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CMW 2015 Chronicles by Raya Morrison

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CMW 2015 - The Bovine

Photo: Dagmar Yu

Every year Canadian music lovers and local partygoers anticipate the arrival of festival season, if not for the underground talent then at least for the 4am last call. Which by any indication should be a regular occurrence in Toronto, otherwise people will continue getting stupid drunk during these precious spring/summer weeks.

Over the years, the festival as grown considerably and now attracts quite a few big names, like Noel Gallagher & The High Flying Birds, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Death Cab For Cutie among others. This year, the festival extended to 10 days, running from May 1st to May 10th. The festival is gaining in popularity, not only with the music biz crowd but also with regular concertgoers. And naturally a lot of questions start to arise. What are the best venues to visit? Will everyone with a wristband be able to get into high profile shows? Which wristband to get and are they worth the price? And of course, where to get money for all the alcohol?

There are 5 types of wristbands: VIP, Staff, Performer, Media and Regular 10-day pass. Concertgoers can also purchase individual tickets for events in advance or at the door. Armed with my Media wristband I was ready to take on the world — first stop The Jesus and Mary Chain at The Phoenix. The show in support of the 30th anniversary of their legendary Psycho Candy record was high on my radar and even though I would not have a photographer with me (we got an e-mail with restrictions earlier, that specifically said no professional photography unless pre-approved) I was still determined to make the night of it. You can imagine my frustration when I got turned down at the door. I was at the venue at 8.10pm, thinking I would check out the openers, Gateway Drugs, as they are getting some buzz. To my disappointment, they were already at capacity for wristbands (how many media people could they possibly have in there? Why wasn’t it mentioned in the e-mail with restrictions?) and scalpers were completely out of tickets by 6pm (advance tickets were $70, I can only imagine how much the scalpers would charge). So, naturally, I talked to The Phoenix security, looking for ways to get in — the venue, it turned out, had no control over capacity; everything was in the iron grip of CMW organizers. I wondered if I could wait and get in if someone with a wristband decides to leave — no, they already closed the count and won’t be letting anyone else in even when the band will start playing.

Trying hard not to despair, I decided to stick around a little longer and figure out my next move. After a few minutes, security came up to me and handed me a ticket, saying that an unknown benefactor said to give it to me. I got in just in time for The Jesus and Mary Chain. While I was ecstatic to get to see the show, the situation was largely dependent on chance and I bet others weren’t as lucky. I also only saw two other media people, and the venue was packed to the seams with fans. And there were oh-so-many people eager to get backstage after the show. So, what happened there?

The answer was soon to find me, even though different types of wristbands are color-coded and clearly state their purpose, they ALL have the same level of authority. In other words, Media folk and VIPs have the same chance of getting into a sold out / high profile show as anyone with a regular pass. Now, let’s put aside the fact that treating media like that is a PR suicide. What’s the point of getting a VIP pass and spend extra $75? Apparently, only to get a secure entrance to SiriusXM award show, so realistically — no point, unless you are a 14-year old. The music biz people most likely won’t talk to you unless they already know you anyway.

CMW 2015 - VIP pass wristband

Later in the night, I ran into a bar-owner and promoter Nae Twin from St. John’s Newfoundland, who purchased a VIP pass, in hopes that he can get into every show he wants and scout bands. He was not impressed, stating:

“I want a pass that allows me to go in, meet a band, meet their manager, and fuck off. I own a venue. I want them to play my bar. I don’t have time for this. A 30 min max pass. […]  Most bouncers don’t know what the fuck [VIP pass] is… and it’s expensive. And venue 2, Lee’s Palace – We were there at 8:20 for METZ, and couldn’t get in. Why did I buy this thing? Did I get my money’s worth so far? NO. I was fourth in line at The Jesus And Mary Chain and got turned down. I have a VIP wristband. It was 6:30. Doors opened at 7. The three people in front of me got in. And then I got cut off. I’ve been coming here since 1996.”

Sadly, The Bovine and Cherry Cola’s were not nearly as full as some of these big shows and mostly attracted the crowd who would go out on a Friday anyway — with the addition of surprising amount of birthday parties. The Hideout gained a second momentum after 1.30am, when all who wanted to stay up as late as possible flocked there for an afterhours dance party. There was even a girl working a stripper pole at the bar. The Hideout’s long island ice teas were eventually the death of me and I had to say good-bye to Friday and ‘oh, dammit’ the next morning.

The bottom line is that then, until the pass system is managed properly, you’re better off with a regular 10-day pass. However, it is still better to have a pass than pay at the door. Most of the participating bars are within walking distance and bar-hopping is essential if you don’t want to be stuck with the artists you don’t enjoy.

CMW 2015 - Bovine Sex Club

Raya P Morrison
THE SCENE


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