Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Part 1 of Andrew's Big MONTREAL Concert Road Trip Weekend Extravaganza: On Irish Punk Music, Ticket Brokers, and Breakneck Speed

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Around the same time I discovered Saint Etienne (see the post from a few days ago for more details….scroll down….scroll down further….there you go), I also discovered a band called Ash. At first, I thought “hey! These guys are catchy! It’s a little pop-y for my tastes, but it's still good.” I kept listening, though.

Ash has a very power-pop, emo, post-skate punk sound that’s been very popular in Europe but hasn’t caught on here, yet. And the more I listened to them, the catchier the music became. Stacey fell in love with Ash right away, clamoring for more and more mp3’s to satiate her hunger for their music.

I soon found myself constantly humming their tunes in my head and thinking “where do I know this from? Ohhhhhhh yeah, Ash.” The next logical step was to inadvertently break into singing one of their songs. Loudly. On a crowded elevator, much to my horror. I realized I had a problem: I’d been hooked. Of course, then I had to try to explain Ash to a co-worker.

Co-worker: Ash who?

Me: They’re from Ireland.

Co-worker: So, how’d you find out about them? Are they on the radio?

Me: Well, not here. They’re huge in the UK, though.

Co-worker: Uh-huh. So, do they play Irish drinking songs? I like stuff like that.

Me: No. They’re kind of rock, but kind of punk, too.

Co-worker: Pun-k? Like the Sex Pistols?

Me: Uh, no, not really. More like Green Day or Blink-182.


Co-worker: Who?

Me: Never mind.

Around about the same time I decided to go to the Saint Etienne concert in Toronto, I also found out that Ash would be the opening band for Saves The Day in Montreal on the 6th of December. At first, I wasn’t very excited. I knew that as an opening act, they’d have a short set, and it would be an expensive trip since we didn’t have a viable place to stay while we were there. I also downloaded a few songs from Saves the Day, and although I thought they were okay, they were nothing to write home about.

After the success of the trip to Toronto, though, Stacey and I had caught the traveling bug. Plus, we really had fallen for the band. All that needed to be taken care of was the logistics.

For those of you who haven’t seen a concert in Montreal, it works a little differently than in most other places in Canada. Usually, when there’s a big act, where do you get the tickets? Ticketmaster, of course. It’s easy, they have kiosks everywhere, and you can get tickets online and print them up, no sweat (criminal service charges, but that’s another rant completely).

Not in Montreal; Ticketmaster doesn’t even exist there. So instead, you have to farm out your ticket business to any number of small, potentially unreliable ticket brokers. And ticket kiosks? Forget about it. Nine times out of ten, if you can’t drive to Montreal to pick up the tickets, you have to trust the dreaded online-purchase-and-Canada-Post route. It’s enough to make anyone angsty. I’m not a big fan of shopping online to begin with, but when Canada Post gets involved, I start feeling sick to the stomach.

After I had carefully read everything on the pages as they went by and finished filling out the online forms to get my tickets, I got a confirmation email. Again, I carefully read everything on the email. “All sales final.”…okay… “No refunds allowed.”…okay… “Your credit card has automatically been billed.”…yada yada. In teeny-tiny type down at the bottom of the email, I read “please allow AT LEAST two weeks for ticket delivery.”

I started to freak out. The concert was in ten days, and they hadn’t told me anywhere on their online pages that they needed two weeks to get the tickets to me. Not even Canada Post is slow enough to take two weeks to mail something between Montreal and Ottawa. I desperately clicked the “back” button on my browser to re-read all of the pages and make sure I didn’t miss anything. I came up empty.

I spent an anxious few days wondering if I should call the box office, only to find the tickets waiting for me in our mailbox on the Monday before the concert. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Their ticket terror tactics were only in place to legally cover their asses and, apparently, to make me feel needlessly ill.

Next stop, Montreal! Do to a personal mess that I don’t care to get into, we had left our packing to the last minute. Our hope was to pack up the car the morning of the concert (it was a Friday), drive into work, and then drive straight from work to the show. The fates conspired against us, unfortunately.

After work, we fought rush hour traffic back home, spent an hour packing, had to get dinner, had to gas up the car, and then fought rush hour traffic all the way out to the east end and out of town to Montreal. Over the course of these events, Stacey (with an impudent grin) insisted on asking me if I had the tickets every five minutes or so and expected me to prove it by showing them to her. Fortunately, after the last time, I had learned my lesson.

By the time we were solidly on the road, it was almost 7 pm and the band was on stage for 8:45 sharp. An hour and a half to Montreal was do-able, but really tight. Everything depended on traffic and a total lack of police on the road.

The next hour and half was a whirlwind of high-beams, catching “waves” of high-speed drivers, and a whole pant-load of luck. We pulled into downtown Montreal with 15 minutes to spare onto Rue St-Laurent, the very street where the concert was being held.

One problem: despite what the sign had said when we pulled of the highway, we weren’t actually on St-Laurent. We parked three blocks away from the venue only to find out we weren’t actually three blocks away.

Stacey, the quintessential optimist when it comes to taking the advice of strangers, asked a lady where the street was, en Français, no less. The dumbfounded looking lady, after scratching her big dumb head and rolling her big dumb eyes for a while, sent us six blocks in the opposite direction before we realized we were going the wrong way, asked someone else for directions, and re-traced our steps.

We burst into the nightclub winded, exhausted, and just in time for the first few bars of “Girl From Mars,” Ash’s opening song. Without even regard for our bladders, we found a spot to stand and reveled in our accomplishment. We were there, we were in one piece, and Ash was on the stage. Bliss.

Part 2: On the Art of Upstaging, Living Like Royalty, and Cobblestone Streets” will be posted soon. Stay tuned!


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