Have you ever had one of those nights? You know, a night that was great. A really fun night where everything comes together. Well that was last night for yours truly and the Sports Juicette. We threw caution to the wind and left 15 years of our ages at home.
It all started with a mistake. Of course it did. We’d never plan a night like the one we had last night. We’re far too practical for that. We like our weekends to be clean. Perhaps a nice night in on Friday and a bit of a night out on Saturday. Follow that up with a movie or something on Sunday. Just a nice typical kind of weekend that is quiet, but not too quiet.
To get this tale started, I’ll go back about four months. I tend to check out Ticketmaster on Wednesdays to check if any interesting concerts are coming to town. On this particular Wednesday I see that Louis CK is coming to Calgary at MacEwan Hall. A comic playing in the airport hangar? That seems weird. Friday comes and I immediately scoop up two tickets.
For those of you not familiar with Louis CK here is a link to his website. He’s most recently been on the tv show ‘Parks and Recreation’ and the Ricky Gervais movie, ‘The Invention of Lying’. Katherine and I know him from appearances on late night talk shows and his HBO show Lucky Louie, which ran for one season a few years back.
Jump ahead about 2 months and I get an email from the Corb Lund site that he has a new record coming out. And he’s got a steal of a deal. Buy the album, have it signed, get a DVD and a floor ticket to his Calgary show, all for about $60. I immediately buy it and then buy a second floor seat for Katherine. Done and done.
Jump ahead a couple of days and it is that time of year when my Flames game pack arrives. I checked to remind myself what tickets I had selected and I realized I picked the set that had the Flames playing the Rangers the same day as the Corb Lund show. Oh crap!
Which got me wondering, ‘When’s that Louis CK show?’. I went to my bedside table, plucked out the tickets and had a look. Staring back at me was ‘November 8th, 7.30pm’. Triple crap! Flames game, Corb Lund and Louis CK all on the same night.
We quickly reverted back to double crap status when my Flames tickets arrived and I didn’t receive the set of tickets I had put in for. My 8 game pack would not have any overlap with Corb and Louie. We were left with having to pick the show we wanted to see and dump the other tickets. At least that was the plan.
Well, the plan changed pretty quickly. On the one hand, we have a comedy show that is pretty close to once in a lifetime. On the other hand, we have a band we’ve seen a few times, but a band playing in one of my favourite venues for a concert, the Stampede Corral. It’s like watching a concert in your local hockey rink. It’s awesome.
So I ran the Fun Analyzer (coming soon to a website near you) and it indicated that maximum fun could be achieved by trying to see both shows. Louis was at 7.30pm, and we figured Corb might hit the stage around 9.15pm. A comedy act is usually about an hour. Louis is over at the University, Corb is over by the Saddledome. The C-Train services both spots, hmm this just might be possible. Long story long, we decided we’d try the double dip.
Which brings us to this week. Katherine and I spent some time working through the logistics along with the permutations and combinations. We opted to hit a pub for dinner near our place, catch the 6.50pm C-Train which should get us to Mac Hall by about 7.15pm. We’d then shoot for the 8.55pm C-Train back across the city which should get us into the show around 9.15pm.
We arrived at the University a little early and noted that they were just starting to let people in. It looked like the typical set-up with a little beer gardens outside of the hangar. I needed the little boys room so we headed up stairs, which fortunately was where the line to get in was winding from. We get upstairs and it was people as far as the eye could see. I couldn’t believe how many people were there to see Louis! It was 7.18pm when we got through security so I opted for a quick Heineken before the show.
One of our questions was ‘How was a comedy show going to work in MacEwan Hall?’ I keep referring to it as ‘the hangar’ with good reason. The hall is essentially like the biggest gymnasium you have ever seen without the backboards and court. It’s all metallic and barren in there, sort of like a prison (credit Louis). Whenever a show is at MacEwan Hall it is always a bit of a guessing game, as the ballroom on the second floor goes by the same name. The ballroom is awesome to see a show. The ceilings are only about 10 feet and it feels like you are crammed into a sardine tin. Which is exactly what a good rock show should feel like. The hangar feels like you are in an empty warehouse. Not ideal, but that was where Louis would perform.
So we walk into the hall and find the place filled with chairs. Aha! It was a free for all rush for whatever seats you could get your bums on. My decision to grab that beer haunted us as we slowly walked up the aisle looking for two seats. We settled into the third to last row, cursing our bad fortunes. Of course we should have known they’d have seats! Oh well, we were at the end of the row which would facilitate a quick getaway at the end of the show.
7.30pm came and went, as did 7.45pm. In all our calculations, we hadn’t planned on Louis starting at 8.00pm. We knew he had a second show at 10.00pm so I assumed he’d stick to the schedule. Whoops! The 8.55pm C-Train back across town was not looking good. At 8.00pm, a pudgy, balding, red head in a black t-shirt and jeans came on stage and started telling us how he hadn’t had much of a chance to see Calgary, but that was ok because he had absolutely no interest in seeing any of Calgary. Louis had arrived and we were ready to go.
I am going to struggle to adequately describe Louis’ brand of comedy. When we saw him on late night, he comes across as a guy with a pretty warped view of every day events. Essentially a pure pessimist, but a funny one at that. His show Lucky Louie was about as crude a family sitcom I’d ever seen. HBO will do that for a person.
But Lucky Louie was like a Sunday at church compared to his live act! It was one of those shows where your sides are splitting throughout but your brain is trying to tell you to be bit ashamed that you find such filth to be funny. He basically portrays himself as the most self absorbed pessimist possible, who actually hopes that bad things happen to others. I can’t possibly retell the jokes in a way that allows the humour to come across so I’ll simply point you to one of his HBO specials if you are interested.
Louis’ set wrapped up at 9.02pm. Crap! Next C-Train is at 9.10pm and it is a 10 minute walk. We make a beeline to the train and just make it. We’re probably getting to Corb at about 9.30pm so we’re in good shape. Worst case we’ll have missed about 4-5 songs.
Whew! The adrenaline is flowing again just re-telling the story! The strangest part of the night is that the Louis CK show felt like a distant memory about 10 minutes after the show was done. No time to talk about it, think about it, or let it be absorbed. We were fully focused on the next leg of our night.
We get there right at 9.30pm and we can hear music. Of course there is no line to worry about so we go straight to the ticket takers. They scan Katherine’s ticket, ‘bee-boop’. They scan my ticket, ‘nrraahhhh’. Huh? They scan it again, ‘nrraahhhh’. The girl says, ‘Go over to the ticket counter, it is saying your ticket is to be refunded’. Huh? The music is playing, we want in!! Crap, crap, double crap!
We go over to the ticket lady and she looks at the ticket. ‘Where did you get this ticket’, she asks. ‘Fan club’, I mumble back, realizing that isn’t quite technically correct. She walks away and is gone. Meantime, Corb kicks into ‘Long gone Saskatchewan’, a great song off the new cd. CRAP!!! We certainly didn’t factor in that we’d get denied into the show.
A few minutes go by and I see a gal counting money. The ticket said refund, was I getting a refund? I lean into the glass and say, ‘We don’t want a refund, we just want into the show.’ She ignores me and keeps counting the money. At this point I am starting to get a bit worked up. Fortunately our gal comes back to the window. ‘Where did you say you bought this ticket?’, she asks. ‘Maple Music. They had a deal where you buy the cd, dvd and get a ticket to the show’, I accurately reply. ‘Can I see your id?’, she asks. ‘COME ON!!!!’, I think as I hand her my drivers license.
She disappears again as Corb kicks into another song. She soon returns and says, ‘It’s ok, I’ll walk you in’. We go back to the entrance, this time with a new ticket taker. He scans my ticket, ‘nrraahhhh’. ‘It’s ok’, the lady says. They scan Katherine’s ticket, ‘nraahhhh’. Uh oh. The lady gives us a curious look and I quickly manage to say, ‘When we first tried to get in, the girl scanned the ticket’. That does the trick and we are finally in! Woo-hoo! We get in line for a beer and I ask when Corb came on stage. ‘He just started’ was the reply. Sweet!! *
* I checked a review this morning and it turns out the song we heard when we first arrived was in fact the first song of the night. He hit the stage at 9.30pm, just as we arrived.
We then quickly made our way out onto the floor and took in the rest of the show. It was a bit of a homecoming type of show, with lots of Corb’s family in the audience. He was in a great mood and so was the crowd. Part way through the roughly 2 1/2 hour set, Ian Tyson made his way onto the stage. I’m not into the country music, so the significance of Ian Tyson is pretty much lost on me. Fortunately the rest of the crowd understood and appropriately went bananas. Did I mention it was a 2 1/2 hour set? Corb went a good hour longer than he normally goes, thanks in large part to the awesomeness that is the Stampede Corral.
It was a great show and an eclectic crowd, which is always the case with Corb. He appeals to the rednecks, to the blue collar workers, to the university crowd, and to the hipsters like Katherine and I. His music is folk music, but he spent a bunch of years playing in a punk band in the 1990s so he has a bit of a freshness to what he does. His lyrics are often smart and funny and almost always speak to life in Alberta. Never have I been to a show where the lead singer asks, ‘Have any of you ever been to the Brooks Hotel bar? That’s what this song is about’. ‘Has anyone been to the Ponoka Rodeo?’ On and on it went.
The show wrapped up around midnight and we went back out into the night to catch the train home. I watched the second half of the Rider game and watched the boys clinch a first round bye for the first time since I was in diapers. A sweet end to a sweet night.
Looking back on it, I’m really pumped we made the decision to take in both shows. There was a lot of fun in the uncertainty and rushedness of it all. There were a lot of moving parts, any one of which could have put a damper on the night. We managed to overcome the obstacles and have some great memories for our efforts. I can’t wait to the next time I accidently double book us on something, that’s for sure!