WAKESTOCK Day Two!
Inebriation abounded on the second day of Wakestock music. Everywhere you looked, you were sure to see at least one instance of shameless drunken excess. People were leaping over garbage cans, jumping off picnic tables to stomp cans flat, mooning hundreds of people, ripping life preservers down from the ferry ceiling, screaming random exclamations and slipping off the half-pipes. Of course none of this compared to the sketchpad wearing a Santa hat, doing hundreds of continuous pushups in the mud! Do you think that's weirder than witnessing two seven-year-old girls crowd surfing to Reel Big Fish?? Hm, tough call. Yes, it was definitely a day to write home about.
12pm SUMMER HERO
Kill me! The Toronto Island ferry failed me, leaving me to wait almost 40 minutes before arriving and escaping its sluggish time-wasting clutches. Sadly I missed Summer Hero's performance, as many others did. From what I hear, it wasn't totally dead and I will always recommend checking them out if you've never heard them before. I had really been looking forward to their epic slow songs and emotional fast songs. Even though their genre is oversaturated at the moment, Summer Hero truly are good at what they do.
12:45pm 4 BARREL
4 Barrel contained 90's rock heaviness and groove-worthy energy that made a nice addition to Wakestock. They were heavy but not screamy, with slower, more melodic sounds. "Well, they have an attractive singer, that's for sure," a girl behind me remarked to her friend, who concurred. Hopefully others saw more merit in the band than the attractiveness of its frontman. I wasn't really inspired to run out and buy a T-shirt but I'd listen to their CD at home.
1:30pm BOMBS OVER PROVIDENCE
I grappled to make sense of the unique fusion of sounds from Bombs Over Providence. The most interesting classification I've read calls them "dark pop", which is very apt if you listen closely to the anger contained in the political lyrics, joined by catchy guitar melodies. Now that I think of it... Bombs Over Providence is pretty clever. They take important messages and reach a target market that may not listen to hardcore punk, militant hiphop or Rage Against The Machine style rock. The pop shell attracts the people they'd like to reach the most. "Bombs figures the easiest way into the hearts, minds, wallets, and undergarments of today's youth is to play on their naivety and disposable income," their band bio boasts. The closing song exploded into a bottled-up mosh pit but it seemed too little too late perhaps.
The thirty people watching Driver on the main stage were evidence that Toronto does not have a market for uncharismatic rock from Manitoba. I can't say they were good or bad, just that they were nondescript. Their lyrics were meaningless to me, the sound was just bland. Good luck trying to prove me wrong, as they've got no website or positive references. I couldn't help but wonder: How the hell did they come to play for thirty people, while the side stage is currently packed with hundreds? They put forth a decent effort but weren't out to change lives.
2:15pm THE REASON
Ok, so The Reason are from Hamilton, not Toronto... but since they're still in Ontario, I think that gives us perfect bragging rights. Like Funeral For A Friend, the vocals become the focal point with strong backing harmonies and the perfect assortment of singing/screaming/speaksong. Adam turns it up a notch, with a little bit of slam-dancing onstage, swinging his mic around, pointing and crouching down to emit a gut-wrenching scream. The Metal Militia Motocross guys are also fans of The Reason and the band wondered aloud how you can practice for such a dangerous sport. The crowd went wild and sang on cue when Adam pointed to them. Textured, catchy guitars and quick drumming added to this lovable band's full sound makes them one of the day's best performances.
2:30pm THE EXIT
Oops, who botched the stage schedules for the day? This is the second mainstage band that had a meager gathering, versus the side stage which was slammin! They did dedicate a song to the guy in the Christmas hat though... there's something to be said for that.. I think. This NYC trio sounded really different from everything else at Wakestock - slower, more vibey and jam-band style. Everyone was just kinda sitting on the ground, relaxing to The Exit but I was just looking to exit and find something more rocking.
3pm PROTEST THE HERO
Yet again, technical difficulties overshadowed the poor Solo Mobile stage as we anxiously awaited the start of the set. Audacious Protest The Hero frontman Rody did his best to entertain us by singing lounge songs, belting out "Come on over baby", shotgunning beer, making jokes about Oshawa, talking about exorcisms and doing White Snake impersonations. Despite Rody's brash attitude, guitarist Luke jammed out some Megadeath and classic metal-inspired riffs with ease. The combination of Rody's high voice, political lyrics and thrashing, quick speed changes stood out. They played "Blindfolds Aside" off their new album and older songs like "These Colours Don't Run". The audience was much bigger than the main stage's audience and there was a significant group of people yelling, "YEAH" after each song. It was a little too old school for my liking but I can't really complain.
Heads were banging and emo hair was flinging as Silverstein shared their passions with us. Though the singing was melodic, I enjoyed the screaming and quick, abrupt guitars most. The pit went wild and slam-dancers were back in full effect. The softer lyrics didn't seem to deter the hardcore kids who happened to know all the lyrics. You don't have to feel silly for singing along because just when it almost starts to feel too emo-sappy, roaring screams violently interrupt and the guitars take on a heavier crunch. Having just released a new album, Silverstein will head off on tour next month with Bombs Over Providence and Protest The Hero.
4pm THE SALADS
Anyone who knows anything recognizes The Salads as a staple of the Toronto punk community over the last six years. Incorporating everything from California-influenced Sublime style, Van Halen, and 311 funkiness, they've got an unbeatable variety of styles to play with throughout their forty-five minute set. If you were to listen to a song like "Get Loose", you may think The Salads sound similar to Reel Big Fish. But if you listened to "Mango Tango", you'd notice that darker ska guitar riffs prevail. This is one band that surely should have rocked the mainstage, as the crowd was burly and hungry, chanting out "Hey Hey Hey Hey" with lead singer Darren and lighting up joints like it was their jobs, celebrating the unique and atmospheric vibe. Recently someone robbed the band - taking a laptop with all their new songs on it, some sentimental guitars and other valuable gear - but this didn't hinder their performance at all. They still have a killer sound and engaging showmanship.
If you were to catch "What It Is To Burn" on the radio, you might think Finch is just another trendy popular band cashing in. Yet to see them live, you'll realize it's just that their power and fierceness can't be housed on a CD. They hit the stage with heavy rhythm guitars and equally powerful vocals, sending the crowd into a fervent frenzy. Bassist Derek plays specifically to drummer Marc Allen, revealing their close working relationship. The guitarist liked to climb up on his amplifier and the vocalist delivered, even with a broken arm. For a little while, it was a return to yesterday's heavier format before the rest of the night descended into light-hearted fun. Finch just returned from Europe and are currently in the midst of a grueling US tour with The Exit and A Static Lullaby, traveling to a different city every day.
I've probably seen Goldfinger about ten times in the past eight years, sometimes intentionally, other times because they linked with the right punk bands I had been dying to see. I dreaded the moment someone would eat a twinkie out of drummer Darren Pfeiffer's rear, but it never came. "I'm not gonna do that. You know why?" he taunted the audience. "Because two years ago I did that at Wakestock and almost got arrested. I don't want to get arrested today ... or do I?" Though the show lacked butt twinkies, there was still the usual barrage of fans invited onstage during "Mable", much to the security's nervous horror. Though frontman John Feldmann danced in circles with his guitar and ventured out into the crowd for a surf, he was visibly winded during a few songs, using it as an opportunity to let the fans sing. Is Goldfinger getting old? Shh, perhaps a tad in age, but the enthusiastic crowd proved that Goldfinger still rocks it. Their blending of silliness ("Wayne Gretzky", "My Girlfriend's Shower Sucks", "FTN") with a more serious side ("99 Red Balloons", and "Open Your Eyes") parallels the shifting heaviness and airy ska riffs in their music. For many, it was their first time seeing Goldfinger. One attendee even came all the way from Australia to catch his favourite band. Now that's dedication!
8pm REEL BIG FISH
I've said it before and I'll say it again... I'm not a ska fan. But there's something to be said for a band that can get hundreds of people dancing... not moshing, not jumping, not swinging fists, but dancing. For some, Reel Big Fish gives them every reason to just let loose and enjoy themselves in an accepting environment in much the same way as our parents' generation enjoyed a good Jefferson Airplane or Grateful Dead concert. For others, the music carries a bit of highschool nostalgia as the band plays "Sell Out" and a cover of "Take On Me". I have to admit, I dug their new song "Turn The Radio Off". It lent more credibility to our recent discussions about how much the radio sucks lately. If we're all complaining, eventually our voices will be heard and sweeping change will come through and grown out all our grievances, giving us other things to whine about... right? Reel Big Fish sings a lot of songs about their experiences in the music industry which seems to catch on like the plague, no matter how silly the words are. Many people had already left to beat the ferry traffic but a considerable number stayed to clap, sing and dance. One thing that's true of Aaron Barret is that he can hold out a really, really, really long note! Also noteworthy, the trombone player had a dredded mohawk. Who does that?!
Note: If you were planning to read about Day 3 of Wakestock here, then you're outta luck! Sunday's lineup was pathetic, at best. The only band that might have been worth something was The Jimmy Swift Band... but one band hardly seemed worth the $10 parking and $5 ferry fees. Write to your festival organizers and tell them to get better bands for next year! If you went to the festival today and would like to contest me, be my guest. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, go to the Wakestock page and listen for yourself. Lame!
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