Joel Plaskett Emergency brought the east coast flair to end the night after The Rural Alberta Advantage had us dancing to their west coast laments at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill, this weekend.
Day one was excellent even though it started off a little rocky. Arriving half an hour early for the shuttle buses up to Vankleek Hill, it still took over an hour before I was on a bus and on our way. This meant I missed out on local rockers Fresh Hell, well almost everyone missed out on them actually, but it is great that the festival invited local acts.
Once I accepted missing out on Fresh Hell, everything was on the up and up. I got my complimentary pretzel and beer and wandered over to the Bamberg tent which housed the punk rock, mini ramp and Antique Skateshop booth. Right next to the tent was a massive half-pipe where Vans and Antique skaters rode all weekend long. Pop punks from Toronto, The Fandemics, were the first band I saw. With skateboarding on both sides of them and people posing for Movember photos with sparkly moustaches, they rocked the ever-growing crowd with some catchy originals. The really impressed me by reaching deep and covering The Replacements’ “Kids Don’t Follow,” and Soul Asylum’s “Need Somebody to Shove.”
With the tent filling up as more and more buses arrived it was time for Vankleek Hill to experience the party madness that is Ottawa’s New Swears. Playing their first show after a three-month European tour, the boys took to the stage dressed head to toe in black and sporting long pink wigs. They started by playing a little of “Stir It Up” by Bob Marley and then got down to business playing their love song “Two Darts” and then “Paradise,” the anthem for those who don’t know their limits. The set continued with they played “Rather be Dead” and “Stay Gold” as fans covered other concert-goers in silly string provided by the band. New Swears were having a blast climbing on each other’s shoulders, amps and the mini-ramp, as well as skateboarding, rolling around on the ground and even forming pyramid. It was great to see the band rock out to so many new faces and hopefully forge many new fans.
With the punk rocking finished it was time for some food before Rural Alberta Advantage. The tastiest food I sampled all weekend was Brockberry Cafe’s incredible spicy chicken balls. They were homemade lightly breaded chicken balls stuff with jalapeño peppers and blue cheese. And the best part was they were $1 each so they made the perfect snack at any time.
As the temperature dropped, Rural Alberta Advantage took to the stage to several thousands of fans standing to watch them and several more in the tents comfortably sampling all the delicious beers. The three-piece have such a rich full sound, you would think they were five or more on stage. RAA opened with a new song off their brand new album Mended With Gold. “What a prefect night,” said lead singer and guitarist Paul Banwatt. “How many beers have you tried?” Their new songs sound great, but the crowd was super excited to hear their older material. Songs such as “Don’t Haunt This Place,” “Frank, AB,” “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge,” and their closer “Stamp'” really had the people dancing and singing. Their energy on stage showed just how much fun they were having as well and Banwatt confirmed it by saying “This is unbelievable, so cool, thanks Beau’s, never expected to play an Oktoberfest.”
It was now time for the main event, and a very enthusiastic Alan Neal from CBC had the pleasure of introducing Joel Plaskett. Neal announced that there were nearly 7,000 people in attendance ready to see one of Canada’s finest singer songwriters. He also took a moment to say “to all you campers, you are the most beautiful people.” Plaskett was on fire on this night rocking through his catalogue with his incredible backing band Emergency. Opening with some songs from Three “Through & Through & Through” and “Deny, Deny, Deny” then into “You’re Mine” from Scrappy Happiness. He had us, he had us, he had us, at that point. The theme of the night was bands looking like they were having as much fun as those watching them, and it continued as Plaskett said, “Hope you are enjoying yourselves, because we sure are.” Being that he was playing Oktoberfest, he could not pass up on playing “Park Avenue Sobriety Test,” which felt very appropriate, but then he took it even further and covered “Beer Run.” That all made sense, but what had me trying to think back to how many beers I had because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, was Joel Plaskett sampling a Lorde song… yup, that happened. And as time ran out on the night, they closed out the set with “Nowhere With You.”
With people scurrying to the busses back to Ottawa, I headed back to the campground. It began to rain, but considering I was now a beautiful person in the eyes of Alan Neal and I found people dancing around a campfire. I embraced the rain and many new friends in the flickering of the late night flames. Day one was a wonderful success.