Amigos, here is to another 25 wonderful years. Also, sorry about the mess.
Back when I was still in high school I had developed a seemingly bulletproof plan for getting into shows at Amigos:
Come early, around 8pm or so before the door guys start, order nachos and pick at them slowly. Wait for the staff to change over and hope like hell that the waitress would assume you had already paid and been ID’ed at the door.
That’s when you knew it was time to switch to beer.
Subsequently, my 19th birthday was anti-climactic. It was also horribly embarrassing. My parents had insisted on taking me out for supper and my “first beer in a bar.” At this point the waitresses at Amigos already knew my usual pint, and had brought me the beer without being asked.
Underaged revelries notwithstanding, there were few other options for sating a voracious appetite for live music. The local all ages scene was great but had a spotty track record – some of the most explosive shows of my youth took place in venues that had a nasty habit of being shut down prematurely. And sometimes there would be months in-between these gigs.
Amigos was the best game in town for alternative music (nowadays you’d call it “indie rock”), and I wasn’t about to let my dopey high school demeanour keep me from seeing the bands that I worshipped so fiercely and single-mindedly. Or from getting my own band on that stage.
Shortly after turning 19, The Radissons, a terrible band I helmed before I hit puberty, was offered a show opening for Can-punk legends The Ripcordz. It was something of a dream come true to be able to perform at our favourite venue. So much so that we didn’t dare tell the promoter that two of our members were still underage. Whoops.
Nineteen was a strange turning point in my life. Not just because I was now fully capable of determining where I wanted to spend my weekends without shame or legal hassle. But it also helped determine where I was going in life. At this point I had made up my mind that I was going to play as many shows as I could.
It also determined where I literally was in life. When you spend a dizzying amount of time in a bar/music venue you tend to keep it close to your heart and your loins. Subsequently, most of my apartments were never more than a few kilometres away for the next decade of my life.
Now, over a dozen years later, I’m still attending shows there on a regular basis, and I’ve played there numerous times with several different groups.
Like the time my old band The Paper*Kites opened for Death From Above and only a dozen or so of our friends had bothered showing up because no one else cared. Fuck ’em, it was a fun show and DFA killed it that night. Of course, that didn’t stop them from being dicks to us at the after party. But that wasn’t at Amigos. Ha.
Playing in a band means responsibility, which sometimes means stressing out and worrying too much to have any fun. Subsequently, the best shows have always been the ones that I didn’t play. Like the Band Swap that ended in a midnight fire drill. Or hopping out of the pit during the Suicide Machines because a broken beer bottle was stuck in my foot. Or sneaking kisses in the alley behind the bar because it was someone who I wasn’t supposed to be canoodling with.
In its 25th year of existence, Amigos has come to mean so much more than just a place to get drunk and make ferocious noise and whoopee.
Aside from seeing so many of my favourite bands play there, even better, I’ve seen some of my best friends play their hearts out on stage to a packed room, with the audience roaring in jubilation – something that doesn’t happen in your average bar.
And even when my friends were playing to empty rooms – and it still happens – I was only too happy to step up and get giddy drunk and sing along, letting the words and music cathartically cleanse me and my guilt for not bringing the party with me or at least a date.
I also met so many of those friends there, and more than a few dates too. Also, a few enemies. That building, if the walls could talk they’d probably just barf.
I also watched one of my best friend get married on stage at Amigos. Well, sort of.
Who cares if it was a carefully orchestrated sham wedding – Ryan and Tess, both sporting shockingly red manes of hair – made their Amigos marriage an event that was far more fun than some of the bands I had seen on that same stage.
And, having interviewed national musicians for the part of the decade, I can attest to the importance of one of Canada’s Most Important Venues being located in the middle of a province known as a giant snooze and not much more.
It’s also a point of civic pride: Amigos Cantina is a nationally renowned venue and restaurant. Saskatoon, cherish your local treasures.
And Amigos, here is to another 25 wonderful years.
Also, sorry about the mess.
Amigos Cantina kicks off 25th anniversary shows
A whole weekend of shows? Local band madness? It’s going to be one heck of a time.
Ominocity is a proud sponsor of Amigos’ 25th Anniversary Weekend line-up.
For more information, including where to purchase tickets, click HERE.
Thursday, Nov 21 – Twin Forks
For well over a decade, Chris Carrabba pretty much ruled the world of emo acoustic punk with his band Dashboard Confessional. But after releasing six full-length albums and a live MTV Unplugged LP with DC, Carrabba has switched things up a bit with his latest project, Twin Forks. But apparently he still plays Dashboard songs, so there’s that. Opening the show is The Treasures.
Friday, Nov 22 – Carbon Dating Service, Maybe Smith, Golden Smoke, Junior Pantherz, The Fjords
The Amigos Official 25th Anniversary Party looks kind of like a lot of boys you would have wanted to kiss in high school. Except now they’re older and have girlfriends and jobs. But their bands are still really good.
Saturday, Nov 23 – Shad
Quick-witted hip-hop is nothing new for Saskatoon. But Shad is also really, really good at it so you’re gonna have fun at this one regardless. Opening is We Are The City.
Monday, Nov 25 – Brendan Canning
Brendan Canning’s latest solo release, You Gots 2 Chill, is sparse and low-key, highlighting his acoustic fingerpicking prowess along with the occasional steel pedal flourish. Expect lots of hand-holding and swaying in the winter breeze. Also, expect opening sets from Dinosaur Bones and Rosie June