We’re almost there, we have almost reached the pinnacle of the list, but we have just one last stop to make, and that stops leaves us at the foothills of the Citadel Hill otherwise known as the Garrison Grounds. This is the tried and true outdoor venue and while the Halifax Commons were (are?) great, my heart belongs to the Garrison Grounds. The fact that it is a Natural Amphitheater is a massive advantage, it’s like our less spectacular Red Rocks. It’s the spot where the bigger names in music play when they are in town. It is also a spot that will also lie in infamy in my personal history (but more on that in a moment), but it also holds a wealth of music memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
This isn’t a venue where my folks took me, this was a spot that I eventually discovered on my own back in the mid-ninties when Bon Jovi came to town. It was a fairly pricey ticket, but the girl I was seeing at the time wanted to go, and it was August in Halifax, what else were you gonna do? It was an early August afternoon, and there wasn’t a cloud to be found, so needless to say it was a scorching kind of day. I don’t remember much about the openers, but I do remember Colin James and Rainbow Butt Monkeys (Finger Eleven in their early stages) being on the bill, but Bon Jovi I remember for their ability to replicate their studio sound on stage which felt entirely too “in the lines” for what I thought a live show should be. I left the show feeling sour on Bon Jovi, but not for one moment did I think ill of the Garrison Grounds, it was a great place to see a show.
The fact that it lies in the heart of downtown Halifax is pretty fantastic, you can get there by any means necessary and its proximity to bars, restaurants and hotels is great for the out of towners. Over all, it has great location, if you don’t think so, let me know what you think of your 3 mile hike into the Magnetic Hill site in Moncton, then maybe we can talk about the shitty location of the Garrison Grounds (note: sarcasm). I really don’t any major gripes, other than minor first-world problem ones (ie: beer line up is too long and it’s a pain in the ass to get into the beer pit to begin with), not that I want beer anyway as I have a no-booze policy at shows as I want to remember what I saw.
The Garrison Grounds has played hosted to a myriad of artists over the past number of years, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Ben Harper, Father John Misty, Foo Fighters, The Tragically Hip, Nickelback, Matthew Good, A Perfect Circle, The Offspring and Rise Against all play to receptive crowds. Ben Harper was one of those special nights where the weather was perfect, it wasn’t too warm or cold, and the crowd and artist were on the same page and he just had a great time performing for us and left us wanting more and promising to return. For that show, my wife and I camped out close to the fence during each performance and when Ben Harper finally came on ,we had a front row spot on the fence for the show, but Citadel Hill is great as you really have to be sitting directly a tree or food truck to have a poor view of the stage, there is plenty of room to move around and find your ideal vantage point. Ultimately the bands are easily viewed from both the Hill itself and down in front of the stage.
The reason the venue also lies in Infamy for me, was the fact that I was young and not overly bright when it came to my aural health. It was one of the Great Big Picnic shows where Big Sugar was playing and I make the wise decision to watch the show to the left of the stage in front of the stacks (of speakers) and didn’t realize until the tinnitus faded away that I couldn’t hear anything out of one ear for 3 scarily long days. Fortunately for me, my hearing returned 3 days later and I promptly adopted a policy of wearing ear plugs to any show I attend these days to prevent that loss from occurring ever again.
This is one of my very favorite places to see a show, there are always great acts on the bill and, it’s easily accessible and never a problem to find a great vantage point. I hope I have a chance to return there this year.