WAKESTOCK Day One!
The dreary overcast day dulled spirits as the clouds spit out precarious raindrops. Yet by the end of the day, rain was pushed to the back of everyone's minds as they screamed lyrics with Dead Kennedys and indulged in the inspirational sounds of Rise Against.
Torontonians generally are a difficult breed to impress so the bands definitely had their work cut out for them, especially our forsaken hometown boys who played to a relatively listless crowd. There were several groups of moshpit dancers who weren't afraid to send arms swinging and others flying as they erupted into a violent kerfuffle. It was a great spectacle to see - twenty kids, arms windmilling, swirling around the pit, singing along and really feeling it. What a rare sight in Toronto these days! Usually this kind of activity is reserved for the suburbs but Wakestock brought a plethora of people and an army of talent.
12:30pm TRANSIENT NOISE
With a black leather jacket and an untamed voice that almost resembled Billy Idol at times, the frontman for Transient Noise abandoned his keyboard and acoustic guitar for a louder Wakestock set. Since I last saw them, their sound has become less pretty, less refined. Instead, the vocals were more growling and the guitars sharper in sound. They had a few really solid songs and a few really enthusiastic fans. It's never easy for a band to go first at a big festival when the crowd is still half-asleep and still on the ferry coming over. Transient Noise put forth an honest effort though.
1:15pm ILL SCARLETT
Cheers erupted as the announcer introduced "the pride of Mississauga" Ill Scarlett. Frontman Alex quickly got the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, inspiring a circle pit. He was very personable up there, yelling out "How are you guys doing out there? It's alright, at least the sun's not out killing anyone!" He also said hi to the beer girls, complimented a guy on his neon green sunglasses and added "I'm having a blast!" Consequently, we were too. An attitude like that sure is infectious! Dred-headed Billy, bassist Dan and Alex provided all the dance-along guitars you could ever hope for as Swav kept the head-bopping drums coming. Turntablist Pat played an important role, filling out the group's sound and throwing down reggae fill-ins in tunes like "Babylon Song", which was amazing live! Sublime influences were heard but with a Toronto twist. The crowd screamed to hear "Maryjane", which ultimately proves one unalienable truth: People love songs about drugs! Ill Scarlett brought a main serving of pandemic punk rock with an enormous side plate of reggae, which proved to be very satisfying. (As a sidenote, they're also a very personable, down-to-earth bunch of guys!)
2pm MAGNETA LANE
The announcer informed us that this was one of the "best all-girl rock bands" around. Magneta Lane also receives a lot of props on 102.1 The Edge. Aside from a couple enthusiastic guys who were gaping at the girls in skirts, it seemed most people had slipped back into their somnambulist comfort zone again. The singer issued out a disclaimer right off the bat. "We haven't slept in a really long time," she explained, but also added that they'd try their best to put on a good show. For me, their best simply wasn't good enough. She had a nice voice that resembled The Pretenders but their overall demeanor was very serious and standstill, dare I say dull. Between songs there were awkward pauses as they mumbled into the microphone for the drummer to give us a solo, which she declined to our disappointment. It was her moment to shine and she remained modest and aloof. There was some clapping and toe-tapping but for the most part, they failed to impress today.
What a sharp juxtaposition! Cursed ripped our minds apart with their bedlam-provoking screams, cymbal-infused thrash drumming and thunderous, muddy-sounding guitars crunched through a Mesa Boogie stack. "Did someone turn on the f'ing lights?" singer Chris Colohan
asked as the sun pretended to peek out for a split second. There were a lot of angry little children who trive on raw emotion and ferociousness. Chris came out into the crowd and decided to remain there, screaming with his fans, rolling in the wet grass and mud, centering all entranced eyes on him as he writhed on the ground, lost in the moment. In the end, everyone respected the type of release that only Cursed from Montreal can deliver.
3:15pm THE FULL BLAST
The Full Blast from Oakville found themselves situated comfortably on the main stage. With anthemic Face 2 Face style vocals and very pumped, scissor-kicking guitarists, it was obvious how they got here. Lyrically they had a lot of heart and sang positive messages. "I know I can count on you," singer Ian St. Anger belted out, leaning back to hit the highs. The guitarist took a moment to flatter the audience, claiming they "looked much hotter wet than dry". Though there wasn't much variety in song structure, the sound was very full and these festival-virgins still rocked.
3:30pm MISERY SIGNALS
Again people broke out into hysteria as a catharsis for life' challenges, while Misery Signals from Wisconsin took the stage. Windmill fists whipped around the pit and heavy headbanging action prevailed, even with their own guitarists. The barking screams, interspliced with random moments of calm speaking generated an attractive mood swing. Just when you thought you had this super metal band figured out, they slowed down into a powerful, melodic instrumental piece. Kids who somehow knew all the words clamored to the stage to sing along and the frontman thrived on that interaction.
4pm THE LOVED ONES
The Loved Ones from Virginia had a modest, three-piece band that could probably benefit from acquiring another guitarist to strengthen their sound. With songs inspired by their touring buddies Rise Against and the classic sounds of Social Distortion, Minor Threat and 7 Seconds, The Loved Ones have a solid formula. The singer's voice was harsher than I expected, perhaps from a grueling tour schedule, and the crowd appeared sluggish, with dampened spirits. You know how it is... that whole midday slump thing? Well it was in full effect, which was unfortunate because the band put on a decent show.
4:30pm THE BLACK MARIA
Even though they were crammed on the small and technically-challenged Solo Mobile Stage, The Black Maria radiated with tremendous talent and engaging songs that truly followed my thoughts throughout the entire day. Every musician in the band has the ability to craft creative riffs, sounds and textures with widespread appeal, which is probably why they've been on tour constantly for the last year, touring the UK with Silverstein and playing alongside Eighteen Visions in Canada and the US. After Wakestock they'll be gearing up to tour with Chevelle for the next few months. Today was a special gig for The Black Maria as they officially welcomed Theo, the new drummer, to his first show with the band. Theo showed no stage anxiety and felt free to rip his shirt off and pound out a perfect beat. Guitarist Kyle strutted the stage in an almost Patrick Swayze manner, jamming out the strongest riffs ever. Mike and Alan were a little more reserved but their added textures and melodies rocked hard. Chris Gray had a rockstar-sense that told him when cameras were zeroing in on him. He made all their videos look perfect, turning and singing right to the camera, then seeking out the kids who wanted to sing along the most and making them feel important. I felt honored to have my spiky hair grabbed onto during the set. "Memento" finished the set up strong and definitely left a memorable impression on my mind.
4:45pm COMEBACK KID
I was really interested to see Comeback Kid, since the buzz was thick around the place. "When's Comeback Kid playing?" people asked me. "I can't wait for Comeback Kid," others murmured. Boasting Sick Of It All / Minor Threat style hardcore lyrics, the entire mosh pit was readily singing along. They played catchy headbanging tunes at breakneck speed. Some senseless violence erupted in the pit and frontman Scott Wade actually had to address the problem. "If you guys are just bored then you need to get more involved," he told them. He sang about street issues, barking, "Do you want to break free? I don't need a crew to validate myself. You're all the same!" The band is currently in the midst of an eastcoast United States tour with their friends in Rise Against, The Loved Ones and From Autumn To Ashes.
5:30pm FROM AUTUMN TO ASHES
From Autumn To Ashes was much heavier than I imagined, playing uber-metallic riffs, with the backing vocals sinking into the recesses of sound as the deadly main vocals took precedence. Although they show off their versatility when drummer Francis Mark abandons his kit to sing main vocals centerstage. The final product is a punker sound than usual, shifting the hardcore screamrock onto the backburner. The whirlwind of dancers returned for this angst-driven set. Fans can expect their new album "Abandon Your Friends" in stores August 30th.
6:30pm RISE AGAINST
9/10 Wakestock attendees cited Rise Against as the best performance of the day. Aggressive but soul-driven punk rock is second nature in Chicago, a scene that has been paved by Rise Against and now welcomes groundbreaking indie talent like Break The Silence, Much The Same, A Wilhelm Scream and Alkaline Trio. Truly the strength of this dynamic group lies in their dedication to substantial causes. If you need evidence of Rise Against's commitment to the issues then just check out their website where you'll find links to PETA, the HOPE suicide prevention network, a cost of war calculator and donations to Covenant House Canadian youth shelter. Perhaps its these achievements interwoven with a commendable live performance, great singable melodies and honest, uplifting lyrics that earned their first gold record - CANADIAN gold record, at that! "Even though I've come so far," Tim McIlrath chanted, "I know I've got so far to go!" The crowd went absolutely insane and it finally looked like a bonafide rock concert - crowd surfing, shoes flying; "Rise A-gainst! Rise A-gainst!" chanting; crazy jumping up and down (timed with Tim, Chris and Joe's onstage movements); and clapping. (If you thought you were getting away with not clapping, then you were dead wrong! Tim totally called us out on it, slyly saying, "I see some hands that aren't clapping!" Everyone quickly felt silly and obeyed. On a more serious note, the band announced plans to go into the studio to record a new album, and then busted into the surprisingly slow, acoustic track "Swing Life Away". Tim shared his realization that "it's not about the music, it's about the message behind the music". I can't help but wonder if his profession was a portent of things to come and if there will be many more tender acoustic tracks on the new album. In any case, we couldn't help but admire the down-to-earth vibes emanating from Rise Against. They aptly closed with "Give It All", which is exactly what they did.
7:45pm DEAD KENNEDYS
Twenty-six-year-old Jeff brought new blood to a legendary punk formula as the new singer for DK. Not everyone was ready to welcome Jello Biafra's replacement, as the crowd lashed out and chanted "Jel-lo! Jel-lo! Jel-lo!" Jeff just sucked it up and continued on. After a few more songs, bassist Klaus Flouride formally introduced Jeff, who received cheers this time. In fact, after DR, East Bay Ray and Klaus introduced themselves as well, the crowd seemed much more at ease and participatory. DR kept a toothy grin while drumming but took a moment between songs to speak out against racism. Guitarist East Bay Ray warmed up to us, coming out onto the catwalk, getting down, smiling. Klaus looked expectantly at the crowd, nodding his head, twisting his guitar around and singing ghoulish backup vocals. They played all of our old favourites, including "In-Sight", "Holiday In Cambodia", "Kill The Poor", California Uber Alles", "Nazi Punks Fuck Off", "Jock-O-Rama" and even "Too Drunk To Fuck". We love that Dead Kennedys have always been unapologetically outspoken, innovative in fusing more complex punk and surf riffs, and backed by one of the best punk drummers of all time. It had been nearly 20 years since Dead Kennedys rocked on Canadian soil and the crowd was hungry! Despite having just been sick in the hospital the night before, Klaus Flouride managed to put on a great show and the band gladly played a five-song encore to appease our insatiability.
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