The Twilight Zone

Allistair Santiago

Quadra-Island.jpgSo I was away this weekend. I went to Vancouver Island on work, ostensibly. My friend Stu, a talented musician and audio engineer, was hired to rig the sound for a gig on Quadra Island, a small island just off Vancouver Island. And since he was taking a full professional sound rig with him for the band, he needed help running cables, setting up speakers, and driving a 3 ton U-Haul. Scenting both adventure and Rock-and-Roll, I hastily agreed. I was, however, unprepared for the manner of adventure I was about to have.

It was a long drive out to Quadra and the upcoming show was a bit of a mystery. Anticipating the trek, our benefactor – a singularly wealthy man, Stu assured me – provided us with accommodation in Parksville at the V.I.P. Hotel (said his email). After the long, arduous process of zeroing in on the address, we discovered that there had been an error. It was actually the “V.I.P. Motel” – a bit of a misnomer as there wasn’t anything remotely V.I.P. about it. We would later discover to our grim amusement that the name was actually the “Vancouver Island Parksville Motel.Ha ha. Yes. Very funny.

As there was only one bed, I spent an uncomfortable night on the floor and Stu spent it wracked with guilt over getting the only bed. So, both disenchanted and horrendously sleep deprived, we made our way for Quadra the next morning.

The venue was a 100-year-old seaside inn, and the show was to take place on the front yard overlooking a pebbly stretch of beach. Arriving bleary-eyed and behind schedule, we were immediately accosted by a mob of men sporting the same aggressively vibrant yellow and orange tie-dyed t-shirts. Clearly unable to pick our employer out of the company, Stu tactfully addressed the entire group, asking where to put the equipment. Scanning the clusters of people on the lawn, it soon became apparent to me that they were all in the same t-shirt. It was surreal and I was confused. Then it dawned on me that this was one of those Family Reunions you hear about – a big, massively extended, family reunion – not a rock concert at all. I could see the same thing had occurred to Stu, who previously had visions of three stages, multiple bands and raging crowds. Nevertheless, being professionals, we got right to work.

That afternoon set the tone for the rest of the weekend. It was characterized by a lot of heavy lifting, tedious cable-running, and finicky sound-checking – all against the backdrop of what looked like a clone convention.

It became obvious early on that the whole family had money. They had the entire inn and marina booked and new guests would arrive by yacht periodically, their t-shirts, worn like uniforms, visible for miles off- shore.

Obviously figuring our work wasn’t challenging enough, our employer delegated his 14-year-old headstrong nephew to test us. In the name of “helping,” the boy set about unplugging things seemingly at random, claiming to be a sound techie. I suppose his company was amusing enough, but he proved to be more of a nuisance and a liability when it came to work. He too sported a smaller version of the blazing tie-dyed t-shirt.

It also turned out that we were not there to set up for a rock star, but for the family band. Headlined by our employer’s three twenty-something-year-old daughters, and backed by their father on guitar, a pianist whose name I did not catch, and the original drummer from Heart, the band had a pop-country-rock sort of a sound to it.

The 300-strong crowd of family members had a blast and stayed dancing through three long sets. The show’s highlight, a tribute to Michael Jackson, was both skilful and energetic, but overall the quality of music proved to be inversely proportional to the amount of alcohol imbibed – which was considerable. By the finale – a rousing and occasionally meandering, 22-minute-long version of “Hey Jude” – it was beginning to look like they had forgotten how to end a song. But the crowd, fuelled by their gaudy t-shirts and having matched the band drink for drink, revelled in the closing number, savouring their last opportunity for boisterous whooping and cat-calling.

We got home a day late with a sleep deficit of 20 hours or so. All in all, I’m not sure what would have been a stranger adventure, the rock and roll weekend I was expecting, or the elaborate and strangely quaint family reunion. It was, at least, a weekend of interest and variety. I got to go places I haven’t been before, see a show from the techie side of things (kinda), and experience familial insanity qualitatively different from that which I’m accustomed to. I say again: it was surreal.
[tags]Vancouver Island, musician, audio engineer, Quadra Island, Family Reunion, Michael Jackson[[/tags]

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