A Serene Rider

by Cheryl Duggan
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1_serena rider

By: Cheryl Duggan

Saturday, July 11th, 2015 was the first day people could enjoy some gold medal worthy concerts as part of the Pan Am Games affiliated Panamania schedule.  The sites chosen throughout downtown Toronto included the Pan Am Park on Exhibition grounds,and Nathan Phillips Square.  I decided to attend the concert at the Pan Am Park on Exhibition grounds that was advertised as free and open to the public.

My journey began as a short bike ride to Kennedy Station.  Then from there I took the train to Spadina.  (No concerns about HOV lanes for me.)  Once I reached Spadina station I coasted on my bike down to the Princess Gates at Exhibition Place.

My next stop upon entering was the Info booth to see about onsite media accreditation.  That journey started with quite a few “I don’t know’s” when I asked about a media tent.

Despite being fifteen minutes into the Said The Whale’s set I made it fairly close to the stage.

For a brief period of time everything else slid away as I was in Concert Photog mode.  Absorbing the music through my pores. Snapping pictures around a particularly active pair of concert goers.  I was in “The Zone”.

Then the music stopped.  It was the end of their set. I realized it would be another three hours before my next band would take the stage.
As I was leaving I was hesitant to head straight home.  I felt that maybe Nathan Phillips Square’s activities would be a little more accessible. So I headed off in that direction on my bike.  Thankfully I was right.

When I arrived I strode through the crowds with my bike.  Made my way to the media tent beside the west stage.  They seemed happy to have me.  “Just sign in here.” As they pointed to a media sign in sheet.  “Wyclef will be taking the stage soon.  Meet us back here and we will escort you to the pit.” Nice.  I’m finally in the right place.

Wyclef Jean took the stage a short time after I was done devouring dinner.  He gave an awesome performance. For the record, I’m sure I’m not the only one that got a little heated when he gave his guitar a good tongue lashing.  Wyclef performed a wide variety of music dipping into everything from the classic Fugees recordings to a single off his new album “Clefication”.  He was so into entertaining the crowd that at one point he took to walking on his hands for a predetermined distance granting him another seven minutes of stage time.

You may have noticed that I made mention earlier of a west stage.  Well there were actually two stages set up at Nathan Phillips Square for the Panamania events. That was a significant benefit when the next artist was scheduled to take the stage. There’s no down time in between sets as the organizers simply stagger the performances between stages.

Finally, Serena Ryder took the stage.  The way this woman owns her performance is spectacular.  As an audience member she gives you no choice but to fall in line with her.  Many artists have a gap between stepping on stage and getting into the moment.  Serena Ryder is always right there.  She’s right in the moment and you may be astonished at how quickly.you are right there with her.

In addition, there are not very many artists where you can tell from pictures exactly what song they are singing.  The first three songs of her set were fan favourites. “Stompa” her high energy song with the intense beat was first. Then “Heavy Love” (you know the one with the lyric “Do you think you’re strong enough?”).  Followed by the single created specifically for the Pan Am Games – “Together We Are One”.

As she finished out her set I left on my bike – a serene rider – content in the knowledge that maybe … just maybe … I had finally ended up exactly where I was meant to be.

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