Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Opening Act

Sometime in the late 90s, I was the drummer of a punk rock band in Edmonton. We had a decent following and made a bit of a name for ourselves locally. One summer, we were asked to open for the Suicide Machines, a major label punk band from Detroit. This was going to be a huge show locally because the Suicide Machines were touring with the Mad Caddies, a California ska band on Fat Wreck.

I recall there were about 500 people jammed into the venue, The Rev. The temperature outside was around 34 degrees C and it was even hotter inside because the AC was busted. Just standing at the bar was enough to make you sweat, so imagine what it was like behind my drums, underneath all those lights, with the heat of the crowd in front of us. Since I was in my late 30s at the time, I was probably the oldest person in the room. The other two guys in the band, Mark and Stacey, were younger than me but also in their early 30s. I knew there were some in the crowd who didn't like us, who thought we were posers because we were so much older than the average punk. Of course, many didn't realize that because of our age, we had been in punk rock bands for almost 20 years.

But we didn't care. And the heat didn't stop us. Mark hit the guitar intro for our first and then Stacey and I jumped it. We had another guitarist at the time, but he had to work that week out of town and couldn't make it. But no matter, the three of us had been playing together for almost 5 years so we were pretty tight. One of my greatest musical memories was that moment right after our first song. I hit my both my crash cymbals, and a half second later, a huge roar came up from the crowd. I waited for a couple of second, soaking the sound in, and then counted in our next song. The whole 40 minute set was like that. Big cheers after each song.

I tore my drums done pretty quickly to make room for the Caddies and then dashed through the crowd to get some fresh air. Like I said, it was about 34 C outside but it felt so much cooler. A bunch of other folks were out there, cooling off and having a smoke, and they all commented on how great our set was. A couple of folks who had hated us or at least questioned our "punk cred" prior to that show told me later that they changed their minds about our band because of that night. Two years later, Mark and I ran into the guys from the Suicide Machines at the Warped Tour and recognized us from that show. But by then, the band had broken up and we were already onto different things.

I'm writing about that night over a decade ago because in a couple of days, I'll be at the Vancouver Writers Festival. I have two events but the big one is the Crime Time Panel October 21 with Ian Rankin, Stuart McBride and Denise Mina, with Peter Robinson moderating. These are big names in crime fiction, Ian Rankin being the biggest one; he's responsible for more than 10 percent of all crime fiction books sold in the UK. He's also supposed to be a nice guy and like me, is an old punk rock musician. Almost 500 tickets have been sold for our panel. So like that Suicide Machines set long ago, I know most of the people at the Crime Time event this Friday will not be there to see me. Most of them have never heard of me. But like that Suicide Machines show, I won't sit back and let the big bands get all the applause; I'll make sure they won't forget me.

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