Ben Spurr, lead singer in The Coast, beating up on an innocent guitar
Nothing says rock 'n roll like Bob Probert smashing a guitar at eight a.m. right? Well, that was the thinking outside the Hard Rock Café this morning as the retired NHL tough-guy and 29 other celebrities tomahawked black Gibsons in unison to kickoff North By Northeast.
While I'm convinced that nothing truly rock 'n roll can happen at 8 a.m.-unless it's a party that's been going all night-I turned up all bleary eyed to watch the melee go down. Out in front of the Café, overlooking the NXNE main stage and indie market, were 30 unstrung guitars resting on 30 cinder blocks (painted black) waiting to be pulverized by the local luminaries including Zack Werner from Canadian Idol, and E! Entertainment's Arissa Cox and Jason Ruta.
On top of watching Bob Probert smash things in public this early, I was also there to check out fellow smasher Ben Spurr's moves ahead of his band The Coast's NXNE showcase tonight at 9 p.m. at The Horseshoe.
Spurr was looking forward to acting out a cliché of rock star excess and irresponsibility (the only time he every smashed a guitar on stage his band mates got upset for his wasting of what they considered a shared resource) albeit under hilariously absurd and very controlled circumstances. "These safety goggles are pretty rock 'n roll," he quiped of the protective eyewear that the Hard Rock required all smashers to wear.
Now before you get all John Hiatt on these guitar-smashing stars, it should be noted that the folks at Hard Rock marketing thought long and hard about the ethics of destroying perfectly good instruments. First, all the guitars awaiting destruction were "defective" and doomed for the scrap heap anyway, and secondly, Hard Rock made a donation for every axe shredded to MusiCan, a charity operated by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences which provides music instruments and scholarships to Toronto kids.
Finally, the moment of truth arrived and the 30 VIPs raised their guitars. On cue delivered a sequence of head-stock cracking blows that sent bits of wood and wires flying everywhere into the crowd of amused revelers.
The result looked like a music store massacre: Spurr's guitar was split right down the middle, it's electronic guts spilled and splayed all over the square. To his left, Probert took a couple of extra swings just to make sure his guitar was down for the count (maybe he'd mentally airbrushed Tie Domi's face onto the fret board?) while others started pocketing shattered parts for souvenirs.
What a surreal way to start the fest.