Montreal’s fireworks season has finally come to an end. The winners were announced on Saturday: Britain, Germany and the United States.
Now that it’s all over, I present to you my awards for the 2007 Montreal fireworks season.
Best musical selection: USA. All Elvis. Bold, original. Putting a 30-minute fireworks display with a single artist’s songs takes quite a bit of work, but it seemed to do the trick. One caveat: Heartbreak Hotel just doesn’t scream “fireworks”. It’s a stretch taken too far.
Worst musical selection: France. Why am I listening to spoken word crap during a fireworks presentation? I want music to move me, not some guy talking.
Most clichéd musical selection: England. U2’s Beautiful Day. Need I say more?
Best musical synchronization: Germany. I hate to use the cliché of German efficiency, but in this case it’s apt. At one point a simple melody was played, and some near-ground fireworks were setup in a line representing the different notes. The fireworks played a piano, and it was done perfectly.
Best shape formation: USA. People always tell me that some fireworks are designed to turn into shapes, and I always have to take their word for it, because all I see is a bunch of dots in no discernable pattern. Though the shapes were obvious (a heart, a deformed cube symbolizing dice for Viva Las Vegas, numerals), at least they worked. But it was the very-well-done multicoloured happy faces that pleased the crowd the most.
Most pointlessly long delay between segments: Canada. For some reason, at points during the show, there was minutes of narration. That’s great if you’re reading to a five-year-old, but to everyone out there it just meant minutes of no fireworks. And to those who didn’t have radios, it was even worse.
Worst technical failure: Canada. A 19-minute delay only a couple of minutes into the show. I realize fireworks are dangerous and you don’t want to rush it, but the fans were getting restless near the end, and started chanting. (UPDATE: I’ve been asked to clarify that the delay wasn’t Canada’s fault — but the long narration segments still are)
Biggest big bang finale: Canada. Wow. It’s one thing to have fireworks so bright that the entire crowd is lit up and you can see their faces. But our country’s finale brought the hand of God to lift the Sun over La Ronde for a minute or two. A well-deserved round of applause followed from the crowd who forgot all about their technical difficulties.
Best (free) vantage point: The parking lot – or whatever it is – on Notre Dame at Parthenais Street. Plenty of space, and it’s just across the river from where the action is.
Most over-rated vantage point: Jacques-Cartier Bridge. When you’re not being anally-probed by the RCMP, you can try and struggle with thousands of others to get a spot along a giant fence. If you’re not so lucky (and don’t have an extra hour to get up there early for a spot), you can stand on the closed roadway, with three fences between you and the fireworks, ensuring you can barely see a thing.
Best logistics: STM traffic control. The Papineau metro station was turned into Grand Central Station twice a week, with yellow tape, multiple ticket-takers and police stationed in such a way to ensure everyone got in and out safely. Extra trains were brought into service after the fireworks to take people home, and a similar operation was setup at Berri-UQAM for all the transfers to the orange line.
Worst logistics: Police traffic control. Whether Sainte-Catherine street was ever closed to traffic is a mystery. Either way, pedestrians didn’t care. During part of the season it was car-free because of a street fair in the Gay Village a few blocks down. But police made no effort to keep either pedestrians or vehicles out of the street, leading to them literally butting heads with each other.
Best critical evaluations: Paul’s Pyrotechnics Page. Detailed reports on every show going back over a decade. Well worth a few minutes to check out. (You can also check out the website of Georges Lamon in French)
Worst critical evaluations: Rhythme FM hosts. “Magnifique!” “Spectaculaire!” “Une des meilleurs!” The same words would follow every single show on the airwaves of the one station that broadcasts the music for the benefit of those outside La Ronde. Yeah, I realize they were all very good, and that you’re not going to put pyrotechnical engineers on, but don’t pretend like you’re evaluating something critically if you have no idea what you’re taking about, have never seen professional fireworks before and are just amused at the idea of bright lights.
Biggest missed opportunity: Rhythme FM. How expensive would it have been to drive a few vans down to the foot of the bridge and turn up the speakers so people could listen to the music? Most people who went down there didn’t have radios (and so only got half the experience). A golden marketing opportunity down the drain.
Most annoying people: Those god-awful glow-thing vendors. What exactly is the purpose of these things, other than to have little children wave them around in front of me while I’m trying to watch the fireworks? And not only are you peddling these wares before and after the show, you’re actually walking in front of everybody while the fireworks are going off, blocking our view! Go back to the Old Port and pick on some tourists.