Photographs by Sarah Rix.
As I wondered towards Echo Beach, Molson Amphitheatre’s more fun younger sibling, I walked through the Exhibition grounds where the CNE is currently running. When the CNE is on it is almost the end of summer, a bittersweet time of year. School is almost back in session and the weather turns from t-shirt and shorts temperatures to jeans and jackets. You would have forgiven me for assuming fall was already upon us with the way it has been so chilly the last week or so. To make matters worse the sky was painted dark grey, ready to drop buckets of rain and potentially thunder and lightening at a moment’s notice.
The sand in front of the main stage, for The Edge’s third installment of their Edgefest concert series, was already getting full when Current Swell’s set on the side stage was still on. The Edge was unofficially celebrating the 90’s with bands like Our Lady Peace, Sloan, I Mother Earth and Eve 6 on the bill, all bands that (for the most part) were at their peaks in the mid-to-late 90’s. The humor wasn’t lost on the bands performing; the fans or the organizers as all made jokes. That doesn’t really matter when you have a packed house of people who still want to rock out and list Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and Oasis as their favourite bands.
Eve 6 was the first band up on the main stage and they came out with great confidence ready to rock the crowd. Lead singer and bassist Max Collins lead the charge with his flamboyant dance moves and fantastic crowd interaction. Collins declared after having not played in Toronto for ‘a minute’ “Will you take this ride with us?” before launching into Open Road Song. Collins was having issues with one of his basses not having its sound picked up. It was something he could have made a big deal about, he could have stopped the song and restarted when it was fixed. Instead he let his guitarist Jon Siebels take charge. Collins kept singing but let his technician take his instrument and figure out what was wrong and switched the wireless pickup attached to his strap. After the song was done Collins made fun of the situation and jokingly blamed the techie, later, when the set was finished he thanked the guy and made the crowd give him a round of applause. “We love you more than your parents do Toronto!” They ended their set with their biggest hits Here’s To the Night and Inside Out.
The sky remained gloomy when I Mother Earth hit the stage, the first of the three Canadian alt-rock legends on the bill. That didn’t matter to lead singer Brian Byrne who despite their hard rock recordings was a positive ray of sunshine himself. He expunged the poor weather by spouting words of peace and enjoying music in all its power. At one point he even called out some overly aggressive fans near the front and told them to knock it off, all without missing a beat mid-song. While the bass was hard to hear during Eve 6’s set, IME had more than enough bass and percussion to go around, with the rhythm section sounding like a train chugging along at a fast pace. Having both a drummer and a percussionist playing, the band sounded more jam-bandy live then their records suggest. One song’s intro sounded like an alterative version of Black Magic Woman. At one point Byrne took a five-minute break off stage while the band took over and rocked an instrumental number. They made sure to play their biggest hit One More Astronaut second to last while ending with Rain Will Fall their first single from way back in 1993.
Sloan resented that they were being called a 90’s band as they pointed out they have been even more prolific in the 14 years since then they were in the previous 10. Chris Murphy and the guys ran onstage and declared that “We’re Sloan and we’re going to play as many songs as we can!” The band kept that promise as they managed to play fourteen songs in only one hour. The band alternated lead singers for a majority of the songs. Sometimes Murphy on bass was the leader, other times it was Patrick Pentland and Jay Ferguson the band’s two guitarists singing. At one point Murphy and drummer Andrew Scott switched instruments for a few songs while Scott also sung lead vocals. Murphy joked about how the band had played their supposed last show ever 19 years prior right across the beach at the Molson Amphitheatre. Their impossible upbeat songs made the crowd groove a bit for the first time in the night with songs like Who Taught You To Live Like That? and The Good In Everyone. As opposed to playing their biggest song at the end of their set like most festival acts do, they played a song that was announced as “You might know this one from the radio” before launching into The Rest of My Life. At one point Murphy joked about how Sloan played with Our Lady Peace a week before and it poured but how the rain managed to stay away for the night (so far).
Throughout the night The Edge’s DJs would come out to introduce the next act finally putting faces to the voices people listen to everyday. Josie Dye came out to announce their latest addition to their roster, the former Alexisonfire guitarist Wade MacNeil who in turn announced Our Lady Peace to the stage. The band wearing only black and white with lead singer Raine Maida rocking a leather motorcycle jacket came out to the loudest reaction from the crowd of the night. Kicking off their set they played Heavyweight from their 2011 album Curve. The band played plenty of their over abundance of hits included 90’s hits One Man Army and Superman’s Dead. Raine commented on how he “spent so many damn summers at Ontario Place” and how it was nice to be playing at the festival. They rocked a heavier than usual version of Innocent. The fans truly got into the songs by jumping around and throwing their arms in the air more so than all the previous acts combined. The band showed why they were the headliners as they had the best lighting rigs, not to mention an LED screen set up behind them showing celestial images. OLP also had the best sound of the night, some of the bands you either couldn’t hear the bass or understand the lyrics, but they managed to have a perfectly balanced mixing. The band reveled in the fact that most of the choruses were sung by the large crowd, which added an extra layer of energy to the performance. They saved one of their best songs for last ending with somber hit 4AM.
Thankfully the only rain that showed up was Maida, as the proposed thunderstorm that Mother Nature promised, managed to hold off. If this was how most people ended their summer, they couldn’t be blamed for having a great night of soon to be considered classic rock by a bunch of bands that still know how to put on one hell of a show.