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.
When the doors opened it was like a gate releasing bucking broncos at a rodeo. My ticket was torn and I bolted around the corner and down to the floor, taking the steps three at a time. I took my place at the rail alongside my new acquaintances where we continued our concert-centred conversations while we waited another hour or more for the opening act to start.
Which in this case was Brighton Rock, an insignificant Canadian hair band only memorable because I think of their stupid band every time I pass the town of Brighton on the 401 between Ottawa and Toronto.
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 them 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 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.
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. Eventually we would all be ushered to the door where, drenched 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.