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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 12.21.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

It's barely rock 'n' roll but kids love it

I still consider myself musically savvy and I try to pass on my rock wisdom to my children. For instance, I teach them that there is more than one style of music. There is my well-written, musically diverse songcraft and then there is their mediocre crap.

But they like their crap so, on the spur of the moment, we bought tickets for them to see Simple Plan in Montreal last week.

Simple Plan, in case you don't know, is a popular Montreal band that you could describe as "cute-punk" - poseur rebels who play loud guitars but are unthreatening enough for teen magazines like Ohmigod! and Hormonal Hysteria. I refer collectively to this type of band as Simple Blink 183rd-Eye Charlotte.

Before the show, we grabbed a bite in a restaurant called Mr. Steer (which is such an unappealing a name for a restaurant it might as well be called "Cow Parts Café"). You could spot the fellow concert-goers in the crowd: teenagers, mostly girls, wearing Simple Plan T-shirts and clutching homemade posters, accompanied by parents, usually fathers, who wore the resigned expression of someone knowing he was going to spend the next three hours in the dentist's chair.

In the line outside the Bell Centre, I made eye contact with one dad whose hair was way too black and way too long for his age. He was wearing Hell's Angels chic and looked like a former roadie for Judas Priest. He was with his daughter. There was shame in his eyes.

Inside, we passed the $30 souvenir T-shirt stands and the almost-$30 beer stands and found our seats in the very top row of the stadium. When the lights dimmed, the opening act caught James by surprise.

"I think that's them," he said, meaning Simple Plan. Yes, we were so far up we couldn't distinguish a four-person band from a five-person band.

By the time band number-two came along, James was getting impatient. But Yoda-like, teach him in the ways of rock shows, I did.

I pointed out how each act got a bit louder, a bit more spectacular. Indeed, by the third band, the crowd was getting quite lively. The band was some Canadian outfit called Hedley, which to me sounds like something you'd call your butler: "Hedley, another martini, if you wouldn't mind."

Hedley was fronted by some Canadian Idol finalist, which put me off him immediately. That and the fact that he strutted around the stage like the offspring of Mick Jagger and that Jack character on "Will and Grace." But I had to admit, it was starting to get exciting. I was beginning to think, "If only I was 20 again," and "If only I wasn't sober."

After three acts and two gratuitous F-words (hey, c'mon, there are kids in the house!), Simple Plan burst onstage with sirens, flashing red lights and a blinding strobe. The mother two seats over covered her eyes - probably suffering flashbacks from a 1976 Grateful Dead concert.

The sold-out hometown crowd went wild, my children included. Between the screaming, the reverb and the fact that much of the patter was in French, it was difficult to understand what the band members were saying, but every word drew cheers.

"Mmmmm party mmmm mm Montréal!"

"Rahhh!" went the crowd. "Whoooo!" went James in my left ear.

"What did he say?" I asked.

"I dunno. Whoooo!"

I eventually switched seats with him so that I could go equally deaf in my right ear.

Most of the time I stood with my arms crossed and a frown on my face. But every now and then if you looked closely you could see my head bopping ever so slightly. In fact, in the encore, with a stadium full of voices singing in unison, it was actually kind of moving, in a brainwashed pre-pubescent kind of way.

But when the lights went up, there a few seats over was a 5-year-old sprawled on his parents lap, fast asleep.

Hey man, that ain't rock 'n' roll.

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