Currently I am living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My apartment is in a high-rise on the north side of the North Commons, which is a huge flat field. It was designated an emergency gathering area soon after the Halifax Explosion, and the construction of permanent structures was effectively forbidden up to today. So we have a large open space within the centre of the largest city in Atlantic Canada. Hmm.
So local entrepreneurs organised a concert featuring the Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, Kanye West, and Sloan. It was to be held on Saturday, September 23, 2006. Tickets were advertised at about $100 for entrance, about $300 dollars for VIP seating (bleachers), and about $500 for seating in the stage wings. To me, the concert was a potential problem. Outside my front door and across the street, the largest rock concert in Nova Scotia history was to be held, with upwards of 60,000 people attending. On the first day of ticket sales, 35,000 were sold, making me wonder if 60,000 was a conservative estimate.
What would it be like in my building, which has a great view of the commons from the upper southeast-facing balconies (I’m on the north side, so no luck there)? What would happen to the Commons? What would traffic be like, and what would the crowds be doing? While I like some of the music, I dreaded the potential disruption. I decided it might be time to get out of Dodge.
I decided to stay away from home on Saturday, and to either rent a car and play tourist, coming back to Halifax after midnight, or to do something else.
The weekend before, I had three successive night shifts, ending 5 a.m. Tuesday morning. When I got home, I saw the first activity out on the Commons. It looked really surreal and interesting against the lights and the low cloud overhead, so I grabbed my camera and took a look around. This is what I saw.
Then I went to bed and woke up in the afternoon.
That evening drizzle and fog moved in, and during my sleep the Stones’ work crews had been busy. There was a giant structure rising through the mists, tents were appearing, fences were going up, and port-a-potties were sprouting like mushrooms. I went back out, and in between constant wiping of my camera and the lens, and trying to aim away from the drizzle, managed to get some surreal views of the site.
Wednesday I was busy, but on Thursday night I went for another stroll to see what the Rock trolls had accomplished. This night was cold and clear, with a strong breeze blowing to add that little extra edge to the experience. A lot had been accomplished. All the bleachers were up, they had started adding the panels to the stage frame, and a lot of the fences and barriers had been put into place. Security had tightened up, but a bit of politeness and a willingness to talk to young, bored, lonely and cold guards went a long way. Finally, all 500 port-a-potties were in place for the 50-60,000 spectators; you do the math. In about 48 hours the Rolling Stones would walk on stage.
I’d started to get interested, but the Wednesday and Thursday forecasts had rain for Saturday, and the weather guidance seemed pretty consistent on this point. So I decided to rent a car on Friday. After getting the vehicle, I dropped over to the Commons after school to have a look around. Things were really rolling, and the stage was looking almost complete. The local merchants were moving in, and the number of gawkers had increased a hundredfold.
That night when I walked in the front door, I noticed lights over by the stage, and some spectators with cameras. I went upstairs, grabbed my camera and tripod, and went across the street. They were testing the light show on the stage. So I set up and started going click-click-click. A few of us started gabbing, and I met Sean O’Brien from Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. We had a grand yarn about mutual acquaintances, the weather back home, and the new school system. After taking way too many pictures of rapidly flashing lights, we all headed off.
Saturday morning dawned sunny with increasing cloud. There were a couple of dozen people at the gates already, waiting to get to the front near the stage. One gentleman had camped out there the previous night, until security told him to go home at 4 a.m.; he was back at eight. The itinerary was that the gates would open at one, Sloan would start around 4:30 p.m. followed by Kanye West and Alice Cooper, followed by the Stones around 9 p.m. The show would end around eleven, but then the bars in town would stay open until 4:30 a.m. the next morning. Major party time.
For most of that day I wandered around west of Halifax, and came back near sundown. It had started raining and drizzling that afternoon, and when I arrived in town it was fairly miserable and the wind had picked up, but it was still warm. I went to Dartmouth to take a picture of Halifax across the harbour, to show what the weather was like. I could hear the singing from 2 km away . Then I wandered over to the Northwest Arm, and from the Armdale Yacht club, through heavy fog and drizzle, I could see the spotlights.
Anyway, that evening at about 10:20 p.m. I decided to try to get my car back to the apartment before the concert ended. I missed seeing the end by about five minutes (the Stones started early to allow the audience to get out of the rain early), and had no trouble getting back to my parking space. Then I looked out the front door and watched about 50,000 people soaked to the skin, muddy to the knees, and wearing everything from t-shirts to garbage bags to full Gore-tex; but most people had huge grins, you could feel the adrenaline, and the happiness was contagious. Maybe I should have watched it; but I had enjoyed my day in a different way than them, and 10 hours inside the Commons with about 7 hours of rain to make thing interesting would be better for someone younger.
Within 24 hours the giant stage was on the 78 trucks, and the 100 workers were making their way to the next gig. In the next day or two the local people removed the fences, bleachers, tents, and the port-a-potties. Part of the Commons is mud, but a lot of it is still grass and not much the worse for wear. If they do it again with U2 or Dire Straits I’ll probably try it.
Sunday morning. Check out the people on the high steel.