The Burlington Sound of Music Festival was this June 14 – 17 and it was packed full of some of Canada’s finest talent. Not to mention sunny skies!! Who doesn’t love good live tunes and amazing weather. This festival offered a great Canadian buffet of music. They had a little something for everyone, and just like a buffet – I overindulged. I obviously couldn’t see it all but I wore my elastic waisted pants and filled myself with all the musical prime rib I could. It was a great opportunity to see acts that I have paid top dollar to see – FOR FREE!!
Born Ruffians started off the weekend for me and it was such a treat. Songs from Red, Yellow and Blue and Plinky Plonky are on all my playlists. They are the perfect band to soundtrack your summer so it was fitting to have them take my summer festival cherry this year. Frontman Luke Lalonde has a Parisian style with the moves of Buddy Holly that fits so perfectly into their quirky sound. Case in point their opener – “Badonkadonkey”. I don’t even know what that song is about but I definitely had it “in my pocket for when I got home”.
I love that I always know a Born Ruffian’s song when I hear it. They have such a distinct sound and it’s evident in a new song that they shared that night. I’m not sure what it was called, but I was definitely singing “six, five thousand” all night. I don’t even know if those were the words. I once thought that Silverchair had a song called “Use Mastercard” instead of “Pure Massacre” so they could have been singing “sex, fire townshed” for all I know. But what I do know is that I don’t really give a shit what they were saying because it was super catchy and I loved it.
As the sun set on Burlington, Ontario people started filling out the park in anticipation for a band that has had an unbelievable year winning Best Group at this year’s Juno’s but are still, and will always be, hometown boys at heart.
Arkells have been gone on a 2 month American Tour, but there was no warmer welcome home than what seemed like 100 000 screaming fans on a perfectly cool summer night. These Hamiltonians are a fairly young band, but it was like watching seasoned veterans up there. Max had a genuine interaction with the audience – reminiscent of Gord Downie at my first ever Hip concert, with personal stories and a true appreciation for the opportunity to share them with a waiting crowd.
They opened the night with “Whistleblower” to the crowd’s delight and continued with favourites from Jackson Square and their newest release Michigan Left.
Michigan Left is one of my favourite albums to just put on and immerse myself in it. I might age myself right here, but when I was young – before podcasts existed – I had an audio cassette of the story of Beethoven’s life that I used to listen to all the time. I not only loved learning about this deaf musical genius, but I loved getting lost in the story – I was definitely one of those kids that sat right beside the teacher during story time. I love to read, but having a story told to me is even better. The freedom of not having to read words gives my imagination the space it needs to concoct faces and places in my mind. And this love is what draws me to the Arkells. Their ability to blend memory and melody is something I look forward to and have a huge appreciation for.
Arkell’s wasted no time getting into some of their best songs – the crowd getting thicker with each track and had me on tippy toes just to get a glimpse. We sang, danced and day-dreamed until the sky was black.
The night ended with what felt like a campfire with 15000 of your closest friends. Max asked the crowd to hold lighters or phones and join him in a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” and it made for a memorable SOM moment. I would have loved to see what that looked like from the stage – like all the stars had fallen from the sky and landed in Spencer Smith Park in Burlington.
Arkells came back out for an encore of 2 songs and left the crowd on a high note for the beginning of this free festival. We heard swarms of people humming Arkell’s tunes all the way back to the car and we too, blared Michigan Left all the way down the 403, back to Hamilton.
Peter looks like Canada’s Indie rock version of Jared Leto. Not in his eye-liner, Thirty Seconds to Mars phase, instead picture him in My So-Called Life, but charming instead depressing.
Peter started his retro inspired set with a song that had a hint of Otis Redding in it and by the time the back-up singers sang their “Bop She Bops” I was hooked.
My favourite track was “Cool Thing To Do” and I think the crowd agreed. It was a chill vibe on the smaller stage on Brant St. and this song just got my visual ears going. What are visual ears? When I listen to music, a lot of the time I get images that just pop in my head. I cant control it, so I just go with it and sometimes even I’m surprised with what this little brain churns out.
When this song started Meg Ryan popped in my head. Not too much Botox Meg Ryan, but “When Harry Met Sally” Meg – cute and bubbly – in her classic Romantic Comedy days, and this song would be on the soundtrack. It would be at the part where they show her walking her dog in the park, daydreaming about him and little does she know that Tom Hanks or Billy Crystal is pacing around his house thinking of her too.
I think Peter made some fans for life that night and it was super cute to see his biggest fan singing along. His wife and dog were at the side stage and she was singing along to every song. At least I hope that was his wife – if not, his dog may now be missing.
We started Saturday with Hamilton’s favourite band to dance to while out at the old Absinthe Lounge patio. San Sebastian are a band who have been doing their thing on the Hamilton music scene for a while and who put out a stellar album last October. Click HERE to read about it.
Mike Veerman is an energetic frontman to this band of brothers…and Ted. He kept the crowd engaged while it grew and kept the energy high with moves like Mick – Jagger that is. The last time I saw this band live was at a Japan Benefit at the Casbah in Hamilton and seeing them on a huge stage really allowed me to appreciate their hard work.
As I stood watching San Sebastian command the stage and crowd, there was a young girl who rushed in front of me, flailing her arms, shaking her ass and screaming like she was cheering for the Ti-Cats – not a girly squeal, but a deep down WOOOT from the bottom of her belly. As I watched this girl bob her head to the music, the sun catching her gold, dolphin shaped earrings, I looked around her and saw a sea of them – girls, boys, women and men – just like her. Maybe not the grunts, but the head bobbers, the toe tappers, the sing-alongers – And what do you know, when I took a minute to come back to reality, I was doing all of those things too.
But honestly, how could you not? San Sebastian has a real talent for writing catchy songs and its because they are true music lovers themselves. I love that they find inspiration by listening to other masters of the craft who know how to get people bustin’ moves they didn’t know they had. Nat, Lena and I went to The Casbah on a night when Mike, Sean and Greg were djing and our ears – along with our feet – were so happy to hear jams from all genres and decades to get us moving. Guys who can appreciate John, Paul, Mick and Keith as song writers but also see the value in Lil’ Wayne and Mariah Carey are on the right track to pleasing the masses.
San Sebastian left us with a glimpse into what they’re working on for their new album and their latest track “Girls” was like bumpin’ uglies with your clothes on. It’s a great teaser – and it definitely leaves you wanting more.
No one wants to hear me blab about everyone minute of the weekend, but other stand out acts from the weekend were another local band Rifkin, Wintersleep, The Dinner Belles The Saint Alvia Cartel and a favourite of mine – The Rural Alberta Advantage
Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival put together an energetic and engaging weekend of music and performers. This festival gets better with every year and I teamed up with Flux Studios to help them put together a highlight video of the weekend. As a music lover and supporter of local talent, it was a privilage to be a part of the festival as a writer and interviewer, but most of all as a music fan. I’ve only given you a taste of the talent at this festival, I encourage you to explore with your eyes and ears and discover which musicians make the listening experience more than just sound waves. Check out the video below to re-live the event or see what you missed so you can mark it on your calendar for next year.