Billy Talent to play Homecoming

Billy Talent will join other Canadian acts in a five-hour concert Sept. 24 in the Miller Hall parking lot.
Billy Talent will join other Canadian acts in a five-hour concert Sept. 24 in the Miller Hall parking lot.
Journal File Photo

In an effort to stem the popularity of large-scale Saturday night street parties this Homecoming, the University has teamed up with the AMS to throw a new, first-time event that aims to move partying back on campus.

Former NHL star and current Gaels hockey coach Kirk Muller will emcee a five-hour, multi-act outdoor concert September 24 in the Miller Hall parking lot. The show, which will last until 2 a.m., counts Billy Talent and Stripper’s Union—Tragically Hip guitarist Rob Baker’s side project—among its confirmed acts.

Aaron Libbey, Queen’s Entertainment Agency head manager, told the Journal he is also hoping to confirm Metric and Stars to play the show.

Thousands of people will gain entry to the event, which will include a licensed area that will accommodate about 1,000 attendees.

Vice Principal (Advancement) George Hood said the goal of the concert is to minimize disruption to the surrounding community.

“We don’t know if this is going to work, but we’re going to try it and I very much cast this as a first attempt,” Hood told the Journal. “The odds are by 2 [o’clock] in the morning, you may have more people headed home than headed elsewhere.”

Police estimated 5,000 people gathered on Aberdeen Street to celebrate Homecoming last year, during which 19 arrests were made for illegal activities. Police also seized 35 kegs from one student home, and laid 12 charges related to the illegal sale of alcohol against four residents.

The Aberdeen Homecoming party became a focal point of growing tensions between city residents and students, culminating in the creation of a principal’s task force designed to bridge the divide.

Hood said the University conceived the concert as a means of taking greater responsibility for Homecoming and fulfilling the task force report’s mandate.

“At the end of the day, however this ends up, I’d like the community to think the University made as reasonable an effort it could to conduct Homecoming in a way that inconveniences the community in as few ways as possible,” he said.

Natasha Kanerva, ArtSci ’06, said she thinks the event would have to be pretty spectacular to accomplish the administration’s goal of reducing attendance at street parties.

“Aberdeen is legendary,” she said. “[Also] under-agers can drink [illegally] on Aberdeen, they can’t drink at the concert.”

The University had to gain special permission from Kingston’s city council to hold the concert. It has been granted a noise bylaw exemption for one night only, allowing the noise generated by the concert to extend to 2 a.m., past the usual 11 p.m. cutoff.

“Council agreed Queen’s ought to have the opportunity to conduct their pilot [project] to see how well this works,” said Floyd Patterson, city councilor for Sydenham Ward. “If their plan doesn’t work out, and it turns into another big schmozzle, with 5,000 people blocking the streets all through the student village, then we’ll know we failed and we better pick another plan.

“If the students are wise and they don’t want to have to face really draconian control measures next year, they should see this year they make this work.”

Libbey, who played a consulting role in developing the event, said he’s confident the concert will be a success.

“It kind of sells itself,” Libbey said. “Give [students] a free concert where there’s world-class entertainment as opposed to an unlit street ... I’d be very surprised if at least a decent amount of people didn’t show up—we’re actually more worried about going over capacity.”

Matt Primeau, ArtSci ’08, said he thinks many people will attend the concert.

“[But] I don’t think you’ll get your 7,000,” he said. “If you start it and keep getting better [bands] it would grow.”

Primeau also said he thinks a concert is a much better idea than the AMS-operated party held last homecoming in the JDUC. “Crash the Ceilidh,” as the event was called, drew a total of 1,965 attendees.

This year’s concert will be modeled after the annual Orientation Week mystery concert, which is also held in Miller Hall parking lot. The homecoming concert, however, is being planned on a much larger scale to allow “several thousand” more attendees than the fewer than 5,000 students who can attend the other concert, Libbey said.

AMS President Ethan Rabidoux said the concert will also give students and alumni a place to interact in a safe and non-disruptive manner.

“No one believes this is the magical bullet that will fix all our homecoming woes, but it’s a step, a piece of the puzzle,” he said. “The message we’ll be pushing is [that] having a good time and doing it legally is not mutually exclusive.

“If we can establish this as a homecoming tradition, then it will be all the better.”

Former city councilor Don Rogers, a Bagot Street resident who has verbalized community frustrations over the past year, said he is against the University’s decision to hold a concert until 2 a.m.

“This latest incursion, really, has gone too far,” he said. “[The concert] is supposedly to prevent another Aberdeen Street debacle ... [but] why should residents have to suffer noise after midnight in their neighborhood in order to prevent a lawless activity—illegal law breaking such as happened last year?

“It’s almost like saying, ‘let us have a rock concert until 2 a.m. and we won’t rob any banks.’”

Rogers said he and the other community members with whom he has spoken would support an outdoor concert if it ended at midnight and was alcohol-free.

“That is absolutely mind-boggling there will be beer at the event,” he said. “In my experience one of the biggest obstacles to community relations is alcohol.

“Queen’s students clash with the community, basically, when they’re not sober.”

Rogers said he is planning to file a complaint with the liquor license board regarding the event.

Hood said the fact that some people disagree with the idea should be taken as a healthy sign.

“But I think reasonable people will look at this and say the University is trying,” he said. “What you can try to do is create an event that has appeal to people and make them want to come.”

Rabidoux agreed.

“The city council said it’s an innovative idea and a new initiative, let’s try to find a compromise that leaves everyone happy,” he said. “This could set a pattern that starts to solve the problem after a tough year of community relations last year.”

Kingston Police will also work in concert with the University to ensure public safety is maintained during homecoming.

“We have to acknowledge the fact that last year didn’t go well,” said Insp. Brian Cookman. He spoke to the Journal on behalf of Police Chief Bill Closs, who was away on business. “So in regards to this year, yeah, we’ll kick it up a notch ... [in terms of] monitoring, enforcement, presence.”

Cookman said the police’s top priority will be ensuring city streets are clear.

He would not give a figure of how many officers will be on duty.

“It’s good to have the tactical edge, if you will,” he said. “As many people that are sitting around the table discussing how best to create a safe homecoming, there are probably others sitting around tables discussing how to hold a kegger.”

Cookman added the police are not pointing the finger at Queen’s students.

“We recognize that some of the people that are engaged in this unlawful or illegal or inconsiderate behaviour are not necessarily Queen’s students,” he said. “We fully understand there are students that come in from other universities; we fully understand there are people who just come to the event that that may not have an affiliation with any university or college.”

Police spokesperson Mike Weaver said officers also attended a two-day crowd-control training session this week.

“It’s obviously going to be used during homecoming,” Weaver said, adding the training was designed to address all future city events. “Basically it’s how to read a crowd, [and how] to keep the activities under control—they’re learning how to spot trouble spots.”

Campus Security Director David Patterson said all his staff will be working during homecoming weekend.

“One of the things we’ll be focusing on the Saturday night is redirecting any persons that are gathering on city streets close to campus to the Miller Hall concert,” he said.

AMS StuCons will also staff the event.

Hood said the Office of Advancement will foot the concert’s bill in terms of performers, but would not disclose the dollar amount.

The concert will be free for students, who will likely be allowed to bring one guest per person. Alumni will pay a nominal fee for entry. Wristbands will be available from Destinations during the week prior to Homecoming.

—With files from Christina Bossart

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