What happens in Orillia stays in Orillia.
This statement I believe would accurately describe the events that took place over April 24-26, 2015 in Orillia, Ontario, Canada. On a personal note, I wanted to make some things very clear before I proceed with my review. As you all know I like to declare myself to be Micky Dolenz’s biggest fan. With that declaration comes great responsibility (because clearly he has about 500 “biggest fans” and all of them are amazing). I spend most of the money I earn from my menial jobs to follow Micky around. I pay for all the concerts, hotels and travel expenses out of my own pocket and as I’m sure a lot of you know, the costs add up and is at times overwhelming. Sometimes I become downright discouraged by the fandom and online presence of Monkees fans and wonder why the hell I bother in the first place.
Then I get to the concert. Every fibre of my being is ignited with wonderful passion and all the negative energy gets beaten into oblivion. Suddenly my entire perspective changes and I remember what this is all really about: MUSIC. The way The Monkees’ music and especially Micky Dolenz’s voice has inspired me over the years culminates in those 90-120 minutes of pure adulation (and a LOT of sweat from dancing like I was on the grave of my enemy).
The last couple years has seen a major shift in my fandom. I went from quiet, obscure fan to outspoken Micky Dolenz advocate and pervert extraordinaire. It’s more like an alter ego. Micky brings out the best in me and I like the person I am when I’m talking or writing about him. I’ve finally embraced that part of me because I believe it’s the best part of me and as life passes me by, I just want to LOVE and BE HAPPY. And I want everyone I know to be loved and happy. If that love and happiness comes at my own expense, all the better. I’m never one to shy away from being the butt of a joke, in fact I encourage it. The quickest way to my heart is to mock me.
But at the same time, the person who I am on this blog is not necessarily completely reflective of who I am in “real life”. I’ve actually gotten to know a little more about Micky on a personal level the last couple of years and have the grinning pictures of us together at bars, conventions, parking lots, etc. to prove it. At what point am I just rubbing it in people’s faces? Do I really need to disturb him for ONE more picture? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
And thus, I’ve resorted to mainly respecting Micky’s privacy from a (close) distance. I always keep him within eyesight, we crossed direct paths at least 10 times this weekend and he always nods and smiles if he sees me. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Short of a one on one personal interview with him, we sort of have an understanding at this point. I’m a fairly harmless stalker.
However now I feel terrible because I know people want to see me take selfies with Micky or the other band members and it’s just not about that to me anymore. At least this weekend was more of a “break” for me and I was able to just enjoy the music and company rather than desperately try to get another picture or funny anecdote from Micky. I suppose I’m getting older (sigh) and wiser (well…) but this blog is truly so special to me because of all the wonderful people I’ve met because of it. Don’t get me wrong, the next time I see Micky I may have the perfect opportunity to pinch his bum and tell him I love him (again) but it just didn’t feel like the right time or place this weekend.
For the first time ever, I am not going to talk about what happened before, after or in between shows. Those are memories simply for me and the people I shared these moments with. Oh and for the record, no I cannot help you meet Micky or get a picture of him. As much as I wish I could, it is not my place and his privacy deserves to be respected by all of us. I watched painfully as utter strangers rudely invaded his personal space and I found myself being very protective of him. Let the man have a post-show cocktail and bite to eat, please. He is far too friendly for his own good and to watch him have to leave the bar because of being swarmed by overzealous fans absolutely shattered my heart.
And with that long disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the music!
For those unfamiliar with the area, Orillia is about an hour and a half drive north of Toronto where I live.
My traveling companions (shout out to record smashing Katie from England, my ginger sister in mischief Jan and beautiful Melanie of the fab Zilch podcast) and I arrived on Friday afternoon and checked into our respective hotels. It was 3pm and the concert was hours away – it couldn’t get here fast enough. We killed some time going for dinner at East Side Mario’s and playing a rousing game of Monkeeopoly (courtesy of a very talented gal named Jaime Hitchcock) in the lobby of the casino. There may have been some drinks from the bar as well, but the details of that will have to be left to your imaginations.
Finally it was concert time. We kept meeting people in the venue and it was obvious that everyone was buzzing with anticipation. One of my favourite parts of a Monkees concert is that there seem to be three types of people attending:
A) Those like us who are MAJOR fans and probably all in the exact same Facebook groups. We know all the same people, tell endless Monkees Convention (2013 AND 2014) stories because we were all there but have such varying experiences. These are our FRIENDS. Even if I’ve never met them, they are instant friends. They dress in hippie/mod clothing and dance free. We sing along to all the songs and some of us even mouth along the one-liners we’ve heard 100 times like Micky’s “When you get home tonight, tell your kids that we did this song LONG before Shrek” go to joke before he belts out “I’m A Believer”.
B)Those who saw the show advertised locally and decided to go to reminisce about their favourite television show/band from their childhood. These folks look at those of us in group A as if we’re bat-shit insane. They sit politely in their seats and check their watches wondering how many “hits” they’ll hear. These are the people that leave the second the concert is over and don’t even wait to see if they do an encore. Which is too bad for them because they missed out on two AMAZING encores this time.
C) And then the final (and my personal favourite) folks – the plus ones of everyone from the first two categories. I love them because they all either stand against a wall napping or shuffling their feet while their spouses scream their heads off. They sit quietly while their friend meets other A type people and they then spend the next three hours discussing every single episode, song, concert and rumour about the boys we know. They pretend to be impressed at our stories and knowledge but they’re really just there to be supportive. These are good people. If you have a partner who comes to Monkees concerts with you who doesn’t necessarily love the band themselves, you are fortunate. Tell that person thank you. We ARE a crazy bunch and while it’s part of our charm, I respect anybody who lets their loved ones’ freak flag fly high.
The band for both nights was the epitome of musical magic. John Billings on bass was brilliant as always. For the record and despite what Micky said, I’m pretty sure he’s NOT single and it’s truly a travesty for women everywhere. All the good ones are taken, am I right ladies? Gemma “Coco” Dolenz (Micky Dolenz’s sister) was her usual groovy presence, bringing the psychedelic love of late 60s music into her vocals, tambourine playing, maraca shaking, chime ringing and Manjira mysticism. In all fairness, I personally love seeing Coco perform with Micky at his solo shows because she deserves to dominate the stage on her own and I missed hearing her rendition of White Rabbit.
Rich Dart was on drums and percussion and I could watch that guy smash drum sticks on stuff all day every day if it was socially acceptable. He and Micky Dolenz are the two hardest band members to get a clear, quality photograph of because both of them move a million miles a minute. I often wonder if they do this on purpose to drive me insane but of course it’s simply the natural energy and passion of performing live that gives them an almost ghost-like effect in pictures.
Aviva Maloney was there – who of course we all know as the beloved Davy Jones’ best friend and decades’ long band member. One minute she’s beautifully blasting our minds with a saxophone and the next she’s reminding us all that the clarinet is not just for the Kenny G crowd. She blossoms on stage and it’s hard to imagine that such a small, soft spoken woman could create the power of sound that only a master of music could make. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also one of the sweetest musicians I’ve ever met and it’s clear that she brings a piece of Davy Jones into every ounce of her performances. While he may not be with us, she carries his energy on stage and this wasn’t the first time her channeling Davy brought me to tears.
David Alexander is the man who is always a welcome sight at every show I attend because I know he will keep it all together. Watching David Alexander perform is like watching an artist paint. You can see the wheels of sound moving in his mind and his attention to the details of not only his own piano skills and back-up vocals but the entire band’s melody is simply astonishing to behold. Most band members’ heads whip to David for guidance in the direction of a song and it’s not just because he’s the tallest guy on stage. I’ve seen David perform in many variations and his ear for perfection of sound is an absolute honour to behold. I love to study musicians as they perform for a live audience and David does it with more passion than some of the most popular so-called musical artists of our time. I always think the big teddy bear comparison is a little condescending but in this case, David is the kind of big teddy bear you want to have around to play you Beatles songs and tell you hilariously wonderful stories about Davy Jones. His endearing impersonation alone is enough to send any fan into delighted stitches.
Finally, Wayne Avers kept his quiet disposition on lead guitar and kept his general air of mystery. While Wayne is always Micky’s right hand guitar man and clearly more in tune with The Monkees’ songs than even the own Monkees sometimes, there is just something so remarkable about a man who rips on an electric guitar. At this point, these performances are just a part of him and I’d hate to ever get so used to having Wayne at every Micky show I’ve seen that one day if he’s not there, I won’t have any idea how to survive without him. He’s a little shy in person and surprisingly intimidating (I suppose all geniuses are) but when he comes out on that stage, he’s Jimi Fucking Hendrix.
Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork came together as The Monkees but for all of us fans, we know that what they bring to their shows is something even more wonderful and everlasting than a little television show from 50 years ago. While I couldn’t sit here and recite the song list despite having been two nights in a row, I will never ever forget the songs, the folk infusion and the way the acoustic sets touched a little part of my soul that I didn’t realize I could find at a Monkees concert. It was definitely a real opportunity for Peter to showcase his excellence. There’s absolutely no doubt in anybody’s mind that Peter IS a genius in every sense of the word. His music, his words, his jokes, his mannerisms – they are all distinctly Peter in his brilliant form. I could never tire of watching him perform and to me he sounds better than ever. There’s a certain lightheartedness in Peter now that I didn’t see in past performances. He made some crude jokes, a few jabs (including a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dig) but overall seemed downright thrilled to be a part of it. His happiness was extremely evident and I’ll always remember and appreciate him for that.
Last but most certainly not least, we have our very own Micky Dolenz. I refer to him as “our very own” because at this point I think he belongs to us. What can I say about Micky Dolenz’s live performance that I haven’t already said? It is conceivably impossible for Micky Dolenz to give anything less than a perfect performance.
His voice – after every concert I hear several people comment on “that voice” and how it’s every bit as wonderful if not better than how they remember it in the 60s. I love hearing that and I’m glad random drunk concert goers appreciate it too. My Dad came with me to a solo Micky show in Niagara Falls last November and this is a man who lovingly mocks my Monkees obsession every chance he gets because he’s a Beatles guy. As a proud Scot, it’s hard for my father to admit he is wrong about anything but after the show as we sat around chatting with the band he said “I saw Paul McCartney a couple years back. He could barely sing. Micky performed twice as long as Paul did, didn’t take multiple breaks like Paul did and hopped around that stage like a man half his age.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself and I’ve never even seen Paul McCartney perform.
How on earth could his voice possibly get better with age? It defies physics and logic. But that’s our Micky, isn’t it? Always pushing himself, challenging himself, taking chances and doing it with such a distinct edge that once you’ve seen him perform live in the flesh you’ll be left dumbfounded, wondering how is this even possible. It never fails, I cry every single time Micky walks out onto a stage. I KNOW I’m in for perfection, an out of body experience that only he can provide through his music and energy.
I’ve now just resorted to full blown gushing which is hard to avoid when I’m talking about Micky Dolenz but I will say that if you ever have a chance to see him perform live, DO IT. You may have to drive many miles or fly to different countries. You may not get any sleep and lie awake all night whirling from the feeling that can only come from seeing Micky live and when it’s finally over, you get home and suffer painful withdrawal type symptoms which can only be subsided by doing it ALL over again.
“The word ‘groupie’ has been so maligned and abused since it was first uttered back in the mid-1960s. It was all about LOVE, L-U-V, and the “G” word only meant a music-loving somebody who wanted to get close up and personal with their favorite adored musicians. The people making the music that surged through their bloodstream, lighting them up inside and out, all around, through and through, sticky and thorough. I was a proud groupie, and, truth be told, I still am, down inside my throbbin’ rockin’ soul. I would set my sights on someone who churned my blood and get to know them. Those were the days, my friends.”