“At the ends of the earth, it is cold…”

Quote from Canada’s North by R.A.J. Phillips 1967.

It was the trip of a lifetime, Only once would this happen and The Nation at 11 p.m. Wednesday night decided that we (Alex and Will) would be heading for the Molson Polar Beach Party. We stayed up all night working on the next issue of The Nation, packed and caught the plane to Inuvik at 6:45 the next morning.

Later on, we were Joined by Rhonda Sherwood. When she came in that morning and saw we were gone, she decided this was a trip she would not be left out of. Within a few hours-we’ll never figure out how she did it-she was on the next flight North. We were going to see Metallica on a wing and a prayer! In case you haven’t heard about the Molson Polar Beach Party we’ll clue you in. There would be 500 Southerners, from Canada and the United States, who won a contest heading to the Arctic Circle. They would descend on two NWT towns called Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk (everyone called it Tuk) for three days of partying, followed by a mega-concert on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. “We promote responsible partying,” said Molson representative Marilyn McCrea, shortly after telling us that Molson was bringing in 13,000 beers for this event The lucky winners would be staying in Inuvik for the most part and spending one day in the town of Tuk. There they would see four bands. The first would be Moist, a Canadian band based out of Vancouver. They would be followed by Veruca Salt, Hole and finally the big boys, the crowd-pleasers, Metallica.

Molson was promoting this as the private concert of the decade as only 1,200 or so people would be in the audience. The whole community of Tuk was invited to attend as well as the contest winners. A few lucky people from Inuvik would attend also.

Molson’s line in their $10-million U.S. promotional campaign for this event was that this was “The1 Land Where The Ice Is!” All of the advertising showed Molson’s “products” in all its glory. The good life, the freedom, the hunky guys with the occasional fat frat boy (their real target) with beautiful women only, the rock bands, the North, the free beer and the beauty of it all associated with Molson Ice and Molson Canadian (all the beer was affectionately known as “product” by the Molson PR machine).

The excitement was almost too much to bear, but a 14-hour plane ride to Inuvik settled us down. On the plane from Toronto to Calgary we were surrounded by hyped-up winners who couldn’t What Is Metallica bass player Jason Nowstod doing to Will? Ho is: a) Showing off a now nipplo-piercing technique he learned from Courtney Love, b) Marking the spot where he will make the first incision for Will’s heart surgery after the concert, c) Writing his hotel number on Will’s chest at the Tuktoyaktuk Inn, d) Helping Will pluck out some excess chest hairs.

resist giving us the inside gossip. According to the winners, the Molson employee who had chosen Tuk for the concert had been fired. Tuk is the next thing to a dry community. You are allowed to bring in booze but you can’t buy or sell it there.

Later on, Marilyn McCrea of Molson would deny all rumours. We found out that in the past McCrea worked for both Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney as a -political organizer. Could we believe her? Can we believe any politician? Cree ones aside, of course! McCrea may have been tainted by her relations to the political powers that were. Now she was a part of the PR mercenary squad for Molson’s. Other gossip included previous beer bashes featuring kayaks and canoes full of beer and ice. “You didn’t have to go further than three doors from your room in any direction for a cold one,” said a contest winner who had been to other beer bashes.

We left the winners in Calgary while we got the red carpet treatment from NWT Airlines. NWT Airlines manager Niels Elliot met us and rushed things through. Molson had chartered three 737’s to take the winners to Inuvik. He calculated that it would take 444 beers to last the five-hour trip for 111 people per jet. He envisioned the first two rows used as storage space for all that Molson beer. Holy bat bottles, Robin! When we landed in Inuvik we learned that locals were not stupid. The taxi rate jumped from $16 to a $27 tourist rate for a 10-kilometre ride to Inuvik from the airport. We stayed the first night at the Mackenzie Hotel—a fine place that featured the loudest bar in the North, The Zoo. We learnt the truth of this statement after unpacking. Stepping out into the hallway we quickly covered our ears. Further down the hall were the free vibrating beds I’m sure.

Our first local friend was Marty Verbonac, the helpful bar manager of The Zoo, The Mad Trapper and The Rail. He clued us in to the various events, both Molson’s and the town of Inuvik’s. Marty got us into places we normally wouldn’t have gotten into. For example, he made us part of the pit crew for the local demolition derby. It was great fun.

In fact such great fun that The Nation is currently looking at how to set one up. We’ll let you know when we are ready to issue a challenge. Marty also made us honorary security guards but that’s another story.

Molson put on a number of hospitality events. We would see locals gathered outside the heavily guarded events looking at the Southerners partying it up. You could see the yearning on their faces. Being from a small town himself Will knew it was more than just the free beer. Strangers are a source of wonder, entertainment and knowledge. They break up the monotony of northern daily life. People there felt robbed at being separate this way.

Whenever we went outside of the Molson “visit the land of ice” fantasyland we were eagerly welcomed by Inuvik people. It didn’t matter that we weren’t one of them or that we were leaving in a few days. Everywhere we went, the local people looked us in theeyes with a smile as we passed by on the street and said hi. This was one of the mistakes Molson made. Winners did not get to experience the openness of northern life. The calm easy total acceptance of the stranger is not something that Southerners practice to a great extent these days. Everyone lost because of this.

But at least the contestants got to experience the beauty of the North. Very few had ever been this far north and it was for most the main reason they wanted to go to the Beach Party so much. After all, why would a 75-year-old couple from Minnesota go to a heavy metal concert? Marty gave us a tour of Inuvik and surroundings in the Mackenzie Hotel pickup. A Metis and an avid hunter, he spoke reverently about the breathtaking land of the Mackenzie River Delta. We took a drive past the docks on the river and saw a few interesting little boats in the water, which remains frozen nine months out of 12. After a brief summer, the hills surrounding Inuvik were covered with trees that were turning a stunning orange and red. After growing 100 years, the trees were still only 10 feet tall due to the short growing season.

We also got to eat a delicious bannock and macaroni dinner courtesy of Charles Tizya, editor of the local Inuit paper Tuksaayaksat. A recovering alcoholic, he told us he was of mixed feelings about the Beach Party. It would bring much-needed money into the area, but it would also promote alcohol in a region where fetal alcohol syndrome is a big problem. “Knowing what alcohol can do to individuals and how it affects family life and relationships, there is no getting away from the fact that the Molson Beach Party will greatly influence young people,” he said.

Before we knew it, time had passed and the big day was here. We must say the much-awaited concert on Sunday met and surpassed everyone’s expectations. Moist and Veruca Salt got everyone warmed up. Then was the much-talked-about Courtney Love, singer for Hole and widow of Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana. Courtney had everyone abuzz about her shenanigans, including stumbling drunk off the plane, knocking off the glasses of a woman who tried to take her photo and beating up a bandmate. During the concert, she kept calling the hosting community “Tuktoyak-f*ck-tuk,” and yelling other obscenities and insults at the audience. Finally, when she did her stage dive a local punched her in the head. Northern hospitality can only be pushed so far! Metallica was awesome. They easily lived up to their reputation as one of the world’s best live bands. We all agreed that we have never seen a band that is such a crowd pleaser. Not only did they have a woman in her 50s dancing to heavy metal thunder, but the crowd was singing along by the second song. The intensity of this band is indescribable. You had to be there to really understand. Merely saying that the veins on the bass guitarist’s neck were erect during the entire show doesn’t show how much energy they pumped out It was even more intense because it was a smaller space and smaller audience than they’re used to playing to these days. We were all closer than the best paying seats in any auditorium, and many even gota chance to do the high-five with James Hetfield & Co. After the finale, Metallica threw souvenirs to the screaming masses, drum sticks, arm bands and other personal belongings that will end up in many a fan’s trophy case.

In fact, when you read the following exclusive interview (the only one Metallica granted to any media at the concert), you’ll understand that this is where all their energy and aggression is focused—into the music itself—and it shows. We mean it really shows. An audience of 1,200 screamed, kicked and danced to the beat of the soul that is unique to Metallica. They blew everyone away and none of us will ever forget it Thank you to: Metallica, Marty Verbonac, Brian Holt, Charles Tizya, Martin and Ruth Carroll, Niels Biot and NWT Air, Tony of Q-Prime, Encore Productions, Molson and Marilyn McCrea for the good times.