Get ready for a long one.
Alrighty. So I spent most of my day today at Sonic 102.9’s “Sonic Boom” festival at the Northlands parking lot. My brother had shelled out $100+ for VIP tickets for the both of us and we were expecting some pretty exceptional stuff. We boarded the train at around 2 o’clock and head towards the parking lot. Upon arrival, we followed the masses and the music to the entrance. Us VIP’s had our own separate entrance and we were then searched (very briefly albeit, I could have snuck a handful of coke, about 100 hits of E and any other drug you wanted in our backpack) and then we were given our nifty VIP lanyards and wristbands. So far so good right? Wrong.
As soon as we got through the entrance, we saw the VIP ‘area’. It was basically the area roughly the size of a professional basketball court with some concessions for drinks and food. There was a nice grassy area with some benches. We also had a building with actual toilets! And…that was it.
That was all we got for being VIP’s and spending an extra $40 for tickets got us pretty much nothing. Lame. This Sonic Boom festival was definitely lacking in just about every category. I’ve been to the veteraned Vans Warped Tour, and the newly started Virgin Festival, and both of these were miles ahead of Sonic Boom.
At venues like Virgin or Vans, there is a lot of people to do in the downtime between bands. Between each band the crews take between 20 – 40 minutes to set up for the next one. There is usually booths selling random merchandise, vendors, stalls, lots of people just giving away free stuff and getting their company out there. At Sonic Boom, I didn’t even see a single Sonic Boom tent with Sonic 102.9 stuff on it. I didn’t get to meet the DJ’s if I had chosen to do so, and there was NOTHING to do. You just had to sit around and watch people re-arrange the stage. Yee-ha.
The one thing Sonic Boom did have going for it was the bands. Metric, GirlTalk, Billy Talent, Franz Ferdinand and Alexisonfire amongst others were all at this event. But unfortunately not all of them performed that well. We’ll start chronologically.
Girltalk – A single guy with a computer who samples other songs and basically plays them non-stop. I was very weary about this guy, although my brother was quite stoked on him. I have a thing about not liking this new generation of guys with their computers. I feel that anybody can bring a computer on a stage, open up iTunes, and hit play. Big woop. It takes the whole performing out of a performance. But I was pleasantly surprised by Girltalk. He sampled from just about every genre, some of them included: Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Under The Bridge, Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot and Jackson Five’s ABC. This had all the emo kids, the metal heads, the hip hoppers, and the punks happy which was pretty cool. The guy who is the main member of Girltalk was pretty entertaining to watch, as he jumped around stage on one foot and proceeded to strip throughout his set. His entourage provided the crowd with toilet paper, confetti and balloons to add to the party atmosphere. I definitely enjoy Girltalk’s performance which felt like a big rave/party. I would recommend putting on Girltalk at any of your parties where you need some kinda music that everyone will like.
Next up was Metric. Now I have heard great things about Metric and I have listened to their newest album and enjoyed what I heard. I had very high expectations for this band, and none of those expectations were met. Emily Haines (the lead singer) was the only person who looked like she was having a moderately good time on stage while the other three members kinda stood there morbidly. The guitar player looks like a cross between Elvis Costello and Matthew Good, but had his sunglasses on the entire time, how rude. They played their hits “Give Me Sympathy” and “Monster Hospital” but by that time I had lost interest and gone to look around. When a band is on stage and they’re look like they’re not enjoying themselves, then the crowd won’t either. Which is what my opinion of their set was.
After Metric came the Franz Ferdinand. The Scottish quartet provided a funky and unique set list to the Sonic Boom experience. They had their flare and interacted well with the crowd. I was impressed how the two guitarists could switch between guitar and keyboards so easily. It was pretty cool. Another of my favourite parts of their set was when all four members started playing a piece of the drum kit. It would have been better if the kit was further towards the front of the stage so everyone could see (Another thing needed by Sonic Boom, big TV screens for the people in the back) but all in all it was fun. One thing that Franz Ferdinand did that no other band of the night did was introduce it’s members. It may be cheesy and over done, but I think it’s something that should just be standard. It gives the audience a little bit more of a personal connection with the band, and allows the members to show off a little. I also thought it was interesting how the band left the stage. As individuals. I have seen bands, like Alexisonfire, enter in this fashion, one at a time, but never leave. The lead singer left first, then the keyboardist left a loop on, and then the bassist, leaving the drummer last.
Now, the main event. For me at least, and probably half of the crowd there, we were all there to see Alexisonfire. I pushed and shoved my way to about 4 rows from the front. And when I say rows, I more or less mean people, squished up against the railing. So it’s more like 4 people crammed into two feet. And then they started. I will post what I recall of a set list after this. As usual, Alexisonfire put on a show that surpassed any by any other band that night. Their energy, musicality, and connection with the crowd are three of the factors that make AOF the great band that they are. Chris Steele, the bassist, is known for his ‘crazy eyes’ as he comes to the edge of the stage and opens his eyes wide and looks at members of the audience. Each member of Alexisonfire is great at such a simple thing. Looking at the audience. I’ve noticed a lot of bands seem to hide behind their microphones and don’t interact. That’s something, as a fan, that makes you love a band, is if they are personal with you. It’s all about connections and the members of Alexis did that tonight. There was one moment when George (the screamer) was speaking to the crowd, about how amazing he is and you shouldn’t mess with him, and out of nowhere a shoe flies on stage, and with Jedi-like reflexes, George sticks out his arm and catches said shoe, furthering his point. At one point during a song, there was a fight in the most pit, with two guys throwing punches, and again George takes it upon himself to make it personal. He takes a step down off the stage and starts yelling at the guys, “What the fuck are you doing?!” After the song was over, he called out the tough guys and moved on. It’s actions like this that make Alexis stand out for me. It’s interesting to see that they’ve become the seniors on the tour scene as newer bands that are coming up look to them for guidance. And they are, in my opinion, the mould that every band should try to replicate. Each member moves around on stage, they use all 50 feet of their cables and travel to each part of the stage to visit each section of the crowd. They are a band that loves the music, and is passionate about playing, and you can see it in their live show. Another classic Alexisonfire performance, I really hope they continue to make music for a long time to come.
By this time, I was all worn out from being at the front of the pit. Sweaty, sore and tired, I was ready to go home. My brother and his friend, Marie, wanted to stay to watch Billy Talent. I wasn’t expecting much, which was good! Cause Billy Talent was bland. With only 3 albums under their belt, I was wondering what they were going to draw on for material. I had seen them in Calgary when they toured for their II album with Rise Against. And it was very similar to that. They opened with Devil in a Midnight Mass, and it was not til their 4th song that they played something new. Which, could be confused with something old. Billy Talent has found their niche in punk today and they’re staying there. The twangy guitars with that distinct distorted tone and the whiny vocals are expected by the Billy Talent fans. So that’s what they got. Personally, I’m always looking for something new and different with music and a new CD from an old artist, and Billy Talent didn’t deliver. Another band that doesn’t move and hides behind their microphones. The lead singer could be interacting with all sides of the stage when he’s not singing but prefers to hang out close to the drums or the amps. The guitarist and bassist are stuck to 10 feet of guitar cable, so they won’t move remotely close to each other. The band is barely interacting with itself let alone the audience. They like to talk about hockey and how the city in which they are playing in, is so much better than their rival, ie the Oilers are better than the Flames. Whatever. This was the same when I saw them play at the Saddledome and the drummer dawned a Flames jersey. With so few songs to choose from, it was easy to predict which would be next. This was proven when I told my brother that it was either going to be “River Below” or “Try Honesty”, and the next song was the former. Lame. I have to compare Alexisonfire and Billy Talent to Aerosmith and Motley Crue whom I saw a few years ago. Billy Talent and Motley Crue used gimics and fancy lights and such to wow their audience, while the music lacks. However Alexisonfire and Aerosmith only need themselves on stage with their instruments. Their charisma, and passion for music are what make them put on a good show, not lights, fireworks and gimics.
So Sonic-Boom on a whole was a bust, Alexisonfire however was not. And that one performance made up for the whole day. Hope you enjoyed my essay on a concert. Also stay tuned for the Fashion of Sonic Boom on JuST B in the coming days!
Here’s the real set list for Alexisonfire’s show today (Not sure if the order is correct, it’s close though).
- Drunks, Lovers, Sinners, and Saints
- No Transitory
- Boiled Frogs
- Born and Raised
- This Could Be Anywhere In The World
- Young Cardinals
- We Are The Sound
- Water Wings (And Other Poolside Faux Pas)
- Heading For The Sun
- Happiness By The Kilowatt