Seeing Spirit of the West at the Commodore Ballroom

Sometimes I wish we celebrated American holidays. At least then we’d have one more Hallmark Holiday(tm) between Hallowe’en and Christmas. As it stands, we now have a two-month Christmas season. Don’t fool yourselves, folks — Christmas won’t end until almost New Year’s. Although at least this year, the Ol’ Ball Drop will have a little more significance than usual … assuming the lights don’t go out.

At any rate, Christmas arrived in the malls November 1. Yick. Allison and I can’t go for walks without seeing Christmas lights everywhere. It’s actually sickening. We were flabbergasted that lights were appearing shortly after Hallowe’en (at least give us a couple weeks, eh?) — then we saw the Christmas tree in the neighbouring apartment building.

Then, of course, there are the commercials. Endless festive, Prozac-infused spots urging us to run up those credit card bills to buy gifts for those millions of people on our gift-giving lists. I haven’t even got to the Christmas cards yet!

So why all the bitterness? I had to do my Christmas shopping this weekend. It’s a new record for me — I have never shopped this early. It’s not really relaxing … there’s still all the stress of wading through all the junk to find that special something for those special people I won’t see this year.

You see, I’m not going to Ontario for Christmas this year. I’m staying here. Last year, Allison spent a Sowrey Christmas. This year, it’s my turn to experience a Collins Christmas. I’m looking forward to it … if I can get through all the sales first.

It started on Saturday. Allison and I darted out to Pacific Centre Mall to see what things were available for our hard-earned dollars. It’s not a great mall, especially since Eaton’s closed. (I have to say, it’s a sad, disturbing feeling to look through the glass doors at the now-empty, once-proud anchor of Canadian commerce.)

The Saturday run was mostly to see what was available, although we did find an excellent selection for one part of my family (sorry folks, no hints). We spotted two other good possibilities, but the mall closed before we could act on those impulses.

It was then off to our evening entertainment. We had to activities to choose from: See Kevin Smith’s new celluloid tour-de-force, Dogma, or see a local band. The band went on at 10:00pm, which coincidentally was the same time the movie started. We opted for trying to get in to see the band, and then seeing the movie if all else failed.

We arrived to find very few scalpers (one of whom was disguised as someone looking for tickets, as not to give away his shadier motives). Initial prices were $40. We went for dinner. When we returned, the ticket prices had jumped to $50. We went into a nearby bookstore. When we came back, the prices had returned to $40. We were aiming for $30.

It’s a tricky game, dealing with scalpers. Most of them aren’t terribly bright, nor are they patient. Having been through the University of Waterloo, patience is something I have in abundance. Despite the chilly weather (and me without my jacket) and the rain, neither Allison or I were willing to budge on the price.

The tickets were originally $22.50. A scalping company, known as Ticketmaster, added an additional $5 to the price. We were being nice by offering a profit of $2.50 per ticket. And when the rain started to fall heavily, the scalpers agreed. $30 apiece. No movie for us…

We had tickets to enter a Vancouver legend — the Fabulous Commodore Ballroom. This was, until a few years ago, the best place to see any live music performance. Then it closed down, and Vancouver was cursed with having no venue for good bands. Then the House of Blues came in with a bucket of money. Earlier this year, the doors swung open again.


It’s a venue like no other. Art deco stylings — very 1930’s. The room is huge — easily the size of an Olympic-size hockey rink … squared. And then there’s the floor…

Rumour had it that the original floor had something like 12 feet of horse hair under it for springiness. Apparently, it was wood rot (they found this during renovation). The new floor is in much better shape … but just as springy. I’m not kidding, either — you can literally be knocked from your feet in a mosh pit if you bounce out of beat with the rest of the crowd. The vibration can be felt in the entire room. If an earthquake were to hit, you’d probably never know.

Allison and I stole up to the front of the dance floor, taking positions roughly in the middle of the barricade between the crowd and the stage. Front row seating, or rather, standing.

The first band was from Toronto, the name of which I now forget. They were good. Obviously, not good enough for me to remember their name, but still good.

By the time the featured act took the stage, Allison and I were trapped against the barricade, desperately trying to hold our position against all the people trying to force us out. But we held … it was the best place to get a close look at Spirit of the West.

We stayed up at the front for four songs … until some crowd-surfing moron landed on Allison’s head. We took a hasty exit before one of us got seriously injured. (John Mann, lead singer for SotW, later threatened to refund crowd-surfer’s tickets and eject them from the premises for making his “guests” leave the front — he was referring to us and a few others.)

Four words: “Home For A Rest”.

This is perhaps one of SotW’s most popular songs (after “Save This House”). You could barely hear John over the audience. Everyone was singing. (The only concert experience that beat this was listening to 40,000 of my closest friends singing along to The Tragically Hip.)

About a dozen songs, a spirited rendition of “I Got You, Babe” and two encores later, Allison and I ducked out before the tide crushed us.

I resumed shopping the next day, considerably less bitter than the day before. This was a chance for me to rush around and get the bulk of my family shopping complete. I have to ship the stuff sometime this week, if I’m not mistaken. Aside from a hefty batch of Cheezies (don’t worry Mom, I haven’t forgotten this time), I’m done.

So I’m a little less testy about the whole Christmas thing now. Maybe it’s because I’ve got part of my shopping done. Either that, or I just haven’t noticed the 5,000,000 lights erected since last night…