You know that feeling you get when you’re part of a crowd, and everyone seems to be in sync? Like a flock of birds moving in unison, or a school of fish seemingly acting as a single unit. People who gather together in large groups with a unifying passion react more like the birds and fish we see in those unbelievable nature documentaries than unique beings living their unique personal lives. The perfect example is “The Wave” being performed by thousands of people at a giant stadium. That was my impression, although on a much smaller scale, of the Airbourne show with opening act Native Howl at Midway in Edmonton, Alberta on October 1’st.
It’s incredible to witness a mass of individuals act as a cohesive whole, and few events spark this experience quite like a concert. There is a word to describe this experience: communitas. Communitas is just another way of describing this group solidarity, with each separate piece being equal to the whole, a sense of togetherness that one has to feel in person to understand its profound difference from our regular state of mind. This brings me to the experience that was Airbourne, an Australian based rock group most identifiable for their sonic resemblance to another Aussie band (can you guess which one?). Let’s begin by stating the obvious: electricity was surely in the air.
Before the show, to say I was familiar with Airbourne would be an understatement. For well over 5 years, an aptly named playlist on my Spotify called “High Energy” featured a few notable artists. This included the incredible Canadian power trio Danko Jones, a few tunes by Andrew W.K., and most importantly, Airbourne. My playlist includes hits destined to be classics like “Wild and Free”; “Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast”; and my personal favourite, “Live It Up”. For a period of time, my morning routine felt incomplete without some coffee and Airbourne to spark some life back into me.
Now, these are only a handful of their songs to garner millions of views on YouTube, but their live performances are a thing of beauty. From riding through the crowd atop the shoulders of a roadie, shredding a guitar solo through a wave of grasping hands, to smashing an unopened beer can repeatedly onto his head until it exploded (yeah, that actually happened… while riding a man through the crowd!), the lead singer and guitar player Joel O’Keeffe had the charisma and energy to keep your eyes fixated on what was about to come. And the other members? Well, they undoubtedly served their roles justice showcasing their mastery to their craft with Joel’s younger brother Ryan laying down tight percussion on drums; Justin Street keeping that bass present in your chest; and Jarrad Morrice laying down solid rhythm on guitar.
Alright, so far we’ve introduced the band, but what article would be complete without a mention of the backdrop to which the artist’s craft was presented? Midway feels like a blast from the past, with an entire section of arcade machines lining the walls immediately upon entry. Coupled with an old school rock’n roll band like Airbourne, it’s easy to forget that the year is 2022 and not 1982. For a relatively intimate location, the ability to get up close and personal with your favourtie artists is undeniable, as I spent most of the show within 10 feet of the bands on stage. The staff are very professional, understanding their roles to ensure the safety and well being of their patrons, despite how many wobbly pops they may have had. The perfect example of this would be the the guy who crowd surfed to the front of the stage at least three times, only to be repositioned on his feet after surfing right over the front barrier, and like an excited kid riding his favourite slide, was escorted back to the crowd to start the process over, grin from ear to ear.
Midway Music Hall – Edmonton
Overall, the experience can be described as nostalgic. From the venue itself with its modern old school decor, to a band one could easily dismiss as a classic rock act from the 80’s, this show helped reinforce my steadfast belief that rock and roll is not dead, as many have proclaimed. The spirit of rock and roll lives on in this generation within the hidden local gems like Midway, by artists like Airbourne and Native Howl, and so many others. Personally, I look forward to the next opportunity to see another incredible performance on the Midway stage. And who knows, I may even have to bring some friends along to test our friendship with a few rounds of Mario Kart in the arcade. That is, before the bands hit the stage, because by then you could surely find me on the frontlines, losing my voice and pumping my fists to the bands I love and the music that made me.
Long live rock and roll.