Toronto’s music scene officially re-opened with the help of the Arkells and their Long Weekend at Budweiser Stage. The 3-night event kicked off on Friday and was a fantastic way to celebrate COVID restrictions finally starting to lift in Ontario.
The Hamilton five-piece opened up their set with ‘Years In The Making’, which was fitting as most of us can agree that the last 17 months has felt more like years. Then they treated the crowd to some of their older hits such as ‘Leather Jacket’ and ‘Michigan Left’.
Between their upbeat music, lead singer Max Kerman’s unmistakable vocals and constant engagement with the crowd, it’s a no brainer as to how the band was able to pull off the 3-night event at Budweiser Stage. They literally radiate positive energy, which could be felt throughout the entire venue. Part way through their two hour set, Kerman invited a female couple on to the stage. They had gotten married during the pandemic and had their first dance to ‘And Then Some’, the band wanted to help them celebrate by recreating their first dance in front of the sold out crowd. He later applauded those who had received both doses of the vaccine, while pretending to administer an oversized one into keyboardist, Anthony Carone, jokingly stating that the side-effects of getting his real life vaccine was that he became a better keyboardist.
Looking around the venue, you could easily see that Arkells is one of those bands that really brings people together. The age of the crowd was pretty diverse, which isn’t something many artists can say about their audience. There was a family sitting in front of me with younger kids. Both parents and kids were decked out in merch and dancing the night away in their seats. It was pretty cool to see.
As the band closed out the first night of their Long Weekend, they ended their set with ‘Hand Me Downs’, a cover of Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’, and their hit ‘Knocking At The Door’.
In terms of following Ontario’s COVID protocols for hosting such events, the venue was capped at 11,000 as opposed to the usual 16,000. It still looked like a full house, but things like the general admission pit was taken away in favour of assigned seats to help space people out. Masks were mandatory unless eating or drinking. That rule didn’t seem to be strictly enforced as I did see quite a few people just hanging around in the crowd without them, but thankfully it seemed to be obeyed by many seated around me. Photographers had to fill out a COVID form to make sure we weren’t experiencing any symptoms / had any contact with anyone with COVID, ect. I’m not sure if concert goers had to do something similar upon entry. Paperless tickets and cashless concessions were also in place to avoid any unnecessary contact.
Overall, I think this was a good first step to getting some normalcy back.