Most towns have one. Even some of the bigger cities around the world still hold them, mainly ceremonially. I’m talking about fairs. The ones where I come from were mainly agricultural fairs when they started. They’d have the best pie contest, the best fucking pumpkin award, a good tractor pull, and of course, a right rippin’ fucking Smash up Derby where the whole town would kick off the party part of the fair with a few wobblies and maybe even a fight in the parking lot after.
As time went on, the advent of the MidWay brought even more excitement to the fair. Now, you’ve turned a somewhat domicile get-together, where you might get a few ‘woo-hoos’ and a fist fight on opening night at the car smashing thing, into a week-long fury of chaotic noise and lights with every kid in the city running around like maniacs, many pissed drunk for the first time. Nothing says PARTY! like a 14-year-old kid drunk on peach snaps barfing pogo and onion rings all over a seasoned carny outside the Gravitron. But, it was the shit you could win by wacking those fucking moles or squirting water in that dirty clown’s mouth that turned these country fairs into mega-city heavy metal orientation camps.
Maybe it was the Bowie coke mirrors, the tassel purses or the fuzzy dice, but it seemed these fairs where the place to get all your metal fashion needs for the year. Every metal head, guy or gal, got right fucking dolled up with their teased hair, bullet belts, tight jeans, and high-top sneakers, and flocked these ruckus training camps for neon knights. Multiple loudspeaker stations would ring out multiple anthems, all at the same. It mattered not; we all knew what songs were playing, and we all knew what they meant – IT’S TIME TO FUCKING PARTY!
Most of the fairs would hold concerts in some sort of grandstand. Many would simply host a local bar band in the beer gardens, but some of the larger mega-city ‘meltdowns’ would have major acts perform as part of a concert series. I can remember seeing Queen at the Canadian Central Exhibition in Ottawa, Canada (The Ex) with 10,000 or so seriously liquored metal fans all trying to kick and clap to “We Will Rock You”. I’ve never seen so many uncoordinated white people drunk in one place at one time. Awesome. I’ve seen Trooper, Honeymoon Suite, Helix, The Beach Boys, Red Rider, Aeromsith, and Skid Row, to name a few, all at country fairs.
When I take a good retrospective look at these past fairs, and the real demographic of folks hanging out at these things year in and year out, I argue that the decline and relative death of Heavy Metal eerily coincided with the closure of many of the larger mega-city carnivals and fairs. Heavy Metal and these neon parking lot parties acted almost as symbiotic organisms; one cannot live without the other.
So, as the final bell tolled for Heavy Metal, we started losing our fairs. That awesome white trash holiday in my home town is gone now. That thing was here for over 100 years, and now it’s gone. Sitting in my chair in the lodge one afternoon, I may have even had a little cry when I realized this correlation. Ah, but there is hope. For the last year or so I’ve been noticing a serious resurgence in leather jackets covered with cutoff jean jackets. More folks are coming out to thrash metal concerts. All them bands we loved back then that stopped playing the thrash stuff have all come back with full force, paying homage to those albums with excellent reviews. May I say it, Heavy Metal is back with a vengeance.
Now, if Heavy Metal is back, does this mean we may see a Renaissance of the old filthy fairs? Will Vanier, yet again, visit the Glebe? Will we all be wearing our jean cuts with Slayer patches while we squirt water in the clown’s mouth to win a G ‘N’R mirror? I friggin’ hope so!
For now, we can all test our rocker skills by heading to the outskirts of town in the fall to find the local county fairs. Wear your leathers. Wear your hair done right fucking crazy. Dawn the high-tops. To coin a phrase from our pal Dean Delray, get out there and Light The Candles of Rock! Victory comes in numbers, and as metal heads unite, so will we bring back the neon of the MidWay and bring back order to the land. – FATS