WTFest – Brantford Ontario Canada – Saturday, June 25th, 2016
When the 2nd annual WTFest lineup was announced back in January, I thought it would be a good time to go listen to some music and have a few beers with my son John as his birthday was close to the event. Even though the bands were a bit too “new” for an old guy like me, it was still rock music and not too far from my house. Headlining the show were Billy Talent with immediate support from Monster Truck and Saint Asonia.
So I purchased two “early bird tickets” I also applied for a photo pass around the same time. Two days before the event I received notice I was accepted to shoot the show. I immediately offered the other purchased ticket to my other son Brandon. My photo galleries of the event appear at the bottom of this review.
With the gates scheduled to open at noon and music at 12:30 I headed down around 3ish as the main acts started a bit later. It was kind of nice (and rare) doing a Festival in my hometown of Brantford Ontario and not having to worry about driving city to city for them as per usual.
I arrived at Lion’s Park, got set up with the Media Pass, greeted some familiar photographer faces and headed over to the VIP section where the side stage was set up. Immediately I purchased two waters as the heat wave continued here in Southern Ontario.
First up on the side stage was local rockers, The Good Goddamns. My first thought was “Wow – look how small the stage is?” It’s basically part of the Budweiser transport truck unfolded into a bar and stage. My second thought was “A Rebel Few is going to play on THAT later?”
Each band had a 20-25 minute slot in between the main stage sets. The Good Goddamns got the early crowd rocking. They earned a spot by winning the Battle of the Bands contest the previous night.
Next up was Hamilton’s Black Collar Union. I had YouTubed them earlier and really liked their song “Trigger Line Cartel”. Sure enough, that is what they opened with. True to Decibel Geek’s own Rich “The Meister” Dillon’s advice that the side stages usually have the best bands, I was agreeing so far.
Ok now time for the main stage to get rolling. How do you enter the pit? Exit VIP, go through alcohol zone, exit park and go all the way to the other side of stage. Piece of cake, right? Well since the bands are now alternating stages I think I’m going to get some exercise. Good thing I have on my Fitbit!
Opening up first was local singer Logan Staats. He ran through 30 minutes of solo acoustic songs. As he was performing the rowdy crowd was screaming “we can’t hear you”. After a few minutes of that, the sound crew realised the microphone was on backwards!
Ok now back to the side stage for Brantford’s own Harbour fresh off their recent Japan tour. I was looking forward to hearing them as I know a couple of the kids in the band. Their set consisted of original material that had the crowd rocking in the blistering sun. It was their 2nd time at the event.
Next up at the main stage was The Standstills. Not knowing much about them, my first impression was a Canadian White Stripes. It was just a male on guitar and female on drums – also known as Jonny Fox and Renee Couture from Oshawa. Much to my surprise they were quite heavy and had the ever growing main stage crowd screaming for more.
I returned once again for more water and a few songs from another Brantford band Quick Wicked before returning to the main stage for Saint Asonia – one of the bands I was really pumped for. This is where the Festival really kicked into high gear.
Being a big Three Days Grace fan I knew they wouldn’t disappoint. As the sets were now an hour long and they ran through 7 songs from their self-titled album, 3 Three Days Grace songs and the highlight was a tribute to Gord Downie with their stripped down version of “Fully Completely”. Their set was highly energized from start to finish and a real treat to shoot. Three Days Grace actually played the same park a few years ago and Adam Gontier climbed to the top of the stage supports –will he again I thought? On this occasion, he did not. As I side note I heard after, they almost never made the show as they were stuck in the Connecticut just 4 hours before show time. They redirected flights and literally showed up and jumped on stage. Kudos to them!
Now back to the side stage to see good friends of Decibel Geek, A Rebel Few. ARF are a highly intense and mobile band on stage so this should be interesting. Never the less they rocked it along with all their DIRTBAG fans that showed up for support. Note to WTFest – put A Rebel Few on the main stage next time and hopefully there will be next time! A Rebel Few CD Release Party Review / A Rebel Few As the Crow Flies CD Review
As I made my way back around to the main stage I ran into both of my sons arriving at the park. I advised them to pay attention to the next band and I will meet them back here after – oh and they wanted beer money too. Since I couldn’t drink, I obliged.
Sponsors Y108 out of Hamilton introduced all the main stage bands. During this, a shirt was spotted in the crowd that read “Don’t Fuck with the Truck”. Next thing you know 8000 strong started to scream out loud – DFWTT!! I could only imagine what the neighbouring areas were hearing and thinking!
On that note Hamilton’s Monster Truck hit the stage with “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”, followed by “Why Are You Not Rocking?” and “She’s a Witch”! During one of these songs, the gigantic balloon that was being battered around the crowd found its way on the stage and slammed lead singer Jon Harvey right in the kisser as he was singing. It basically knocked his shocked body back towards drummer Steve Kiely. He quickly returned to the mike and never missed a beat. After exiting the photo pit I immediately took up residence next to the stage to capture the balance of their intense set. They performed 12 songs in all ending up with “The Lion”. Monster Truck is an insanely solid live band especially with animated guitarist Jeremy Widerman running around the stage like Angus Young. Rounding out the group is keyboardist Brandon Bliss. Hard to top that!
Ok next up is the headliner Billy Talent from Toronto. I’ll admit most of what I know comes from years of listening to them while my boys listened to them. They played them constantly to and from the many hockey tournaments and other endless road trips back in the day.
The photo pit was packed and the crowd buzzed with excitement as they hit the stage with “Devil in a Midnight Mass”. But just as I thought the full stage of red lighting was bad enough for a photographer only doing 3 songs, I heard everyone yelling to evacuate the photo pit ASAP as the barriers were coming down and the crowd pushed towards the stage. The show was stopped for close to half an hour while security and police held the barrier in place, All this time lead singer Ben Kowalewicz kept the crowd amused with jokes and talks of hockey and constant reminders of safety first. Needless to say, the photo shoot for the headliner was complete with nothing much to show for it.
Will the show end here? It almost did but fortunately, the barriers were back in place and the show continued.
I made my way back into the crowd and enjoyed the rest of the show salivating over now seeing some of the best lighting I’ve seen in a while. Oh well, maybe next time. I hooked up with my boys as they emerged, sweaty and beaten from the mosh pit and informed that it was more dangerous in the photo pit that night.
But Ben along with guitarist Ian D’Sa, bassist Jonathan Gallant and Alexisonfire substitute drummer Jordan Hastings (filling in for original drummer Aaron Solowoniuk) ripped through 21 of their hits including, “The River Below”, “Rusted from the Rain”, “Try Honesty” and my fave “Diamond on a Landmine”.
I overheard many die hard Billy Talent fans saying despite the glitch at the start it was one of their best shows ever!
But one final question needed to be answered. Did WTFest live up to the hype?
I will say yes and then some. Maybe I’m a little biased because this is my town and this is my festival. Last year with the treacherous weather the organizers were just hoping to have a show. This year they could sit back and analyze what went right and what went wrong and only improve upon that to make WTFest 3 even bigger and better.