we headed right up to the ballrooms on the 2nd floor. It was deathly quiet. No one in the corridors, just some bored coat check girls and a lot of security. Hmmm, this was going to be harder than I thought.
Back down to the bar for a further fortification and regroup. We chatted up our affable bartender who confirmed that Blue Rodeo was in fact playing there and encouraged us to bust on in. Looking around at the Newly Wed and Nearly Dead in the bar, I’m not surprised – it was probably the most fun he had all night! So back up to the 2nd floor where things have gotten a lot livelier – dinner must have been over. But everyone is dressed up in suits and cocktails dresses, coats securely checked. We are in jeans and boots and have our coats in hand. Obvious much? But not to be deterred, I decide that bold action is called for so I head straight up the first security guy I see and ask the obvious chick question “where’s the washroom?” And bless him, he points me right down the corridor past all the party rooms and just like that we are in.
We head down and coming right out of the first ballroom I hear the unmistakable sound of Greg singing. This is no time to hesitate so I yell to the wingman “follow me” and just walk right on into the party. Hesitate, look around furtively and we are sure to get bounced out (the jeans are a dead giveaway in the sea of gowns and tuxedos) so I boldly march right up to the dance floor in front of the stage and get in among the revellers there. We are standing right in front of the stage! We ditch the coats (another dead giveaway) and proceed to get into the party spirit, dancing and singing along. Things got really funny at this point. Having been to way too many BR shows, the guys in the band know us by sight. We never hang around or make nuisances of ourselves, we just enjoy the shows and have fun. We are only about 10 feet away from the stage and they look down and quite literally do a double take, mid-lyric. We are so busted! But hey, I think all musicians enjoy playing to fans rather than a room of drunk christmas party revelers who have never heard of them before, so we got a lot of flat-out laughs from the stage and the thumbs up to stay. It was a great show, made even better by the adventure it took to get there and will definitely being going into the annals of Blue Rodeo adventures. At the end of their set we just headed right out and left them to wonder how we managed it.
This was not my actual blog to post today – that one on tattoos is written , just needs a few finishing touches before publishing, but it was such a great night I woke up with the whole story running through my head and had to get up and write it down. Way too early after my 3am bedtime, but here I sit, cup of strong coffee in hand, recounting my Notes from Just Past Normal. It was brilliant. To protect the guilty there are no pictures from last night that I can post – except at some point I decided I REALLY liked my new Con’s. Mobile Uploads should have a breathalyzer mode.
“I learned to play so I could be where people dance” Jim Cuddy.