My favourite memories ever, if I had to choose… part 1

More often than not, I consider the darkest points of my life and how they’ve contributed to my personal growth and my inner strength and how I’ve changed because I was dealt such a nasty hand. So often in fact do I do this, that I forget how good it feels to be say, finished your last final exam and walking down Whyte Ave with a frozen hot chocolate from Second Cup, or how nice and relaxing it is to just stay inside on a freezing cold or brutally windy and rainy day reading a good book. I love to reflect anyways, and in my own pessimistic inner world, the bad is constantly outweighing the good. I’d like to consider for a moment, what I would say (if I had to choose because there are many), my absolute favourite memories of all time ever in my life. Starting with…

Seeing Ryan Adams & the Cardinals in concert in Vancouver, July 2007

Sometimes in life, you get exactly what you want, or need at exactly the right time. Such was the case with this particular show.

In the summer of 2007, life was good. Life was so good; the following records, all released in the summer of 2007, really set the tone, first of all: Elliott Smith’s “New Moon”, Wilco’s “Sky Blue Sky”, Josh Rouse’s “Country Mouse, City House”, and Ryan Adams & the Cardinals’ “Easy Tiger”. In addition, in the midst of a lost purse/lone drunk crisis, I was offered a job at AMA doing editing and writing. It was my first summer living alone and with lone living there is freedom, peace and quiet as one settles into their comfortable eat-out-nightly/scour-the-livingroom-with-belongings lifestyle. I was young and responsibility-free and my then-newfound best friends spent every waking evening together always either eating something delicious, and/or doing something fun. It was the summer of the White Stripes’ broad-spanning sold-out Canadian tour, of which I was watching from the front row (and almost suffocated to death but did so in the name of Jack White crawling towards me on his hands and knees…pure rock God sex). I didn’t know drama in the summer of 2007 – I thought I did, but I was wrong – and there were those magical nights of running through Kin Park sprinklers at 3:30am with my Write 395 class in almost its entirety. It was one of those magical summers where I did everything right.

During summer 2007, I was desperately at the peak of my Ryan Adams fandom. His music in particular struck and everlasting chord with me for those four endurable hot sunny months, and I found it nourishing, appropriate, and very much tailored to my life and my feelings at the time, both good and bad. There was nothing to pine over or nothing to still unturn, I didn’t require closure on anything specifically… and yet, Ryan Adams wrote that script for me all summer and allowed me to really feel the emotions of love, loss, joy, protection and reverie at a safe and managable distance that was not yet applicable to me. I listened to his records day in and day out, almost exclusively save for the aforementioned other summer releases from 2007, for all four months that I lived alone. On the way to work, at work, on the way home, in my apartment, on long walks downtown, on the way to meet my friends, and while cooking and baking and cleaning and doing laundry and almost anything else I was doing. I worshipped the man. The only thing I hadn’t done was see him perform live. Since (at that time, though we’re getting better) my favourite artists almost NEVER performed in Edmonton, I was desperate to see Ryan on a potential summer tour and vowed to myself that if he came anywhere managably near me (ie: not the Eastern United States or Europe/overseas), I would go.

One day, I was checking his website online, and there was a Vancouver, BC date.

Holy fuck.

So all day I was thinking of strategies to get tickets for this show. I thought of contacting ex-coworkers from Ticketmaster, and I also considered ebay or other like-sites as a last alternative; surely someone would be selling them in the event of a sell-out emergency… instead however, I got the presale password from the official website. Sold.

The day of the presale however, I had to work and my work computer had all kinds of blocks on it. I called my mom the night before and told her, “mother: you have an incredibly important job to do. And that is, to get me the best seats possible to see Ryan Adams at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.” And she reluctantly agreed (and made me write down all the steps for her on just how to do this, the appropriate urls, etc). That morning though, she called me and said, “my computer doesn’t have something called… ‘Adobe’? And it won’t load the website.” PANIC. ATTACK. Soo… I went to my boss and said, “I have an emergency and I need to leave; I’ll be back in an hour.” I took a cab home, rushed in, and turned on my laptop. But… but… the presale password wasn’t working! WHY WASN’T IT WORKING?! So I called the 1-888 number at the bottom of the screen.

“Hello, alltickets.com,” said a very Southern accented woman on the other end of the telephone.

“Hi there. I’m trying to get presale tickets for the Ryan Adams show in Vancouver, BC but the website won’t work for me. Can I purchase them over the phone?”

“Yes, m’aam.”

So this very saintly Southern woman put my order through over the phone. “And your state or province, m’aam?”

“Alberta.”

“Alberta… is that in Canada?”

“Yes.”

So I was able to get 9th row tickets on the floor for this show, and that was at the time, good enough for me. I took a cab back to work and finished the day with a face that screamed self-satisfied, all day.

And then suddenly, all of Vancouver’s garbage workers went on strike. And all events at city-owned venues were either cancelled or postponed. I read abut this on MSNBC and thought, “that wouldn’t effect me. That couldn’t effect me. It’s not possible.”

But it did. The event was rescheduled for the Commodore Ballroom, just one night AFTER it was supposed to be; ie: a night that conflicted with the expedia package I’d booked for the sole purpose of going to this concert in the first place.

To complicate matters, my best friend was in town that weekend; and I only cited a one-night absense from her visit. So I had three options:

Option 1: Don’t go to the concert, just go to Vancouver and have a boring, albeit maybe decent time doing nothing for a day in a new city.
Option 2: Buy a new package, thereby forfeiting the old one, and pay a shitload of a money to book a new return flight but still make both the concert, and be in Edmonton for the weekend as planned.
Option 3: Extend my visit, but miss spending the weekend in Edmonon all together.

I’m one of those people who likes to do everything and do it right, and do it up, with style and ice cream and music and all that good stuff. Therefore, guess which option I chose?

$1,000 later, there I was in Vancouver, sandwiched between a fun night out with my friends, and another fun night out with my friends upon my return to prairie society.

I stayed at the Radisson Hotel in Richmond; it was modest, but close to the airport and I ate a decent lone breakfast there before napping (much-needed, for serious) and ultimately, before taking a taxi to downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver’s a pretty city; full of interesting architecture, that salty, kelp ocean smell and a lot of cosmopolitan stores and restaurants, all of which I zipped by on my way to the Commodore Ballroom. Which I arrived at, extremely, extraordinarily, inhumanly early. Shrug. So I walked around and did some window shopping and then lined up again behind this teenage couple from Seattle, who follow Ryan Adams around the country, a vegan lesbian couple from Edmonton actually, who loved folk music, and a girl named Krystal, who was also by herself, but one of her friends was meeting her later; she snuck an SLR camera into the venue and I had never seen one before; wow.

As people started lining up, passers-by were asking “who’s playing tonight?” and we would reply, “Ryan Adams” and then there were obligitory ‘Summer of ’69’ responses. The evening got a little moist, and a nudist bike parade rode by (seriously), and I ignored the mild chill I felt, in lieu of the not-so-mild excitement I felt more. After what seemed like 700 decades, the venue doors opened and I rushed to the front. To. The. Front.

Sometimes when things change, like venues, you are only disadvantaged; and for some reason on July 29, 2007 I was strongly and adamently lucky; instead of being in the ninth row craning my neck in an anti-social seat in a theatre, I was merely metres away from my own personal Jesus in a downsized venue accompanied by new friends.

The concert started late by almost an hour, but continued on for another 2.5 hours, the best 2.5 hours of my music-loving, rockstar-worshipping 20-year old life… it was an electrifying, career-spanning set that only left out a couple of my favourite songs (some of which I knew I wouldn’t hear that night anyways). Seeing an artist I love that much, so close to me in an unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar people and hearing songs I knew like the back of my hand played with intense, gorgeous, passionate fervor was an out-of-body experience. Even reflecting upon this moment now, it seems like I watched it on youtube and it was happening to someone else.

After the show, my newfound friends and I stopped by the merch table and then decided to hang out behind the venue in hopes of meeting Ryan, along with a scant few other people who were doing the same, including a shitfaced blonde girl in a red dress. We sat down on the curb and gushed about how amazing that was and how we couldn’t deal with the awesomeness, etc. etc. etc. And then out of the tour bus came Ryan & company…

Us and everyone else around kind of crowded reproachfully and I was there, standing in front of him and my legs were kind of shaking but I didn’t notice, or care really, because I had done the un-doable and stood before my idol and my eyes were wide probably, but I wasn’t thinking anything at all at the time except “HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT!” The drunk girl in the red dress ran right up to him and started loudly gushing, “holy shit Ryan! My friend loves you so much! Ashley, come the fuck here and give Ryan a hug!” He backed up and mumbled something about how his hands were greasy and then the red-clad girl and her friend awkwardly took a hint. Maybe because God loved me in 2007, or because I come across as really super cool, Ryan approached us instead. And he, his drummer Brad Pemberton and my concert friends and I went to the 7-11 all together…

I texted my best friend when I was there and wrote something like, “I’m at the 7-11 with Ryan Adams.” It seems now like I made this up; all of its surreal qualities mull together in a surrounding spiral of impossible dreams made possible; it’s not every day you get the chance to meet your idol and walk beside him, and enter the 7-11 while he holds the door for you

To someone in the office next to me or on the bus across from me, this memory or event would mean absolutely nothing; if you don’t love someone or know them through the music they produce, or listen constantly to their output and relate every small moment and phrase to your life, you don’t care about seeing them in concert or meeting them or shaking their hand, even if they are famous (like that time that stupid wench at Sherlock Holmes pub in West Edmonton Mall denied Bright Eyes entrance into the only open bar citing that they didn’t care who he was, thus denying me an opportunity to party with one of my favourite rock stars on an invite from the band). But when you care for someone, famous or otherwise, they’re the only person you want to see and having that experience generates meaning and revelation and inspiration. It was so great. So fucking great. I’m still not over it.

I left Vancouver extraordinarily early the next morning and arrived back in Edmonton in the pale glow of a late July morning (the best kind of mornings in Edmonton; Edmontonians know). I got home and put on my sauna wrap to get ready for a shower and at that moment this all sunk in at once and I had this mini smiley freakout session and jumped up and down and squealed like a small child, in my towel (I lived alone at the time, remember?). The rest of the weekend panned out beautifully and bravely and in itself was such a great memory. Really. I could continue on and on about the segways and ice cream and bagels and getting shitfaced for free, courtesy of the most epic person I know and thunderstorms and the Pizza Hut lunch buffet and so and so forth… but we’re pushing 2300 words already.

To conclude and borrow from another musical idol, Jeff Tweedy, “the best life never leaves your lungs.”

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