On Canada Day, Toronto rock station 102.1 the Edge presented Edgefest 1, the first of three concerts this summer in a series at Echo Beach, next door to Molson Amphitheatre on the city's waterfront. The event was headlined by pan-Canadian rockers Matt Mays (from Nova Scotia), Monster Truck (Hamilton) and the Sheepdogs (Saskatchewan). Here's what we learned about Canadians, on a day of drinking, standing in the sand and guitar-rock jams.
Canadians are gregarious and, when it comes to adult beverages, outrageously generous. A member of Hamilton rockers Monster Truck was "so happy" to be at the sandy venue that he proposed that we should all "have a beer," on him. If we multiply the price of a 710 ml can of a ice-cold Molson product ($15) by the announced attendance (3,100), Monster Truck's tab comes to $46,500.
Canadian may wear their hearts on their sleeves, but they sport their temporary maple leaf tattoos on their upper thighs. At least a number of women in cutoffs did, while many other patriots fashioned Canadian flags as capes across their back and shoulders. John A. Macdonald built a railroad and Maggie Trudeau partied with the Rolling Stones so that we could exhibit our True North pride so proudly and truly.
Every nation gets the Allman Brothers they deserve. For Canadians, it is the Sheepdogs, with their southern-fried jams and doubled guitar noodling.
Thy sons have the command of their national anthem. After an a capella first couple of lines of O Canada, Sheepdog singer Ewan Currie gave up singing and let the crowd croon the rest on its own. In contrast, visiting rockers Boston and Journey last week at Molson Amphitheatre presented flashy, searing guitar-crazed, instrumental versions of the power ballad about standing guard for thee.
Hosers are hardcore when it comes to partying know-how. Where a reported 46 concertgoers, ages 18 to 30, were transported to hospital from the previous weekend's massive EDM event Digital Dreams at Toronto's Ontario Place, Edgefest at the nearby Flats at Molson Amphitheatre had nothing near as catastrophic. Paramedics on hand at Edgefest – including the one who was witnessed air-drumming to Monster Truck – transported just two patients to hospital, both with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Toronto Emergency Medical Services. Granted Edgefest was much smaller in scale than Digital Dreams, but the suspicion is that older rock fans have a better handle on their booze and buds than the dance-music kids do with their boutique drugs.
Canadians are proud mongrels. "In 1995, me and my brother Shamus came to Canada," said Sheepdog singer-guitarist Ewan Currie. "I love this country." The band then launched into The One You Belong To, a song that recalled The Guess Who's Share the Land – "talkin' 'bout together now."
Every nation gets the Guess Who it deserves. For the United States, it's Canada's The Guess Who. For Canada, it's the fellow wheatfield-soulsters the Sheepdogs.
There is no more iconic Canadian figure in rock 'n' roll than the one who has basically spent his whole career in the United States. The encore finale from Sheepdogs (with Matt Mays and Monster Truck on hand) was Neil Young's Southern Man, a scathing commentary on racism in America's Deep South. And although we didn't hear "bullwhips cracking," as the song goes, we did hear (or at least saw) fireworks snapping off in the distance, at Tegan and Sara's PrideWeek concert at Nathan Phillips Square.
Canadians are more gullible than a seagull on April Fools Day. Overheard after the concert was complete, from an upset fan: "Buddy who told me that Led Zeppelin was going to show up is a liar." Oh, the humanity.
Canadians haven't lost their edge. The Edgefest Concert Series at Echo Beach continues with two more editions: Edgfest 2, on July 18, with alt-dance duo Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker (USS), and Edgefest 3, on Aug. 16, with nineties throwbacks Our Lady Peace, Sloan and I Mother Earth.