Live (Sept. 4th, 2010)
Northlands - Edmonton, Alberta
Yesterday’s second annual Sonic Boom Festival in Edmonton could really be divided into four separate sections: stoner rock, indie rock, mellow rock and modern rock.
The day began with the stoner rock – mellow, reggae tunes by KO and The Dirty Heads. KO played as people began filing in at 11:30 in the morning and he seemed a little out of place in the big bandshell with only his acoustic guitar and backing tapes. For the last half of his set he left the acoustic guitar behind and jumped around the stage with his pre-recorded music backing him up. It wasn’t a horrible set; but if you came late and missed him, you didn’t miss much.
SoCal’s reggae act The Dirty Heads came next and continued with the easy-going vibe, singing songs of smoking dope and slowly getting people to bop along with them. The duo drummers – a bongo set and a standard set – breathed a unique life into the set that ended with their hit single Lay Me Down. While Rome from Sublime With Rome may not have been there to deliver the chorus, the band was more than able to pull of the track without them.
It was The Arkells that really pumped up the volume and was the first true rock band of the day – and the first in the series of indie rock acts set to play in the afternoon. They did everything a burgeoning rock act should do – they had a solid stage presence, were entertaining, sounded spot on, created fan interaction and even dragged members of Tokyo Police Club on stage for Oh, The Boss Is Coming.At the end of the day, The Arkells was the best band outside of the four headliners and spurred the crowd into the middle of the afternoon.
Vancouver’s Mother Mother were next and, sadly, couldn’t keep up the same momentum. They failed to pull off their quirky sound live and Ryan Guldemond’s vocals sounded weak in the mix. Great harmonies and some funky dance moves saved the show from being a total loss but it was still a step down compared to the energetic Arkells from beforehand. Tokyo Police Club picked it up a bit; but it wasn’t until they played Your English Is Good that the crowd really got into it.
Wintersleep was the first of the two slower bands on the day’s bill and served mostly as background music as I sat around with friends. Nothing against them, just wasn’t in the mood for something so slow and wanted to conserve energy for Bad Religion who on next celebrating their thirty anniversary. Their set was the first truly raucous set of the evening as all the old punks came out in droves and pulled the pit apart. Bad Religion were in top form, pulling from their extensive catalogue tracks like Fuck Armageddon This Is Hell, A Walk, You, Generator, American Jesus, Sinister Rouge, Los Angeles Is Burning, Requiem for Dissent, Recipe for Hate and more.
The rain began to fall heavily during their set but rather than put a damper on the evening’s events, the rain dropped down as a refresher – cooling off the runners in the circle pit and thirty years in, Bad Religion hadn’t lost a beat.
Alexisonfire’s Dallas Green, under his pseudonym City and Colour, came next in the line-up, an odd choice considering the placement of his set time. His stripped down acoustic ballads would’ve fit better after Wintersleep – keeping the mellow acts together – rather than after Bad Religion. As it was, he toned down the energy far too much; a fact that he himself commented on. Green is a powerful performer; he’s self-deprecating, has a strong voice and blends nicely into a small surrounding. His shows at the Myer Horowitz and Winspeare Centre have been memorable for their intimated nature and light hearted delivery. Playing on a massive stage set up in an empty parking lot did not allow Green to delivery his set with the same intimacy and pulled the tempo of the evening back down to zero.
Weezer took that tempo and brought up back up to full force, delivering probably the best concert Edmonton has seen in 2009 in their very first trip to the City of Champions. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Weezer did that made their performance stand out so much – it’s more the fact of how good everything worked together.
Of course there are the songs. In the hour and fifteen minute set, Weezer played every hit they’ve ever written – Say It Aint Show, Undone (The Sweater Song), Troublemaker, Beverley Hills, Island in the Sun, Hash Pipe, El Schorcho, My Name Is Jonas, Buddy Holly, Surf Wax America and the list goes on. They merged MGMT’s Kids with Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, introduced their new single Memories and ended with (If You’re Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To. The set list was spot on and no one could’ve left wanting more; and yet there was still more than that.
After last night’s show, I can’t help but think that Rivers Cuomo may be one of the best front man around despite his anti-frontman traits. Ignoring trends of styles, Cuomo is always himself – who else can sport the same pair of glasses for over fifteen years? He climbed the stage, jumped in the crowd, juggled a soccer ball in the background, bounced on a trampoline and even sat back stage for the entirety ofPork and Beans. No other band could pull it off, but Weezer can and did.
Their final flourish saw all of Weezer climb the drum set, each taking a different tom or cymbal helping Josh Freese complete a furious drum solo. They played, bathed in white spotlights, in front of their glowing W logo and a better ending there could not have been.
Following that set was tough, but Rise Against did a valiant effort.
The sky was finally black as the Chicago four piece hit the stage, meaning the spotlights could be used to full effect. The band was Rise Against to a T – angry, fierce and energetic. Their crowd has grown monumentally since the first time I saw them at Red’s in 2004 and that can be considered a good thing or bad depending on your perspective. They stuck mostly to newer material from Appeal To Reason –Collapse, Re-education Through Labor, Long Forgotten Sons, Kotov Syndrome, Savior The Strength to Go On, Audience of One, Entertainment; but did dive into their older material for tracks like Like The Angel (the only Revolutions Per Minute cut sadly), Give It All, Prayer of the Refugee, Drones and Ready to Fall. For their encore they did their regular acoustic numbers – Swing Life Away and Hero of War and while it would’ve been nice to hear some of their older material; they’ve toured through Edmonton so many times they’ve probably gotten bored of playing those songs by now.
Rise Against were as solid as ever, the only downside being Tim McIlrath’s vocals were weaker than normal. Suffering from being both low in the mix and oddly high pitched at times, McIlrath didn’t deliver his screams with the same growl he normally does. A minor detail but a good show nonetheless.
At the end of the second annual Sonic Boom Festival, my friends and I walked away – limping and hurt in our own individual injuries from the pit – but with a smile on our faces. It may have had a rocky start, but the fest ended with a boom as Rise Against and Weezer delivered the best modern rock show of the summer.