Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre, the TTC, Harborfront and the Blue Rodeo Concert : A Day In The City

Posted: August 16, 2014 in Entertainment, Personal Whining, Reviews

Fascinating day yesterday. I needed to get to the Molson Amphitheatre to see the Blue Rodeo Concert.

I started by choosing to walk from Union Station to Ontario Place, along Queen’s Quay and through some great Harborfront parks, beaches and outdoor patios. It was a perfect day for it. I’d chosen to walk, both because I’d never explored this part of the city and because I figured that on the first day of the CNE it would be difficult to park. That turned out to be not true. While parking was a $20 flat rate, there was lots of available space.

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I still ended up at the Molson Amphitheatre a few hours early and wanted to get something to eat before entering, having seen the reviews on line about $13 hamburgers and $15 cans of beer inside. Thought that if I was going to have to fork out a fortune, I might as well try one of the Ontario Place restaurants I’d read about on line. Hmm. Ontario Place is totally dead, closed. The Molson Amphitheatre charges its outrageous prices because it is totally isolated from any other services, virtually an island unto itself in more ways than one. Mourning both the death of Ontario Place and my own increasing hunger, I looked around and saw a Pizza Pizza sign across a pedestrian bridge, so I walked towards it only to find an entry gate to the CNE between me and my food.

As I’d walked through the Molson Amphitheatre lots and entry gates, I asked several staff how I’d be able to connect to the TTC to get home after the concert. Some suggested going over to the Dufferin Gate, some suggested walking back to Bathurst to catch the 511 street car (which turns out not to be the right one), but all told me that since the CNE was operating, I’d have to go around it to catch transit. Ridiculous that such a huge concert venue doesn’t have its own transit connection. Having gotten conflicting reports, I decided to ask again when confronted with the CNE entry gate. Several ticket people and a police officer talked to each other and finally appealed to what was probably the supervisor, who came over and informed me that my concert ticket gave me free entrance to the CNE, just like the old Ontario Place admission had. This was a surprise to me, and, it seems, would have been a surprise to both the MA staff and all of the people who put together the directions on line (all of which also routed you around the CNE), not to mention most of the ticket takers at the entrance.

So, anyway, this was a surprise bonus, and allowed me to enter the CNE and avail myself of their food outlets. It also gave me something to do for a few hours. I haven’t been to the CNE in over ten years, …maybe twenty. It hasn’t changed much. Midway games are still trying to soak you for money. Quaint rides (compared to Wonderland) had very modest lineups for such a nice day, but still cost extra on top of admission. My goal was the Food Building to sate my hunger. I didn’t try anything ambitious as I could just see myself trapped in a concert later with food poisoning.

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After the concert, you still had to take a 20 minute or so walk through the CNE grounds in order to get on a crowded TTC bus. I didn’t mind it as much as I might have because it was thrilling to exit the Amphitheatre into the colourful and raucous nighttime CNE. I don’t know if it was planned that way, but the fireworks went off just as we were leaving the concert.

I was expecting the subway to stop at Eglinton after midnight, as it does during TIFF, but I guess sanity prevails during the CNE, and it went all the way up to Finch. If it hadn’t, my trip home would have been about a half an hour longer. As it was, total time getting home from the end of the conference was over 3 hours. I doubt that I’d ever again choose “the better way” for a concert at this location in the future. Especially as it became clear that parking was not impossible.

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As you can see, my Nexus phone takes pretty good pictures in daylight, but sucks an the dark.

As for the concert itself, Blue Rodeo was absolutely fantastic. This was one of my “bucket list” bands, having never seen them before. I wasn’t disappointed at all, and was one of the best concerts I have seen in a long time. I’m glad I was a ways back (though not on the grass) as it was pretty loud. Fairly good sound though. I always have seen Blue Rodeo as Canada’s answer to The Eagles, but Blue Rodeo is probably the most distinctively Canadian band out there. The set was decidedly rocking, with only a few songs getting their “country” on. A killer electric guitar player and keyboard player added a lot to the arrangement of the songs. The final finale, “Lost Together “, brought out the opening act, “Deep Dark Woods”, for a powerful version of the song. Jim Cuddy is probably the best Canadian singer. Yes, better than Celine Dion, if anyone even considers her Canadian anymore. Greg Keelor is OK as a singer, and adds a critical element to the band, but the applause made it clear which artist the audience respects the most.

Not too many acts still on that “bucket list”. Only two or three, unless some people come back from the dead. Next one would be John Fogarty. Missed the Dandy Warhols playing “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia” last fall. Hopefully they’ll reprise.

Anyway, a pretty full and adventurous day.

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