Archive for the ‘Music Festivals’ Category

Over the years, I’ve had the honour/privilege/good fortune of attending many, many live music shows. Spoiler: they’re not all created equal. Over my years of accidental research, a good show seems to be a combination of venue, crowd, seat location, and the intensity of my fandom for the performing band. When these factors are in perfect equilibrium, you get the best of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, and will never miss.

 

The xx

The first time I saw them was on their 2012 Coexist tour at Massey Hall – one of my favourite venues, because of its intimacy, worn out seats, and movie theatre-like atmosphere. I went alone as true fans do, and I wore my most comfortable pair of jeans, hoodie and Converse kicks (because obviously.)

I had the aisle seat, 3rd or 4th row from the front on the main level. I wasn’t sure what to expect because as much as I love their unassuming, nuanced, yet powerful music, I wasn’t sure how it would translate live.

But from the second they walked on stage, every aspect of their meticulously arranged music, took on a life of its own. I was so engrossed, I barely noticed when my body danced uncontrollably in my seat; you could feel the music all over.

The second time I saw them, was an outdoor show at Echo Beach, for 2017’s I See You tour, with a friend who is as much of a Stan as I am when it comes to The xx. The performance was full of so much emotion, passion, heart pangs, gut punches, near tears, euphoria, and the absolute need to dance it all away. The fact it was a standing-only venue was only fitting.

 

Nine Inch Nails

This has to go down as one of the most surprising concert experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve only seen them once, way back in 2009, when I scored free tickets to Virgin Festival at the (then) Molson Amphitheatre.

It was a long day in the sun/humidity with a fellow music fan. All the bands I wanted to see had already performed, and NIN was headlining. I’d never been a huge fan of theirs – 1994’s Downward Spiral was probably the only album of theirs I’d listened to at that stage – and even then only partly.

I wasn’t planning on sticking around, but my music fellow music fan insisted I at least check them out. So I did. And holy shit. They were super loud, punk rock, heavy metal, noisy, but in all the best ways. You could hear and feel every word, note, lyric, in spite of the noise. Organized chaos at it best.

They are so freakin’ talented, and the amount of creativity that goes into making the music they put out, is unreal. So much attention to detail, so much anger and pain, but channeled in a way that makes it understandable, approachable, even on a live stage. They just blew me away.

 

Eminem

What can I say? I’ve always loved Eminem. His rhymes are unstoppable, his flow is flawless, and he has no problem saying what’s on his mind. He rarely tours though, so when I heard he was headlining Lollapalooza in 2011 in nearby Chicago, I couldn’t resist.

I spent all day hovering around the main stage, just so I wouldn’t lose my coveted spot in Grant Park. Eminem did not disappoint. He didn’t miss a single beat during the performance, didn’t mess up a single lyric. His flow was even more smooth live, his rhymes tighter, and his delivery off the charts; he was on fire the whole time.

He performed every track imaginable, and then some. He’s an artist in its truest form, and when he performs, what you see – more than anything – is his undeniable passion; his dedication to his craft. He lives and breathes his music, and it’s an absolutely incredible thing to see.

Bon Iver

Bon Iver’s music is like a dream. Their sound is mostly soft and subtle, with some instruments peppered in along the way. Lead singer Justin Vernon’s voice is one of the most ethereal ones I’ve ever heard. Their lyrics are like poetry – lathered in imagery and metaphors, making the tracks simultaneously difficult to understand, but also wide open to interpretation.

The one and only time I saw them live was at Massey Hall in 2011 for their Bon Iver tour (they haven’t returned since.) Their entire performance was breathtaking, captivating, perfect, and beautiful. The music let your imagination run wild, and transported you to another universe. I went with a friend, and I can’t even remember if we sat together or separately, I was so entranced.

My absolute favourite moment during the show, was when they performed the track “Re: Stacks.” It was just Vernon, an acoustic guitar, and his heavenly voice. It was so mesmerizing – pin drop silence from the crowd for the nearly 7 minute duration of the song. It was – pardon the cliché – an out of body experience, shared by everyone in the room. So many chills and goosebumps that night; such musical genius.

The Killers

I’ve always liked the Killers, and enjoyed their music: it’s fun, anthemic, lead singer Brandon Flowers’ vocal styles are unique and full of character. The first time I saw them was at the ACC, on their 2013 Battle Born tour; it was a last minute situation where a friend had an extra ticket, so I tagged along.

Kerfuffle swiftly ensued, when turns out we had fake tickets. After being escorted out by a manager struggling to believe we didn’t know we bought fake tickets, and a stern phone call/email from my friend to StubHub, we were awarded with free new tickets, plus a comp for the fake ones. Winning all around.

Then, the previously dubious manager morphed into a much kinder human being, and escorted us back into the venue, to even better seats. Maybe because the circumstances worked so much in our favour, maybe because my friend is a super fan and watching anyone lose their shit at a concert is priceless. Whatever the case, the show was incredible. So much showmanship, so much flair, and so much fun.

I loved their show so much, I went back a few years later. Same venue, for 2018’s Wonderful Wonderful tour, this time alone (clearly, a pattern.) I braved the the 7 min walk in the freezing January cold, and boy, was it worth it. Such a high caliber show, one where all aspects are bigger and better. The music was louder, the lyrics more meaningful, the vocals stronger, the production more glamourous, and the energy overflowing. It’s the best way to listen to The Killers.

Foo Fighters

I’ve seen them in dingy standing-only venues; large sports arenas; outdoor festivals. Each show is unique in and of itself. We all know lead singer Dave Grohl knows how to get a crowd going. He’s loud, interactive, and knows how to put on a helluva show, along with the rest of the band.

I’ve seen Dave Grohl play standing on crutches, sitting in a throne. I’ve heard them play acoustic, and electric; endured mosh pits and lost my voice in their honour. I’ve seen them play in peak humidity, apocalyptic rain, and under perfect summer skies. Each and every time, it was a show for the books.

The amount of stamina they have is like something I’ve never seen before. Over 3 hours straight. No breaks. No encores either, simply because they’re above that. They play until they physically can’t play anymore.

Since they’ve been around for decades, seeing them live means witnessing their evolution, their history, as well as how music in general has changed over the years. They’re constantly creating, changing, and experimenting with their music. But what never changes is how well they entertain, how much fun they have, and how much of themselves they leave on stage during their shows.

 

 

 

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Summer is the time for music festivals. The great outdoors, the sunshine, the fresh air – all perfect conditions in which to enjoy some live music. I’ve already been through the types of people you see in the crowd at a concert, so here’s a look at the unique characters you may come in contact with at festivals.

Dehydrates – young teens who love the idea of getting hammered on $18 beers in the dead heat, while watching their favourite band tear it up on the outdoor stage. Here’s a tip for you guys – drink some damn water. Otherwise, you will either faint, puke, get the spins or all of the above. It’s not rocket science and you don’t need to be a mature 30-year-old to understand this concept. Water is the new beer, kids, water is the new beer.

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Loyalists  – these guys are hard core. They’ve likely come to the festival specifically to see the headliner. So they come super early, park themselves at the front of the crowd and stay there the whole day, watching band after band after band they don’t care about perform. They stand a lot. It’s hard for them to get food/water because then they’ll lose their place. They’re on a mission and are pretty successful – caution to anyone who tries to squeeze in front of them.

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Recorders – having an SLR camera with an tripod doesn’t make you cool. Having/using a selfie stick will only cause injury when used in a crowd of thousands. Recording an entire set with your smartphone ruins the experience for anyone standing behind you because all they see is your phone screen – so put it away. Here’s a thought: try actually absorbing the experience instead of documenting it. If you take a minute away from hashtagging, I’m sure your 2 Twitter followers will understand.

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Water Hose Guy – I’m not sure if this guy is hired by the festival, or is just some random fan. His role is to take it upon himself to determine when the crowd needs to be soaked by a current of cold water spewing out of a ginormous garden hose. Girls squeal excitedly, boys cheer because what’s better than being in wet clothes for the rest of the day? (note the sarcasm). Why is this guy allowed to decide when people need to be drenched?

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Anti-Hygienics – okay, so I get that being in the summer heat all day can be taxing on the body. I get that sweat happens; that it’s inconvenient to bring a toothbrush with you; that you have no other choice but to use outhouses. But that doesn’t mean you abandon all sense of hygiene. Take a shower before coming; brush your teeth in the morning and bring gum/mint to freshen you up during the day. For the love of God, use hand sanitizer. There’s already enough body odour floating around, why must you add yourself to the mix?

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Hippies – generally female, I use the term “hippies” loosely because no one who attends festivals are actual hippies: they were all born in the wrong decade. They prance around with their braided hair, ultra high-waisted denim mom shorts, flower crowns, crop tops and complete lack of common sense.

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Hipsters – generally male, they sport thick beards, skinny pants, vintage kicks, and of course, large-frame glasses. They’re there to be cool, but they don’t care about being cool, so they’re just there ironically. They’re not actually enjoying themselves, but just came along to make fun of the whole experience, whilst documenting the entire thing on Instagram.

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Osheaga Music Festival took place this past weekend in Montreal. Parc Jean-Drapeau was once again host to the epic series of live performances. Sadly, this year I was only able to attend one day of the festival (I blame my age) but boy was it a great day.

The first band I made it for was Stars. They were playing to a hometown crowd and the fans were eating it up. Lead singer Torquil Campbell did spend a little too much time going off on Prime Minister Steven Harper which was a bit of an unnecessary buzz kill. Next up were darling twin sisters Tegan and Sara. From outfit to hairstyle to accessories, these girls decorated the stage with their immense talent. Their latest album Heartthrob has made huge waves for them. Well done ladies.

The next artist was supposed to be Miguel. He was a last minute addition to replace Frank Ocean who bailed due to damaged vocal chords. I was dying to see Miguel, having fallen head over heels for his album Kaleidoscope Dream, and I was in the mood to swoon. However, at the very last minute he also cancelled due to scheduling conflicts with his band. Who substituted him? K-Os. Normally this would have been fine. But K-Os actually had a slot the day before, where he took a hissy fit and stormed off stage when the sound system wasn’t co-operating. Not cool buddy. The few minutes I did witness him rocking a Jays’ hat, trying to remind the crowd why he was still relevant, weren’t all that impressive. Therefore I will not post any footage.

Imagine Dragons came on after and completely saved the day. The band was happy the entire time. Smiling, dancing, singing their hearts out, playing their instruments like they were having the time of their lives. The energy was contagious and there wasn’t a single person standing still in the crowd. Lead singer Dan Reynolds was dynamic, entertaining and the only one I’ve ever seen who plays a massive bass drum. I kind of want to be friends with them. What a great performance.

It was time. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were about to hit the stage and I couldn’t contain my excitement. It started to rain (thankfully I was well equipped with a bad ass poncho) but that wasn’t stopping anyone. The crowds had been gathering all day to see these guys and although I was tempted to worm my way up close, I knew it was going to be a battle and I wasn’t in the mood to fight off drunken 19-year-olds. So I stayed back where I wouldn’t be succumbed to the smoke, smells and sweat from being pushed up against someone. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis did not disappoint, they were off the hook. He did an acapella version of “Otherside” and during “Same Love,” a track about equal rights for homosexuals (damn right he supports it) he treated his fans to a beautiful moment in music: he called on Tegan and Sara to sing the chorus. They are darling twin sisters who are also both lesbians. It was just perfect.

And then this happened during “Can’t Hold Us”:

 

The main headliner was 90s rock legend Beck. I was unable to make it long enough to watch his set, but heard that it was fantastic. Here’s a look.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’ve never been to an outdoor music festival you don’t know what you’re missing. There’s just something about that environment that causes some sort of strange euphoria (not the drug-induced kind) that makes everything better. Try it, you’ll see.