Just when you thought you were safe to venture out to quiet places with a nice glass of vino, soft elevator musak wafting through the air — suddenly it’s dance hall days all over again!
Loud rock ’n’ roll in arenas, grey-haired musicians coming out of the woodwork, dance floors full of old friends and people you haven’t seen for 100 years.
Or — wasn’t it just yesterday?
Thank goodness it’s the Centennial Year for Central Alberta, on account of it gives a good excuse for many of us to pretend that Varsity Hall at Sylvan is still here.
Or that we are headed out for a night of musical mayhem at classic downtown RD clubs like the Chat Noir or the Happening (later The Strobelight), which is where the Catholic Social Services building is now (coincidence?).
Or the Junior Activities Building, also known as the Creative Arts building beside the old Arena, which used to be positively rampant with long-haired musicians cranking out the latest 1960s and ’70s tunes for the long-haired (guys) and the mini-skirted (girls), until those cinderblock walls nearly came a tumblin’ down.
Last weekend, it was The Dance of the Century out at the multiplex at Sylvan Lake. We had our little band out there to join in with four or five other bands for about six straight hours of dancing, singing and rockin’ out with a full crowd of joyful Varsity Hall celebrators.
There were little kids and kids with 80 years of experience, most of them dressed up in different “costumes” from different eras of dance hall days, and by all accounts it was a triumphant, fun-filled reunion and everyone agreed that they should definitely do this every 100 years for sure.
And now it’s Red Deer’s turn, and a bunch of us are all set to do it again next weekend!
Next Friday as a matter of fact, if you haven’t heard already, somewhere around 1,000 souls will be converging like giddy youngsters at the Rock & Roll Reunion at the Rink.
This has many of us positively gobsmacked.
Who would have thought you could schlepp that many tickets to anything at all in Central Alberta?
Of course, I’m basing my bias on back in “the day” when we used to rattle around the towns and the vast countryside battling either plagues of mosquitoes or vicious snow storms, depending, just to tromp through ditches to staple posters to telephone poles, sneak them onto corner store bulletin boards, onto sides of buildings, sides of cows, etc., just to get a couple of dozen paid partiers at various dance halls with names like the Happydale Sunnyside Community Centre.
And now, after a year of committees and meetings and planning and 7,000 boxes of Timbits — not to mention tracking down old … I mean “vintage” — musicians to actually get together at the same time at the same place to attempt rehearsals, we are ready as we’ll ever be.
Some of us (I shall remain nameless) had trouble remembering which side of the drums to sit at, let alone how to play a challenging tune from 1967, but we’ve all managed to find the time to do what we used to do and to have a great time doing it.
There are over 40 musicians in six bands performing, with a combined age of about 4,000 years.
Believe it or not, all of the bands will have most of their original members and the neat thing is the crowd will be full of original crowd members, too.
But you wouldn’t believe what it takes to pull off a Rock & Roll Reunion.
For one thing, we had to rent a stage big enough for all those amps and drums and keyboards and bodies, with enough room to park all our motorized mall scooters and walkers.
Not mention all those oxygen bottles.
And the portable defibrillators — those things aren’t cheap.
And then there’s the “get in shape” debacle. I can’t speak for the other esteemed reprobate musicians, but there was at least one old rocker (me) who was determined to “get in shape” for the big gig.
Last New Year’s, I set a goal of losing 10 or maybe 20 pounds (1.5 kg) by the time June 28 rolled around. Also, I was going to walk/run/jog/nap up to 10-km (27.3 miles) per week. (Cue hysterical laughter.)
As author Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) said: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they fly by.”
So as each of my mini-deadlines whooshed by unrealized, I decided to break my ankle so I would have an excuse for not shrinking any little bit at all, and for being exhausted and hyperventilating after the first song.
But at least when it comes to throwing tomatoes, etc., from the crowd, I’m a much bigger and easier target to hit than I used to be.
But it’s going to be quite the night, and I wish you all could be there. It seems it’s completely sold out, but at least we musician types made sure our Better Halves and as many of our Rotten Kids as possible are going to be there.
As a matter of fact, several of the RKs are going to be playing on stage with the old guys — how cool is that?
And as for the band wives, I like to tease them by calling them our “Permanent Licensed Groupies.”
Turns out not only is the term “band wives” generally not groovy at all, “PLGs” is possible grounds for sleeping out in the garden shed for the rest of July.
But the good news is, this whole volunteer RRRR is raising some serious coin for the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.
And I’m sure some people probably couldn’t resist the related observation that that’s where old rockers belong. In a museum. We can’t wait to prove them all wrong on Friday.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.