This is another one of those concert stories that should exist as a small and relatively uninteresting chapter in the middle of a book, or more accurately: a ten-volume treatise confessing to a manic week of unbridled travel and glorious adventures. I mean, sure the Look People/Kim Mitchell concert that I witnessed on the patio behind a Howard Johnson’s in Daytona Beach was a really great time, but the trip that surrounded it on all sides was truly and stunningly epic. What’s the opposite of Fear & Loathing? Ah yes: Unbridled & Glorious.
I apologize if my brevity leaves you with more questions than answers, but here we go:
My friend Evil (not his real name or disposition) and I flew to Florida for Spring Break. My parents had a winter house in Deland that we could stay at and we planned to rent a car to get us back and forth to the annual student-geared festivities in Daytona, about forty minutes away. We landed in – oh, I don’t know – I suppose Tampa or Fort Lauderdale? The guy at the rental kiosk pointed out that my driver’s license expired a few weeks previously, and as Evil was not yet twenty-five years old we were unable to rent a car. Flummoxed and poor, our budget was so tight I managed to convince Evil that we should hitch-hike to Deland. Through Florida.
How do I long-story-short all of this?!?! Anyway, Evil had never hitch-hiked before while I was a seasoned veteran. We literally stuck our thumbs out on the airport departures ramp and a Deadhead in a BMW gave us a lift to the highway. A huge, bearded, patch-wearing biker in tattoos and spider-web stretchy-pants stopped and the three of us squeezed into the cab of his nearly-vintage pickup truck. Things were going okay when all of a sudden the dude exploded in a screaming rage, pounding the steering wheel and casting his head around maniacally. I seriously thought we might die in a hurry. Turns out he had just missed his exit.
Anyway, he dropped us on the wrongest side of Orlando on the Orange Blossom Trail. We had our thumbs out for about two minutes when a cop slowed down beside us and – without stopping or rolling down his windows – barked through his megaphone telling us we were crazy to be even standing where we were standing let alone trying to hitch-hike as this area was much too dangerous for a pair like us. He told us to stay where we were and that he was calling us a taxi.
Speeding things up a bit, we cabbed to the bus depot and made it to Deland. We spent 80% of our money on cheap beer, hot dogs, bread and peanut butter at the grocery store. Somehow we got a car (I think my mom couriered my driver’s license to me and we were able to rent one, Evil thinks there was a car at my parents’ house that we used) and we did a lot of partying in Daytona and an equal amount of sleeping on the floors of our friends’ hotel rooms.
The hotels along the beach hosted all-day patio happy-hour parties that went like this: from noon until 1pm the beers were free, for the next hour they cost twenty-five cents each. Then they went up to fifty cents for an hour and then from 3pm until 4pm they went up to seventy-five cents each. From 5pm until closing the prices remained locked at a buck-a-beer. You can guess how that worked out.
Geez, I haven’t even started yet. Okay, to the show:
MuchMusic was presenting a weekend of Canadian bands for free on one of those beer-guzzling hotel patios and broadcasting it all live back to Canada and on February 20th, 1993 they had booked Look People opening for Kim Mitchell. You gotta know that I was very excited.
I was and remain a manic fan of the freak-rock fusion musical sideshow that was Look People since I saw them play an unforgettable show in a lounge at my university residence building. I bought their CD Boogazm at the show and I played it constantly. These guys were weird, and I really couldn’t believe that Much had booked them for such a highly visible gig. It must have been the result of some internal subterfuge or whatnot, I don’t know.
Anyway, by the time a couple of cheesy VJ’s introduced the band Evil and I had squeezed up to the very front row and were pressed up against a catwalk that extended from the stage out into the crowd*. The band started off by playing the first chords of one of my favourites, Five and I held up the five fingers of my right hand to show the band that they were not alone; they had a fan right here in the front row and I was with ‘em! Lead singer and head weirdo Jaymz Bee stepped out onto the catwalk and gave me a slow-motion high-five to start the show, and off they went.
This was the second of only three Look People shows I ever saw so the memory of it is precious. I recently rewatched the entire set on youtube and it’s quite incredible. Guitarist Longo was in his space suit, drummer Great Bob Scott was dressed as a plaid elf, future Barenaked Lady Kevin Hearn had his keyboard adorned with animatronic body parts, and the bassist just tore things up on his six-string slap machine. Every minute of every song makes you wonder what MuchMusic had been thinking. Were Madonna-heads and members of the Teen Spirit generation actually going to watch this?!?
I, for one, ate it up like it was a fifty-cent beer. I’ll never forget them pulling a guy out of the crowd and laying him down on the stage. The band crowded close around him in a circle and they all leaned down to within inches of the guy, then they stood ominously frozen and played their raging Nine Inch Nail-ish song Short and Intense right into his face. Ah, it was so good.
(At the end of the evening I saw the band hanging out on their ground-level Howard Johnson’s balcony and I hopped over for a chat. I was flabbergasted when they told me they had retired their song Nails. It’s one of my favourite songs ever, and they had simply decided that they didn’t like it anymore so it was out of the setlist. Ghastly.)
Anyway, Kim Mitchell was up next and if you know me you know I love Kim Mitchell, especially Max Webster. Though I must say, back then I don’t think I realized just how much I liked Kim Mitchell. He seemed so accessible and so ubiquitous that I took him for granted. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the show. I just didn’t realize how privileged I was to watch one of my favourite rock and rollers from such a great vantage point in such wonderful surroundings in such amazing company. But I was, I did, and it was great.
(Though Peter Fredette wasn’t playing with him and Peter provides a good 30% of why Kim’s solo material holds together so well. And they didn’t do any Max Webster songs at all. Still good though.)
A day or two later I got pink eye. We heard something on the radio that reminded us that Mardi Gras was coming up in a few days. We decided that New Orleans couldn’t be too far away so we drove there. We were wrong, it was far. We either slept on couches at a friend-of-a-friend’s house near Tulane University (Evil’s memory) or in the rental car itself outside of the friend-of-a-friend’s place (mine). We saw all we could of New Orleans with literally no money (I mean, we had zero dollars), eating free crawdads on the riverbank and drinking $8 two-fours of Milwaukee’s Best out of our duffel bag (okay, we had zero dollars after we bought two cases of beer). Mardi Gras itself: wow. Almost even more wow was the cleanup parade that happened at 12:01am on Ash Wednesday. As we left the city the following morning we paid back our hitch-hiking karma when we picked up a guy on the very first on-ramp out of the city and gave him a ride halfway home to Tennessee. He gave us $10 for gas, otherwise I don’t think we would have made it back to Florida.
We didn’t go to Disneyland.
*If you watch the youtube video: that’s me in the vest with the long hair. And that’s Evil beside me, also in the vest, also with the long hair.