My Dreamers/Arkells concert bill in Canada hosted not one, but two awesome concert nights. This is an interesting experience if you haven’t had the privilege to do consecutive shows. Not only do the bands have to deliver something different for the possible repeat crowd, the fans also bring an entirely different feel. This Dreamers/Arkells double shot gave the best example in regards to how fans can make or break an experience.
In full disclosure, I must admit I love fans. The best compliment I ever received was from G-Man Superfan who said “Susan loves the fans more than the band” and it’s seriously true. There’s something special about people who connect so deeply with a band they need to see them in the flesh. Fans turn to songs for comfort, love, happiness, understanding, and sympathy, which are exactly the same things I do. How could I not love them? So when I get around fans, I have to know everything about them. How long have they loved the band? What’s their favorite song? What brought them to the show? How many shows have they seen? What story goes with it? Can we be BFFs?
The Dreamers/Arkells show was no different. When I attend alone I’m even more eager to find new people to chat up. After entering the Commodore Ballroom, I found a table seated for four but I occupied it with one. I usually start out pretty quiet. Hard to believe, I know, but yes, it’s true. After playing on my phone for a few minutes, I turned to the nice couple sitting at the table behind me and asked if they’d save my chair while I went to the bar. The woman agreed and I took off. I wasn’t ten feet away before I turned around and saw her shooing someone from my chair. The first bar said they didn’t have any club soda and sent me to a second. Again, the female chair-watcher was talking to someone different and waving them away from my single chair. By the time I got back, three people sat at my table and one dude had his ass planted in my seat. The nice woman, Canadian Anna, stood with a stressed look on her face.
“I tried to tell them it was your chair. I’m sorry. You can sit with us.” She pointed to her husband and introduced him as Canadian Kyle. (Okay, maybe I added the Canadian.)
“You did such a great job. Please let me buy you both beers,” I said and Canadian Anna could breathe again. I went back to the bar, got them refills, and told them how much I appreciated her attempts. Then I sat down at my original table only to make the seat-stealers uncomfortable. When they tried to ignore me, I introduced myself. When they still tried to ignore me, I introduced myself as the person whose seat they stole. They offered it back. I asked them to save my new chair until I came back. And then I never returned. (Yeah, sometimes I’m a dick like that.)
Canadian Couple were much better company. They were originally from Hamilton, the Arkells’ hometown, and moved to Vancouver. They came to the concert to show some hometown pride. They were fascinated by my solo road trip to see Dreamers. They shotgunned questions: Why I would do travel so far? Why did I think they were so special? Why did I come alone? We even laughed about the fact every person I told I went on my solo trip asked how I got permission from Hubs. (Can I tell you how much I hate that fucking question?) I bought more rounds until Canadian Anna giggled about the American who roofied her.
“You remind me of my friend,” she said.
“I hope she’s cool,” I said.
“She has the best times. Always a free spirit. I love being around her. You’re exactly like that.”
That’s the moment I fell deeply in love with Canadian Anna.
Dreamers started to set up and I excused myself to move to the front. After a few minutes, Canadian Anna sidled up next to me and said “I have to see them because you’re so excited about them.” I insisted on her getting a picture with them.
She smiled and danced next to me the entire set. After Dreamers finished, she thanked me on the way back to our table. I told her about their EP coming out and she said she would check it out. Another Dreamers convert!
“I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention if we hadn’t met,” she said.
“It’s why I love meeting people at concerts. So many new things to learn. And now you can love Dreamers too,” I said.
At the table, Canadian Kyle waited with a vodka soda and agreed he liked Dreamers, too. I joked he was their first male fan. (Just kidding, I know one other guy who likes the trio.) The crowd filled in more and I turned to prep my spot for the Arkells. A few feet in front of me, a woman in a wheel chair sat in the middle of the crowd with her eye-line hitting everyone’s asses. I waited to see if anyone was going to do something about it. She wouldn’t be able to see anything with the body wall between her and the stage. Instead, others filled in around her and locked her in a body cocoon. People, What. The. Fuck??? How did everyone think this was okay? I pulled out my “Fun Police” badge and told Canadian Couple I’d be back.
I returned to the security guy who had blocked a lot of my Dreamers view to start my plan. I felt he owed me for being the a visual cockblock.
“Hey, there’s a lady in a wheelchair back there. She can come up here, right? To see the show?” I said. He shrugged. A clear sign he was on board. I cut through the crowd back to the woman.
“Do you want to move to the front so you can see?” I said. She smiled and then hesitated.
“No, that’s okay, I have three friends.” She pointed to the people around her who could see the stage just fine. I understood her hesitation. I mean, who wants to enjoy a concert by themselves? Besides me, of course.
“Bring ’em.” The confidence in my voice must have made it sound like I had some kind of pull in this situation when I clearly did not. About three steps in, I realized I never asked the people mashed against the front barrier. This could turn ugly fast. When I reached the front again, I confirmed with the security guy first. I felt like this added some cred to my authority. I turned to the front line crowd and picked the most viable option — three nice looking young guys.
“Hey, I have a friend who’s in a wheelchair who can’t see back there. You don’t mind if she comes up here, right?” (This “right” thing at the end is a solid way of adding I’m giving you a chance not to be a complete asshole.) They mumbled to each other and didn’t look appalled so I waved her over. She rolled at the stage’s edge and glowed in the blue light.
“Oh, and her friends are gonna join, too. Have fun getting to know each other.” And I darted off. They could all stand around blaming that bitch who vanished. I’m totally fine with that.
Canadian Couple were snuggled up on each other when I got back and it was time for me to get lost in the Arkells’ pit crowd. I watched from the floor for a while before moving to the bar for another drink. With the music playing, there wasn’t the opportunity to meet more people. Lucky for me, Dreamers joined me at the bar for a bit. Have I mentioned in the last twenty seconds how much I love them? I tried to look for Canadian Couple to introduce them to Dreamers, but they were lost in the sea of people below. Dreamers had to leave for the all band encore, but damn, that was cool.
The night started to wind down and I stood at the bar to close out my tab. While my trusty bartender who remembered my drink all night tallied up the dreaded bill, the Arkells finished some final songs. As soon as they left the stage, the woman in the wheelchair came up to me, beaming with a smile from ear to ear.
“Thank you so much. It was the best night,” she said. Her friends repeated the sentiment over her shoulder and appreciated the set up in the front row.
“I’m glad I could help.” And I was. Because that’s what fans should do for each other. They should respect everyone’s experiences. Listen to their stories. Love their passion for the band. We should support each other to ensure we all have the most amazing night to remember. Because the one thing we all have in common is we love the music. And that’s what really matters.
Part 2: The other side of the fan coin.