Four great bands, 16,000 fans, one amazing night. This past Saturday, the Budweiser Stage was rocked to the core by titans of modern Canadian rock when Arkells and July Talk turned up the loud and brought down the house with their ever-growing catalogue of hit singles.
Opening were west coast indie-poppers, Said the Whale, who are continuing to tour behind their latest album, As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide. It was a mostly upbeat set from the Vancouver crew as they mixed fan favourites like “Mother” and “I Love You” with newer songs like “I Will Follow You”. One subdued moment came towards the end of their set as they dedicated a song to a friend who tragically passed away in a car accident. Singer Tyler Bancroft had the whole amphitheatre lit up with the crowd’s phones as the band played the tender ballad, “Emily Rose”.
The sole American band on the bill, Mondo Cozmo, have had a busy year. Touring with Bastille and prepping their debut album for an August release is no small feat. The band play an eclectic blend of mid-90s Brit-pop and arena alternative that works really well on big stages. Frontman Josh Ostrander was brimming with positive vibes the whole way through the set, and the optimism is clearly evident in the band’s song titles. “Shine”, “Higher” and a cover of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” all kept the crowd’s spirits way up.
July Talk are perhaps Canada’s most singular band at the moment, inimitable in their sound. It’s this uniqueness that’s catapulted them onto massive stages around the world, and they were greeted back home with wide open arms. Still riding the wave of 2016’s Touch, they played a ferocious set filled with the theatrical performances fans have come to expect from the Toronto crew. Big hits “Push + Pull”, “Beck + Call” and “Guns + Ammunition” were interspersed with deeper cuts like “Strange Habit”, “The Garden” and “My Neck”, and every single song was eagerly devoured by the wild crowd.
A special cover of Motorhead‘s “Ace of Spades” was dedicated to the band’s tour manager/sound mixer, Karen Weigold, on account of her birthday, with some wild touches thrown in. Rocker Matt Mays made a special guest appearance, as did two inflatable sharks and giant flags being carried across the stage. A particularly riotous moment in a show full of them.
Arkells are now firmly established as a rock powerhouse in Canada and it’s easy to see why. Frontman Max Kerman has charisma for days and stage presence in spades, with his band all at the top of their game on their respective instruments. The show was a veritable hit parade from all across the band’s nearly decade long career in the spotlight, from the early sounds of “Oh, the Boss is Coming” to the opulent latest single “Knocking at the Door”. The crowd was already singing every word, but Kerman wrangled in any stragglers by commissioning the entirety of the audience to be his “non-denominational gospel choir for the night”.
The encore featured another huge surprise. After Morning Report single, “My Heart’s Always Yours”, the band performed a cover that fits them like a glove: Bruce Springsteen‘s “Dancing in the Dark”. There’s always been a little bit of the Boss in the band’s DNA, so this song is right at home in their repertoire. Of course, things got even better when the three other bands on the bill all joined Arkells on an already packed stage for the song. It was almost too much talent to handle!
The night ended up a massive success and a great reminder of the incredible amount of talent we have in this country – definitely something to celebrate.