Aretha made me do it! That’s right “the” Aretha Franklin the Queen of Soul. The whole thing began innocently enough with an e-mail from one of the other programmers at CKLN 88.1 FM. That is who we were at the time (now www.ckln.fm). The e-mail informed me that the Toronto Dominion Jazz Festival would be headlined by a free concert with Aretha Franklin. Well! A free concert with the Queen of Soul performing! I knew that come hell or high water I had to attend. Now understand that I had never attended any Jazz Festival event in the many decades I have lived in Toronto but this was a not to be missed event. I thought about this for weeks and told everyone I knew about it. I was a bit concerned when I read a few days before the event that the organizers were expecting 10,000 people to attend the concert. Visions of overcrowding and people stampeding and knocking me over, trampling me in their rush to see the Queen danced through my mind. I gave myself a good talking to and decided I would risk it just to see the Queen herself.
Friday, June 24 dawned not so bright; rain and clouds ruled the morning. I was still thinking about those 10,000 people who might attend the concert and I also thought about the wet ground that would result from the intermittent showers. However by 5:00 p.m. I had made up my mind very firmly that I would attend the concert. Since the information I was given had put the start time of the concert at 8:00 p.m. I thought if I arrived at the venue before 7:00 p.m. I would be early enough to get a seat at the front (my preferred location whenever I attend any event.) When I arrived at Metro Square at 6:45 p.m. there was quite a crowd including a long line-up of people attempting to enter a large tent. As I looked at the line I knew there was no way I was joining that long line. I made my way over to where a group of people were sitting facing a stage with a photograph of Aretha Franklin displayed and information that identified the stage as the Toronto Star stage. There were no seats except those that several people had brought from home. Well being a very enterprising person, I gathered some copies of the free newspapers and spread them on the ground quite close to the stage and sat down to await the arrival of Ms Franklin. In conversation with a woman who was sitting in her brought from home chair I received the sad information that Ms Franklin would be performing under the large tent and those of us sitting in front of the Toronto Star stage would not see her perform live but we would see the performance on the big screen that graced the stage. I was disappointed but much as I love the Queen of Soul I was not getting up to join that long line. It would not have done me any good anyway because my new friend told me that people had been lining up since 10:00 a.m. and then they were allowed into the tent beginning at 4:00 p.m. Wow! There was no hope that I would get under that tent to see the live performance so I settled down to wait for 8:00 p.m.
At 8:30 p.m. we heard that the performance would begin at 9:30 p.m. Well, at 9:30 p.m. we were still waiting. Happily there was a young man who entertained us in the meantime. He was a good singer but we were there to see and listen to Aretha Franklin. Anyway, at 10:00 p.m. there she was! Yeah! The cheers, screams, people were standing up in front of me so I could not even see the performance on the big screen. I had to stand up also. The performance was amazing. I danced throughout the performance. I did not know that I would remember those dance steps from my teenage years but I did! Wow! What a night.
By now you might be wondering what as I mentioned at the beginning of all this did Aretha make me do. Well let me tell you. I had not sat on the ground in decades. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I do not do very well even at outdoor events where there are chairs because I am always looking out for creepy crawlies and at the first sight of one (or even if I imagine there is one) I have been known to begin screaming blue murder and running away from the sight and site. But there I was sitting with just some sheets of newspapers protecting my behind from the damp ground because of Aretha. The last time I sat on the ground I was a ten year old member of Girl Guides in New Amsterdam, Berbice, Guyana. Now many decades later I was willingly subjecting my behind to this mistreatment all because of Aretha.
That is not the end of the matter though. I had always prided myself and promised myself that I would never chase after a celebrity like some star struck fan. Never say never! When the performance finally ended there I was with my camera aimed in the direction that we all guessed (the presence of police and security was a dead give away) Ms Franklin would appear. In preparation I had deleted photographs of family members (I saved them on my computer) to ensure I had lots of room for the photographs I planned to take of the Queen of Soul. As she appeared in the buggy driven by her security people I did not have an opportunity to get a photograph of her because a young woman who was part of the event security pushed me aside (very rude) and spoiled the photograph. I had to delete it. Instead of leaving to go home (it was way past my bedtime) I found myself chasing after the buggy (I do not know what possessed me!) The buggy stopped in front of three trailers and there I was; me and a host of other people trying unsuccessfully to take pictures of Ms Franklin (thwarted by security.) Would you believe I stood there (with many other people) until almost 1:00 a.m. hoping that Ms Franklin would make an appearance so that I could get a proper photograph of her? When she did appear there was no opportunity to get a photograph of her because of the security people. I felt especially bad for a woman in a wheel chair who had been patiently waiting along with the rest of us. She was almost in tears because she did not get that photograph she wanted so badly. I found myself waiting for the subway train at 1:19 a.m and eventually got home at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning. Still without a photograph of Aretha Franklin but the performance was amazing, she is a true Queen of Soul! I hope I have an opportunity to see her again and to get a photograph. I live in hope!