Monday, September 26, 2016

Long Time Coming

It was my first day on my internship, and he was going to throw it out.

I don't remember his name because we were rarely in the office together, rarely spoke to one another, and it was nearly 30 years ago on a six-week gig.

At the end of my journalism program, I was placed at The Ottawa Citizen for my six-week internship, and I was placed on the Entertainment team. Jay Stone was the editor and the person to whom I reported. He was disappointed with me right away because I wasn't one of the cute girls in my class who were working on the City desk.

But for my first assignment, I was sent downtown, to the Parliament Press Gallery, where the government was announcing that recording artists would be receiving larger royalties for the songs that they released on their records. At that meeting, I got a chance to meet and talk to Canadian music legends, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman.

My first day as a newspaper reporter was a good one.

Back in the newsroom, that now-forgotten reporter was clearing out his desk: not because he was going anywhere but because he had accumulated a lot of swag from interviewing musicians, actors, and other entertainers. While he cleaned house, and while I got my notes from my first assignment together, we chatted and he offered me some of his swag.

Because I had no context for most of it, I respectfully declined. But he had some audio cassettes and as he was about to throw them in the garbage, I started looking through the small pile. Nearly all of them had been opened and most of the plastic cases were cracked, but my eyes fell on one unopened and intact case with a simple green cover and only numbers printed on it.

The album, and the band, was 54•40.

I had never heard of them but thought I'd play the cassette when I got home and, if I didn't like the music, I'd throw it out or pass it on.

The first song blew me away. "Baby Ran" was a solid-driving rock tune and I loved the deep, near-monotone lyrics that Neil Osborne delivered with power. The other hit song from this album, "I Go Blind," had me hooked.

Over the decades, I knew the band for their other hits: "One Day in Your Life," "One Gun," "Unbend," "Casual Viewin'," "Nice to Luv You," "Ocean Pearl," "Plenty Emotion," "Since When," and my personal favourite, "Snap." There are so many more songs that get my toes tapping and have me singing along, but over all this time there was something missing from my being a fan.

I had never seen 54•40 live.

Last year, while looking at a list of upcoming shows at North on 29, a barn-turned-music venue on the outskirts of Carleton Place, I saw that this Vancouver band was scheduled to perform in January, on DW's birthday. Because my wife is also a fan of 54•40, I thought it would be great to take her to the show.

Sadly, North on 29 closed its doors shortly after I saw the listing and just before I was going to purchase tickets to the show. I looked on the band's Web site to see if they had chosen another venue in the Ottawa area, but saw nothing.

Enter Beau's Oktoberfest.

I was planning to go to this annual beer festival, anyway, was planning to cycle from Ottawa to Vankleek Hill, as I had last year. This year, I was hoping for good weather and no wind, so that I could actually complete the 100-kilometre ride (the wind killed me by the halfway point).

But when I saw that 54•40 was going to perform on the festival's opening night, I changed my plans. I couldn't be there late on the Friday night, drinking beer and bopping to great tunes, and expect to ride the next morning. Plus, with my ongoing home renovations, Saturday wasn't going to be possible, anyway.

I bought the tickets for Friday and spent months, anxiously anticipating the show.

The band rocked.

The band played a lot of their hits, playing only one new song (which was great), and I exhausted my vocal chords singing along. It was great to have DW with me, as well as some good friends. My only regret is that the show was too short, lasting only an hour.

And no "Snap."

Beau's Oktoberfest is always a worthwhile event, even though it takes more than an hour to drive out to it. With 54•40 playing, it was even more worth the drive.

And, after nearly 30 years as a fan, I've finally seen the band live.

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