This weekend, I had the great pleasure and privelege of seeing double-headers the Trews and the Sam Roberts band way up north in Lac La Biche, Alberta. The show was to inagurate the newly-built Bold Centre in the pretty Northern townm which features a curling rink, hockey rink, and a great concert venue with good, solid sound. The show was well-organized and the centre’s audience seating was well-assembled. For a first-ever show, it seemed to go off without a hitch, and the volunteers did a great job with keeping people moving, selling food and drinks, and ensuring organization and merch sales went according to plan. I was impressed, and hope that perhaps more bands and artists will explore little-known places like Lac La Biche in the future, so a good venue doesn’t go to waste.
The night featured balls-out rock n’ roll by the Trews, who are consistently great live and who perform every song, as if a) it was their biggest hit single and b) their finale of the night; I’ve seen them many, many times live and they present every time, a spiritually and energetically renewing show that manifests their hard work. Always a highlight of every venue they play, Saturday night’s show was no exception.
The real standout of the night however, came out of necessity rather than musical pleasure.
The Sam Roberts Band took the stage after a 45-minute set change, opening with “Detroit 67”, a rollicking piano-driven number that had the crowd singing and dancing and screaming their lungs out. What a showman Sam is; he clearly enjoys performing and his performance style and smiles were infectious and irresistable. After playing a couple of songs, he said something along the lines of, “you guys in the back, I hope you got whatever bullshit sorted out; we’re here to have a good time!” and proceeded to jam his way through some more music with a peaceful, fun energy radiating from the standing room crowd. Sam began playing his hit, “Hard Road” and was about 30 seconds in when he told his band to come to a halt. “You guys at the back,” he said authoritatively, “the show’s over. I’m not going to play another fucking note until you stop that fighting bullshit. We’re here to listen to music and have a good time!” I was at the front and couldn’t hear or see the apparent foul play going on scads of people behind me and others around me were craning their heads to look. “This is a beautiful place, Lac La Biche, and we don’t need any of this shit!” he said. With people in the front still swiveling around, Sam pointed the culprits out to security. Things seemed to settle down and then he said, “alright, everyone sing along with me. Music brings people together!” and he continued playing “Hard Road”, while the crowd’s renewed sense of community carrying on a musical love-in for the rest of the evening.
Just a day prior to the Lac La Biche show, I found myself on youtube watching footage of the infamous Stones concert at the Altamont race track which, rock historians say, single-handedly marked the symbolic end of the flower generation and the summer of love, as it resulted in violence, death and sexual assault, and showcased the ugly side of the mob mentality, concert security and a lack of festival preparation which so opposed the very successful and peaceful Woodstock. At Altamont, a VERY VERY high Mick Jagger halted Keith Richards and infamously told the crowd and the Hells Angels to “just cool out!” before continuing on with “Sympathy for the Devil”. The crowd in the front are being pushed aside by the intimidating and seedy Hells Angels who acted as security at the concert and ended up running the show in the end, and other audience members become increasingly restless and physical with one another as Mick and Keith helplessly try and control the crowd from the stage. The size of the crowd in the end, was too much for the Stones and the concert was an utter failure.
What Sam Roberts did at the Lac La Biche show, while obviously not as momentous as Altamont, demonstrates to me that audience members respect the artists and in cases where security fails (and at shows, they often do) to either see, or stop fan violence, the artist’s voice can put a stop to it, if the artist is brave enough to make a stand. I’ve been prodded, shoved and pushed at shows to a point of physical pain and I’ve seen other fans succumb to losing their personal space and passing out because of lack of air; I’ve seen people moshing at shows where moshing was against the rules and I’ve seen 8-year old children standing in the front the room and I was concerned for them, knowing in my quite extensive concert experience that pushing and prodding and moshing and other fan violence can injure even adults who are able to stand their ground.
I think Sam Roberts’ intervention to stop the pushing and arguing going on at the show was an incredible display of peacemaking; that he stopped the concert and refused to continue until the violence stopped was a stance that was both effective and placed the blame solely on the perpotrators and I give him nothing but respect and admiration for the act. These days, security seems to only keep a lid on things in extreme cases, but what Sam did, stopped potential violence before its commencement. I applaud the effort and think it sets an example for other artists at other general admission shows.
Thanks Sam Roberts, and the Trews for a great night, for keeping the peace, and providing two sets full of energy, entertainment and gusto.