Students highlight this year’s entertainment offerings from
around the country
Canadians of all ages love to take advantage of the few months of warm weather—that elusive thing we call “summer”—and give summer a new name: festival season. Now with just a few stragglers left (Ottawa Folk Festival, anyone?), that time is coming to a close. The Fulcrum asked students to recount the highlights of this summer’s festivals in whatever Canadian city they call home—from Vancouver to Montreal to right here in Ottawa.
Eager fans gathered to see their favourite bands in the flesh at this year’s Bluesfest in Ottawa from July 4 to 15. As an avid music fan, I read over the lineup release and fan-girled over seeing Young the Giant, City and Colour, and Sam Roberts Band; however, I must say I was taken aback by the highly “electro” motif of this year’s festival.
Despite my initial hesitation about the many electronic artists that would be performing, I tried to keep an open mind and enjoy the shows. My boyfriend and I travelled from stage to stage, enjoying the melodic rhythms of Hey Rosetta! and the recklessly defiant Runaways-like sound of The Pack A.D.
Eventually I gave in to the hype and watched Skrillex, LMFAO, and Snoop Dogg. I’ll admit that their musical stylings put me off, but their fans were intensely enthusiastic and surprisingly polite. The Deltron 3030 set on the Electro Stage was a high-energy show that brought out fans of all ages.
Billy Bragg, John Mellencamp, and The Sheepdogs were also among my 10 favourite acts, each bringing a unique sound to their performances. All in all, I felt that the complete spectrum of genres at this year’s Bluesfest only enhanced its already-stellar reputation as one of the most entertaining festivals Ottawa has to offer.
With artist lineups that continue to impress year after year, it’s hard to believe that Osheaga has only just celebrated its seventh year. But with a breathtaking venue like Parc Jean-Drapeau in a city as electrifying as Montreal, it’s easy to see how this relationship would thrive.
So despite the predicted thundershowers for most of the weekend, record-breaking crowds turned up. The metro situation was messy to say the least, but the event itself was well organized. I had bought tickets months ahead in anticipation of seeing a group perform the best album I have heard in several years: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by the French electronic band M83.
Outstanding performances included The Black Keys, Santigold, and Bloc Party. Bands played on various stages including some in a forest, which made for an interesting ambiance. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse, but this did nothing to alter the plans of the performers or the crowd.
My entourage and I eventually made our way to the stage in anticipation of M83. It was getting dark, but the fans were pumped and the energy could be felt for miles. The band took the stage and delivered an incredible performance both musically and technically.
Wolfe Island Music Festival
Wolfe Island, Ont.
Situated right off the shore of Lake Ontario, just a 20-minute ferry ride from Kingston, Wolfe Island exists quietly with a population of just 1,400 people. But from August 10 to 11, you wouldn’t have known it was so modest.
Wolfe Island Music Festival (WIMF) embraces this intimate island feel and pulls it off with humble perfection. Fans flocked this year from all corners of Ontario to see the likes of Elliott Brood, Hollerado, Rich Aucoin, Sam Roberts Band, and more.
Torrential downpours? No problem. Fans packed the festival grounds, which consisted of two side-by-side baseball diamonds, one for the stage and one for the tent village, a festival slum of sorts, where attendees camped out for the weekend.
The festival offers an intimate vibe quite unlike what you might find at other major festivals. Sneaking backstage is a breeze (or so I’ve heard…) and the artists are always down for a drink or two afterwards at one of the nearby bars. The festival boasts a great number of local vendors who offer things like homemade longboard decks, organic coffee, local jewellery and more—with each vendor even friendlier than the last.
The community embraces the festival each year, allowing the doors of bars and restaurants to stay open a little later than usual. After the show, hundreds of people flock to the tent village to party, play Frisbee or Hacky Sack, or just relax on hammocks and check out the island’s field of windmills. WIMF is a truly intimate, low-key festival you could never find anywhere else.
Vancouver Folk Music Festival
There is nothing more “west coast” than the ocean, the mountains, and free-spirited people. While the three-day Vancouver Folk Music Festival probably isn’t as authentic as it was 30 years ago, the scenery—combined with the large variety of festival-goers—makes for a unique experience.
Musically, I found that the highlights of the festival were the finale on Sunday night—when the headliners came together to sing the well-appreciated folk classic “This Land Is Your Land”—and the range of Canadian and international artists alike. Of particular note was the rocking performance given by Johnny Clegg from South Africa.
The weather on the coast was beautiful during this year’s festival, and I found myself enjoying the view of the mountains and the fantastic food options just as much as the music. The Folk Bazaar, an eclectic artisan market, was open to the general public and made hanging out on the beach a part of the festival as well.
The Vancouver Folk Music Festival is a well-loved weekend in Vancouver for reasons that go beyond the awesome music.
Just for Laughs
For almost 30 years, the Just for Laughs comedy festival has made me proud to be a Montrealer. Year after year they churn out some of the world’s best-known comedians at the height of their game and make everything in the world seem a little bit funnier. It is by far the largest international comedy festival in the world and brings in tourists from all over. Despite the rising costs of tickets and horrible traffic and parking situations, I always make the festival a priority in my schedule.
This year I only managed to catch Jim Breuer performing at the tiny Theatre Sainte Catherine on the last Saturday of the festival. Although it was a short show with no opening act, it was worth every penny. As Joey Elias watched approvingly from the balcony, Breuer’s routine brilliantly spanned various periods of his life, effortlessly integrating jokes about hardware store pranks in his youth, the Saturday Night Live days—including the origins of “Goat Boy”—his permanent stoner face, and parenting. He didn’t shy away from political jokes either, mocking America’s support for mujahideen in Afghanistan in the early ‘80s. The awesome new show, entitled “Mass Appeal,” quickly catapulted him into position as one of my all-time favourite comedians.