The Shoat Statements

Random musings by the multiple voices inside my head.

AKA The Day I Went For A Bon Jovi Concert

This is a true story.

Toronto

Sometime in November, Andrea walked into work and gushed excitedly about how Bon Jovi was touring Canada in 2010. I had to be there! The choice was between Montreal in March or Toronto in July. Not knowing where I'd be in July, Montreal was the obvious choice. (And the biggest 'thank you' EVER goes out to the person who convinced me to go!)

Being a creature who is perennially short of money, I had to settle for a modestly priced ticket - I hoped that the seat was decent. The ticket arrived in December, but I refused to get excited about it till March. I didn't want to start counting my chickens just yet. It was just too incredible to be real, and I didn't want to jinx anything.

Then came March. How would I get from Toronto to Montreal? The Greyhound cost about $100 (very likely more) - and that was just one way. And overnight stay? I seriously began to wonder if I'd have to hitch hike to Montreal and sleep on the side walk.

But then, diligent googling introduced me to Coach Canada (aka Mega Bus), an affordable means of cross country travelling. By ordering my ticket on line, I got a return trip for just $61! Plus, they had a bus leaving Montreal at 12.15 am, so I didn't have to worry about hotel stay. Finally, I had a proper plan!

The actual week of the concert turned out to be one of the busiest weeks of my life. I was working two jobs, literally from 9 a.m. till 9.30 p.m. On top of that, I was apartment hunting. Friday just could not come soon enough!

Friday morning, I woke up a whole hour early because I was too excited to sleep. The bus was leaving at exactly 9.30 am (and over here, people actually stick to the schedule). I was terrified of missing the bus, but I made it there with a good 40 minutes to spare. Imagine my smugness when I saw that the girl in front of me had paid $107 one way to Montreal, and that was with a student discount! Plus, she was travelling in the same bus as I was. Thank heavens for the internet!

Now, I have to dedicate a few lines to describe the bus itself. Firstly, it was a double decker. I, having never travelled in a 'decker' before, was elated. As soon as I boarded the bus, I took the back staircase (yeah, there were two staircases) and headed 'upstairs'. It was pretty much like flying economy class. Comfortable seats you could recline, overhead reading lights and a choice of radio stations for everyone who brought their own headphones. And a bathroom. I really wanted to go see what that looked like, but I never got around to it. And. And and and and. Before I finish describing the bus, let me add just two more points. The Mega Bus also boasted of 110V power sockets and was wifi enabled. That's right. The $30 per trip double decker bus with its own bathroom also came with power sockets and wifi! For a 6 1/2 hour trip, this was a good way to travel. The most awesome bus ever!

9.30 on the dot, we were off. There was one more passenger pick up point around 10 a.m., and after that, the bus was pretty much full.

Nowhere Town, Canada

I don't think I ever appreciated how vast this country was until I took this particular bus ride. I fell asleep almost as soon as we took off from Toronto, and I woke up to empty fields on either side of the road. Later, I realized that the empty fields were actually farms. Big, humongous farms. There were barns, and I actually saw some horses as well. After the farms though, it was mostly forest. And field. Forest field farm. Alternate repeatedly, in random fashion. Drop the farm bit, and then keep on alternating. That was the bulk of my view. Don't get me wrong - the scenery was beautiful. But it was just so much empty space. There really isn't enough people living here. Which, I suppose, is a good thing.

We stopped at a place called Kingston, for about 20 minutes. Got to stretch my legs, use the bathroom (not the one in the bus), grab a doughnut and then it was time to go.

I wanted to sleep, but I was too excited to. I could only doze for 15 or 20 minutes before waking up, though the rest of the passengers didn't seem to suffer from the same problem.

Montreal

They made the announcement that we were entering Montreal, and I swear, my heart rate went up. Before I knew it, we were at the terminal and I was off the bus, knapsack in hand, wondering which direction to head in. Because, in Montreal, everything and every person in it, was French. Not a single sign post anywhere had an English word on it. I might as well have been in France, for all the good it would have done.

I saw a building nearby which looked like a mall, and headed inside. After all, it was just 4.30 p.m., and the concert started at 7.30 p.m. I needed time to wash my face, use the bathroom, and above all else, eat.  Turned out that it was not so much a mall as it was a few shops, a food court, a bathroom and persumably offices upstairs. Which was quite alright by me. I ate, I freshened up, and thought that I would do well to head to the Bell Centre sooner than later, because a) who knew where it was and how long it would take to get there, and b) what if there was a queue?


I followed the signs that said 'metro', and to my luck, ended up inside a subway station located in the same building. So far, so good. I walked up to the ticket booth, and asked the lady there how to get to the Bell Centre. Fortunately for me, she spoke English. Rather good English, peppered with a strong accent. She gave me a map, and detailed instructions on how to get to the Bell Centre. Which turned out to be a good thing, because all announcements on the train was in French, with zilch in English. I suppose I should have expected as much from Quebec.

After observing how much I preferred the Toronto transit system (and Toronto in general), and keeping both eyes on the map, and straining to match the French pronounciation of the subway stop names with how they spell it on paper, I finally ended up at the right place. It must have been a 10 minute ride, but it felt quite a bit longer.

Bell Centre

Bell Centre in and of itself turned out to be quite boring, unless you were a hockey fan. Which I am not. It also turned out to be a maze, and I went through endless corridors before suddenly finding myself outside the entrance.

People were there already, lots of them in Bon Jovi t-shirts, waiting for the doors to open. There were people from all ages - teeny boppers, 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and then the salt 'n pepper crowd as well. It was so interesting to stand around and just watch the different types of fans arrive, but they all seemed so calm and collected and...French. I actually started to wonder if the crowd would merely clap after each song!

There was a small promotional tent by Virgin radio, and they wanted me to sing a Bon Jovi song (karaoke) and in turn, I would win a spanking new t-shirt. Had the t-shirt been a Bon Jovi one, or if I had been with a group of people, I think I would have sung, but this time I politely declined.

While I waited, I ended up chatting with an equally devoted fan named Caroline. She was from Montreal itself, and assured me that the Montreal crowd was incredible (at this point, I found that a bit hard to believe, but I kept my opinion to myself). She (lucky bitch!) had bought herself two $400 tickets! One for Friday's show, and the other for Saturday's show. And damn good seats - for $400, what did you expect, right? She had a home-made banner with her, and was already making plans to attend the July concert in Toronto. I hoped the rest of the crowd would be like her.

Like any two devoted Bon Jovi fans, we talked nineteen to the dozen about the band, the songs and all things Bon Jovi. Before I knew it, it was 6.30 p.m., and the doors were finally opening. Caroline and I said our goodbyes, and I made my way inside. There wasn't a big crowd, and I really started to wonder about Montreal at this point. No queue, no rush...f***ing Bon Jovi was playing! Where were the damn people?!

There was a counter inside selling memorabilia, and much as I would have loved to buy half of what they had, my wallet chose otherwise, so I satisfied myself by getting a Bon Jovi 'The Circle' pendant. And wore it then and there.

I made my way to my seat. Not the best seat in the house, but the awesome thing about the Bell Centre is that the seats are so high up that you get an incredible view of the stage wherever you are. Plus, my seat was parallel to the stage, so I got a pretty good view of the stage. People were still milling in, and it really didn't seem all that crowded, and I was almost beginning to feel sorry for Bon Jovi.

Precisely at 7.30 p.m., the opening band came on. I have no clue what they were called, only that they were from Jacksonville, Florida. They were ok - lots of their songs sounded the same, and frankly, it was difficult to get pumped up for some nameless band when you were waiting for Bon Jovi. They did a cover of Summer '69 though, and, predictably, the crowd sang along with them for that one, which I think was more of a reflection on Bryan Adams than it was on the band itself.

By around 8 o'clock, the stadium was getting packed. Aaah, these Montrealers. They timed themselves well, skipping the better part of the opening band, and coming in on time for the main attraction. By 8.30 p.m., the stadium was packed. There was easily 20,000 plus people and I really couldn't spot an empty seat.

My row had quite the mix - from left to right, there were giggly teenage girls, 20-something year old guys, then 30 year old me, then a group who were at least in their 40s. Bon Jovi truly appeals to all.

When the opening band bid adieu, I got a glimpse of what the crowd would be like: a few started chanting Bon Jovi, and most of the crowd started cheering as soon as the lights dimmed. And they didn't stop. This crowd had hope...maybe Caroline had been right, after all!

Then, it happened. The lights went completely off, and the back of the stage lit up in a semi circle, like the album cover.

Bon Jovi walked on stage.

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Be true to your heart, and true to your conscience.

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