Its 7 o’clock on a Saturday night and I am locked inside a huge crowd moving slowly towards BC Place. The tarmac almost seems to vibrate and people are shouting to one another across the queue, but I can’t make out a word being said. Why? Because of the deafening sound of rubber fighting metal as the Maple Leaf Monster Jam begins.
This being my first show, I had spent the week before daydreaming about every cartoon-like cliché that I associated with monster trucks. Motorcyclists suited up in leather doing life-defying jumps and big, sweaty guys cheering aggressively for oversized trucks to destroy the venue. As soon as I enter the arena, one thing is clear. Everything I had imagined was completely true.
If anyone is like me, they will have many of ideas of what a monster truck show is like, without actually knowing what the purpose of it is. The aim of the competition is about more than running over cars or leaving the audience in fear that they are about to witness someone going into critical care. The night actually showcased a terrific amount of skill possessed by both the drivers themselves and the talented mechanics that have made these Transformer-like machines.
The first half of the night saw several rounds, where two cars at a time would battle it out to see who could get the most height from some of the smaller ramps. A slow beginning, but between the atmospheric chanting and gimmick persona of the cars (Captain’s Curse being my favourite), it was hard not to be stunned.
After the interval the pace picked up immediately as several motorcyclists and dirt track bikers took centre stage, dazzling the audience with summersaults and funny poses while suspended in air. With each jump, the drivers would become more absurd and draw more flinches from the audience, as they gave themselves less and less time to land safely.
When the monster trucks were ready to reconvene, people are already on their feet cheering. It was the final round, the one where the monster trucks will take on all the ramps that the organisers had strategically placed to leave us all wondering just how these huge vehicles were going to launch themselves over the cars. As we saw them hurtling themselves forward at unnatural speed, it seemed impossible for them to have beaten gravity. While there were a few hiccups along the way – with the occasional car breaking down and needing to be toed away – this only made the danger seem even more exhilaratingly real.
As the night drew to a close, I left exactly how I would have wanted. Tipsy and excited, staring at the demolition site that stretched out in front of me. Deafened, with the sound of popular rock songs still echoing in my head. And a little fearful about the next generation after noticing the admiration of the children whenever the drivers made their most ambitious jumps. By this point I wanted to buy a leather jacket and join the Hell’s Angels, so I wondered whether these parents were doomed to regret this night in years to come.
Not being a life-long supporter of monster trucks, I had little investment in the winners and losers of the night, but this had made no difference to me. I would over-emphatically recommend it to anyone unopposed to noise and chaos. And next time I go, I will have picked my favourite trucker out in advance and be arriving with a home-made sign in hand.