Originally published in CVV Magazine on July 24, 2015
Sunshine and Rock ‘n’ Roll
The festival season in B.C. doesn’t really kick off until mid-July—well after the Coachella and Sasquatches of the west coast have long come and gone—but when it does, we enter a whole new mode of summer. This past weekend, while tens of thousands descended on Pemberton Music Festival for some of the biggest electronic and hip-hop acts touring today, Victoria hosted a different kind of festival—one that relied on a heavier guitar sound and live instrumentation rather than ear-shattering drum and bass: Rock the Shores—at the beautiful Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre in Colwood. The festival borrowed many of the acts that played Pemberton in the days before, but celebrated the older, more seasoned rock acts and breathed new life into the dying art of rock and roll.
On Saturday night, the heavyweights on the bill were The Black Keys, who had closed out the main stage at Pemberton the night before, drawing a huge crowd in Victoria from early on in the day. After a long and arduous bus trip out to Colwood’s West Shores, my group and I arrived in time to catch the end of newcomer Scott Helman, who had the crowd singing and dancing along by the end of his set to “Bungalow,” which gets quite a bit of local radio play. As the afternoon wore on, the heat and long lines for water distracted from bands like the Vancouver-based blues-rock outfit No Sinner, who played a fairly uninteresting set. At 3:00, the Kingston rock and rollers The Glorious Sons took the stage to play an excellent set, transitioning seamlessly between heavier and more psychedelic tracks. Up next were local legends 54-40, who had the crowd dancing right to the back as they rolled through their greatest hits. Victoria locals Current Swell were given a lofty introduction—“Summer doesn’t start until you’ve seen these guys live”—before getting the crowd into the festival spirit with a barrage of homegrown island folk-rock.
Then the evening really got started. As the field filled up and lineups for food curved around the site, seasoned Saskatoon rockers The Sheepdogs took the stage, playing bluesy rock with a modern twist, with songs like “The Way It Is,” “Feeling Good,” and “I Don’t Know,” as well as their recent single “Downtown.” Somewhere during the sing-along set, my group and I moved our way up to the front of the stage.
We stayed up there after the The Sheepdogs left the stage for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, who are always entertaining, and frontman Alex Ebert put on quite a show as the acid-cult leader character of Edward Sharpe, whose only desire is for “the whole damn world to come dance with [him].” There was plenty of dancing and audience participation in the set, too, and at one point during “Home” Ebert stopped the show to pass the microphone around to people in the crowd who wanted to tell stories.
The whole thing fit well with the hippie-feel of the island, and at that point it started to feel like a proper festival. The crowd, almost put under a spell by Edward Sharpe, changed dramatically as we waited for The Black Keys to take the stage, and when they finally did we were packed like sardines in the front row. They sounded good, but Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney looked tired and physically drained as they played through hits like “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Tighten Up,” and “Lonely Boy.” Ultimately, they provided the real rock of the day, closing their set with the heartachingly beautiful “Little Black Submarines,” which was a huge crowd-pleaser. They didn’t come out for an encore though, a trend that would continue for the rest of the weekend.
Day 2, though considerably smaller, was the day I was looking forward to most, with 90s rock icons Jane’s Addiction closing out the bill, as well as art-rock pioneers TV on the Radio and witty singer-songwriter Father John Misty earlier in the day. We got there just before 3:00 to catch the end of Australian Kim Churchill’s foot-stomping set. What followed was one of the strangest bookings—and sets—I’ve ever seen at a music festival with PPL MVR, a band of Sasquatches that seemed to really like auto tune. They had me won over when they played a cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” though.
I took the chance to go up to the front of the stage to take photos for what
I thought were some of the best bands on the lineup. I got some practice in with Bleachers, a new project led by Jack Antonoff from fun. that has been getting quite a bit of local radio play.
As the late afternoon wore on, former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman graced the stage as Father John Misty. His bushy beard and vocal chops make him somewhat of an indie-rock icon, while his dry sense of humor and showmanship make him very entertaining to watch as he flounces around the stage unapologetically. I was able to get within inches of him as he put on a show for the cameras.
I stayed up front for what has to be one of my favorite bands of all time: TV on the Radio. I saw them for the first time back in 2008 at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver when I was just 14 years old—at that time they were touring the now classic Dear Science, which they played just a few songs from in their short but seductive sundown set.
Then it was time for Jane’s Addiction. I grew up listening to Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro both with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s, so it was pretty special to finally get to see them live. I ran into Dave in Vail, Colorado a few years ago and he wouldn’t sign an autograph, but there’s still a photo of me with drummer Stephen Perkins floating around somewhere. Their set blew everything else out of the water.
(Photo by Dean Kaylan)
Like master puppeteers Farrell and Navarro were absolutely captivating, even with dancing girls in the background, culminating in a sensory overload unlike anything else as they grinded up against Farrell while other women swung from ropes connected to metal bars pierced through their backs for set-closer “Stop.” These old rock stars still know how to put on a show, taking every chance they could to be applauded by the receptive audience, particularly as all four gathered around the front of the stage for an acoustic rendition of “Jane Says.” The historic set—their first ever on the island—provided the perfect ending to a great weekend, and will long be sticking in the memories of those who attended.