Being a big fan, my partner has been wanting to go to this concert as soon as it was announced. However, being the go with the flow kind of guy that he is, with his desire to wait to the last minutes to get tickets for a better deal; it was two days away from the concert he was most excited about this year, and we had yet to get our tickets.
He spent those days on Craig’s list refreshing his phone’s screen in hopes of finding a seller, with the ability to buy from them. So far with every person he messaged he was just a little too late. Tickets averaged around $70-80 for the pacific forum show. There were two VIP tickets for $300 that included a meet and greet with the performer and a cap, shirt, and poster that he would sign. But other than that, the tickets offered no better view points for the concert and not even a private washroom to use during it. We passed. Although we got desperate a day from the Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 show and considered ourselves lucky to be able to pay $120 each for our set of two. But then there is always the fear of the tickets being forgeries. To ensure we got what we paid for, Frenchy took a photo of the guy and the licence plate of his car when he transferred the ticket via email. Walking to the gate to have them checked there was a man who was denied entry because his ticket had already been scanned in, he was looking at a duplicate pass and no access. We got in just fine behind him.
The locale was the PNE Forum, as part of the PNE fair ground. The drive there, thus began our night of waiting. With the addition of Frights Nights (the Halloween haunted house and carnival ride experience at Playland) traffic around the block was at astand still. We drove past, looking at the queue to enter Playland’s gates, we were thankful that those waiting weren’t us, only to find out that we would have to join a longer line shortly after, and many more once we got in.
The longest line was the one to enter. It literally snaked around the building, each corner we took to get to the end of it, there was another waiting. All ticket holders were being funnelled in from the one entrance, this was so that security could do bag checks and everyone could be frisked and patted down.
Outside, the cops walked the line with flashlights, they shone it before you, looking for any liquor bottles, or whatever else you hoped to conceal. We were witness to at least two take-downs. The hand cuffing and arrest of one drunk man who was caught stealing. Many spectators cheered, others took photos and video, I just felt bad. I felt for the police, to have to be under this public spotlight and scrutiny. He was just doing his job and keeping us safe from a giant of a man who was clearly so drunk that he was out of his mind and unaware of his own strength. Likewise, I later felt pain for the girl who was so high on something that she desperately clung to the fence in order to be able to stand up. Letting go, I found her gravitating and leaning on to me for support. Her face could not hide the bad trip her mind was on.
In the line, my mind also occupied itself observing the crowd I was in. There were plenty of of girls dressed like they were heading into a night Club. Short skirts and crop tops, stiletto heels they had them tip toeing around. Little did they know that they would have to wait about an hour to get in. I was just thankful to be in a committed relationship, with a man who was as adverse to waiting, lines, and getting pushed in a mosh pit as I am. I was dressed comfortable with all my limbs covered and a flat pair of shoes, and he thought I was dolled up just fine. You could identify those girls, also in happy relationships like me, by the way they dressed for tonight.
More waiting in the cold had me thinking how poorly organized this concert was. There was no thought of the ticket holders or the experience of the people. Yes it is important to identify those with weapons and unlawful drugs trying to harm anyone, and to eject them from the scene. But at the cost to the rest of us who paid, waited and now won’t be able to see a full show due to the time it took to get everyone in. We joined the line 45 minutes after the doors open at 7pm, we didn’t get in until closer to 9pm. And around then is when the DJ came on to hype the crowd. After all they couldn’t start the show when more than half of those attending were still trying to get in. If that happened, imagine the out roar of ticket holders writing into the organizers, demanding their money back. It was their best interest to start the show late. But then there is the fear that it would end at the same time, the artist was here for a set timeframe, and any delays would cut into that scheduled time. However School Boy did his fans justice and perform three additional tracks after his “Mike was cut off”.
Inside it was a free for all across a giant hall. 5000 ticket holder for this sold out show, in a setting my partner deemed “greasy”. This was like a music festival, but indoors; and the closest I will ever get to an actual one. Also given the below, potentially the last show I would attend at this venue.
It was all the waiting in lines that put me off. We spent more time standing in queue then enjoying the crowd or the music. A line to drive to and park, a line to get in. Another line to have your belongs searched and your body frisked. A wait to get into the section where you can drink, and another to actually buy a drink.
In the forum they had concession stalls because it is PNE. Hot dog and fries, soft drinks and popcorn. But the real lines were for the alcohol section that required two pieces of ID. The drinking zone was the furthest from the stage, and the audio system of the building wasn’t enough to reach the distance. So if you wanted to drink, and most people do at such events, you gave up the ability to hear the concert. Which is ridiculous. This is my third event at this arena, and I have yet to learn that nothing all that good happens in these walls. School Boy Q’s performance was amazing, but definitely soured by all the above and more of the below that we experience before he hit the stage. The poor planning and organization really marred the night.
The audio was only sufficient for those standing directly centre of the stage. At the far end we only got the murmur of the sound waves. And unbeknownst to us, we missed opening performer: Joey Bada$$. We didn’t know any of his songs, but cared enough because we liked his work on “Mr. Robot”, the television show. But it wasn’t meant to be, because after claiming our three drinks, we had to stand around to finish it in this designated waiting area. And after lining up for this long, you weren’t just going to just grab one drink and call it a day, you made sure to stock up. But at the same time, you didn’t want too many cups so that breaking the seal and having to go to the washroom multiple times would be an issue. So three alcoholic beverages was our solution. A cider for me, a cooler for him, and a beer for us to share. We claimed one of the free standing tables to enjoy what we had in hand, and rest the third until we were ready for it.
When it came time to hit the beer, we decided to kill two birds with one stone, we agreed to drink as we waited in line for the toilets. This was naturally the line I hated the most, especially as it wasn’t even worth the wait. It was a necessary queue, and a gross one. The whole building only had one set of actual facilities. It was an older building, and definitely not built to accommodate such a crowd. So they supplied additional toilets in the form of Porto potties. This was most helpful, but still not enough. Because, even though the line to use these looked shorter, it was still quite the extensive queue. Luckily my partner was aggressive enough to have us moving through it fast, but it was still at least a 39 minute wait. Frenchy moved us across three lines to the chagrin of the girl who “really had to go” beside us. She was there first and waited longer. So she was sure to elbow herself through, to get the seat after me. Thankful we were able to hold ourselves and did not need to repeat this time suck.
What was the most appalling during this wait was the two girls who went into the Porto potty together. I never understood the need or the inappropriate intimacy. There is also barely enough room for one person to stand comfortably, without touching the sides of the John, and here they wanted to both squeeze in. Someone was touching more piss then they intended. And worst still, these were the stalls on the drinking end, the stalls being used by drunk men and women, who have forgotten about the importance of aim or hygiene.
My partner went first. It was full of piss. Piss on the seat and a urinal full of piss. The urinal was like a built in bucket with no drainage. Men peed on top of other men’s piss and it all just sat there. I was luckily to squat beside one that still had room for more. I could only imagine the state of the porto potties that saw men without their estimation and spatial skills honed. Yellow running down the walls and pooling by your feet. (Ick I need a shower just recalling this.) Frenchy thought of putting toilet paper in the urinal to hide it from my view. But there was just so much of it. He did however take the time to place tissue over the seat for me, on top of wiping it rid of urine. Truly one of the most romantic things he has ever done for me.
Inside the stall, it was at least dark enough that you couldn’t make out that much detail. And loud enough that you can’t hear the sound of our own piss splashing into everyone else’s in the hole of the toilet. All you hear was the complaining from everyone waiting in line outside.
We are not patient people, so after our ordeal, we didn’t have the energy to fight the crown on the stadium floor. We couldn’t see ourselves pushing our way towards the stage. Instead, we grab a seat on the bleachers facing the stage at an angle. We had our own space with the ability to rest as needed, and it was a place for me to put my coat and purse down as I danced. And best of all we avoided any stepping on our feet, all the jabbing of elbows into our mid sections, and any general intrusion into our personal space. We were also close enough to one of the exits (thankfully when the show ended, all the doors were opened and we didn’t have to funnel out through just one.) Later, my partner was able to navigated us quickly out of the stadium and back to our car, driving us home safe and sound. And here I was, buzzed enough to walk into a garbage can.
As for the actual concert it was worth every bit of our money and all of our time. Given the notoriety of weed in hip hop, they of course mentioned Vancouver bud. There were plumes of smoke that rose into the air, sparked by the DJ lighting up and blowing some into the crowd. It was unavoidable and hard to ignore, but no one took note. It certainly made sense given the singer’s appreciation of the herb, and his advocation of it through his music. One such lyric read, “Crush a bit, little bit, roll it up, take a hit
Feeling lit, feeling light, 2 AM, summer night”.
My partner, being the fan provided great commentary and is the source for many of my notes below.
Only seeing School Boy Q on album covers and in his music video, what we saw before us in person didn’t quite matchup to his media persona. First he wasn’t wearing any hat, let alone his trademark bucket one. And his hair was shaven close to head. His voice also didn’t match the online experience. He was a lower baritone, where as he has a higher pitch with the auto tune, in his for radio songs. However his skill on the Mike was consistent. He performed all his singles, and instead of omitting any of the versus where he had a guest performer featured, he sang right through and did a hell of a job. And lastly he had so much more energy live compared to his music videos. Here he was jumping around, waving his arms, and demanding more from the crowd. Whereas his video persona has him looking more laid back and lazy from all the weed that he smokes. He also looked so much more in shape in person then compared to his older work.
He is a hard working man with back to back to back shows. He had only two Canadian stops. He performed Seattle yesterday, Vancouver today, and Denver was planned for tomorrow. He pitted us against Toronto for that east coast, west coast rivalry. And sang and referred to the crowd as “Vancouver” many times. He asked us to pledge our allegiance by asking if we were School Boy Q fans, in third person. He then pitting us against Toronto on who loves him more, via how much we cheered. The crowd latched on. Majority of them knew all the lyrics and you could hear the rise of one voice singing when School Boy directed the Mike and verse to them(us). In this setting, is the only time saying the “n word” is acceptable. In this paid for setting with thousands of consenting adults, singing along to a well known performer’s lyrics.
There was even a mosh pit in the centre of the floor crowd. A bunch of guys agreeing that they will dance violently with one another. Smacking shoulders and bumping bodies. The feeling and ability of men to dance with other men, with their bravado still in tact.
There wasn’t any special effects or a large screen, just strobing light and lights so bright you had to look away. At times you couldn’t be sure what they were doing on stage.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The performance is not in question. It is the venue that I am considering. There were lines for everything and if you had the patience to get through the first half of the night, the show was worth the wait. Luckily we got all the lining up out of the way first. We spent half the time in queues after spending so much for the tickets. So we didn’t quite feel like we got our money’s worth. The whole experience could have been elevated if it was better planned and at any other arena. When the triple encore was done, we happily walked into fresh air and away from the smell of sweat and aggro. I would absolutely pay to see School Boy Q perform again, but not at the cost of being in the PNE Forum building again.