Virgin Fest Sunday (partial) review
The weird thing is, as I walked into Virgin Fest and over to the left side of the stage, I glanced up at the scrolling bar on the top of the video screen that plays people’s text messages, and it said “Alex Baker, I love you, Paul Cyr >3.” I don’t know Paul Cyr, and I don’t know why he’d be text-mooning me.
Soon after, Metric came onstage (hence the partial review). Lead singer Emily Haines, guitarist James Shaw, bassist Josh Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key opened the show with a gradual, melodic beat, rising to a crescendo that kicked into Metric’s indie/classic-rock sound.
Haines, in her trademark shiny astronaut dress and bangin’ her blond locks over her synthesizer, is proof you can make it as a modern rock frontwoman without having a C-cup. Her sex appeal is undeniable, especially from about 15 feet away.
However, there seems to be some untapped potential with Haines and her bandmates, like they could be more raw and wild, rather than just being energetic and dancing. Their set was good and the energy was there, from the crowd and on-stage, but it still felt bottled at times. They need to come out of their indie-shell and just jam.
The most powerful sounds they put out came during the last few songs, when you could feel Haines’ scorn and anger on “Monster Hospital” as she chewed out the lyrics, “I fought the war, but the war won!” She was at her best during “Stadium Love,” daring the crowd to let loose and join in with a Jim Morrison-like monologue — “We are Metric and we will always be Metric!” — then proclaiming the love with reckless abandon. The breathless look she gets while concentrating on playing the guitar doesn’t hurt, either.
Meanwhile, during Metric’s set and with the whole crowd dancing and jumping, there happened to be one of the most inept displays of crowd surfing I’ve ever seen. Hey — shirtless guy with the neon-blue backpack (you know who you are…) — if you can’t get it up, stop trying! You got lifted five times and couldn’t make it more than one pass in the air. The dude couldn’t figure out you have to be actually in the dense crowd for people to keep you up, and kept on bailing — hard. On top of people. That’s annoying.
Overheard in the crowd at Virgin Fest:
“You should crowd-surf. Go up, it’s sexy!”
“I can’t get over all the young’uns here!”
“Let’s look at everyone’s band t-shirts — who do you have? Oh, the Allman Brothers?! Well, go right through, sir!”
“Hey, tree-guy! Wait, I want a picture!”
“No, I don’t have any papers.”
“Just push through, this is how concerts work.”
The crowd as a whole couldn’t get anyone to the bouncers in the gap, either, and a few people took some bad spills. Watching people struggle to stay afloat in the sea of bodies, I feared the art of crowd-surfing was becoming a lost art — you have to help the people help you, after all.
Speaking of helping people, there were Fest girls walking around wearing T-shirts that said “Trust me, I’m an angel,” with “actually, I’m a Virgin volunteer,” underneath. Those girls would have been a lot more trustworthy if the shirts had said, “trust me, I’m a virgin,” no?
Coming on stage after Metric and closing out the Calgary stop on the Virgin Fest tour, surely the biggest of any of the bands in the line-up (who’s ever heard of Pearl Jam?), punk-rock bad-boys Billy Talent!
It was a younger crowd for those guys, it seemed, than for many of the other bands, which is ironic because all those 16-year-olds in Billy Talent T-shirts probably don’t even realize the band members are in their mid-thirties and struggled for years before making it.
The guys performs just like that, though. They have the vibe of a band that has finally found a winning, popular sound that has made them huge, and they’re not going to deviate much from the radio singles fans want to hear. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure people who love Billy Talent had a great time — including the leather-clad parents who brought their three-year-old to the show and had him sitting on the ground underfoot, perilously close to the stage.
Billy Talent’s simple lyrics and the repetition in their songs lend themselves well to audience participation, and the energy in the mosh-pit was intense. However, the charisma and vigour of lead singer Ben Kowalewicz was unmatched by his bandmates, guitar Ian D’Sa, bassist John Gallant and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk.
New hits “Rusted From The Rain” and “Devil On My Shoulder” got strong reactions, while older crowd-pleasers “Surrender,” “Fallen Leaves” and “This Suffering” were true to form. This is the sad thing, because the guys in Billy Talent, with their success and not-entirely-lacking musical skill, could or should be in the position to experiment a little and push themselves beyond their basic Green Day-lite punk rock. Songs like “Surrender” are a step in that direction, though. All in all, I would say the Billy Talent set was probably an eight – they did put on a good show for those who like that sort of thing.