It ain’t always the pits.

When I was younger — much, much younger — I went to shows. Not a lot of shows, but there were a few here and there. I didn’t really much care about where I sat or stood, because at the time I was just interested in my experiences with music and not really so much about interaction with the people making the music. But really, live music was a different thing then. We’re talking about a time when it was still illegal in Cincinnati to sell general admission tickets for live shows. Interestingly, although I loved music — always have, always will — I didn’t really give much of a shit about the interactive side of music until I was a little bit older. Luckily for me, that interest showed up right around the time that people started staging festivals like Lollapalooza and (in Canada) Edgefest on a regular basis. Those were the days when I’d wind up spending the day after a night-shift hanging out at one of those festivals instead of sleeping and preparing for the next night-shift. In retrospect, totally irresponsible and incredibly fucking stupid. At the time, awesome. But yeah … that pit. You’re always with your family in the pit. When you’re surfing and you drop six feet from head height straight onto your back, you can be pretty sure that any number of hands will be there reaching down to get you back onto your feet and to make sure that you’re not hurt down there. Most of the time, people don’t go in the pit to fight. They don’t go in there to get hurt. They’re in there to have fun and have a great time. I’ll tell you, though. Being in the pit now is kind of a different thing. The rules, such as they are, are more or less the same, but it looks like there are just way more assholes at shows. Or maybe it’s that they were all already there, and now that I’m drinking way less, I get to see them more.

Asshole number one: the dude that pushes his way from the back of the GA section right up to the barricade, or at least as close to the front as he can get. Holy fuck. I hate this dude. Everyone paid the same amount of money to see these bands, and some folks were dedicated enough to show up early and stand in line forever for the chance to get close to the stage. And then here you come. You dick. Don’t do that. Don’t be a dick. Everyone knows that you don’t have a friend by the barricade who’s holding a spot for you. Go back to the bar and buy yourself a beer. You can hear and see everything just fine from there. Did I mention that you’re being a dick, you dick?

Asshole number two: the fucker who holds spots in line for eighteen of his favourite friends, all of whom inevitably wind up standing right in front of you in the pit. This is just the shittiest, shittiest move to pull. I get it if you’re meeting one or two other people at the venue. But I remember being at a show in Houston one time. When we showed up, there were no more than a dozen or so people ahead of us in line. By the time the doors opened, we were about fifty people deep, because friends-of-friends just kept showing up. Be considerate, people. Show up early. If you don’t, then you get your ass to the back of the line and you’ll figure out a spot near the barricade next time. When you don’t do that, you’re a dick, and so are your friends. Dicks.

Asshole number three: you’re the dude who’s having just a little too much fun in the circle pit. Look. The pit is an awesome time. But there’s always gonna be a core set of people about five rows deep from the barricade who are just not going to join in when the circle pit forms. When your 90-kilogram ass goes cannoning into that group, people are gonna get hurt. Please, please try to remember that people have fun in different ways, and that the people at the edge of that circle — especially the edge closest to the stage — won’t be facing you, won’t see you coming, and won’t always love being pummelled unexpectedly. So please try and keep yourself a tiny bit more to yourself so that we can all have fun together, you energetic, fun-loving bastard. And you know, you’re actually probably not a dick.

Asshole number four (part one): there are two varieties of this person, and it always starts the same way — with one or two or five too many trips to the bar. You’ll do one or all of these things: you’ll spill your drink all over someone, or you’ll stumble and weave all over and push people all over the place, or (and this is just the best) you’ll be one of those drunks who wants to start beef with someone. Or with everyone. Probably with one of the people that you bumped into or with the fortunate soul who’s enjoying the feel of your ninth drink soaking into their clothing. Holy Christ, are you a dick. There’s a time and a place to be that hammered. This ain’t it. I don’t care how sorry you are about your spilled drink. You’re not the one whose clothing just turned into Michelob Swamp, you dick.

Asshole number four (part two): this person is the worst, and they will commit the most egregious party foul possible in the pit. For this person, drink number nine will be one drink too many, and they will vomit in the pit. This can go two different ways. If this goes well — HAHAHAHA! — then our happy hurler will retain enough control to lean over and aim at the floor. If it goes as badly as these things so often do, someone else gets to wear a stranger’s stomach contents all the way home. If this is you — if you are Peter (or Pauline) the puking prince(ss) — then I hope that someone someday leaves an open bag of vomit to ferment in your car all day long on the hottest day of the summer when you’re unable to find a parking spot in the shade. You’re a whole bag of dicks, you dick.

None of those people will ever stop me from hanging out in the pit. Mostly because I’m asshole number five. I’m the sanctimonious, self-righteous dick who’s silently judging you. Have fun at the show!

There’s A Last Time For Everything

I have always loved going to music festivals. Open air music is the best music, and I’m not just saying that because it takes me three days to recover my hearing after standing at the barricade in a club. I’m not just saying that because I’m old enough to have my knees crackle like popping popcorn when I get back out to the parking lot and sit down in the car. It’s just one of those things that’s true. Rain or shine, you’re always gonna have a good time hanging out with 10 000 or so of your really close friends — that’s only the close ones, mind you — listening to bands you love (and some that you fucking hate) and screaming your foolish face off.

So yes. Warped Tour 2018. Warped for the last time. Also, Warped for the first time, because those fuckers haven’t bothered crossing the border into Canada for the past not even God knows how many years. As a result I’ve had to make do with the sporadic Edgefests that haven’t really been good for a number of years and the other smaller festivals that sometimes pop up nearby. I have found this … unsatisfying. That said, it’s actually turned out to have been OK on the live music front, because over the past couple of years the shows at non-festival venues have totally made up for the relative rarity of decent day-long musical extravaganzas.

I remember those shows all those years ago. I remember working a twelve hour shift in the heart of downtown Toronto, then getting a call from my boys to haul ass up to Molson Park in Barrie, partying for about ten hours, then dragging ass back home with barely enough time to shower, dress my moshpit wounds, and to make it back into work for the next twelve hour shift. I barely remember half the bands on stage who played on those days, although I do quite clearly remember staring up at Courtney Love from in front of the barricade after crowd surfing my way to the front of the GA pit during a Hole set. I also remember Our Lady Peace stopping their set mid-song after a kid having an epileptic seizure dropped pretty much onto my head in the middle of the pit — that kid recovered and was fine, in case you’re wondering. But by now, my surfing days are over. I still dig hanging up front at the barricade, but now it’s with my daughter and most of the fun comes from being with her and watching her enjoy the music.

So yes … again … Warped Tour 2018. I’m actually pretty excited to see a bunch of the bands that are going to be out there this year. As an aside, the response to the lineup announcement has been really interesting. I see bands that are totally stoked to play alongside fans who can’t wait to see them, all of whom are interspersed with people who are totally unimpressed with the acts that’ll be touring this year. It seems that for the most part the responses to the announcement are very polarized. But whatever. I’m excited for the show, and that’s what matters. But what about that lineup? Not everyone will be at every show, and for the most part that’s OK. I’m not gonna miss Falling In Reverse, because fuck Ronnie Radke. But goddamnit, Beartooth … was it really too much for y’all to spend two extra days at the front end of your short Warped stint to take a jaunt across the border? Bowling For Soup is skipping only one date in their short engagement. Yes. It’s the fucking Canadian date. On the other hand, the only date that Sum 41 is playing is the Canadian date. We’re also getting Underoath and Silverstein, so I guess those things count as sort of a decent tradeoff. The one thing that really worries me is this: there are quite a few bands that I don’t want to miss, but there are also five different stages. I’ll be pissed if the acts I want to see overlap with one another, but I think it’s almost inevitable that there’s going to be some kind of a conflict someplace, considering that I can see probably about twenty bands in that lineup that I’d like to check out if I can. I’m not even counting the acts that the kid might want to see. Who knows what our list will look like when we figure all those choices in, plus trying to make time to stop in and actually see some of these bands if/when they come out to hang with fans (I’m looking at you, Sleep On It, and I’m pretty sure my daughter is going to want to give Patty Walters a hug).

It’s just the beginning of March, so I have four months to prepare for this show. I already have a couple of tickets, and I might buy a couple more before all’s said and done. I think it’s gonna be a good time. And although it’s my last chance to go to Warped, I sure hope it won’t be my last open air festival, ‘cause that’d be a tragedy.

I am a musical tourist…

… and I blame my daughter.

Or is it everyone that travels hundreds of kilometres a year and crosses international borders to see live music? Really, you’d think that living within about thirty minutes of the biggest city in the second-biggest country in the freakin’ world would be an automatic pass to all the bands and all the live music that you’d ever want to see. Yeah … not really true all the time. Sometimes, bands don’t bother to schedule Canadian dates (I’m looking at you fuckers, Warped Tour). Sometimes bands can’t make it across the border past Customs. Those border guards have a pretty long memory when it comes to all those *ahem* youthful indiscretions in a band’s past. But sometimes, you just want to jump in the car and drive.

How far is too far? One of the first shows that I ever took my daughter to was about 600 kilometres from home. And then there was that time we drove to the U.S. Gulf Coast — just about 2500 kilometres — for a show that cost us $24 in total for a pair of general admission tickets. Maybe when Google Maps tells you that your destination is in a different time zone, you might be traveling a little bit out of the way for the pleasure of your favourite band’s company. If your “music trip” routing will require you to spend more than two consecutive nights in one or more hotel rooms, then it might be that you are traveling a tiny bit too far.

All that aside, there’s only one real question to answer: is what you’re doing fun? Well, you only get one chance to do the really, really stupid shit so…. I guess you know what my advice would be here. See y’all on the barricade.

Ain’t no party like ….

… a rock ‘n’ roll party, bitchessss! That’s pretty much what a concert is, after all. Take a band or two or three (or sometimes four these days), then add a bunch of people who really love these bands and their music. Throw in a healthy helping of alcohol and/or other recreational substances, and voilà!

Now, there’s a thing I’ve always wondered about these venues. Before the show, between acts, after the show … there’s always recorded music playing. Sometimes it’s only three or four songs that get repeated endlessly. Sometimes you don’t hear the same song twice. And I always wonder who gets to choose exactly what gets played at these places. I think it should be me. Here’s what you’ll hear when I get to be in charge of the music at your show.

In Bloom: Neck Deep. If you’re just listening to the lyrics, well … kind of mopey-angsty-depressing. But don’t you just wanna bop all around the room when you hear the music that goes with those words?

Migraine: twenty-øne piløts. Same thing. Maybe I’m onto a theme here. Boppy song with a great rhythm, but the lyrics are kind of a downer. Meh. Good thing I didn’t pick Goner, right? Fuck it, man. Just dance while you’re waiting for the next band to hit the stage.

The Party Song: blink-182. It’s a little more on the punk side than the pop side, but damn. This song is funny as shit, and it’ll be an antidote for all the people who’ve been crying in the corners after listening to the last two songs.

The Lines: Beartooth. So we’re back to this, are we? I mean … those lyrics, though. That said, if this song is good enough for the band themselves to open shows with, then it’s good enough to get people hyped at other shows.

The Downfall Of Us All: A Day To Remember. And now it’s about the show openers. Bands open their shows with these songs for a reason, though. Set the tone early, and kill the rest of the show. Like the band says, “sing it if you fuckin’ know it.”

Poker Face: Lady Gaga. Not even close to kidding about this. There are grown men who will scream, weep, and push their girlfriends down to get to the dance floor when this song comes on. Admit it. You know all the words, and you’re singing it in your head right now.

Blank Space: I Prevail. You and I both know that everyone … everyone loves Taylor Swift. Now you get to admit it in front of a bunch of people without being the least bit embarrassed.

This Is The Time (Ballast): Nothing More. Yep. Getting close to time for that next act to get on stage. Get ready. Get moving. Get singing along with some more depressing lyrics backed by some great rhythms.

HUMBLE.: Kendrick Lamar. Full disclosure. I find this dude’s voice pretty annoying. I hear “MY LEFT STROKE JUST WENT VIIIRAL,” and it kinda makes me want to commit homicide. But this dude is at the top of his game and he’s working the most popular music genre in the US today. I can’t argue with that. And annoying voice notwithstanding, the tune’s catchy as hell.

Alpha Omega: Machine Gun Kelly. You get MGK just before the next act comes on. Motherfucker has an angry delivery. If you weren’t ready to get hype before, then you’d better believe that you will be after this song drops.

Lights go down. Cheers from the crowd. Here comes the band.

Bonus material. Here’s a song you’ll never, ever hear if you let me choose your music. I hate that I find that horrible, horrible song so catchy. The fact that your boy Lil Pump is sometimes too lazy to even finish pronouncing one-syllable words makes the English student in me weep bitter, bitter tears. Now … get back to listening to the music you went to the show to hear.