by Kevin McGuigan-Scott, host of The Wonder Years (Mondays, 11pm-12am)
After getting in late Wednesday night and experiencing a bit of a stressful drive (oh, you know, just a little bit of your average thick fog, heavy rain, and hydroplaning) my associates and I (DJ Waverace and Chicago Heights) thought it best to rest up and save ourselves for Thursday. With a healthy night’s rest behind us, Thursday began by engaging in the obvious thing to do at a music festival: watching the World Cup.
England and Uruguay were playing, and the Ship and Anchor on 17th Ave SW was absolutely packed with England supporters watching the game. Cheering for Uruguay ourselves, we were lucky to find safety with a small pocket of similarly minded soccer fans outside on the deck. Uruguay won, nobody was bitten (this time), and I had some nachos for breakfast. Riding the pleasant waves of World Cup victory we picked up our festival passes and proceeded to check out some shows.
Just down 17th is a watering hole called Local 510. They had a tent set up in their back parking lot in order to keep the music going both inside and out. Burlington, Vermont duo The Vacant Lots were the first act we saw and frankly, their set was a little dull. For a couple dudes playing some psychedelic stuff in the same vein-ish as Brian Jonestown Massacre, their music was pretty decent, but they just looked pretty bored up there. Overall, it was a rather underwhelming start to the weekend.
Following that up we walked over to the Hi-Fi Club and had the good fortune to catch a DJ set from Ghibli out of Edmonton. This was easily my highlight of the night and certainly the best surprise of the weekend. Donning a housecoat and accompanied by a few go-go dancers, Ghibli was pumping out some excellent weirdo disco-infused dance music that made me feel pretty A-OK. Overall, a super fun set with lots of beach volleyballs bouncing around and even an inflatable flamingo. If you get a chance, check out one of his shows and you’ll leave feeling excited, care-free, included, and happy (no guarantee of all four, but you get the idea).
The Legion Hall on 7th Ave SW was our Final DestinationTM for the evening and we were lucky enough to see a piece of Brazilian Money’s set upstairs which was pretty raucous n’ fun. Afterwards, we capped the night off with Mission of Burma downstairs on the main stage which lived up to and then exceeded all expectations. I think they played nearly everything I could have asked for and seemed pretty happy to be doing it too, which is always rad to see for a band that’s been at it for as long as they have.
Friday kicked off with one of my main reasons for making the trip out to Calgary for this crazy music festival: hot dogs. Within minutes of arriving at Tubby Dog for the CFCR showcase I had my bony fingers gripped around one of their infamous hot dogs and it was all I could have ever hoped for. In my family we have a saying that we eat our fears and boy oh boy, am I ever scared of wienies.
In either case, the CFCR showcase was packed with people and was an excellent display of Saskatoon’s talented music scene. We had The Moas, Powder Blue, Caves, and Shooting Guns all holding it down, filling this guy’s heart with a healthy dose of local pride… not to mention a whole lot of sodium.
After the CFCR showcase I strolled over to the Local 510 Parking Lot and caught Dories, a band out of Calgary/Montreal. Like a group of highly trained rock n’ roll surgeons/mechanics, these handsome young fellas found the part of my body that was tired of standing up all day and kind of gassy and replaced it with the finely tuned engine of a like-new 2013 Chevrolet Aveo. In other words, these gentlemen are a very talented group so you should check ‘em out.
Disappointment struck at the Ship and Anchor when we found out Black Cobra got held up at the border and weren’t able to make it. However, we did catch the beginning of Black Wizard’s set and they were a pretty deadly metal band out of Vancouver so kudos to them.
The Legion was up next with Dan Deacon headlining the evening. By the time we got there, BA Johnston narrowly evaded us and all we were left with was the sight of his sweaty back and the longing for a full frontal shot of that beautiful man. Teledrome followed up BA and maybe chalk it up to some misguided expectations but they didn’t really do it for me. They delivered some pretty up-beat new-wavey pop but from some of their stuff available online I was expecting something not quite as polished. In either case, people seemed to be enjoying it so just because it wasn’t necessarily my thing doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be perfect for you.
It wasn’t long before Dan Deacon took the stage and he absolutely blew me away. Organized dance contests, minute-long bits about watching Candyman at a friend’s sleepover, and a shwack of wholesome group activities resulted in one of the best shows I’ve been to. Certainly he’s a very talented musician and his dance-y electronica made you wanna move, but it was his audience involvement that really sold the show. Dan Deacon is the kind of performer that makes you forget you have laundry to do or that you might be out of toilet paper at home; when he was playing all you wanted to do was have some fun and act like a kid. It was like everyone at the show reverted to being 12-year-olds and they were transported to the best elementary school dance ever (minus all the awkwardness that comes with being a 12-year-old at an elementary school dance). Friday night with Dan Deacon at The Legion was most probably the highlight of my weekend in Calgary and if you get the opportunity to see him live in the future I would most certainly recommend it. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I ate some pizza and that was pretty cool too (I’d make that recommendation as well but you’ve probably already tried some – if not, go for it!).
The last day of the festival got off to a bit of a late start partly due to the prior evening’s events and by the time I got downtown things were well under their way.
I was left with an unsavory taste in my mouth from Friday night, maybe due to too much pizza (is there such a thing?), but most probably from not having seen a BA Johnston set in months. Thusly, I was led to the 510 Parking Lot in hopes to catch Hamilton’s hero and future mayor, BA. I showed up early enough to see the Younger Lovers, a great fast-paced garage power-pop outfit hailing from Oakland, California. Brontez Purnell (the lead singer) has a voice that grips and the band’s high-energy sound was just the thing I needed to wake me up from the haze I was in.
BA Johnston hardly needs an introduction, but if you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this guy play that’s probably something you should do. At the end of a long touring stretch (including two other shows at Sled), he was pretty blunt about how exhausted he was but somehow he managed to turn even that exhaustion into a point of hilarity, doubtlessly adding to the show as a whole. Yeah, some of the jokes are the same (“let me load up a JPEG on my iPod) and yeah, the stunts are too (every time he does the splits is worth cover for me) – but god damn, those are good jokes. Comparably, I’ve watched Dumb and Dumber countless times because there’s a timeless aspect to it and I feel the same way about BA – he’s a natural, charismatic performer who just gets it. Hell yeah, I want to see someone change through two sweaters, sing a song about stealing steaks, and spit beer everywhere. Who doesn’t? Ultimately, I don’t think my time in Calgary would have been complete without enjoying a steaming, sweaty, panting slice of BA pie.
A quick dinner break (daily dose of Tubby Dog) followed and then I headed over to Olympic Plaza to enjoy the sunny evening. Rocket From The Crypt did not disappoint with a pretty great rock show. Nearing the end of the set there might have been a bit of a misguided baby joke, but otherwise you could definitely say it was an honour to see those fellas play. Headlining the outdoor event was Spiritualized and I felt like the whole thing was rather serendipitous. On a beautiful night where I was feeling pretty showed-out and lazy, I just sat on the grass and let their other-worldly rock wash over me. A pleasant end to a great weekend of live-music, hot-dogs, SAAZ, and pals.
And then I got a second-wind, melted my mind at a quaint little place called Dicken’s Pub via The Shrine, saw some bizarre fish-man (see below), and sang some karaoke with pals – a different, but just as pleasant end to a great weekend.
All photos (c) 2014 Kevin McGuigan-Scott.