One of my most vivid memories from high school is when Barenaked Ladies came to do a concert in our cafetorium. My friend Heidi and I were responsible for making it happen and we wandered around that night as if we were in a dream – hanging out with BNL in our very own music room. Somewhere I have a picture – but mostly that picture (and the music) exist in my head.
That was twentyfive years ago and last night all those memories came back. My friend Elaine gave me concert tickets for my birthday so we booked a hotel and decided to make a weekend of it – just me and Theo. In unusual form we made it to the city in time to check into the Chelsea, have dinner at the Elephant & Castle and get to Massey Hall early. Yes, early. Not knowing what “accessibility” meant at Massey we thought it best to be there in time to check things out.
It was the last night of the 37 concert cross-country tour. What a night! BNL are not just musicians, they are entertainers. We heard music from every album (especially the oldies) and everything from Led Zeppelin to Men Without Hats in between. It was quite a feeling to be a part of something like this – all three levels of the concert hall on their feet for most of the show. Yes, on their feet.
Massey Hall has not put a lot of thought into where their wheelchair accessible seats are located. They do have a lift (controlled by staff) to accommodate for the steps to the main level and they have removable seats – both good things. The problem is the location of the removable seats – they should be on a centre aisle, not where they are (rear of the main floor, far back corner). Not bad seats as far as visibility, but that is only if everyone stays seated. As soon as they played Brian Wilson everyone was on their feet for the rest of the evening.
A few songs went by, and I said to Theo how sore my neck was getting as I was trying to strain to see something of what was going on on stage (without much luck). I managed to grab the arm of the usher who had seated us and he said he was just looking into somewhere else we could move so that I would be able to see better. There was another wheelchair user sitting near us and she kept yelling at people to sit down – something very ineffective in a loud concert space – which didn’t do anything to help her situation other than (likely) to make her feel angry.
So as it turned out the better seats just happened to be in the second row – yes, right up to the stage! And that is when it hit me. They started to play Pinch Me and I had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to get up and dance, move to the music like I used to. Pinch Me made me cry. Maybe it was the whole song, or maybe just those two words – like “pinch me to wake me out of this dream”. Tears streaming down my face. Theo asked me if I was okay; then he held my hand as I said “all I want to do is dance”.
Grief strikes at the most unusual times – sneaking up and piling on when you least expect it. In earlier days this “attack” may have lasted longer, but this time I managed to let it out and moved on to enjoy the rest of the show, dancing in my chair. At the end I even pushed past the ladies dancing right at the stage to be upfront for the encore.