Neil Young Wayhome Festival – Picking Organic Cherries with Neil
Attendance: 4,000 (start) – 22,000 (end)
Set length: 3hrs
TOTAL SCORE 9
Visual/Sound Presentation: 8 (Great balanced sound from Solo Tech, but nothing spectacular visually)
Stage Presence: 10 (This old guy rocks harder now than he did at 24)
Musical Ability: 10 – (It’ raw, grainy, gritty Neil young, played by Neil Young)
Originality: 10 – (It’s Neil Fucking Young)
Crowd: Reception: 8 – (A few who were ignorant but otherwise – very cool)
Wow Factor: 10 (Highly recommended)
With his t-shirt that simply read “Earth” Neil Young and Promise Of the Real brought his message about Monsanto, GMO and globalization to the fields of Burls Creek for three solid hours last night.
I headed towards the main stage thirty minutes prior to Neil Young’s set fully expecting to encounter a thick crowd of diehards. What I encountered however, was a sparsely set audience which was easy to navigate through. With little effort my partner and I managed find a comfortable view close to the stage, while the millennials at Wayhome were fully enjoying themselves at Alt-J who was finishing up Waybright stage on the adjacent part of the field.
With a couple of people dressed as planters tossing seeds around the stage adorned with plants, Young entered humbled and solo. He then sat-down at a piano stage right and opened with After The Goldrush substituting the famous line “in the nineteen seventies” with “in the 21st century.”
Next up, Young played 1972’s Heart Of Gold, the legend’s only no.1 single to date, followed by Deja Vu’s Helpless.
With ‘all the hits’ being cranked out right at the start, one would assume that everyone in the crowd would have instantly recognized, who and what they were listening to and witnessing. This sadly was not the case, as some ignorant ducklings who were most likely jumping nut to nut when Ragged Glory came out, were yelling:
“That’s Neil Diamond right there! Wait until he plays sweet Caroline.”
It was hard to tell whether or not these halfwits were joking around or simply ill-informed, in either case, it was an insult to the man who played Woodstock and was an integral part of defining a generation, but hey, they seemed to be having a great time. This in general is a fine example of the generations that Wayhome Fest has fused together as twenty-somethings stood shoulder to shoulder with people three times their age in a night of bonding, for better or worse, under the unification of great music.
The legend then approached centre stage to set the tone for the evening. Sitting at a second piano/organ which looked like it came from a 100 year old antique road show, Neil played Mother Earth.
What followed was two hours of Neil Young and Promise Of The Real playing a mix of Young classics and selections off The Monsanto Years, Young’s latest and 36th studio album.
After Words (between the lines of age) off Harvest, Young stopped to hand some gifts to the band and some lucky audience members in the front row. What he tossed down to the crowd and around the stage, could have been mistaken for trail mix, or grapes, but it later turned out to be organic cherries.
“Here’s a song about the fruits in the Prairies” said Young as he continued with Winterlong.
As soon as Alt-J ended the crowd swelled to 20,000+. Stand out tracks of the evening included Cowgirl In The Sand and Down By The River. Both featured an extensive jam session with impressive guitar solos being traded off between Young and Lukas Nelson with Down By The River also featuring a short E-Bow solo from brother Micah Nelson.
Sons of the one and only Willie Nelson, the brothers have been touring with Young all over the midwest and Northeast this month after contributing to The Monsanto Years recording process last year.
Organic cherries were handed out three times throughout the set with Neil exclaiming at one point
“Organic cherries, absolutely perfect”.
The Scene predicts that sales of fair trade, hand picked, organic cherries will go up by 300% once the jury is out on last night’s performance.
Though the 69 year old humanitarian might be more straight edge in 2015 than the man we hear on classic hits radio, he did stop at one moment to point out some pleasant smells coming from the crowd. “That smells good!” said Young as he nodded his head in approval supporting a concert goer who was presumably enjoying something else organic.
He finished off with the iconic Rocking In The Free World followed by Monsanto.
There was an outro on final cut Love and Only Love which sounded like the intro to Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond which shocked me for a moment.
“Promise Of The Real. Thank You Ontario!”
As if 2hrs 45mins wasn’t enough Young and band returned to the stage to play Don’t Be Denied and the often mistaken as a Buffalo Springfield cover, Mr. Soul.
“It’s still too early. That last one didn’t ring a bell, it didn’t ring a bell for me. Maybe this next one will. I think it’s gonna ring a bell for some of you guys out there. I’m just saying, maybe some of the women out there as well.”
He proceeded to close the show with an energetic version of “Fuckin’ Up.
Neil Young’s journey from 1967 to 2015 displayed in moments over an intense 3hr set delivered in spades. This was more than enough to close main stage day one for first year Wayhome and place the festival on the Canadian circuit as a considerable force to be reckoned with.
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.
Who:Â Bryan Adams
What:Â TheÂ Canadian musical icon returns to Ottawa as part of his globe-trotting Reckless tour.Â
When:Â Friday, February 20, 2015 at 8:00Â pm
Where:Â Canadian Tire Centre, 1000 Palladium Drive
Price:Â $20 to $95 for standard seats, $275 to $350 for platinum seats. Tickets can be found atÂ CapitalTickets.ca.
Celebrating the release of the 1984 album that launched him into worldwide fame, Bryan Adams is rolling across Canada.Â On SaturdayÂ he’ll be returning to his birthplace in Kingston, but the night before, he’s bringing his signature gravelly voice and nostalgic guitar riffs to the home of the Ottawa Senators.
This show is celebrating theÂ RecklessÂ album, so classic hits like “Summer of ’69” and “Kids Wanna Rock” come with the price of admission, but you should be expecting hits from any of the past three decades. Â Â
Biblical is a four piece stoner rock band coming hot out of Toronto. Living up to their name, Nick Sewell growls and yells into the microphone while keeping the tunes steady and on point with his bass lines during their atmospheric rock anthems. Matt McLaren shreds guitar solos as though he is one with the instrument and Andrew Scott takes care of the rhythm guitar and organ sounds as Jay Anderson bangs out their definition on his drum kit.
They are signed to Toronto heavy rock label New Damage Records (The Flatliners, Architects) and will be releasing their debut full length worldwide on March 11. The album Monsoon Season is a follow up to their 2011 release Biblical 10”.
Biblical has seen much success, capturing the hearts and ears of anyone fortunate enough to see a show or hear their tunes. After prosperous runs with Monster Truck and Death From Above 1979, Biblical is gearing up to hit the road and start playing to rockers on different continents.
Returning to Ottawa for their third time at Zaphod Beeblebrox on January 29, Biblical will be playing alongside Vancouver rock band We Hunt Buffalo and Ottawa locals in HELLbros! Sewell had more than a few things to say about his band, music today and the sensual vinyl release.
What was the first song that really made you fall in love with music?
Probably the Star Wars soundtrack. I remember when I was really young my mother bought me a bunch of soundtracks, she got me like the Wizard of Oz soundtrack and Star Wars. I remember being really obsessed with those, and I’m talking like when I was three or four. As soon as I learned how to work the record player, I just went “wow that’s the coolest thing ever.”
What kind of music influences your band?
Well that’s a good question because obviously we play music that is very 70s era guitar rock. But I think what’s really cool, is that we don’t really bring any of those things to the band. We have our own sound. When we’re looking for stuff to bring to the band we look at totally different genres. I know Matt is super into Funkadelic, they’re like his favourite band, and we all love the 60’s Brazilian psych samba stuff like Marcos Valle and Os Mutantes. We like jazz, we like weird keyboard stuff like Bob James. We’re all music fans and I think one thing that not a lot of bands do is look to other genres and see what’s cool about music that has nothing to do with what you’re playing and how those ideas could have bearing on the music you’re trying to make. You know? So many bands would be like “I’m really into this band, so I’m going to start a band that sounds just like that!”
There’s so much music out there and the cross pollination of genres and ideas is where the cool stuff happens. You get something that references something totally unrelated.
With so much musical influence, what do you guys think about when you’re writing songs?
We’re really into vibe. We’re really into atmosphere, you know? We try to think about space and we really like working on dynamics so we put a lot of stock into trying to build tension, if we’re going to get loud just explode out of nowhere then rein it back in.
I love doing heavy riffs as much as the next guy but they’re that much bigger and heavier if they’re preceded by a simmering mellow part. It’s makes it much bigger rather than just being loud the whole time. We try to incorporate a lot of contrast in our songs.
What has been Biblical’s most proud accomplishment?
Well certainly finishing our new record. I mean we’ve done a lot of cool stuff with this band, we made a really cool record and surprise, surprise, somebody actually wanted to put it out. It’s one thing to finish a record but to have it be well received by a label who’s actually stoked on it and wants to work on your behalf, that was huge. We’ve played quite a few shows at this point, some bigger stages, like that Monster Truck tour. We found ourselves playing in front of a few thousand people a couple times, which was really awesome. We’ve also done a couple tours, a few little runs with Death From Above- same thing to be on a big stage and hold your own is a really awesome feeling.
What was it like recording the new album, Monsoon Season?
It was cool! We had this 10” EP that we did last time, a couple years back and we were super happy with it. There was one tune on there, the last song [Oubliette], which really captured those things I was just talking about, the dynamics, loud and mellow and all that stuff. That was the tune that everybody really seemed to gravitate towards, like “oh man that’s the jam, that’s the jam!” So we were like, well maybe we should think about writing a record that’s based around those ideas; contrast and dynamics and stuff like that. That was our main goal for this thing: how do we capture those things but then again not have a record that sounds all the same too? So each tune is its own thing but they can still touch on those ideas and concepts.
What’s interesting too about Monsoon Season as a record is we mostly recorded it ourselves. We did the drums with a friend of ours, Leon Taheny who’s done Final Fantasy, Owen Pallett records and stuff like that, but everything else we basically record at our home studios. Then a really good friend of ours, Matt Dimatteo who is a producer/engineer extraordinaire, he’s done the last couple Danko records and like Big Wreck in the 90s, he mixed it and man, he just next levelled the whole thing
Any other big plans for 2014?
We’ve got a video that we’re just finishing up right now for one of the tunes on the record. The record actually comes out via New Damage in Canada, US, UK, Australia and Europe, so we’re just trying to get our ducks in a row to visit all those awesome places.
How does playing a show in Ottawa compare to Toronto for your band?
We’ve played there twice, we played the Dominion a couple years back with Paul Grainger who runs House of Targ, his band at the time, we played with them and that was really awesome. This past time, the Monster Truck show was amazing but I feel like I would be naive to consider that indicative of the shows going forward, they’re not going to all be that insane. We had a really awesome time that night; it was the first show of the tour for us, as a way to start it off was really really cool. Were hoping that [Wednesday] is going to be a party as well.
As a rock ‘n’ roll band with the old school vibe, how do you feel about the resurgence of vinyl and the record becoming popular again?
I think its great actually. In my spare time I work in design and I love big artwork. When you’re holding something that’s big and colourful like a record, like a 12”, people associate value with that more so than a CD. Anybody- your cousin can make a CD but if someone takes the time to make an LP it really says something.
Also what I like about records is the natural break in the sides, it’s almost like a book chapter. How you sequence a record, when you’re prepping the songs you think “ok well what’s first song side one going to be, ok it’s this, what’s last song side one going to be.” On great records you think of all the last songs on side one, whether it’s “Thriller” (he laughed) or “Stairway to Heaven”. A lot of thought goes into what song takes that spot, and then how do you follow it up? First song side two. That’s what I love about vinyl; they call it “the corners” right, the secrets in the records.
Interview and words by Griffin Elliot
Pictures taken from the internet
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