Off Kilter’s Final Performance
This post falls into the category of ‘things that annoy me’, so be warned. It’s not a BIG issue. It doesn’t threaten the environment or human existence or anything like that. I suppose it only really matters to people, like me, who live near Orlando, Florida or to those from other places who are frequent visitors to the Disney World parks.
Many people get upset about the big issues. They talk about them, share their opinions, and write to politicians and whatnot, so the big things get a good deal of media attention. This isn’t like that. I doubt many people even know about it and fewer probably care, but it bugs ME, and since I haven’t seen it covered much in the local media, I figured I should say something since I’m here and writing is what I do.
Until last Saturday, EPCOT, the Disney Park ostensibly intended to appeal to adults, had a band that performed at the Canada pavilion. (EPCOT’s World showcase has pavilions representing several countries so that you can walk around a Disney version of the world in about half an hour, if you’re quick and don’t stop to see anything much.) Off Kilter began performing there in 1997. They were an instant hit, and many people came to the park specifically to hear them play. Saturday night, 27 September 2014, the music died.
I have yet to see a good explanation for why Disney executives decided to ‘retire’ the band. That was their word…’Retire’. It’s much kinder than saying they fired them, but that’s what they did. The band didn’t want to leave. EPCOT visitors didn’t want them to go. Disney not only fired them, they fired them without cause. Part of the reason I’m peeved about this is because it seems so unjust. The band was good. They were popular. They drew visitors and undoubtedly made money for the Big Mouse, and they had done so for seventeen years.
Disney decided to replace them with a lumberjack act starting in October.
The band learned of this for the first time in August during a teleconference, a day before it was announced publicly. The news came as a shock to many EPCOT guests and cast members. To say that it came as a shock to the band is undoubtedly an understatement. Not many bands are as fortunate as Off Kilter. Seventeen years straight. What a run! But they earned it. They entertained. They had no reason to suspect that Disney would not allow their act to continue.
I assumed that Disney executives understood what a good thing they had going and would never be foolish enough to mess it up. I know I expected Off Kilter to be there indefinitely. Actually, I counted on it. The band was the main reason I bought a premium annual pass (not cheap), because although there is much to see at Disney World, Off Kilter was what drew me to visit EPCOT over and over again several times a year.
I am not unique, a fact I did not fully realize until the band’s ‘retirement’ was announced and the outrage began. One fan started a Facebook page called ‘Save Off Kilter’. It currently has 2,763 members. Someone else started petition to ‘Keep Off Kilter in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion’ on Change.org. It now has 1,318 signatures. I heard that #SaveOffKilter was even trending on Twitter for a while.
I wonder if it surprised Disney executives that the band had such a strong following. If so, they certainly saw proof of it at the final performance. I was there. I saw it. Hundreds (some say a thousand or more) people from all over the country came to see the final week of performances. I spoke with people from Alabama, Georgia, Maine, Wisconsin… These weren’t just local Florida folks. People made special plans and traveled considerable distances just to be there and show their support. Frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it. The crowd for the last show was enormous. It stretched from the Rose & Crown pub (in England) through Canada. The area was packed. After the first set at 2:30, Disney cast members taped off an area around the stage in an attempt to contain the crowd. It failed. The tape was trampled and torn by the overflow of people. The Disney guys replaced it after the 3:30 set. It got torn up again. They moved it back, but by then it was obvious it made no difference. The crowd was far too large. Many people stayed near the stage between sets to save their spot. When the band came on, people cheered. They clapped and sang along to the songs, as many had done during previous visits for over a decade. They smiled and took joy while they could. They all knew that this would be the last time. Several walked away from the second and final encore with tears in their eyes.
I’m going to miss Off Kilter. If any of the band members are reading this, thanks for the music. Thanks for the memories. I hope to see you back.
For those who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, and for previous EPCOT visitors who could not make it to the last show, this is what you missed.
And the set before that (including a rousing version of Whiskey in the Jar):
Other sets that day:
Sets on the last day included:
1. The Reels
2. Run Run Away
3. Daniel’s Jig
4. Follow Me Up To Carlow
5. Danny Boy
6. Takin’ Care Of Business
1. Miracle Fingers
2. The Irish Rover
3. The Mountains of Mourne
4. Fields Of Athenry
( Happy Birthday Patrick!)
5. Troy’s Wedding
1. Hey Ewe
2. Farewell To Nova Scotia/Scotland The Brave
3. The Wild Rover
4. Loch Lomond
5. Johnny B Good
1. Old Wolfstone
2. Whisky In The Jar
4. Dirty Old Town
5. America The Beautiful
6. Amazing Grace
1. Brenda Stubbert’s Reel / Metro
2. Leaving Of Liverpool
3. Queen Of Argyll
4. Alberta Bound / Tush
5. Life Is A Highway
6. Summer Of 69
7. Magic Carpet Ride / Born to be wild
Disney World: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
Save Off Kilter: https://www.facebook.com/groups/364817680340041/
Related Articles on the Web:
Our Florida Project Blog: http://www.ourfloridaproject.com/theme-park-rock-stars-off-kilter-leaving-epcot-final-performance/
Dad’s Guide to WDW: http://dads-blog.dadsguidetowdw.com/remembering-kilter-2/
Disney Kate: http://www.disneykate.com/weekly-wings/the-weekly-wings-issue-2-september-6th-2014/saveoffkilter-vs-a-whole-new-worldshowcase/