What person in their right mind in the North would believe that anyone would bring four bands and 500 people to party in their town?
Well, someone believed in Tuk. Molson U.S.A. spent $10 million promoting and organizing the Polar Beach Party in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. Performing were Metallica, Hole, Veruca Salt and Moist, and in the audience 500 contest winners and guests, plus everyone who wanted to come from the small arctic community.
Not everyone was happy with the polar party. The local Inuit newspaper's editor, Charles Tizya, said he had mixed feelings.
"It's good for our economy but I have concerns about the impacts on mental and physical health," he said. "Alcohol can be devastating for people up here in the Northwest Territories."
From a substance abuse counselor, I learned that 60 per cent of N.W.T. children have some degree of fetal alcohol syndrome. A local CBC-North reporter asked why the beer ads don't show the passing out or vomiting from excessive partying.
"Show people the other end of the bottle," was the suggestion.
Most of this town, though, was hyped and ready to party. And so were the contest winners. Many of them weren't actually there for the rock so much as this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Canadian Arctic.
Our Molson handler, Marilyn McCrea, said Molson Breweries provides funding to fight fetal alcohol syndrome and works with the Native Physicians Council of Canada.
"We are very aware of this issue," she said. "Keep in mind that the advertising was done in the south for southern markets. We also had extensive discussions with Tuktoyaktuk over this and other issues. They have obviously endorsed it. We wouldn't be there if the community wasn't comfortable with it."
N.W.T. Premier Nellie Cournoyea was rather pleased by the Molson ads promoting the town. She said that the region had been hit hard by anti-fur protests so the tourism impact of the beach party was promising.
"The problem is not with alcohol but why they drink," she said, when asked to address the alcohol issue. "We're trying to deal with the problem ? not the end result. We don't have a problem with Molson. We have a problem with the anti-fur movement."
Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Eddie Dillon hopes that people will go back and tell others about his town. He, too, echoed the hopes of the premier. He was determined to see a better tomorrow for his community's economic hard luck.
"I wish more people would pick up on the positive," he said. "We have a problem (with alcoholism) but so does everyone else in Canada. We've had that problem for a long time now and we're going to have it tomorrow when everyone's gone. But now, at least, Tuk is well known.
The show began with a local group of Inuit dancers, drummers and throat dancers. The first hint that ear plugs would be needed was when Moist got hot and heavy. This was the only Canadian band on the scene and they put on an amazing performance. The lead singer had a habit of pouring water over his head.
"It's jut to keep the hair out of his face," explained Jeff Pierce, the bass guitarist.
A local group home had a surprise for a 17-year-old diehard Metallica fan. The home was given two tickets and he would be going.
"You should see his wall and ceiling. Nothing but Metallica posters" said his chaperone. "He's been good for the past year and when this opportunity came up I immediately thought of him."" This will undoubtedly be one of the high points of the young man's life.
Next was intermission, and a gate crashers' protest. People had come from Australia, California and Europe to crash this event. Molson finally allowed them in after they agreed to take down their signs ? there were only 18 of them.
It was time for Hole. The band sounded good, but singer Courtney Love didn't during her obscene ramblings. Even band members seemed upset with her - the guitarist threw down his guitar at one point in disgust. Love had punched him out earlier in front of a horrified Molso staff. Molson public-relations people remarked that they didn't expect Hole to survive much longer.
It was time for Metallica, undoubtedly one of the best live bands in the world. Just before the show, Jason Newsted, Metallica's bass guitarist, told us that it had been a long time since they'd gone on tour.
Fans can expect an album release this spring. He said that it would be a Metallica sound, only rougher.
"Now we're trying to get more of a loose kind of groove feel - early Black Sabbath, early AC/DC," he said. Later than night they would perform two new songs for screaming fans.
"It was new ground," Newsted explained about the trip into the North. "New kinds of territories are very important to us because we've played a lot of places so far and it's hard to find places we haven't played. It's cool when you get a special offer like this."