Nadia Elkharadly: Grunge Girl Rides Again!

In my last column I talked about how I came to love music, and the kind of music that instilled that love.  Back then I was voracious in my appetite to obtain music, music that was new or just new to me.  But it came to be that recorded music wasn’t enough to satiate the craving.  The concept of live shows made itself known.  My favourite bands would tour.  People would line up outside Sunrise Records or Sam the Record Man for hours for a chance to buy tickets to hear, see and simply breathe the same air as their favourite artists.  And I wanted to be one of those people.

Being the only daughter in a Middle Eastern family, the freedom to attend these shows was not afforded to me right away.  All the fighting, screaming, crying and begging could not convince my (admittedly liberal) parents that a rock concert was an appropriate event for their little girl to attend.  The heaviest blow was missing Soundgarden play in Toronto when I was 15, only to have them break up before I got the chance to see them again.  (This would be rectified over a decade after, but more on that later.)  As it happened, my first live show ever was Pearl Jam at Maple leaf gardens.  It was September 21st, 1996, and it was glorious, and I’ll never forget it.  I was with my oldest friend, and we knew all the words to all the songs.  We sang, we danced, we jumped around and squealed, along with thousands of others, from teenagers like us to people older than our parents.  What struck me the most is that all of these people, strangers when we walked through the gates of the gardens, were all there for the same reason:  because we loved the music.  It’s that like-mindedness that strikes me about every live show I go to.  People from all walks of life, all gathered together in one place for one singular reason.  It’s truly a beautiful thing.

From that point on, I made it my business to attend as many concerts as I could.  I had friends who had friends in bands.  Indie music was not a concept I was familiar with at the time, but thinking back, attending battles of the bands with my high school friends was probably my first encounter with “indie”.  I would trek down on the subway from Rosedale station to College, and hop the streetcar with my little friends and head west.  The El Mocambo was MUCH grimier than its current restored state, but to me it was the coolest place ever.  From time to time an “of age” person would sneak me a vodka soda, and I would chat with the bands before and after their sets.  For me, the sheltered Egyptian girl from Rosedale, this was my first taste of the rock and roll life.  From the Elmo, to the Big Bop over at Queen and Bathurst, to the Rivoli, to countless other current and now defunct venues around this city, I ran around the city trying to get my fill of live music.  And the mission continued.

It was August 2010, and I was heading to my first out of town music festival:  Lollapalooza.  Back when Lollapalooza used to travel across North America, it was always a great wish of mine to be a part of the festivities, but alas it was never meant to be.  And of course, back in 2001 (check), Lolla stopped coming to our fair city.  I’m not one adverse to travel but for many years the lineup was not enough to tempt me.  Last summer however, that all changed.  The rumours were spreading and the temptation could no longer be denied.  The thing about Lollapalooza is it almost always sells out before the lineup is announced.  So if you want to get a ticket at a decent price, it’s a bit of a gamble.  But the rumours were true, and my gamble paid off.  Soundgarden was reuniting.  And I was going to be there

Flying to Chicago with my good friend Emer, and the two very cool ladies she invited along, was a flight filled with anticipation.  And liquor, since we flew Porter.  Prepare yourselves for some random product placement people.  Porter is AWESOME.  Leather chairs, no middle seat and free booze?  Also, the Porter lounge in the downtown airport is super slick.  And I don’t know what kind of crack they put in their little coffee machine, but I have still not found a better latte in the city, and believe me, I’ve tried.  And no, they’re not paying me.  But they can if they want to!  *winks in the general direction of Porter’s marketing team*

Anyway, back to the anticipation.  Before we left for the trip, Soundgarden’s website released the information that the band would actually play their first reunion show in the small and elite Vic Theatre, and you had to WIN the chance to buy tickets.  You should know that I never win anything.  So of course I didn’t win this.  I was devastated.  I wanted to be there the first time that Chris, Kim, Ben and Matt played together again.  My excitement for Lolla dwindled.  But my friends, being the phenomenal ladies that they are made me get dressed, get directions to the Vic, to at least try to see what we could do.

After a delicious dinner at a Thai restaurant, we took our leftover Pad Thai in a cab and made our way over to the theatre.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones without tickets trying to make t show.  A huge crowd of fans was standing around, looking just as dejected as I felt.  I pulled every trick out of my magic hat, from batting my lashes at the bouncer to get him to sneak us in(which failed miserably), to walking around the side trying to get in the back door (which nearly got me forcibly removed from the area).  Hanging my head in shame and disappointment, we prepared to move onto the nearest bar to drink away our sorrows.  Until a man with a clip board and an ear piece walked outside.  He took a look at the crowd, and bellowed out:  “LET THEM ALL IN!”  A collective “swoosh” was heard – the sound of a hundred hearts soaring.  Shaking with excitement, I grabbed my friends’ hands and stepped in.  What transpired was, and still is to this day, the most amazing live show I have ever seen.

You would think that 15 years of anticipation would set the bar ridiculously high.  I’m sure they were, but to be honest, the excitement, and happiness at finally accomplishing this goal I’d been carrying around for half my life eclipsed anything else I could have been feeling; happiness, excitement, and that wonderful thrill of being in the same room as my teenage heroes.  The Vic is a smallish venue, which made it all the more exciting – I couldn’t have been more than 15 or 20 feet away from the band.  And it was awesome.  They played songs I’d dreamed of hearing live since I sat listening to their albums in my bedroom.  I sang, I cheered, and I probably teared up a little.  You can read my super gushy review of the show here.  It was truly the best live music experience of my life.

This considerably cheered me up for the rest of the weekend, which was, of course, absolutely fantastic.  The outdoor music festival is an experience like no other.  There is literally something for everyone, and nearly every type of music you can think of.  You come to see one or two bands but end up leaving with dozens of new acts that blew you away.  But perhaps the most wonderful thing about a music festival is the constant sound of, well, music.  Every step taken in Chicago’s Grant Park was accompanied by a different artist.  Walking across the park resulted in the ultimate mash up – hip hop with rock, pop with electro, reggae with house.  With eight stages and hundreds of artists, there was never a moment of silence, until the last act of the day played their last note.  The end of music each day was always the saddest part, especially on the Sunday when Soundgarden closed the fest.

I haven’t been able to top my Lollapalooza outdoor music festival experience yet.  I’ve since attended Coachella (located in the Palm Desert in California) and Osheaga in Montreal, both as a writer, and the “working” perspective is definitely different than a fan experience, but wonderful all the same.  My next goal is to attend an overseas festival.  Any suggestions?

My affair with live music continues to this day, and it was that love of grunge music that has put me on the path I am today, being the meandering part time writer than I am.  I’ve been lucky enough to not only see my favourite band ever live (multiple times now!) but every week I see at least one very cool band live right here in Toronto.   From local bands that find me on twitter, to shows I go out of my way to go to, live music is a staple to my life, and I hope it will be for a long time coming.

What was your favourite live show ever?  Don’t be shy, use the comment section below.

Until next time,



We now have an email address where all of us here at Don’t Believe a Word I Say can be contacted: Please use it to ask questions, tell us what you’d like to read about, links you’d like to share, and let us hear what you have to say.

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

2 Responses to “Nadia Elkharadly: Grunge Girl Rides Again!”

  1. The magic never fades in terms of seeing live bands. It’s hard to beat that feeling of anticipation when the house lights are dimmed.
    My favourite all-time concert would be Iron Maiden at the Concert Hall/Masonic Temple in ’81, on the Killers tour with Paul Di’Anno fronting the band. As much as I’ve enjoyed the Bruce Dickinson years–and I’ve seen the band 4 times since with him singing–that first show was special. You could see the band was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic reception from the Toronto audience, and they played their hearts out. One of those moments when the audience and the band form a lasting bond.

  2. I seldom respond to live show questions because I burned out on the big show phenomenon years ago. I did see some good shows, but the sound was never as good as I wanted and the crowds— well, they would eventually creep me out in some way (I’m surprised many venues were not burned to the grounds in the eighties when dipshits started taking cases of Bic lighters to arenas and passing them out). But your column brought back some great memories. Seeing Rockin’ Foo at the Eugene Pop Festival in ’69, being at the first California Jam and discovering (to my horror) that the song played over the PA between acts was by none other than Loggins & Messina, the band who made me wish fervently that Mama would dance once just to shut them up— that song was, BTW, “Pathway to Glory” (I hope I got it right) and it was a pathway toward accepting L&M as a viable entity, music-wise. A few other fests sucked me in, but I soon lost the desire to be manhandled by an unruly crowd. I opted for the small taverns and smoky lounges where I exposed myself to the music which I have learned to love. The picture of the El Mocambo sign did bring back a memory of flipping the album jacket of April Wine’s “Live at the El Mocambo” over and over while I envisioned them setting the crowd back on their heels.

    Your getting in free at Lollapalooza made me laugh, though, because it reminded me of The Doors at the Eugene Pop Festival. It was 1969 and the crowd was a bit burned out from all the sun and fun (the acid was free, I guess— I didn’t partake), but there was a crowd at the fences surrounding Hayward Field where the concert was staged, and they were yelling. Jim Morrison couldn’t hear what they were saying so he asked the people in front of the stage, who told him that they wanted in. Keep in mind that the last show of the festival was already half over and it was hardly a sellout. Morrison’s response was “Fuck ’em. Let ’em pay.” Ah, the memories, eh?

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