Where better to rock out with your band than on a roof? Just ask the Beatles, whose rooftop concert is likely the first example that comes to mind for a lot of people. This month, Victoria’s campus community radio station, CFUV 101.9 FM, aims to capture the essence of this legendary moment at its own rooftop concert on campus as part of UVic’s 50th-anniversary celebrations.
A rooftop show physically elevates rock music in the same way that it is figuratively elevated in our cultural mythology. The din of the guitars and drums blasting out across the landscape while the gathered masses look up in bewilderment creates a reverent feeling. Plus, there’s the element of danger. For the musicians involved, the question is, “How long can we play before the cops shut us down?” and “Will my Marshall half-stack fall through the roof?”
To get an idea of the joys of rooftop rockin’, take a gander at this article’s accompanying photo, taken in front of the SUB in the mid-1960s — a moment captured from a somewhat wilder era.
“There’s quite a lot of mystery around it,” says Johnnie Regalado, CFUV’s Program Director. “There’s just this photo that’s from the UVic archives of a band playing there back in the ’60s. I’m pretty sure they just went up on the roof.”
Regalado says the image, used by UVic as part of its promotion of its 50th anniversary, inspired CFUV to stage a rooftop concert. The proof that it had been done before was how CFUV staff managed to convince UVic to let the concert happen again. The University says rooftop concerts previously occurred from 1965–67.
The modern version of the rooftop concert promises to be a doozy. Held on the Student Union Building (SUB) rooftop on Friday, Sept. 28 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the show features headlining act Kathryn Calder of the New Pornographers, as well as performances by Rugged Uncle and The Chanterelles. The concert will be located on the roof above Felicita’s, where the acts will perform facing the grassy area in front of the residences. Regalado says that, as each band contains former UVic students, all the musicians are excited for the chance to play this show.
“It’s something that people definitely don’t get to do that often on campuses — play on the rooftop of a building here,” says Regalado.
While the SUB generally doesn’t have rooftop access, CFUV was able to get special permission to use it. To ensure bands will be safe, work will be done to make sure everything is structurally sound for both the musicians and the weight of the musical equipment.
“This is kind of a one-time thing unless they love it . . . maybe they’ll let it happen again,” says Regalado. “But chances are, this is going to be the first and last time for another 50 years.”
One question that comes to mind is: what was the outcome of those ’60s rooftop shows?
“We’re really not sure, and . . . we want to get in touch with some of the people who might have been at that original concert,” says Regalado.
“If it was a really big deal with the cops, I really doubt [UVic] would have forgotten what happened and let us do it again, so I think it probably went over OK the first time.”
Regalado says that, while this year’s show will be quite controlled, it will be just as much fun for everyone involved.
“This original photo seemed to be a guerrilla operation, and they just made it happen,” explains Regalado. “That’s a little bit different from this time around, but I think it’ll be more exciting for people because we’re trying to get the word out and get as many people involved as possible.”