My First Concert

Vancouver East Cultural Centre
May 26, 1985, Vancouver East Cultural Centre. Left to Right: Blaine Dunaway, Dale Diduck, Rob Marr, John McLachlan, Robert Cornejo
Concert Poster on a fan's wall
Concert Poster on a fan’s wall

I performed my first professional, full-length concert at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre on May 26, 1985 with a band I’d put together from fellow musicians I’d met while attending the commercial music program at Capilano University (formerly Capilano College) in North Vancouver, BC. It was one big, huge, scary undertaking to prepare a full evening of songs to be presented in one of the premiere small concert venues in the city, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. What an education it was to learn how to book a theatre, put promo materials together and sell tickets.

My first promo shoot was done in the basement of my brother’s townhouse. He took some crazy photos (black and white of course) of me having fun posing with my guitar. In fact, one of them was picked up and used by a couple of local newspapers. It was my first learning that catchy images get used (something that would come in handy some years later when I worked as a graphic designer working in the arts).

I was helped out with promoting the concert by my (then) sister-in-law, Patricia. We were both pretty blind going into how to prepare press releases and approach the media. I still remember her getting yelled at by the theatre’s press person for not having the correct materials together. Still, live and learn, and I learned.

John Promo Photo
First Promo Shoot (photo by Robert McLachlan)

The concert was self-produced—the first of eight I’d present at this theatre over the next eight years—and it meant trying to sell as many of the 300+ seats as I could. I thought it would be impossible but by the time friends, family and the adept assistance from many who helped sell tickets did their magic things looked very promising. I can still feel the excitement 15 minutes before show time when I heard they added a few chairs and we had sold 306 seats: SOLD OUT!

What a thrill it was to present the concert. I realized this first show was mostly filled with people who knew me or the band and that we were still a little rough around the edges but we also had lots to be proud of. The band consisted of Rob Marr on bass, Robert Cornejo on guitar, Dale Diduck on drums, Blaine Dunaway on violin and trumpet, and Melanie Johnson who sang a few duets with me. It was over 30 years ago, but I will never forget that night above all the rest.

Melanie Johnson singing a few songs with the band, May 26, 1985
Melanie Johnson singing a few songs with the band, May 26, 1985