On September 8th, 1989 I walked from my new home on the second floor of Renfrew House to the student union building at Carleton University where I and a pile of my residence floor-mates saw Sons of Freedom open up for The Pursuit of Happiness.
To counter-balance the extremely casual way that came out, I offer the following extremely dramatic analogy: As I walked across campus with my new posse of res-brothers on that warm Indian summer evening I was bouncing with the breathless excitement of a caterpillar who’d emerged from his cocoon and discovered that he had wings.
It was the middle of Frosh Week of my first year of university and after being thrust from an isolated small-town(ish) naive existence of relative loneliness and severe social and cultural ignorance into a vibrant, exciting world surrounded by enthusiastic, eager peers living together in hedonistic autonomy and rife with a seemingly endless stream of parties, mixers, gatherings, and…gasp!…concerts I very quickly found a level of internal bliss that had been hitherto unknown to me, and I took to it well.
And so I was barely touching the ground as we finished our pre-drinks (a new and exciting ritual) and careened down the steps of our residence building and onto the sidewalk below, laughing as we skipped a few hundred metres to the Unicentre. This would have been my first time in Porter Hall*, a medium-sized square room with a wooden floor and a makeshift stage on one end, and it was certainly my first time seeing either of the bands on stage. I’m pretty sure the show wasn’t licensed but that’s okay, there were at least three other places to buy liquor in the building; I’m sure we were all set.
I remember Sons of Freedom being loud, aggressive, and fun. It was almost slam-dancey, a physical glee I was in the process of learning to appreciate through another new discovery that pairs well with higher-education: The Violent Femmes. Anyway, me and my new best friends all piled up to the front in a tight-knit circle and raged to one unknown power chord ripsaw after another as the Sons of Freedom delivered an opening set that matched perfectly with my high-flying, boisterous mood. Freedom, indeed. By the time they finished I was almost frothing.
So my energy was piqued when The Pursuit of Happiness came on. Heck, these guys were famous, I had seen their video for I’m and Adult Now a zillion times on Much, and here they were playing at my university! I was beside myself. Even better, Moe Berg looked exactly like Moe Berg. It was like watching tv, but in real life. I almost expected Kim Clark Champness or Steve Anthony to come out and introduce the next song (they didn’t).
All that aside, TPOH were great. I don’t really remember much about the set specifically, but I’ve always known that they are a really good live band and I must know that from this show because it’s the only time I ever saw the band play. But then, I was in such a great frame of mind I’m pretty sure I would’ve had a great time even if they sucked. So maybe they sucked.
But who cared? Certainly not me, because one thing that didn’t suck was my new life. This had been a long time coming and man, it felt good.
(It just occurs to me now – all these years later – how appropriate both band names were to my state of being at the time. It seems quite remarkable, really.)
*I would eventually see a small handful of concerts in Porter Hall but in retrospect it seems that it was mostly used for Christmas craft fairs and September poster sales. I – along with everyone I knew – decorated my dorm room(s) with several pieces purchased from those Imaginus sales.