Spinal Tap crashes the Great Canadian Party to teach “Bitch School”

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 9, 1992

By Steve Newton

Any idea how many rock-hungry holidayers you can squeeze into UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium? Well, probably not one single body more than the 30,000 who packed the venue for last Wednesday’s (July 1) Great Canadian Party. There were massive line-ups for food and drink, and painfully long ones for the washrooms—especially the ladies’, which required monitoring by blue-shirted security teams to keep the peace.

The Battle of the Bladder got even worse outside the stadium proper in the two big beer gardens, where some goofy organizational screw-up meant that folks had to walk out of the drinking area to the Porta-Potties and then wait in those endless line-ups to get back in. Those who didn’t want to play by those rules—men and women both—took to relieving themselves at the boundaries of the beer garden itself.

When ya gotta go, ya gotta go.

While overcrowding was by far the biggest drawback of the Great Canadian Party, it appeared most of the people who showed up had actually resigned themselves to the fact they’d be doing the Sardine Shuffle—it comes with the territory at such day-long rock fests. But one thing that definitely should have been working right was the huge video screen, which would have made a real difference to the enjoyment of the show—especially for the people at the back—if the live on-stage images it projected weren’t hazy and full of dots. In today’s high-tech video age, there’s no reason why excellent visuals shouldn’t be a part of every big concert.

Fortunately, what saved the Great Canadian Party was the good sound and the music itself, in particular that of Colin James, the Crash Test Dummies, and the Tragically Hip, whose wicked version of “Blow at High Dough” featured out-there singer Gordon Downie’s best Joe Cocker-with-a-seizure impression yet.

The bill’s only non-Canadian act, Spinal Tap, didn’t hit the stage until an hour-and-a-half after its scheduled time, but the satirical Yankee trio—which includes a singer who was either Lenny or Squiggy on Laverne & Shirley—actually rocked quite well on crude comic tunes like “Bitch School” and “Big Bottoms”.

But I was still a little disappointed about the band not using its new-fangled guitar amps, which—unlike the previous ones that went up to 11—are purported to go to infinity. It would have been so in keeping with the line-ups we had to endure.

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