Concerts Concerts Seriously Good Canadian Music at Edgefest 2011

Seriously Good Canadian Music at Edgefest 2011

Hollerado at Edgefest
Sandman Viper Command, The Reason, Arkells, Tokyo Police Club, The Sheepdogs, The Weakerthans, Hollerado
Edgefest, Toronto, ON
July 9, 2011

Review by: Lee Fraser
Photos by: Courtney Lee Yip

 

After a wet and chilly June, all of Toronto was ready for some serious summer weather and, lucky for us, it happened to coincide with Edgefest 2011. The anticipation could be felt on subway cars and the 84 bus as early as noon. After skipping last year, it seemed that Canadian music fans were ready for a good and solid day-long outdoor music festival in Toronto.

Sandman Viper Command

Thanks in part to brilliant on-site guerilla marketing, Sandman Viper Command had the attention of almost every person on site early in the day. Their posters and t-shirts were everywhere: on port-o-pottie doors, along the VIP area fence, and even along the barrier in front of the main stage. Taking the side stage at 1:40pm, SVC were no doubt bolstered by the army of SVC fans making themselves seen and heard. Even though band buddies Dinosaur Bones were rocking it out on the main stage, SVC easily drowned out the background noise for the majority of their set. Thanking the Edge for having them take part, and showing gratitude for the beautiful day, Aaron Harvey (vocals, bass) was sure to point out that "Rough Love", off their 7" EP, was available for free by visiting the merch tent. Judging by the sweet softness of the song and the competing sound from the Main Stage, I'd be willing to bet that many folks took them up on that offer to get a better listen. As their last song coincided with the last song played from the main stage, the guys in SVC exchanged a few quick raised eyebrows and nods and launched into one final tune, free of Main Stage competition and grabbing the attention of the main stage crowd. SVC made the most of their appearance at Edgefest, showing great skill at self-promotion.

Sandman Viper Command at Edgefest   Sandman Viper Command at Edgefest   Sandman Viper Command at Edgefest   Sandman Viper Command at Edgefest   Sandman Viper Command at Edgefest   Sandman Viper Command at Edgefest   Sandman Viper Command at Edgefest  

The Reason

By this time of the day, everyone in the crowd was carrying free hand-outs of head scarves and ear plugs, pocketing trial offers from XM and Sargent Splatter. Mouth-watering smells were wafting through the air from the grill at Lou Dawgs and other food vendors. The Jagermeister posters were turned into adverts for "free breast exams" and pleas to "show me your boobs". There were no lines at the beer tents and the Main Stage was about to get rocking.

Just vocals and a strum of the bass guitar during set-up got everyone to their feet in front of the Main Stage. In sharp contrast to the side stage, the main stage is all gussied up with lights and equipment. The boys from Hamilton, a band for eight years now, took the stage with familiarity and confidence. The Reason, self described as "bearded rock and roll" play the kind of music that you could listen to all day long. Every song is intriguing and fun, such as the latest song to get plenty of air play "Where Do We Go From Here". Adam White (vocals, guitar) and James Nelan (keys, guitar, vocals) have so much energy that you can't help but have a good time, even if you know nothing about the band. Adam showed much professionalism in giving a shout out to every Canadian band on the bill for Edgefest (even though he initially excluded Hollerado, perhaps on purpose to draw more attention to their support for them). With so many bands on the bill from Hamilton, this set was just the beginning of the band love-in that would be one of the main characteristics of Edgefest 2011.

With the precursor of Ronson Armstrong (bass) stating that they hoped the next song would be a big treat, Adam gave a big thanks to The Edge for giving them a leg up. They launched into a great cover of "Underwhelmed" by Sloan. Ending their set with "The Longest Highway Home", band members launching themselves from every surface on the stage and Adam leading the crowd in a chant of "Edge Fest!", The Reason left the stage on a high note.

The Reason at Edgefest   The Reason at Edgefest   The Reason at Edgefest   The Reason at Edgefest   The Reason at Edgefest   The Reason at Edgefest   The Reason at Edgefest   The Reason at Edgefest  

Arkells

It's been quite a while since Toronto fans have had the opportunity to see a performance by another Hamilton band, Arkells. They've been holed up in a studio, rehearsing both old and new material and busying themselves with the preparations to launch a new album in the fall. It's no wonder, then, that the eager crowd amused themselves with an impromptu game of monkey in the middle, volleying inflatable beach balls over the cable chute that separated the crowd down the middle. Fans were eager to see Arkells again after such a long absence.

Opening with the first single ("Whistleblower") that will be on the album released in the fall, there was a confidence and an eagerness to please the crowd. With moody intros that have become the signature of late for Arkells, each of the "old" songs was welcomed wildly. "Ballad of Hugo Chavez" was followed up with a summer song, in Max's words: "Pulling Punches". Getting everyone to clap along and encouraging us all to dance despite the heat and humidity, Max was his usual charming self. In a surprise twist, the band then proceeded to play the rarely played "Abigail". Noting how nice it is to play Edgefest with so many bands that they've toured with, Max introduced "Kiss Cam", increasing our anticipation for the new album. With a chorus of "we're stuck in the nose bleeds baby" and plenty of "oh-oh-oh-oh", it's easy to see this as a crowd favourite down the road.

With only a few notes, the entire audience broke into "Oh the Boss is Coming". Such is the glory of having a huge hit — gigantic group sing-along. Max managed to work in some Motown chatter, saying things like "Let's hear all the children sing". Taunting the audience with a comparison to a 300-strong audience, Max managed to super-size the sing-along.

After playing "Deadlines", dedicated to the band's birth place of Hamilton, Dinosaur Bones and The Reason joined Arkells onstage for a high energy (picture everyone running in place) rendition of Bryan Adams' "I'm Going To Run To You". Seemingly impossible to top, Arkells closed out the set with "John Lennon". With help from Dinosaur Bones, Max was able to roam the stage and sing to the crowd, letting out his inner James Brown.

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The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest   The Arkells at Edgefest  

Tokyo Police Club

Post-Arkells, sunscreen was being re-applied and the port-o-potties were just starting to cross the border of tolerable. Edgefest has proven to be extremely well organized. Even at this point, with hardly a square foot of grass to be seen, the lines at the beer tents were tolerable and the orange Jager-cum-boobies signs are everywhere. Introduced by Josie Dye as a band that has basically been there and done that for every major coup in the business, Tokyo Police Club took the stage. Before the lyric of the song even starts, fans were singing along to "Favourite Colour". Deftly working a bit of a restart into the song, David Monks (vocals, bass) led the crowd through the remainder of the much loved song.

Showing concern for the folks in the sun (as opposed to the lucky few close to the stage that were in the shade), David introduced a new song about his motorcycles, all named after women. Even later in the set, there was a plea to the crowd to watch out for each other, an apt request considering the crowd surfing and moshing that started to make an appearance. Tokyo Police Club broke into the immediately recognizable and highly popular "Wait Up". This was the point at which this contributor decided to stake out some territory at the Side Stage for the next act over there.

Tokyo Police Club at Edgefest   Tokyo Police Club at Edgefest   Tokyo Police Club at Edgefest   Tokyo Police Club at Edgefest   Tokyo Police Club at Edgefest   Tokyo Police Club at Edgefest   Tokyo Police Club at Edgefest   Tokyo Police Club at Edgefest  

The Sheepdogs

Ewan, Leot, Ryan and Sam simply emerged from back stage and the cheers were deafening. As Tokyo Police Club played their last song over at the Main Stage, the crowd at the Side Stage started chanting "Sheep! Dogs!" and Ewan, focusing on his pedals and strings, looked up and saluted with a raised fist. Sound-checking the monitors, Ewan's "check, check, 1, 2" turned into another chant from the audience, which was in turn responded to with a big, hearty "HEY!" from Ewan. As if the audience needed any more encouragement...

Finally the set up and checking were complete, and Jeff Leake emerged to formally (and, perhaps, drunkenly) introduce the band that he so obviously has come to love. Introduced as mid-70's Southern Saskatchewan sound mixed with Mississippi mud and Texas BBQ, The Sheepdogs just naturally started doing what they do so well. The music of The Sheepdogs perfectly suits the summer. Listening to The Sheepdogs up at the cottage is great, but seeing them play live at an outdoor festival is one of the greatest things in life. Definitely an asset to the whole summer festival scene, the Rolling Stone cover competition is certainly paying dividends. Who knew that "Who", "I Don't Know" and "How Late, How Long" would garner song-long sing-alongs? The Sheepdogs made the Side Stage the Main Stage for their set.

The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest   The Sheepdogs at Edgefest  

The Weakerthans

Back at the Main Stage, The Weakerthans were soothing the sun burnt crowd with their rootsy, familiar music. Following up Arkells and Tokyo Police Club, this was a bit of a shift for the crowd to adjust to. More apropos to Mariposa than Edgefest, The Weakerthans played to the dedicated fans at the front of the stage. Most of their set was instantly recognizable and well-performed, yet it was difficult to appreciate their set given the growing masses of people who had come for other acts. For instance, John K Samson (vocals, guitar) performed a very touching version of "One Great City" which would have been completely lost on anyone not standing within 20 rows of the stage. It was a great set; it was just questionable how many people came to Edgefest specifically to see them.

The Weakerthans at Edgefest   The Weakerthans at Edgefest  

Hollerado

As soon as Hollerado started playing their opening song, "What's Everybody Running For", you couldn't help but wonder why the line-up of bands at the Side Stage was not at the Main Stage. Before they launched into "Juliette", every inch of landscape before the Side Stage was filled to capacity. With a shout out to former tour-mates, Arkells, the band played "Way Down Here" from the 10-inch record Margaritaville 2: The Reckoning. After playing the immensely popular "Americanarama", featuring brief free styling by Branko Scekic of Dinosaur Bones, Menno Versteeg (lead, guitar) once again tried to entertain us with some life experience banter. All was forgiven when the band moved into "You Got To Lose". When Jake Boyd (drums) stood on his stool for dramatic drumming, cheers and clapping erupted. Before playing their final song, Menno commented on one of the two (American) head-lining bands, vocalizing the thoughts of the Edgefest attendees who were there to see and hear great Canadian talent. The last song was another band love-fest, with members of The Reason, Arkells, Dinosaur Bones and Tokyo Police Club all on stage in one capacity or another. Menno led the group in an ecstatic version of the Neil Young classic "Rockin' In The Free World". The smiles were spread across the faces of everyone on stage and everyone in the hot, sweaty audience.

Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest   Hollerado at Edgefest  

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