Here comes the Feeling @ Casino Rama

Casino Rama, Mnjikaning First Nation Reserve, ...

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And it did. Graphic memories of throwing up on various lanes in the Scottish Borders during the early days of pregnancy were brought vividly to mind during the opening number of Asia’s 2011 world tour.
 
Isn’t it amazing how our brains have this marvellous ability to block out all the bad stuff during future moments of recall. The association between music and the moment is so powerful that it can bring whole sections of the aforementioned Scottish journey into sharpfocus. Through some miracle chain reaction synopse firing, I was able to reach down through the years and almost embrace the atmosphere and vibe of my life (less complicated) twenty years ago; a treasure trove of good feelings stored away with Music as the key.
Anyway so it was that we found ourselves in the auditorium at Casino Rama in Orillia.
Fast Facts:
  • 5,000 seat Entertainment Centre
  • Casino floor size: 192,000 ft² (17,837 m²)
  • Slot machines: 2500
  • Table games: 110
  • Restaurants: 10 (St. Germain’s Steakhouse, Lombardi’s (Italian), Couchiching Court Buffet, Willow (authentic Cantonese), Legends, Dream Catcher Sports Bar, The Noodle Bar, The Weirs, Cedar and Firestarter Lounge)
  • Bars: Silver Nightingale Lounge, Firestarter Lounge
  • 289 room hotel
  • Opened in July 1996 and is a joint venture between the Chippewas of Rama First Nation , commercial operators Penn National Gaming and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. It is in fact the only First Nations  “commercial casino” (as opposed to a lesser class, Charity Casino) and the largest First Nations casino in Canada

In my ignorance I assumed the name was a moniker of something like Diorama and had no clue that it was named and part owned by the Chippewas of Rama First Nation  “Chippewas of Rama First Nation, also known as Chippewas of Mnjikaning and Chippewas of Rama Mnjikaning First Nation, is Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) First Nation. The name Mnjikaning, or fully vocalized as Minjikaning, refers to the fishing weirs at Atherley Narrows between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching and it means “in/on/at or near the fence”. The “town” of Rama itself occupies approximately 2,350 acres of land on eight separate parcels. It was once known as Mnjikaning and Rama Mnjikaning but after a community referendum has since re-assumed the name of Chippewas of Rama First Nation. There are 1600 members with approximately 700 living on the reserve and about 900 living off the reserve”. Interesting Wikepedia fact –  many of the families currently living on and off the reserve include the original family names Benson, Ingersoll, Williams, Douglas, Shilling, Simcoe, Snache, St. Germain and Stinson.

Far from being the tacky Vegas in Ontario I had been expecting, the decor (if you ignore the glitzy casino) was incredibly easy on the eye, both from a design and atmosphere standpoint. 
 
To the point (finally) as soon as John Wetton launched into the opening vocals of “Only Time will Tell”, I started blubbing. So, so, so good to SEE the actual band in action playing all the songs that were the soundtrack to my life all those years ago – we’re talking 2 hour commute in London England accompanied by wall-to-wall Asia on the only just portable Sony Walkman (remember those).
 
The band ( Geoff Downes; Steve Howe Carl Palmer and John  Wetton ) were all original founding members of Asia  and looked great for their years with the obvious exception of Steve Howe (YES) who was there to make the rest of them look good and of course to do his usual 15 minute genius virtuoso showcasing his vast talent and in particular a couple of YES songs.
 
 Looking around the audience was a shot to the ego – surely I MUST be younger than the vast majority of the silver-haired audience who packed the auditorium – most of whom were barely nodding their heads or tapping their toes to the music. Who am I kidding? These “older” guys were the coolest generation on earth – the hippy chicks and dudes of the 60’s and 70’s – the “Hair the musical” brigade; this is the generation not so far removed from my own, that my lot looked up to and wanted to emulate. What happened to the rhythm guys?
 The band worked their socks off to spark some sort of audience feedback and participation, belting out track after track for a total of 2 hours (including encores). The sound was spot on and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better Carl Palmer (Emerson Lake and Palmer) did a drum solo lasting about 15 minutes. Normally I cannot abide this sort of ubiquitous “up yer bum”  self indulgence but this was incredible including an acrobatic sticking technique that had a drumstick balanced in such a way as to appear to be striking the cymbal by itself…….
In all $33 worth of nostalgic perfection. I don’t know why this band always got such a bad rap for being incredibly cheesy – It was and still isn’t “cool” to say you enjoy listening to “Asia”. I had to drag my husband along kicking and screaming and he had a great time. All I can say is that like me there must be thousands of “uncool” closet Asia fans around as the group are still managing to pack out auditoriums all over the world from Paris to South America.
 
For more information on Asia’s Omega world tour see http://www.originalasia.com/
Over and Out
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