On February 25, 2006 I saw Belle and Sebastian and the New Pornographers at the Docks. It was my first experience seeing both bands, and my first experience at the Docks. I’ve been a Belle and Sebastian fan for many years, so finally getting to see them was a huge thrill. Unfortunately, The Docks was less than appealing, and really tainted the experience. The club was completely oversold to the point where people near the front could not move on either side of the venue. It also means that they could not turn around and head to the back of the venue, because the audience was crowding them in as well. Oh, and by front, I mean the two-thirds of the venue, which is insane. It was a terrible experience, fans young and old were horribly uncomfortable, and you could tell from looking around the club that for as great as the bands were, people were very unhappy. After the New Pornographers, I moved towards the back of the building. Maybe I’m just getting too old, but I realized that if anything, like a fire, took place near the stage, I was dead.
In fact, between bands, it still took me about 15 minutes to walk to the back of the venue (just to put things in perspective, this would be less than a minute walk if there were no people in the building). When Belle and Sebastian came out, I was near the back, but luckily still had a fairly good view of the band. Unfortunately, you have to be near the stage to actually hear the whole show, so all of the between-song banter was missed by those of us crowded up at the back. The band also kept urging the crowd to dance around, and to move closer. You really can’t blame them, though, because the lights were in their eyes, and how many bands know that the club owners would completely oversell a venue to make it unsafe and an uncomfortably tight fit for their fans?
However, shitty shows at the Docks may be a thing of the past. It appears the club lost its liquor licence. This is great news to Toronto music fans who like to attend shows in the 2,000-2,500 capacity, because the Docks seemed to get most of those, leaving fans like myself missing out on great bands (because I'm just not pissing my money away to stand in that unsafe shithole). Oh, and despite the bar owner claiming he has not received complaints this year, this point may be true with respect to noise, but on the night of the Belle and Sebastian show, my brother-in-law (also in attendance) called the Fire Marshall, who advised that they were regularly called out to the venue as it is always oversold.
As someone who has wanted to see Belle and Sebastian live for almost 9 years, the memory of that night will always be tainted by the massive crowd, small awkward venue, and the terrible sound. I’ve seen many concerts in many different venues, but no venue was as bad as the Docks. I am hopeful the decision is affirmed on appeal.
posted by Jonathan