The return of Skarate!

My folks preferred to have their kids drink where they knew they could keep an eye on us.

Back in the good old C.A.N.A.D.A., where I was raised, I used to throw “tunes ‘n’ brew” parties out in my family’s backyard (our house backed onto 88 acres of harvested corn field) which consisted of about 100 or so rowdy teenagers (every type: goth kids, punkers, rockers, jocks, ‘wavers, freaks and geeks, etc), good music, crappy wine, great beer, Du Maurier Special Mild smokes, other combustibles and about one cord of wood.

The planning was the thing, though.

Invitations were always word of mouth. No need for formal invites, no need to R.S.V.P. Everyone knew the only things I would provide at the event were the music and a place to pitch a tent.

On Saturday morning, the day of the gig, I would start preparing for the onslaught. Sometimes, usually actually, I would have one or more close friends come over early and help. We all agreed that drinking, for us festival organizers, would commence immediately following lunch. At about 1pm, we would start dragging the extension cords from the garage to the ‘fire pit’ area, where my massive stereo system would be set up. That’s right, I’m not talkin’ ‘bout no ghetto blaster here. I would drag my Techniques dual cassette player and amplifier (with 20 band equalizer, of course) and secure it about 10-20 feet away from the ‘pit’. The speakers? Well they were 3 feet tall, 250 Watts per side, dual polypropylene woofers and cone tweeters all in their faux oak, reinforced casings. These bad boys were massive and they were LOUD! Sounded fantastic outside.

To back up a bit: two weeks prior to the event I would compile my mix-tapes. They were all numbered and sorted according to time and mood, naturally. More mellow stuff for the first hour, slowly progressing in energy level as the night went on, then back to ‘chill mode’ for the later part of the evening.

Unfortunately my carefully crafted music agenda never worked. Partly because I was too drunk, too involved with a girl, or because I delegated the duties to someone else less musically inclined. By hour two of the soiree nobody cared much anyway.

It was most entertaining to watch people arrive. They would always trickle in slowly at first, then quicker and quicker and quicker until there was a stream of headlights that looked similar to that ending scene from Field Of Dreams.

Mass consumption of alcohol (and perhaps other forms of intoxicants!) ensued, which led to lots of dancing, talking, laughing, hooking up and, most definitely, throwing up (the reason for “outside”).

My good friend Rumproast (who appears to have fallen off the face of the earth, by the way) recounts one particularly silly moment:

“There was a fellow there who was showing off some of his wide array of martial arts moves near the bonfire. (I have no idea what his name was… I’ve since dubbed him “Skarate”, for reasons that will become evident in just a moment).

The Specials came on the stereo, and this dude proceeds to demonstrate some sort of run/jump/kick move THROUGH the (quite large) flames of the bonfire. The smoky silhouette lands in the lap of my friend Pam. The putrid smell of burnt hair was overwhelming. He pops up out of Pam’s lap, brushes himself off and casually states “I love The Ska”, and casually walks away.”

Another friend and his ‘lady’ thought it would be a good idea to streak through the house, unbeknownst to me at the time. They ran all over, buck nekid, and eventually ended up in my folks bedroom, which they apparently thought was empty. They found out it wasn’t the moment my father turned on the side table lamp wondering what the hell all that screaming and giggling was about. Surprised he didn’t have a heart attack right then and there, actually.

They told me later they thought they were being robbed. By drunken streakers, apparently.

Good sports, my Mum and Dad.

I believe there were a couple of good ‘dust-ups’ every once in a great while, but they never got too out of control, and were always broken up before any blood was shed.

The house rule was that if anyone was too drunk to drive they could stay; either in the basement or if they preferred they could pitch a tent somewhere in the back yard. In the morning my Mum would make a hearty breakfast, ask us if everyone had a good time and then tell us to go clean up her backyard.

Clean up was never fun, but it was lucrative. Bottles were everywhere, some broken, most not, and I usually netted enough to buy my next case of beer and a pack of smokes. It would usually take me upwards of two hours to clean everything up to my parents satisfaction.

In hindsight, especially in this litigious society we now live in, I think my folks were VERY lucky that nothing really serious ever happened at these things. But, thankfully, nothing ever did.

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