Thursday, 7 August 2014

Kings of Wood

Canada's Wonderland, an amusement park that was a mere 30 minutes from me, held concerts at their on site theatre known as "Kingswood" and that was the place I officially saw my first concert ever as a young boy growing up. My parents had taken me to see Gary "U.S." Bonds there when I was about 10-12 years old. The crowd was made up of mostly elderly folk, and I had know idea who this Gary Bonds person even was. I had no interest in the music and I felt somewhat lame being there with my parents, but all in all it was an experience.

English heavy metal rockers Iron Maiden even performed their in the early 80s, and I just so happened to be at the park on that day with my folks and a friend. Maiden were one of my favourite bands at the time, yet my folks still wouldn't let me attend the concert as they felt I was too young. I devised a plan and put it in effect. My friend and I went to the closest roller coaster to Kingswood, and we rode it over and over again. Each time we got to the peak of the coaster track we could catch a glimpse of the band in action. We could also somewhat hear the music, so it was almost as good as actually attending the concert.

A few years later when I was around age 13-14, I finally convinced my mother to allow me to attend a concert with my sister Christine, who is six years older than me. Chris had been going to kick ass heavy metal concerts from around the time I was 10, and I had always pleaded with my mother to let me go with her, but I was always denied permission. Now the day had finally arrived and I was excited, even though we were only going to see Kim Mitchell. I was just happy to finally be attending a concert with my big sis and without my parents. It ended up being a crazy night, and at some point the fans started ripping strips of fresh grass off of the ground and tossing them in the air. When you looked up all you saw was sod and greens flying everywhere above head. By the end of the show the entire lawn of Kingswood had been reduced to dirt. It was quite the spectacle.

I never attended another concert at Kingswood until the year I graduated high school. I had been to many live shows by this point, but my musical tastes had changed drastically, and to be quite honest Kingswood never hosted any bands I was interested in, until they finally booked punk rock legends The Ramones in 1991. I went with John McCuish, Mike Chapman, Mike Myers, and Mike Stewart. The Ramones killed it that night, barely ever pausing to acknowledge the audience. As soon as a song ended one of the members would yell out "ONE TWO THREE FOUR" and they'd break right into the next song. They had recently released the album "Brain Drain" which I owned and loved, so it was nice to see them cover that material. John ended up buying a pair of Ramones boxer shorts, that ended up wet from the rain, which resulted in Ramones logos printed all over a friends white couch later that night.

That same summer another big tour was conceived in the vein of lollapalooza, it was called the mix and match tour, and it featured Sisters of Mercy,  Gang of Four, Warrior Soul, Public Enemy, and a new upcoming white New York rap group called Young Black Teenagers. Once again we were at Kingswood to partake in the festivities. It was an all day event that started in the afternoon and would last until the park closed. I wasn't really interested in any of the bands except for YBT and PE. Young Black Teenagers opened the show and I was pumped to see them. They didn't get the greatest reception from the crowd, but the handful of us who actually knew who they were, enjoyed their performance greatly. They also warmed up the audience in general for the long day of festivities that were ahead of us all. I was not shocked to see the Demon Barf crew there marking out for YBT just as I was.

The rest of the day was long and boring to me, having to sit through three bands that I had absolutely no interest in seeing. It would all be worth it to see the legendary Public Enemy perform. PE ended up getting on stage extremely late, as they had issues at the border. So many issues in fact that they would not allow Flava Flav into our beloved country. I was totally pissed that Chuck D did not have his sidekick and trusted hype man to his right. They still belted out the tunes with conviction and got the crowd pumped up. After their fourth song there was a shocking announcement over the PA system stating that it was 10pm and the park was now closing. The plug was pulled on PE and we were all instructed to evacuate the premises.

Rap music was huge at the time, and Public Enemy where at the forefront of political issues, anti-government, and freedom of speech. I for one had been very inspired by Chuck's lyrics over the years, and I assumed the same as others. When we were told leave I expected an uprising, perhaps even a riot, but nobody was on board with me to "Fight The Power" people just complied with what they were told to do like a bunch of mindless sheep.

I was really bummed out that the show had been cut so short, since PE were my favorite rap band at the time, but I was much more disappointed in the audience. With the rise of self awareness through hip hop, I expected an uprising from the crowd. It was the total opposite, and I really started to question how big of fans these people actually were. Nobody wanted to voice their disappointment, stand up for their rights, or fight to be honored with a performance they paid their had earned money to see. I suppose a lot of people just liked the music but never paid attention to the lessons and messages in Chuck's lyrics like I did. One thing was for sure, I was truly let down by these so called "rap fans" I was also very let down by Wonderland for not being the slightest bit lenient in giving us what we paid for. 

I vowed to never attend another concert at Kingswood ever again in my life, and thankfully they didn't book any substantial musical acts I was interested in. That was fine by me, as I didn't have to break my word or my promise to myself, which was much more important than any concert in the world...

1 comment:

  1. We were there and still talk about the Kim Mitchell sod flying concert to this day. We went a day or two later and peeked through the fence and to our amazement, the lawn looked like nothing had happened at all. It was perfect.