By Carl Begai
One of my first serious live show experiences growing up was seeing Niagara Falls-based Honeymoon Suite perform at the Ontario Place Forum in August 1984. I was 15 years old, and I say “serious” because my ears were still ringing four days after the show. It was awesome.
At that point I was just starting to get my legs as a concert-goer, having attended a show or two at Maple Leaf Gardens and a couple more at Ontario Place if memory serves. The Honeymoon Suite show was something special, though, because it was the real concert experience. Me and a friend got down to the park in the morning, paid some ridiculous almost non-existent admission fee, and nabbed first row seats. We hung out all day, had the chance to witness soundcheck, hit on the girls in the neighbouring rows unsuccessfully, and generally whiled away the hours and potential boredom with other fans that shared our mindset.
When the show started some time after 8:00pm, the sold out Forum went nuts. I remember the wash of music, the energy of the crowd on all sides, the heat of the lights (as it was a revolving in-the-round-stage), the handful of new tunes played that would end up on the band’s second album The Big Prize, security guards trying to keep people out of the aisles (and failing), learning how to identify the stink of weed, the lovely pair of twenty-something ladies that stood beside me necking with each other for the last half of the show…
Yes indeed, that was the night I fígured out why going to concerts was a big deal.
From that point I spent whatever money I had that didn’t go to records and tapes attending shows at the CNE, the Gardens and the Forum; God bless my parents for letting me go. And when I hit legal age to enter the almighty Toronto rock clubs it was game over; I was in love with The Gasworks and Rock N’ Roll Heaven, to the point that the arena shows inevitably came in second unless the bands in question were a VERY big deal.
I’m still all about the club gigs and mid-sized venues. Whether it’s a handful of people in the audience, a few hundred or a couple thousand, live gigs continue to be a source of adrenaline. Of course, at the ripe young age of 44 and being a music media person to boot, my excitement is somewhat more “refined.” Compared to the younger me, who was thrilled to simply be a part of what I considered an elite gathering of people with taste as good as my own, I’m much more conscious these days of the sound, the stage presence of the artists in question, the lighting, the setlist, and crowd response to what the band is serving up. But ultimately, I go to the shows because I still get that adolescent charge when the lights go down.
It doesn’t have to be metal or rock, either. Country, industrial, pop, even classical music; give me a performance to sink my senses into and I’m a fan.
Go to this location for the complete me-and-my-soapbox rant.
Live photos by Carl Begai. All rights reserved.