Monday, August 25, 2014
Sturgis North, Canada's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and Festival, Merritt, BC - Part 3 - Main Stage - Moxy, Molly Hatchet and Burton Cummings
It was truly epic to be at Sturgis North in Merritt. This is a great venue. Beautiful mountains, regular John Denver location with Colorado high and idyllic mountain stream But, and this is the clincher, John Denver, bless his soul, wouldn’t naturally bring to mind a stage ringed by massive Harley Davidson motorcycles. This is Buffalo Chip outdoors. Big boy arena. No bicycles, sandals and shorts with pretty sweet vegan cute college girls who haven’t quite graduated. This is leathers and men and women. Lots of vets. I love that the Hells Angels, no colours mind you, but you know whose who, and the RCMP are all there, kind of mixing. A bit like a soccer game between combatting soldiers on a Christmas Eve in a long standing war. Everyone is nice. There’s ambulances and security otherwise. This was a well run concert. Really well run. But like a Sons of Anarchy movie truce, everyone was listening to the Biker Mommas. The Katie Sagal's had told everyone to behave or else. All the women were here to strut their stuff and dance and have a good time. All the boys were told to leave their guns at home.
I love Sturgis for this.
Mostly, over 99% of the folk there aren’t part of that other scene. There’s a whole lot of Veterans who ride Harley’s. They’re a central part of these festivals. My favourite ride is the Vets Ride. The Christian bikers were out in force too. Lots of Gospel Riders and Christian Motorcycle Association folk. A whole lot of professionals ride big bikes. They can afford them. They're also really popular with the rural townsfolk. City guys like the crotch rockets. They were there too but Harleys dominated. A whole lot of music lover too. Then there were the beer drinkers. I didn’t see a lot of evidence of drugs. Pot. Pot smoking all right. But the whole atmosphere didn’t have any of the Downtown Eastside flavour of cocaine, crystal meth or heroin. I doubt people into heavy drugs could get their asses out to music festivals. They certainly can't afford the vehicles, gas or price of adminission. They’re living in poverty somewhere on the couch dreaming of being cool one day when they can kick their habit. Lots of recovery folk come to these rallies. I expect there were AA and NA meetings happening somewhere. I didn’t key into them like I did at Sturges, South Dakota where they’re just part of the fabric of the place. Here it seemed that Jesus Loves You was more in evidence. That and the Siks. You can tell them by the steel plated turbans.
A friend said the Harley was the favourite Aryan vehicle. Only here there were blacks and Aboriginals on the Harleys as well. The Asians I saw still seemed to favour big Yamaha’s and Suzukis whereas the Siks had Harley’s and Victories. My motorcycycle buddy Chiropractor Richard Cho rides a Harley but I wonder if there is a profile to different bike choices. I see Harley’s wherever I travel in the world, most recently even in Russia. I figure the true Aryan might ride a BMW but just about anyone rides BMW’s as they do the Italian Ducatis. I think it’s more like a preference for performance. I think there’s nothing like my Electraglide for the American Highway. My Turkish friends who rode through South America sure loved their BMW. The english Triumph was the preferred bike for Africa. My friend loves his Honda crotch rocket in downtown Vancouver traffic.
There’s just something special about a Harley sound too. Especially when it’s used for applause like it was at the Sturgis in South Dakota and here at Sturgis North. Besides Gilbert and I love our Harley.
Moxy was playing early. I’d known the band. They’re famous. I just hadn’t appreciated them until tonight. What an impressive performance. Real solid group. Great vocals.
I confess I didn’t know Molly Hatchet though they’re really famous. One of their songs took me way back. I’d heard it on the radio hundreds of times but I’d never associated these great tunes with the band name. And I loved their music. Really Southern US country rock and Louisiana Alabama upbeat blues hillbilly metal rock whatever. It was fantastic and the whole crowd was dancing. It’s stomping music. I’ve got to get their records. I just loved the beat.
But what I came for was Burton Cummings. And he was worth it. Hell I rode a Harley a whole day to see him but he’s such great pinnacle of a musician, song writer, entertainer that he’s worth the whole climb up the mountain. I”d heard him first at 17 when as head of the entertainment committee on the student council executive it came to me to hire the Guess Who for our high school dance. They’d gone from being Chad Allen and the Reflections to the Guess Who. I remember “Shaking All Over” but I believe the dance was 1969 or 1970 and that’s when they released ‘These Eyes” which became the US #1 single. I confess I had tears in my eyes when Burton Cummings sang “These Eyes’.
The first time I heard Burton Cummings sing was when he was with Deverons and put out the song “Blue is the Night’. To an adolescent boy with pimples and unrequited love, there has never been a better song to sum up the true angst of the world in which love exists but not for you. I couldn’t get enough of that song. When you're young and a wannabe poet a song like that can really help you suck the very teat of depression dry and come out the other side ready to fall in love all over again.
Moments at a time I was wafted back to high school. it was like the Vincent Massey High School Reunion where we’d all danced and I felt totally dissociated back to 17 again. 1969 was a very special year. Then 1970 was too. The whole early 70’s were something else. All that time before Medical School. After I got into medical school it was a whole different world. There was simply no time for rock and roll. My party days were over and life because a serious business.
Then there I was at a Vincent Massey High School Reunion with all these other folk in our 50’s telling stories of high school. It was a truly special time.
Like this concert.
Denise was the girl sitting beside me. She told me she’d grown up in Grand Forks, little town in interior BC. She’d driven here with her sister in the side car and her son on the back of her 800 motorcycle, possibly Russian vintage. “It’s like driving a big lawnmower on the highway.” Having got rid of the one Gilbert and I had, our Ural, for just that reason, it’s really work to drive at high speed, I could only admire her for making the day trip here. “I just had to hear Burton Cummings”, she said.
“I love his voice. His voice is one of the greatest singing voices of all time. 4 octaves.” I said.
I love America but I loved when American Woman came out. I loved that it was banned across the states. I loved that it was this strong peace message spoken to our own allies. We weren’t against our military back then despite the song Universal Solider and Where Have All the Flowers Gone. We just didn’t like the ‘policies’ of war that wasted young lives. I loved American Woman. Burton Cummings and his band did it and the crowd went wild.
Clap for the Wolfman certainly went over with this wild bunch too. Hand Me Down world was a moving tribute. Burton is an amazing pianist. Canada’s Elton John in that regard. Stand Tall was a real show stopper. Indeed every song he and his band did was perfection. It was a mystical time.
An incredible experience. I was up and dancing. Gibert was safe from all the cheering and dancing, curled up under a chair. I was dancing, taking pictures, dancing, shouting. Everyone was. Burton Cummings is to Canadian music was Wayne Gretsky is to hockey. No wonder he got the Order of Canada. In that regard he’s like “SIR” Paul McCartney in Canada. A true life time achiever.
And there he was , a guy making music at a high school dance. Now a world star. He went on to greatness like so many people I knew in those days. It was a joy to see him at Sturgis North. He closed with Mother Nature. Another great song.
“I never thought I’d be still doing this at 66" he said, "thank you for making it all possible.” What a gentleman. And no I didn’t think I’d be riding a motorcycle with a little dog into the wonders of Northern BC and camping outside in a pup tent beside a mountain stream after listening to a truly great Burton Cummings concert. Life can be so sweet.