Strap in, kids. This is a big one.
(Visit Part 2 of the galleries here – even more bananas than Part 1!)
It’s been a while since I put anything new on here – the process is much easier integrating albums from my Flickr with the Concert Addicts posts. Yes, I will try to truncate this and that selection plus some general words will make their way onto Concert Addicts sometime in the next day or two, but this night was such a wacky blast, I couldn’t bear to ditch too many of the moments and memories and why this show was special – so much more than ‘just another show’ for me. So I was interested in popping in for this event, in support of Canuck Place and Basics for Babies, for a couple of reasons. One, who doesn’t love checking out an Odds show? I’ve seen them a bunch this past year or two and it’s always a great time. Two, Vancouver Canucks alumni, with a lot of names being tossed about ahead of time that I was pretty jazzed about (though some of those either weren’t there at all, or didn’t make their presence as, um, obvious as some others). Our alumni here are pretty active in this city, but I seem to never hear about events til they are over with, or can’t attend, but in combination with a concert I could shoot? Now we’re talking. Worlds colliding. I’m not really much of a pop country fan, but in this occasion, was pretty darn engaging even for this rock n roll gal. Lots of warm hearts and camaraderie in the ol’ Vogue Theatre tonight.
Music took over my life around 1999, but prior to that, hockey was the big focus. I didn’t grow up in a sportsy family, so was a bit late to the party in that respect. The interest bloomed as a young teen in late 1993, in the midst of a .500ish season that would lead to the Stanley Cup Finals. It was a great year to become a fan, even though at the time, we couldn’t have known the playoff fever we would get swept up in along with the entire city a few months later. The Vancouver Canucks were still playing at the beloved Pacific Coliseum (I don’t know, I still love that place) and my sister and I started taking advantage of the $40 blind-ticket pairs you could get at Shoppers Drug Mart. Quite innocently as well, due to the nature of the building creating a very accessible atmosphere for fans to ‘meet’ players, my friend Angel and I used to trek down to the Coliseum after school and interact where possible. Very few games were on basic TV at the time, and we were too young to go to bars to watch Pay Per View games, and too broke to buy tickets all the time, so we’d go down, meet some players, then sit on the steps in the dark outside with a walkman and listen to the games on the radio, punctuated by the live cheers and boos coming from inside the stadium at our backs. Sometimes we’d stay to bump into players post-game too before heading home to the suburbs, or hang out on practice days there, or at nearby Britannia Arena, and later, their own space at 8 Rinks in Burnaby. Anyways, we were dorks, but we had a pretty good time and it kept us out of trouble during often-troublesome adolescent years. We had a lot of reverence for those players and how gracious they always were. It’s a bit boggling in hindsight that they were always so willing to stop and talk or sign things while having to wade through people when they were likely worn out after games or practices and just trying to get to their cars and go home. Our ultimate triumph though, and again, mind-boggling they agreed to this so easily, was getting almost half the team plus coaching staff and commentators to recite fake slogans on camera for us for a sport water brand we’d thought up as part of a school Film & TV class project. Some of them really got into it, even suggesting retakes if they stumbled on a word or someone walked through the frame – players like Mike Peca moved himself to an alternate backdrop to really drive home the fresh outdoorsy feel of our ‘brand,’ and goalie Kay Whitmore even acted out a whole scripted commercial for us that featured his Porsche as a gag element.
A few years later, I was on the cusp of adulthood. I feel like I write about this a lot, but my last year of high school, I had a work experience program where I worked with a Gastown design studio for a while, mostly making posters for Universal Concerts shows (now LiveNation). Roundabout through that, I met some bands while picking up some posters from the old Starfish Room, and was then well pointed down the road to eventually photographing those bands I’d become friends with using an old point and shoot camera. I loved it so much, I picked up a used 35mm Pentax SLR half a year later and took it to the next level. Indeed, soon after I started shooting music, I once went to the then-Orca Bay offices at then-GM Place to enquire about what was required to be accredited to shoot hockey games. Amazingly, they didn’t laugh me out of the offices, but actually called down someone from their media department to have a chat. Nothing further ever happened there (which is my own fault, because they gave me all the tools I would have needed to pursue it), but I always appreciated the gesture. Through the course of all this, I somehow ended up being hired by a band called King Karma, whose bass player Todd Ronning is the brother of popular Canucks alumnus Cliff Ronning. I went out to shoot a show of theirs at Massey Theatre in New Westminster, and if you look at their website to this day, the majority of the live shots you’ll see are ones I took at that very show. I remember Cliff Ronning was there working the merch booth when I walked in and it totally blew my mind. So often the arty world of music and the jocky world of sport are at arms’ length from each other, but Canadian music and pop culture in general is quite intertwined with hockey, with many musicians taking part in charity games or special event tournaments. It’s just one of those comfy Canadian things along with the call of loons at the lake cabin or drinking Molson around a bonfire in the middle of winter. Still, I never quite imagined being in a room to shoot and witness quite what unfolded here tonight. I expected a tame, standard format of intro, chatter about benefiting charities, speeches from hockey players, maybe a raffle (instead of a raffle, the venue donated booze profits to charity, so we were encouraged to DRINK at all opportunities!) in between focused sets of music. It wasn’t exactly like that…
It all started off innocently enough. The venue was fairly sparsely populated to begin, prompting production to push the start time back a while to fill the room more. The theatre had its seats-out configuration, leaving a large open area in front of the stage for dancing. The forward bits of this area were already packed in with a double-layer of country music fans. There was a lot of plaid and denim in the place tonight. Along the sides of the floor were small platforms, atop which were bartop tables festooned with place settings waiting for the VIP ticket-holders to emerge from their pre-show meet and greet session downstairs. The start of the show was heralded by long-time Canucks arena announcer John Ashbridge. I’d know that voice anywhere! It took a bit of searching but he was just visible side stage seated behind the monitor console and would speak up to announce the changeovers from one portion of the show to another. The evening’s festivities began benignly with country radio station JRFM staff introducing the night, the reason we were here, and the basic format of the show. They then introduced Odds to kick off the music. They were sort of the black sheep in the room, with a decidedly not-country sound, but they have been tasked with being the Canucks’ house band at games, so their presence there made sense. These guys are so feel-good and energetic I think they could get any crowd revved up anyhow, no matter what genre they prefer. They had an extra band member on stage with them tonight as well – guitar-playing, local-residing NHL alumnus Gary Nylund was on duty for an extra layer of depth over on the side of the stage alongside Odds bass player Doug Elliott.
Following this rousing start, the DJs were back to have a brief chat with much-loved former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean. Ontario-born McLean went on to a trio of NHL teams following his decade-plus with the Canucks, but I guess something here spoke to him because he returned to Vancouver to settle down after retirement and is one of those faces you see in association with all sorts of alumni events. We were treated to an amusing mildly-off-colour story before McLean turned to point out the admittedly-impressive physique on singer Aaron Pritchett, who had taken to the stage to prepare for his set amid a bevy of screams from the ladies in the room. “Pritchett, look at those guns!,” he exclaimed, as Pritchett looked back at him with a chuckle. So began Aaron Pritchett’s set. I’d only seen and photographed him once before, a decade ago at an Arts County Fair at UBC. The local country star has had a pretty cozy career peppered with award nominations and wins, and along with fellow performers this evening Chad Brownlee and drummer Pat Steward (who I have to point out didn’t leave the stage all night, drumming for all the musicians here) would head off to Ottawa to attend the Juno Awards (and some associated hockey events, coincidentally) the next morning. Also if you have a look at Pritchett’s video for his song “Dirt Road In ‘Em,” you’ll see a bunch of the Canucks alumni who were around tonight. Pritchett paraded the stage, clasping hands with eager fans, pumping his fist skyward, and even expertly shotgunning a beer handed to him by someone in the crowd. There was a brief break then. Post-intermission, the music was back with Chad Brownlee. The connection runs deep here, as Brownlee was actually drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 2003, though as far as I know, never saw NHL play. A spate of injuries pushed him to focus on the generally-less-injury-prone profession of songwriter, and he certainly proved to have a knack for it, getting awards nominations and wins right out of the gate. His set here broke a few hearts as well, and while it started off relatively mellow, ramped up to a pretty good time by the end of it. Onwards the night went with a little chat with Ronning and Jack McIlhargey, who then introduced the next set. – head over to Part 2 to see the photos and words from the last part of the night.
Intro to the Evening & Odds Performance
Chatting with Kirk McLean & Aaron Pritchett Performance
Chad Brownlee Performance & Chatting with Cliff Ronning and Jack McIlhargey