Live Review: Wakestock 2010, August 6-8

Public Enemy Live At Wakestock 2010 By: Sheena Lyonnais and TJ Liebgott
August 14, 2010

After being kicked out of Wasaga and flirting with Toronto, Wakestock found a new home in Collingwood, Ontario last weekend.  TMS took highway 400 straight into a lineup that included predominately local acts and one major jaunt through hip hop nostalgia.  While Sunday was plagued by the annual Wakestock rain curse, Saturday was a perfect reminder of the Wakestocks of years passed.  The beer tent was packed, the wakeboarding was awesome and the soundtrack was great.  Here are our thoughts on everything from Fox Jaws to Flavor Flav.

Friday, Aug. 6
By the time Toronto Music Scene arrived in Collingwood to pick up our passes, we were informed events ended early and advised we return in the morning.  Known for its after parties, we decided to hit the Village in Blue Mountain to see what kind of trouble we could get into, but being from Toronto we showed up after 11 p.m. to discover it was virtually impossible to get into any main party.  We ended up at 3 Guys and a Stove for what turned out to be a cancelled Underground Operations Beach Party.  We stayed anyway, had a blast and took a school bus back into the Collingwood core at some early hour of the night.  Random, but much less debaucherous than we had hoped.

Saturday, Aug. 7

King Cobra
King Cobra are an energetic screamo band, but one that couldn’t prevent our ears, eyes or feet from wandering over lakeside to enjoy the gorgeous weather, the sick wakeboarding and the pure joy that comes from the occasional summer weekend outside of the city.  We were much too content to catch such a seemingly angry band, and unfortunately they didn’t do enough to pursuade us otherwise.

USS featuring Maestro Fresh-Wes
USS Play Wakestock 2010 - Toronto Music SceneUSS faced technical difficulties upon beginning, but did not let that prevent them from instantly revving up the crowd upon walking on stage.  They were energetic and vivid as usual, roaring through hit tracks like "Hollow Point Sniper Hyperbole" and “Pornostartrek” before being joined on stage by Maestro.  While they are extremely entertaining to watch with the choreographed smoothie routine and cardboard cutouts, I can’t help but wish they would stop relying so heavily on old gimmicks and maybe learn some new tricks.

What was slightly interesting was when USS DJ/Hypeman Human Kebob was joined by Canadian Hip Hop pioneer Maestro Fresh-Wes.  The two of them played updated versions of a few of Maestro’s tracks, of course the only ones anyone remembered being “Drop The Needle” and “Let Your Back Bone Slide.”  Although it was fun hearing a new spin on these old tracks, it wasn’t long before the waves of nostalgia wore off.  Regardless, Maestro brought a refreshing amount of energy to the stage – perhaps high off the release of this new book, which features a forward written by the one and only Chuck D.

Crash Kings
Picture this: it’s a gorgeous, sunny day and you’re sitting lakeside with your shoes off overlooking the water alongside great company, sipping on jack and coke with sunglasses on.  In the background is a band playing nostalgic, 70s-influenced rock’n’roll with a Jack White vibe and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘wow, what a perfect day to be alive.’  This was my second time catching LA’s Crash Kings and something about them always captures the moment perfectly, even if I didn’t physically watch it this time.  One must wonder, if a live band transfixes you so much without engaging your visuals, then they certainly must be doing something right.  

Even though Public Enemy were the headlining act, it seemed everyone at Wakestock was there to see Alexisonfire and it’s not hard to see why.  Their sound screams outdoor festival/sporting event.  Filled to the brim with aggression, angst and enough testosterone to kill the cast of Jersey Shore, Alexisonfire showed from their first note why they are still one of Canada’s hottest rock n’ roll commodities.  During tracks like the recent “Young Cardinals,” the crowd took the lead role, belting out the lyrics and moshing their hearts out louder than all three singers combined.  This must have come as a relief to Alexis, as their energy on stage fell short of it’s usual ferocity.   

Public Enemy
Public Enemy Live At Wakestock 2010 - Toronto Music SceneCollingwood was one of two Canadian stops for on Public Enermy’s Fear Of A Black Plan tour and even Chuck D, Flavor Flav and the rest of the crew were not immune to the technical problems afflicting Wakestock’s sound crew.  After a good half hour of trying to fix the monitor mix and DJ Lord’s turntable decks, Canadian hip-hop alumni Michee Mee went out to perform two songs to try and quell the growing restlessness of the Wakestock crowd.  Fans of 90’s Canadian hip-hop may remember Michee Mee from her days with Toronto rock/rap group Raggadeath.

Finally, Flavor Flav emerged on stage with a boombox to the cheers of fans of both music and reality television alike. Working the audience into a frenzy until finally settling behind a drum kit, Flavor Flav introduced the crowd to one of the worst drum solos anyone has ever heard.  Finally the show started as Chuck D and the rest of the crew came out to show fans why 23 years later, Public Enemy is still relevant in the world of hip-hop.

Both fans and curious onlookers were treated to songs spanning Public Enemy’s prolific 28-year career.  Playing mostly older hits, Public Enemy busted through fan favorites like “Don’t Believe The Hype,” “Fight The Power,” “Welcome To The Terrordome” and an ode to former DJ Terminator X, “Terminator X to The Edge of Panic,” pausing briefly only to chastise fans that became unruly by throwing cans of pop at other festival goers.

Even with all the bumps and hiccups, it was a legendary performance by a legendary band.  I guess sometimes you can, in fact, believe the hype!

Sunday, Aug. 8

Fox Jaws
The intense rains caused an hour and a half delay for the stage show, by which point many attendees had already given up and left.  Those who stuck around were fortunate enough to catch Barrie’s Fox Jaws, a band so good I instantly forgave the weather.  Vocalist Carleigh Aikins has a smoky, cowlick howl supported by an energetic and authentically interesting band that evokes excitement and fervor.  Their recordings do no justice to capturing the true essence of this band’s soul-infused indie rock.  It’s a shame their set was condensed to a mere four songs because their performance was such a tease.

The Katacombs
The Katacombs are not the typical band you would expect to see on a Wakestock bill, but it wasn’t long before this rockabilly three-piece with goth tendencies won over the small crowd that stuck around despite the rain.  Sadly their set was shorter than expected due to the weather, but the Katacombs crammed as much psychobilly as they could into their 20 minute while barely taking a minute to breathe.  Luckily, they are based in Barrie so it shouldn’t be too long before TMS sees them under better circumstances.

Rebel Emergency
The problem with Rebel Emergency is they’re so desperate to stand out and succeed that they end up writing and performing material that comes off sounding hollow, contrived and pretentious.  It’s truly a shame because drummer Jeremy Kleynhans is a terrifically talented and seamless performer, a trait he doesn’t exploit with this band like he did in previous acts.  “Wander Far Away” is misleading live as their saving grace, as are their slickly recorded albums.  It eludes me how they ended up opening for Snoop Dog this weekend when their music clearly lacks sparkle and intrigue.

Hollerado Live Wakestock - Toronto Music SceneRounding out the line-up to what could have been a glorious night at the Horseshoe, Hollerado took the stage bursting into “Americanarama” to the delight of a now decent-sized and relatively rambunctious crowd.  The weather was returning to its rainy nature, threatening to put an end to the performance as crew scrambled to cover equipment from the storm, but fan cheers prevailed and Hollerado were permitted to continue for one more song.  We were fortunate enough to have caught Hollerado at the Boat just days before in a packed house and an ideal venue for the peppy indie band with a rustic vibe.  They tore the place to shreds that night and played an interesting number of covers, including “Twist and Shout.”  The crowd ate up every note, dancing under a sky of confetti fueled by liberally poured drinks.  Wakestock seemed like a polar opposite event with an entirely different crowd, yet the vibe only slightly shifted.  Kids in brightly coloured boarder shorts were literally lining up to buy Hollerado’s “Record In A Bag,” a testament to the band’s versatility and prevailing strength as performers, while others sang along to tracks like “Juliette.”  The band has a way of turning even gloomy topics into a celebration, a skill that is rounded out by Menno Versteeg’s uniquely accessible vocals.  It must be a very exciting time to be in this band right now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *