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Ookfest – September 9th, 2009
September 9th, 2006 - NAIT Soccer Fields - Edmonton, Alberta
For those of you who don’t know, Ookfest is Canada’s largest back to school party and heading into it’s 9th year of operations, it proved once again that it would be hard to take that title away from them. The festivities are huge; held on the NAIT campus there’s blow-up boxing rings, food stands, merch tables, and more beer than you could imagine. Then, on top of the giant beerfest, there’s the entertainment: 18 bands, 3 stages, and eleven hours of non-stop music and a few contortionists thrown in for good measure; and since I’m not a huge drinker, it is the entertainment we will talk about here.
Ookfest was basically set up as a mini-Warped Tour. The three stages meant that there was never any downtime, as one band ended on one stage, another began on the next. It was a constant revolution between stages and if you didn’t want to watch the band playing you could just settle down with a friend and a beer. It was a cool setup, and one that worked quite well, because we all hate that stupid downtime between bands. Anyway, we walked in as the second band of the day, Difinity, was playing their final songs and while I wasn’t too sad I had missed them, they did sound good. Quite a lot of energy, and the singer knew how to scream. Still,I found them to be the same as most screamo bands and as their set ended my friend and I followed to the crowd to the Jagermiester Stage to see Calgary’sStrada. While Strada were good musicians, it was too laid back and mellow for me to really enjoy.The band seemed pretty placid too, rarely moving and not putting a lot of energy into it; and even though it wasn’t the worst set I’d ever see, it was far from the best.
Once they ended their set we headed back to the Coors Light Stage to catch Joshua’s Habbit, and the three piece ended up impressing me quite a lot. Unlike Strada, these guys had a lot of energy playing quick three chord punk in the vein of Ryan’s Hope. It was refreshing to see a solid punk band playing and once they improve their banter a bit (I have no idea how many times they ended up shouting “come on Edmonton,make some noise!!”) they could do quite well. Joshua’s Habbit was the starting point of energy for the day, and local Edmonton act Murder City Sparrows were more than happy to take over that energy and improve on it on the Molson Stage right afterwards.
WIth an already steady fan base in Edmonton, Murder City Sparrows came on and just made that fan base triple. They had tons of energy, and sounded perfect, a lot better than they do on CD. They ripped through their entire EP, including Rats, 1000 Miles To Graceland and Hammer Click, along with some new tracks. The highlight of their set, for me anyway, was watching the bassist fly around the stage, interacting with the crowd and just going insane. They closed their set with their heavily played single Burn In Water which got the crowd’s attention right away. I liked them before, but Murder City Sparrows really blew me away, as they were a lot better than I was expecting – and everyone in the crowd agreed.
Back at the Jagermiester Stage, the oddest, weirdest,most gimmicky band of the day hit the stage: Cocksaw. The seven piece band all had stockings covering their face the entire set, and a letter of their name scribbled on their t-shirt. With two drummers leading the rhythm, they alternated lead vocals and instruments all the while chugging back Jack Daniel’s between each set. The songs were lewd and crewed, they had fast songs and yet ended up with slow piano driven ballad about bitches being sluts, the vocals alternated from melodic to screaming and mot only did they all dance at certain times, but they also brought out the tambourine for a few songs. There’s no denying that they were a gimmicky live band, but it worked, because they caught everyone’s attention – and the chugging of the alcohol definitely pleased all the drunken college students.
Afterwards came crowd favorite Broken Nose, a strong, hardcore band with a healthy set of fans in the crowd. They weren’t as gimmicky, their only gimmick was giving the crowd tons of free Jagermiester, but made up for the lack of gimmicks with a solid performance. Not being a hardcore fan, they couldn’t entertain me for long, but they definitely had the crowd’s attention in the palm of their hand; a bit more so than Lillix who were up next. The all girl pop-punk band, with a heavy dose of keys, played a few bouncy tunes for the crowd – including a cover or two. They were pretty good, but nothing outstanding. The next three bands I ended up missing, which wasn’t a bad thing since two of the three were hip-hop artists Maestro and Cadence Weapon and while I did want to see Reeve Oliver, it wasn’t heartbreaking to miss them either. Instead, I saw a bit of the Ryan Stock Mayhem show which included the world’s fattest contortionist and did some interviews backstage.
We came back to watch Emery, who were one of the main reasons I was at the show anyway, and wow did they put on an amazing set. Not only did they play my favorite songs like Walls, Playing With Fire, Studying Politics,Listening To Freddy Mercury, In A Win Win Situation and more, but they went absolutely insane. They flew all over the stage, jumped on the amps, alternated singers, threw their guitars in the air, and just put so much sincere energy into it that you were in awe. Of course, it was keyboardist Josh Head who really took the show. When it was his turn to scream he put every ounce of energy into it, jumping the gap to the barrier, singing with the crowd and just flying everywhere. During the final song he got on the crowd and had them hold him up on by his feet as he sang – it was amazing.
After this came the headliners, first was the up and coming Idle Sons, who are most definitely a live band. Their songs on CD don’t sound that interesting, but live they are great. After came Danko Joneswho was both entertaining and annoying to watch. First, he played fifteen-twenty minutes longer than he was supposed to, which meant that Yellowcard (the band I went there to see) had to play twenty minutes less than planned – so that was annoying. The second annoying thing was his persona, which was at the same time entertaining. He’s the being the perfect representative of the “rock star” image with a gravely voice, eccentric actions, and a sense of self-worth brought forward through arrogance and immense cockiness. He constantly complimented himself and insulted other genres, saying rock is the only true way to go. He talked about sex and got the crowd to chant along with him. Although, despite his annoying persona, he did sound good and got the crowd going as he sang songs like Lovercall, Sleep Is The Enemy, First Date, Mango Kid and more.
Next came Thornley which we opted to skip in order to get some rest and some food and watch the drunken idiots stumble across the field as we patiently waited for Yellowcard to hit the stage. Since the night was finally becoming dark, Yellowcard came on doused in lights and put on yet another spectacular set. The set focused mainly on their two recent releases, in fact, they didn’t play one song that was older than Ocean Avenue; still the crowd ate it up. Kicking it off with Life Of A Salesman, they ripped through songs like Rough Landing Holly, Sure Thing Fallen, Down On My Head, Lights And Sounds, Twenty Three, Believe and Ocean Avenue. They dedicated Only One to the band’s newest member, Ryan Mendez, and his wife to celebrate their one year anniversary which happened to be that day, and Sean did his signature back-flip off the speakers. It was a phenomenal set, clouded only by the fact that it was sorter than planned and didn’t feature any older tracks.
Finally, came the headliner of the whole evening: Metric. We watched half their set and then opted to leave, not because they were bad, but because they weren’t anything special. Having been there for nine hours already, we wee tired and sore and Metric wasn’t anything that we really wanted to wait around to watch. Overall, Ookfest was a success. A nice selection of varied bands, a great setup, and tons of alcohol for anyone wanting to drown their misery of the prospect of back to school. Nevertheless, if they get some good bands again next year, you’ll be sure that I’ll be making an appearance.