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09 Aug 04

olympic island festival rundown

as previously advertised, saturday was the the sloan/sam roberts olympic island festival, and it was a long but good day. the weather was very un-august-like (i was wearing a hoodie for most of the day and was just barely warm enough), but there was no rain and the line up of bands was the best i’ve seen since edgefest 1995 (also headlined by sloan, coincidentally). here’s a rundown of all of the bands as i saw them – take it for what it’s worth:

death from above 1979 – we arrived in the middle of their set so we didn’t get the full effect, but while walking towards the venue we were greeted with a wall of sound. i was certainly surprised to see that there were only two guys on stage. i didn’t see enough of them to formulate a full opinion, but i enjoyed the 3 songs i heard – as well as watching them on stage.

arcade fire – i’ve have a few songs by them for several months now, so i was at least familiar with some of their material ahead of time. i wasn’t sure how it was going to translate live, but i think it’s safe to say that they were one of my favourite acts of the day. they’re a six-piece and include a xylophone, an accordian, various percussive instruments (including a drum tied around a guy’s neck that he flailed wildly at), as well as the normal few guitars and drums. very catchy and fun, i hope to catch them live again.

buck 65 – he put on a better show than he did on friday night, i thought. he played many of the same songs, but he seemed more relaxed and into it than he did at the previous show. he also didn’t start out with screwed up versions of my 3 favourite songs, so that may have had something to do with it. robin’s description of buck 65: “he makes vanilla ice sound black”. i’ll leave it at that.

broken social scene – they wowed me with their set. they’re one of my favourite bands, so i was probably most excited about seeing them (in spite of their somewhat disappointing show i saw a little over a year ago). amy millan and evan cranley from stars and emily haines from metric were in attendance, so they were able to put on a show that lived up to their potential. many layers of guitars, horns, a variety of voices and amazing songs add up to a fantastic show that their long set up time didn’t detract from.

constantines – i’ve now seen the cons twice live, and both shows were at outdoor, uninimate venues. they put on a solid show but, like last time, i felt like they were lacking in a bit of energy and intensity – perhaps i would’ve felt differently if we’d been crammed into a small venue rather than having them towering above the crowd on a huge stage. regardless, i still liked their set, even though they added a somewhat misplaced flute to shine a light, my favourite cons song.

pilate – the one band on the bill that i really had no urge to see. i saw them open for the dears back in september and i was just really bored. it’s not that they’re untalented, don’t get me wrong – their music is fine, technically sound and radio friendly. the catch is that they don’t have their own sound…they’ve elected to emulate coldplay, u2 and radiohead instead, and have been rewarded with some popularity as a result. i’ll admit to dozing through much of their set, but scotto summed it up well: “it’s like they played one long song.” thrilling.

stills – i’ve kinda been feeling like i should like the stills a whole lot more than i do. their cd is okay – still in love song and lola stars and stripes are fantastic songs, but the rest have a tendency to run together in my mind. their set was pretty good, if you could get past the annoying cockiness of the singer. they also made use of broken social scene’s drummer for a couple songs, allowing their drummer to take the lead on one and sing, which was a highlight for me.

sam roberts – it became clear to me pretty fast that the majority of the crowd was there to see sam roberts. he sold an insane number of t-shirts (see my t-shirt assessment section) and the crowd seemed to grow when he hit the stage. his performance was pretty typically sam roberts – he thrives on that kind of environment, and has grown used to the large stage show over the last year or so. there were no surprises in his set – he played all the same stuff as the last two shows i saw, and the crowd ate it up. one highlight was during brother down, when several sets of bongos were brought on stage. several members of bss came out to play them (evan, amy, kevin, etc.) as well as k-os (!) who also added a short rap verse to the middle. pretty cool really.

sloan – i’ve seen sloan 11 or 12 times now by my count in all sorts of environments and venues, and i always seem to like their festival shows best – the shows at which they’re not hawking a new (and invariably shitty) new album so they’re able to fully explore their back catalogue and play the songs i like best. this show was no exception. if you can imagine, they opened their set with underwhelmed (!), which caused robin, scotto and me to all look at each other with great surprise, and played a set mainly filled with their singles, old and new (losing california, live on, coax me, lines you amend, people of the sky, etc.) a highlight for me was when they dug 500 up out of their vaults (i haven’t heard it in years) and brought kevin drew from bss out to sing andrew’s part. pretty cool. i’ll admit though that we left in the middle of their set to try to beat the insane rush to the ferry, but having seen them so many times before i don’t feel too bad about it. one final note about their set: i was a bit concerned that they were going last ’cause i really don’t have a good sense of their popularity anymore. sam roberts seemed to be the fan favourite and it probably would’ve made more sense to have him perform last, and i thought it was a bit of a risk for sloan to headline – what if everyone left early to try to beat the rush? my concerns were unfounded though – a LOT of people stayed to see sloan, which was a good thing i thought.

other fun notes:

  • riding the ferry over with broken social scene (“hey! it’s brendan canning!) – apparently they weren’t helicoptered in like true rock stars.
  • doing lotsa some indie pseudo-celeb spotting – brendan et al on the ferry, the entire broken scene crew gathered beside us at the beginning of the day, brendan again djing between sets (and playing the best music of the day, in my opinion), brian and dylan from by divine right separately wandering through the crowd, ian mcgettigan from thrush hermit hanging out at the dj booth with some unidentified girl who also played really cool music, chris murphy walking through the crowd (and posing for pictures), and gentleman reg also djing. overload!
  • watching the drunkest guy at the show “dance” – he was a big jockish guy wearing a jersey with the name “corkenheimer” written on the back, and watching his drunken near-falling stumble was hypnotic.
  • seeing a guy suddenly fall to his knees and puke on the grass, which is always a highlight. someone covered it up with a pizza box, and the next person to walk by stepped on it. whew. oh, and later on the evening when it was dark, some guy ended up rolling around on the ground in its vicinity. i hope for the best.
  • scotto’s friend adam recognizing the radiohead component of the karma police+a day in the live mashup played between sets, but not knowing who sang the beatles tune.

oh, and one final thing…as i alluded to above, we conducted a small t-shirt survey throughout the day. it was highly scientific, so feel free to use it in any academic paper you may be writing about the relative popularity of bands. here were the results:

metallica – 1

sloan – 1 (note that it was an old “sloan sloan sloan” shirt, like the one that i own – not one that you could buy at the show)

stills – 1

buck 65 – 1

broken social scene – 1

vote for pedro (which turned out to be related to napoleon dynamite) – 3

beatles – 4

sam roberts – uncountable (note that every single one of these looked to be purchased at the show)

in summary, those fans sure did like sam roberts.

more to come later about last night’s ac newman show, stay tuned…

One Response to “olympic island festival rundown”

  1. 1
    ben spaetzel Says:

    hey! there was a pink floyd t-shirt there! worn by me!

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