Friday, July 16, 2015
“Rain falls in real time and rain fell through the night,” the words of Gord Downie have never rung truer as he preached to a crowd thoroughly soaked by the downpour this past Friday night.
While rain tends to pose as a major pitfall for most summer music festival, it failed to slow down the music fans at Bluesfest.
The Dropkick Murphys played right before The Hip on the other side of the main festival plateau, to a crowd not yet fully doused in precipitation but well on their way there. The epic Celtic punk anthems carried over the heads of giddy punks and into LeBreton Flats like a ship being tossed from the crest of a stormy wave. The band members were not overly lively but it wasn’t noticeable, their sound brings more than enough energy to the stage. After two decades of playing together, the band dropkicks ass (my apologies, I could not help myself) with dueling accordion and banjo solos, flutes, bagpipes and other instruments vital to the rock arsenal combined to build a sea of sounds. Fans left satisfied as the band closed off their set with their infamous track “Shipping Up to Boston” and a cover of the classic Canadian hit “Takin’ Care of Business.”
As the crowd started migrating towards the Bell Stage the rain intensified. Scheduled to play simultaneously with The Hip was Bahamas on the Monster Stage and Purity Ring at the Canadian Stage. This is not the first time Afie Jurvanen has played to a rambunctious Ottawa crowd under the moniker Bahamas. A contingent of dedicated fans, easy listening enthusiasts and people who hate big crowds were all there in support of the musician and his band. “I didn’t realize there are so many Canadians that aren’t Tragically Hip fans, that’s good news for us,” Jurvanen said. The show had a very intimate vibe despite the hundreds of people parked in view of the stage. The band laid down some excellent grooves and helped fans mentally escape the crowded, muddy festival atmosphere, transporting them to a Bohemian jam.
While The Hip played to a crowd composed of mainly older fans and people with more conventional music interests. That was certainly not the case at the Purity Ring performance. Both Bahamas and Purity Ring were pulling much of the youth audience in, while Purity Ring put on an elaborate, dreamy performance. The electronic duo is fronted by Megan James who danced and connected with the audience while Corin Roddick controlled the music from his centre-stage hub, playing what looked like an xylophone made from giant wooden Q-tips.
All the while at the main stage, The Tragically Hip was putting on a spiritual performance. The Bluesfest vets used the rain to their advantage, elevating their live show. Downie was just as crazy as ever, with his dad-inspired dance moves and eccentric personality. Contrasting the more solemn, Jesus-like Rob Baker, who held down his side of the stage with some of his legendary riffs. Every few songs curtains would fall and the band would leave the stage as crewmembers mopped the wet floors and retuned the guitars. At one point Downie dropped the microphone on stage but he turned the mishap into a weird dance act, making onlookers wonder if it was actually part of his shtick. As the show went on the rain gave us a brief reprieve then came back harder than ever. The band appeared to be humbled by the dedication of their fans in even the most inclement weather.
“Thank you music lovers! Thank you music lovers!” Downie cried, “And thank you rain! Thank you fucking rain!”
Photos provided by Bluesfest
Big Music Fest Brings Party to Kitchener for Second Year
Big Music Fest brought the party to Kitchener for a second year in a row last night. Saturday’s event attracted over 10,000 people making the festival a success despite a Sunday cancellation featuring Rod Stewart due to low ticket sales.
While production was down scaled for the two day event, the quality of performances and overall delivery from organizers, crew, volunteers and security more than made up for it.
“This is really beautiful, this is amazing, thank you for being here.” stated frontman Chris Cornell as the band hammered through an 18 song set that covered fan favorites spanning mostly from Badmotorfinger to King Animal.
A few rarities reared up including the bands first single, 1987’s Hunted Down, Kyle Petty (Son Of Richard) from 1994’s B-Sides and Birth Ritual which prior to (2015) hadn’t been played in 23 years.
Earlier this year both songs were played on the band’s Australian tour http://www.stereogum.com/1783861/watch-soundgarden-play-kyle-petty-son-of-richard-in-concert-for-the-first-time/video/
It started out as a muggy bright and sunny 25C afternoon with The Mohrs, The Glorious Sons, and 80s legends Extreme. The Modern Hearts opened the show, which is an opportunity afforded to the winner of Breaking Bands a competition created by festival organizer Mark Higgins and sponsored by The Scene. The band beat out 19 bands on the main stage last year for the chance to open the show yesterday. Next year the torch will be passed on to Toronto’s The Rathburns, who beat out over 50 bands in Breaking Bands Toronto (just to get there) and had been crowned victorious the night before.
As the late afternoon heat became an early evening haze, Monster Truck took to the stage around 6:30.
“I’ve been waiting to do that all fucking day. Let’s go!” stated Jeremy Widerman guitarist for Monster Truck after opening with “The Lion” from the bands 2013 double LP Furiosty.
Jane’s Addiction went from sexy to strange and pushed the boundaries of the crowd. Perry Farrell addressed the fact that he was traveling with his kids, which didn’t seem to make sense or resonate with the crowd. Guitarist Dave Navarro was in top form playing very tasty chops which turned heads more than once on hits Mountain and Stop. At the age of 48 he’s still got his looks with mother daughter combinations rushing the stage after their performance to snap a picture. Two hot girls came on to dance midway through the set and soon waived goodbye and walked off stage. They were replaced by two fly girls. The girls came on and were ascended to the air suspended only from hooks on their backs and swayed back and forth while the band performed. When they descended back down someone yelled “Yeah, put them down, that’s gross!” “Are you sick of snow? yeah? Well I didn’t say rain I said snow. I’m sick of rain too. Although you know when it rains it is a blessing. You gotta look at it like that, sometimes you know. When you think things are really fucked up it’s really a weird lesson somehow. It’s like when your dad’s kicking your ass. You say this is good for me. Ahhh no… getting your ass kicked sucks too. This sucks everywhere from Los Angeles California…bunas acacia” Said Farrell in a random rant (SEE VIDEO) before ending off their set with ‘Jane Says’. When Soundgarden hit the stage shortly at 9:30pm it was clear that this was the band that Kitchener wanted to see. There was no shortage of band tee shirts with sightings of everything from “The Days We tried To Live” tour Tees from 1994 to King Animals tour Tees from last summer. Cornell joked with the crowd at one point stating: “I didn’t think that the wind was blowing this way, it’s blowing the other way. But there’s smog of it and it’s so dense that we’re just kindda stuck in it. It’s so dense that it’s made it kind of made its way up here and we’re just kindda stuck in it, it’s our fog machine. The dope smoke fog machine. Which I think I’ve just invented tonight and I’m gonna manufacture it now that they are decriminalizing it in most places. And from now on that’s what we’ll have. So we’ll forget every song, but who fucking cares. This is called my Wave.” Soundgarden ended with “Slaves And Bulldozers” around 11pm, which included a verse from ‘In My Time Of Dying’, an old Blind Willie Johnson blues standard made famous by Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin. See set list here In typical Soundgarden fashion there would be no encore. The Seattle band came and conquered, quenching the thirst of hard core fans from the tri-city area for the first time.
Backstage With Bands:
How Rockfest has managed to stay successful in the changing festival scene
As the pontoon boat I was on turned the river bend my eyes were granted the sight of what my ears had been wondering about since I entered Montebello. One of the aging death metal roadies onboard said, “Great idea Marv, my back was killing me.” He turned to the driver of the vessel and began to make a crack about getting old before remembering the Quebecois man could hardly string together a sentence in English.
We came up to Rockfest from the Ottawa River and were greeted by hundreds of thousands of people who had shaken the sleepy French Canadien village to its core with a weekend full of international fans of all walks of life, crowded campgrounds, globetrotting artists, porta-potties, ear plugs, mud, sex, hot dogs, extensive drug and alcohol usage, and rock ’n’ roll. To the untrained eye this festival of misfits in such a setting may look like anarchists’ celebrating a revolution, but for those of us on the boat and in the masses, this is the shit we live for.
2015 marks the tenth year that Alex Martel has been putting on Rockfest. (Check out my interview with him last year, here.) Martel has had a few logistical set backs, but for a kid from the outskirts of a Quebec he has done a pretty impressive job at continuing to grow the festival. But could Rockfest have peaked? We will not know until we see next year’s lineup.
In the increasingly competitive music festival business, we have seen many events fail to adapt and get lost in the wake of the bigger festivals, or attempt to change and lose their soul. Canada has seen the music festival scene diluted in recent years, just between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, some of the biggest names in the global music industry will be visiting this summer. 2015 sees the death of the Muskoka Sound festival, which could not keep up with the multi-million dollar Bonnaroo team producing the WayHome mega-fest nearby. As well as, St. Catherine’s S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival, which boldly attempted a change of face in 2014, shifting the intimate, heartfelt, city-street style, into a more cookie-cutter, mainstream format. The change was not received well.
For the meantime, however, Rockfest has managed to stay on top of the dog pile and continue to grow. One thing the festival has going for it is a very strong support system. The whole town embraces the annual Bohemian takeover; many businesses even in the towns near by will make their full year’s profits in one weekend. The mayor has even come out publically supporting Martel and his festival. Some of the biggest acts in the world and Martel’s grandmother put my media bracelet on for me. This year they spread the festival out from Thursday to Sunday, with the concentration of bands playing Friday and Saturday. For a full review of the Friday performances, read here. Most people agreed Saturday was better, weather-wise and tune-wise.
Thrice rocked the Jagermiester stage, with a tight stage presence and just wicked sounding guitars. They were praised by a sea of orange foam heavy metal Rockfest horns. Snoop Dogg was definitely one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. Before he played there was a huge Prevost tour bus idling backstage that smelt like it was just exhaling bong tokes. Apparently Snoop, and the other four headliners following him on the main stage, all asked for the backstage area to be blocked off during their performances. Understandable, but it did make navigating from stage to stage very difficult for some of us media folk who are granted the same access as people willing to spend the extra money on a VIP wrist band. But Snoop absolutely lit up the festival. Dressed clad in a black and white patterned suit, the pioneer of rap got the predominantly white crowd grooving and left them hanging on every one of his words. He smoke a couple blunts on stage and encouraged the crowd to do the same so they abided willingly. Along with his classics, Snoop did a tribute to Biggie and one to Tupac, playing their songs back to back. Crowd favourites were also “California Girls” and a cover of “I love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Snoop ended his set perfectly. Announcing to the crowd, “I want my last words to be…. Smoke Weed Every Day!” cue Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” and the musical mastermind slowly grooved off stage.
Next, I headed back to the Jager Stage to check out Refused. What can I say about Refused that hasn’t already been said before? Their crazy punk rock performance in suits is a perfect fit for their sound. The sound was a bit muddled but no one seemed to care. They seemed to really connect with their fans. As I moved from stage to stage I was bombarded with people I recognized, both from the media and in the crowd. Rockfest has become a tradition for many people; they plan on going every year and are almost guaranteed to come back no matter who is playing. Those kinds of fans are great for festivals and especially for the remote Rockfest where people have to commit to going and usually staying the weekend.
Rob Zombie put on a great show. Not many bands can pull off dramatic stage effects but Zombie does it beautifully. He has a natural charisma that gets amplified by zombie makeup. The set was really a spectacle and I would recommend checking the band out if they are ever playing near you and the tickets are affordable. I cannot help but compare them to last year’s closing act Motley Crue, who shat all over the main stage. At 50-years-old, Zombie impressively jumped across the stage and danced for most of the set. Looking like an undead Jack Sparrow, Zombie said he talked to Snoop before their set and everyone cheered.
One of the things about Rockfest that I have come to love and hate is the mad dash and crowding in the backstage areas as the often world-renown artists make their way around. People adorned with green “All Access” wristbands clamor for autographs and pictures on their phones. One such moment happened this year as I was standing around minding my own business when Kyle Gas of the D strode by on his cellphone, as I was trying to catch his eye, his partner in crime, Jack Black followed.
The two waded through the small gaggle of fans to their tent behind the Jager Stage. After a quick photo-op with Martel I noticed Gas slip out for a smoke. I always hate being “that guy” but I just had to. I walked right up to him, apologized for interrupting his smoke and shook his hand. He was reserved but seemed delighted to be there.
Tenacious D left the crowd moist, and wanting. I had been looking to catch them play a live show for quite a while and I was not disappointed. They came out to epic music being played and an anxious crowd. The set started out with “Tribute” and toured through some of their other fan favourites like “Pick of Destiny,” “The Metal,” “Kickapoo.” The whole band, the duo plus a guitar player, bassist and drummer, appeared to be enjoying themselves thoroughly on stage. They did a musical introduction where after naming a person, they would riff and solo a bit. KG opened it up and after playing through the band, JB introduced himself everyone quieted down and Black did a bluesy “Sound of Silence” vocal solo, then they crashed back into a great jam, it was awesome. At one point they broke off into a “Simply Jazz” tangent and what they called the “new sound” of the D. KG picked up a recorder and JB scatted. All the while, the drummer from Rob Zombie stood in front of the stage, between the barriers, in an area where no one else but security was allowed. The melodramatic duo was hilarious to watch. Playing out one of their most infamous scenes, they pointed at their guitarist wearing a “Hail Sagan” t-shirt and said he had been possessed by the devil, seguing into “Beelzeboss.” Tenacious D finished their set with “Fuck Her Gently” but as they were playing Slayer started up on the main stage and the metal prevailed. JB then started replacing song lyrics with “Slayer!” to the overall amusement of everyone paying attention.
Slayer was loud, fast and heavy. The old school thrash metal band sounded as badass as they looked. If their stature was not commanding the attention of everyone in the town of Montebello than their beards were. Guitarist Gary Holt was wearing his notorious “Kill The Kardashians” shirt. Tom Arya set the mood between songs with his dark poetry. The men in Slayer do a great job of looking their parts as rock gods.
In a change of pace, next I hit up the Pixies. They started out with a really good groove and the whole band really has a great sense of how their instruments work together. The songs they played were very dynamic and kept the pace of the set going. As they played fireworks sporadically erupted from somewhere North of the festival grounds.
After the photographers got kicked out of the photo pit I followed my partner Andrej out to go have a seat before System of a Down went on. I sat as he (a Montreal native) and two other French Canadian reporters talked about the festival, quickly switching back and forth between French and English. There was a controversy; as usual with festivals some acts only allow mainstream media photographers into the pit. It seemed as though one of the PR people had suddenly acquired the ability to grant access and was handing passes out willy-nilly. Rockfest proved to be a fan’s paradise once again. They do a great job of catering to the needs of the ticketholders but some logistical areas are rough and disorganized. The feel I got from the day (similar to last year) was that the fans were much more impressed than the artists and media.
Finally the act so many people had been waiting months to see, System of a Down. Overall their set was powerful, instrumentally and nostalgically. However it was a bit lackluster and at times and they had a very slow start. The band looked right at home on the main stage of a major festival, but it was easy to imagine them playing to a smaller dingy metal bar of a hundred or less, pouring their hearts out on stage. Vocalist Serj Tankian sounds like an opera trained singer and he would wave his hand in the air like he was conducting the crowd. The backup vox added another great dimension to the live performance.
Rockfest has banked its success on the parameters with which Martel defines “rock.” The festival is guaranteed to have more than one act your familiar with as a fan of “rock” music. Whether in 2014 it was Joan Jett, Motley Crue, Blink 182, Taking Back Sunday or Brand New. Or this year where they had Deftones, Thrice, Snoop, Tenacious D and System of a Down, there is something for the whole, head banging family. That, along with the reasons I have outlined throughout the article, is why Rockfest 2016 can be bigger than the 10-year anniversary this year, or it could prove to be the deathblow for Montebello music lovers, it all depends on whom he can book.
Most of the way through System of a Down’s set my buddy Andrej and I decided it was best to attempt to beat the mad dash out of town. We navigated behind the main stage to a small lapse in the fencing where a security guard let us through to the dock area. We boarded the water taxi in the dark with a few other journalists and the beautifully dissonant sound of drunken shouts mingling with metal riffs grew quieter.
When: Friday, June 12th @8pm
Where: Menz & Mollyz Bar, 2182 Gottingen Street
Fredericton rock band Motherhood bring their garage rock sound to Halifax. Motherhood are kind of an odd duck. They have a live sound to their recordings which they release on cassette. Yeah, cassette. Still got one of those gadgets from your time in the 90s? Hell, I saw a kid with a disc man yesterday, so I guess it ain’t that foreign anymore. This 3-piece is just bringing back the cool. Check em out this week for a taste of the old school.
I Mother Earth @ The Phoenix – CMW 2015 Live Review
When: May 2nd, 2015
Where: The Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto
TOTAL SCORE: 9.8
Visual/Sound Presentation: 10/10
Stage Presence: 9/10
Musical Ability: 10/10
Crowd Reception: 10/10
Wow Factor: 10/10
I Mother Earth is one of those bands that Canadians love and love to hate (seriously, why do people still care about Edwin???). So, every time IME decide to play a show, it generates a lot of buzz from both sides of the spectrum. This appearance was truly special, in part because it consisted of an acoustic and electric sets with a Q&A hosted by Alan Cross.
The crowd was plenty at the show, but this time we didn’t rely on media passes from CMW to get in. Going about attaining media passes in the usual manner turned out to be a good idea after passing two check points just to get in. There was a little more breathing space in the audience this time (just a day after The Jesus and Mary Chain sold out show). People were constantly coming to and from the bar area. It was easy to get close enough to see the stage comfortably. The audience was vastly diverse, including 20-somethings, couples, metalheads, bros, young adults with parents, skaters and more. And only after seeing the whole show I could understand what brought them all together.
– Raya P. Morrison (@raimorrison) May 3, 2015
After a brief introduction by Alan Cross, I Mother Earth when into their acoustic set. They played five songs in total, taking breaks to speak about the band’s present and future. Yes, they are sorta writing new material. No, you won’t hear it any time soon. A great emphasis was put on being self-sustainable and working with people in the industry who have been close to the throughout the years.
The set itself left me breathless. Right as Jag (guitar) played the first chords of “Summertime in the Void” the crowd went wild and Brian Byrne (vocals) gave the fans plenty of opportunities to sing along. The fans seemed to have carried the songs inside their bodies until the moment of release. The talent of the band is something to be truly in awe of – from Jag’s elaborate guitar playing, to Byrne’s range of vocal techniques, to Daniel Mansilla’s percussion. It was one of those moments in time that stay with you forever and give you goosebumps every time you recall it.
James Black (Finger Eleven) and his solo act were opening for the main event. While it might have been a decent set on its own, after such an intense acoustic performance by IME it fell flat. A lot of people took this time to grab more drinks or go for a cigarette. It felt more like a grand rehearsal than a live set, band members merely doing their parts instead of making magic happen. The time was made even more awkward by a man fainting in the audience, presumably from heat/dehydration (the security were prompt to assist him outside).
The fans were ready for the main event. The set started with a “world”/Indian intro, and these undertones would thread through the songs for the rest of the show. Not being too familiar with I Mother Earth’s catalogue, it would lead me to pen them for a “slightly heavier Kula Shaker” at first, which I soon realised was a mistake – they are their own sound. While I Mother Earth spread the loving positive hippie vibes, they also don’t forget their grunge roots and rock n roll stage antics. Byrne and bassist Chuck Dailey were rocking out so hard it left Brian seemingly breathless twice, as he ran offstage for breaks. Brian Byrne was a pleasure to watch – a passionate tornado of rhyme. He even jumped on the barricade at one point as the fans tried to reach him. Christian Tanna (drums) and Mansilla got their own solos, powering through elaborate drum patterns, keeping the audience on their toes. Jag’s main solo was blues perfection, leaving a tear in the corner of my eye.
The set was packed with hits and fan favourites as well as hidden jams, rarely played live anymore. The crowd was pumped from the very beginning and it was just a matter of time before a moshpit was created. The fans had infinite amount of energy feeding off the magic that was happening on stage. They were demanding more and more, leading IME to play 18 songs before encore and two more to close off the night.
Overall, I Mother Earth should be on everyone’s “must-see” list; the only thing I regretted was not seeing them sooner.
Raya P Morrison