Montreal. Load in day.
The Olympic stadium in Montreal is in a bad way. Word is that it might actually be condemned and in any case the sound in there was horrifying for a rock gig. Consequently, in order for 360 to play in Montreal, the city had to construct an entire site for us. I’m sure this was not an inexpensive venture but ticket demand here has been enormous so two nights at 82,000 made it worth the considerable. The site is an old race track on the edge of the city. This is essentially a flat-field site but enormous temporary grandstand bleachers have been constructed all around, to give us our 360 set up.
We have a writer visiting the tour, whom I’d agreed to take in to observe a load-in and a load-out. Dylan, the writer, and I headed to the site around 10am, where load-in had been happening for an hour or so. I haven’t observed this part of the process for a while so it was good to see it one more time before we finish. The strange nature of the venue was actually helping, as the field is wide open, allowing trucks and cranes in from all directions, instead of having to negotiate the often limiting entrances and tunnels associated with stadium architecture.
We spent much of the day on site and it was very good to have the opportunity to chat to people, though I did have to endure the usual round of 'whatever brings you here at this time of day?', 'did the hotel burn down?' etc., comments. It was wonderful to see the load in through the eyes of a civilian, as Dylan was completely amazed by the speed of construction, the sheer size of the P.A. speaker stacks when you see them at ground level, the quantity and nature of 16 channels of walkie-talkie dialogue, not to mention to magnificence and scale of the naked, unadorned Claw itself.
Today’s load-in happened at almost record speed with most people being finished by mid-afternoon. Two factors were driving this, the first being the open access to the field, as described, but the other was the knowledge of the forthcoming crew party this evening. This is the last time we’ll get the chance to all have a night off together so it was time for the 'beginning of the end of tour' party.
One of the semi-derelict buildings on site had been transformed into a party zone, complete with a bar (several, actually, there are Belgians, after all), food stands, a dance floor, a photo-booth and a casino. The currency of the casino was '360-bucks', our own monopoly money bank notes. The reverse of each note carried a picture of the Claw, whilst the front carried a portrait. The 20s (four kinds) each bore a portrait of a band member. The 10s (two kinds) had a picture of Paul or Arthur, whilst the singles carried a portrait of a crew-member. There were as many different '$1' bills as there were crew-members (i.e. hundreds), with pictures culled from the file of digital tour-pass portraits. We were each issued with about $500, including about thirty different crew-$1 bills. Once everyone realised what was going on, the first hour of the party became a kind of swap-meet, like a baseball card convention, with grown men becoming increasingly enthusiastic about finding their own bills, or those of their department. It was hilarious and a fantastic way to get the evening going, especially with the addition of copious amounts of alcohol. It’s always interesting to look at tour laminate photos at the end of a tour. The pictures are all taken during production rehearsals (in this case over two long, hard years ago) so some people’s passes bear images that look like they could be their own children. And everyone looks so clean. Having these on the countless faux-banknotes now circulating was enormous fun.
We had a great night, ate, drank, danced, crammed the photo booth, ‘gambled’, and talked to all and sundry. The question on the lips of the tour is 'what are you doing next…' and I'm surprised and delighted that my mixed feelings regarding this thing coming to an end are echoed throughout the whole crew (and if the lampies are wistful you know it’s exceptional). It’s extremely gratifying to know that we have built something that’s been as socially successful as it has been creatively successful. I don’t remember coming home, so I’m assuming I had a top evening.