Posts Tagged ‘CNE’

The Freedom of Music: Your A Riot Alice

May 29th, 2011


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

The headline in yesterdays entertainment section said, “Alice Cooper cancels first concert in 30 years.” sidebar-7

Hmmm… Alice Cooper…cancelled concert… 30 years ago… it all sounds so familiar, as if it’s there somewhere in the memory bank just waiting. Alice Cooper…cancelled… 30 years… 1980…

Ah yes!

The headlines on August 20, 1980 read, “Alice Cooper cancels concert, fans riot.” The concert was at the CNE Grandstand, and I was underneath the stream of folding chairs that told the world, riot on. At 17, they were the best concert seats I ever had at that stage of my life: sixth row floors, slightly stage right. For a guy like Alice Cooper, who does so much in a show, it would be great to be that close to the action.

At the approximate starting time, local band Zon came on, and did the usual opening act thing, that is to say they were completely ignored for about half-an-hour. The truth is, we had no idea it was Zon playing, a band who’s album, Astral Projection, got played late in the night at parties. (Side note: Christmas Eve a few years later at a girlfriends house, I talked about the Alice Cooper riot of 1981 with the mother of Zon bassist Jim Samson).

Zon left the stage and the roadies took over, changing the equipment out. Drums were moved into place, props set up, guitars put on stands and microphone’s check, checked. Everything was ready, the pump was primed, the crowd cheered every time some roadie triple checked that the snare drum was just so. Surely it would be any minute now, any second even.

Watching news reports from the day now, I’m struck by a number of things: how primitive CNE stadium really was, how skinny we were, and that the decision was made at 10:00PM that Alice Cooper couldn’t go on. About 90 minutes after Zon left the stage, and hour after the last roadie tweaked the last bit of gear, and Alice Cooper was just then deciding it wasn’t going to happen.

They announced from the stage, long after the crowd had lost patience, that Alice Cooper would not be performing. Zon, however, would be happy to come back on and play some more songs for you, said Cooper’s lead guitarist (Dick Wagner?), who had the unenviable duty of ducking the first chairs to start flying.

If you see footage, and want to know where I was, I was under the flying chairs. My best ever concert seats suddenly turned into the worst ever concert seats. They were about to get worse.

Here’s what none of the reports from the time mention. The police arrived on horseback, entered the floor area of the stadium at one end, and slowly forced the crowd through one open gate at the other end. We went form ducking chairs to trying desperately not to fall and get trampled.

How bad were things? Here’s a line from a news report at the time:

…they tore out 200 seats welded to steel posts and bolted to concrete.

It’s possible PCP was involved but none the less, 200 seats welded to steel posts ripped out.

I stumbled home that night in a drizzling rain, mascara running down my face (we had done the whole black eyes schtick). Within’ days t-shirts would pop up: “Your a Riot Alice” and “I Survived the Alice Cooper Riot of 1981,” being the ones I remember. I never bought one, having actually survived folding chairs flying over my head, I didn’t need the t-shirt. I was just glad to be alive, and what else can you ask of rock and roll?

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