On January 17th, 1987 I huddled in the cold with my back pressed up against the front door of the Moncton Coliseum. I arrived two, maybe three hours early for the show and was among the first in line to get in. Back then I was a rail-hugger – with my youthful energy pumped up on concert adrenaline I’d fight tooth and nail to get as close to the stage (or in a pinch, the speakers) as I could. Pretty much all of the concerts held at the Coliseum were general admission back then so I invariably showed up as early as I could so I could get a jump on the crowd.
These were generally pretty social gatherings as like-minded concert freaks passed the time comparing past shows and shoring up their place in line as a growing crowd of Johnny-come-lately’s built up behind. I was there with the younger brother of a girl I was dating. Shortly after we secured our spot very near the front I scurried off to buy a pint of vodka.
When the doors opened it was like a gate releasing bucking broncos at a rodeo. Our tickets was torn and we bolted around the corner and down to the floor. I took the steps three at a time and nabbed my place on the rail alongside. In moments our new acquaintances arrived and grabbed spots alongside and we continued our concert-centred conversations for another hour or more while we waited for the opening act to start.
Which in this case was Brighton Rock, who rocked my young socks off. Truth be told they were a fairly insignificant Canadian hair band but man, they slayed me. (Although after the show was over I don’t think I ever thought of the band again, except every time I would pass the town of Brighton on a drive between Ottawa and Toronto, which was often.)
Of course none of us moved during the setbreak – we all had valuable geography to protect. And when Triumph came out we were all rewarded for our steadfast fortitude.
I was a really big fan of the band and had already seen once before, at a triumphant show in Maple Leaf Gardens. The band had a string of power-rock home runs like Magic Power, Rock And Roll Machine, Hold On, and their crunchy cover of Joe Walsh’s Rocky Mountain Way that fit firmly in a genre that was about to get completely obliterated by Guns ’N Roses’ debut album. But at the time these three Canadian hosers were still national rock gods and I stood at the altar with my eyes wide and my fists raised.
This was probably the closest I had been to a really, really good guitar player and at my young stage of playing I was nothing less than enthralled. Though his time in the limelight has long since passed, Rik Emmett was a truly fine player back in the day, a real rock and roll shredder with a fingerstyle flair. I had spent untold hours alone in frustration teaching myself his drop-D solo drone acoustic masterpiece A Midsummer’s Daydream, and to watch him stand just a few feet away from me and pull the song out of his guitar effortlessly while mugging for the crowd, well my little musical heart almost exploded. I had snuck in a little 110 camera and took two fulls rolls of shots. I was enthralled.
And just as we were all the first in the building the front row inevitably lingered after the show, begging roadies for guitar picks or handwritten paper setlists pulled from the monitors and breathlessly ranting to each other about the awesome show we had just shared. During this lull I ran into my friend Danny, who somehow had acquired backstage passes. Not only that, he brought me with him! I shook hands with Mike and Gil (who very appropriately shot down my nervous and cocky “What’s a guy got to do to get a drum stick around here” request with a quick and crisp “buy one…”) but I can’t imagine how wide my eyes were when I met Rik Emmett (who I talked to the most and who was super-kind and patient with my exuberant guitarish jibber-jabbing). Afterwards I spoke at length with Brighton Rock too but after a very short while they went off to their tour bus, bringing along almost every female that was in the backstage area.
Eventually we would all be ushered to the door where, armed with a handful of autographs (no drumstick; no pick either) and sticky with sweat – both my own and that spilled from my fellow rail-rockers – I burst into the cold with another hard-fought notch in my concert belt: show number thirteen and counting.