Barred from live music by Sneaky Dees
by Dan Portoraro
Last winter the newspaper sent me to Sneaky Dee’s to cover Wavelength, a (then) weekly experimental music series, for the second week in a row. On the Bathurst streetcar, I felt slightly uneasy: I knew that something was going to go wrong. Would a fight break out? Would I have a bottle broken over my head? No, far worse.
“We can’t accept this,” said the bouncer as he handed me my Alberta ID.
“But I’m nineteen.”
“This is a fake.”
“I promise I won’t drink. I’m just here to cover the event for a newspaper.”
“Get the hell out.”
So I was shoved away, crestfallen, with mocking of-age eyes all over me.
There are few things worse than not being let in to a bar when one’s underage. All the preparation, the clothes, the saved-up money, the subway ride, might all be in vain. And all it takes is a bouncer in a bad mood and *poof* the evening is gone, spiraling down to “well, we can go back to my place.” In the case of kids going out to party, you’re allowed to feel less pity for them. Why? “Because you’re too young to drink.” I, on the other hand, was a different case. I had no intention to party or drink. All I wanted was to sit on the sidelines and watch the band play, take a few pictures, write down some notes, and go home early to write the article.
These are the worst cases for the underaged. It’s at these moments that we feel cheated and neglected. I did not look any worse or better than the usual fare at the College St. dive; I would have passed unnoticed. I was there for the music; tepid beers and watered-down whiskeys were the furthest thing from my mind, so why not let me in?
We can blame North American society’s fascination with liquor. It’s seen as both wonderful and awful, something that youth should not be exposed to. It’s this very concept of the taboo that leads to abuse. But that’s all been said before.
What’s really striking is the concept of liquor getting in the way of art (or what passes for art at Sneaky Dee’s). A young man ought to be exposed to all types of artistry from an early age, and once he comes to a certain point in his life, he finds that a considerable category of it is beyond the guarded doors of bars and clubs. But sadly, a desire, or even passion for art is not enough to pay admission. One must be at least nineteen. That’s the deciding factor of who can and can’t see a band; if you’re allowed to buy a beer, you can watch, if you can’t, then go home.
But then again, I’m of age now, so what do I care if underage kids can’t see bands at Sneak’s? It’s someone else’s problem.