Virgin Festival 2009 Halifax

Photos by Alex Ramon

For the Ronatron crew, this was the first installment of Virgin Fest Canada, and what a start it was. This year, the Virgins have gone all out and are going to conquer five Canadian cities. It started out in Montreal, with a little pop twist, and then made their way to Halifax to inhabit Citadel Hill. With headliners The Tragically Hip pulling out due to family issues, the organizers thought it would be a great idea to make the concert free. Tickets were of course reimbursed, and with a free concert, it brought out a crowd that was a little out of the norm. With old Chinese couples roaming the wet, dreary hill and drunken hooligans back surfing in the mud, this was an experience like none other. Sure the weather wasn’t up to par, but that didn’t stop festival goers, or the bands, from having a great time. With my Vans slip-ons covered and soaked in sludge, I braved this foreign city and became a Haligonian for a day.

Dog Day

Dog DayWhat better way to start the festival than with some local indie-rockers who played to a small, but growing, crowd. Comprised of Seth Smith (Guitarist, Singer), Casey Spidle (Drummer), Crystal Thili (Keyboardist, Sounds), and Nancy Urich (Bassist, Singer), Dog Day represented Halifax in style. They played a nice brand of Alt pop that kept the wet, but enthusiastic crowd entertained.

Throughout their set, I was mainly people watching. I was more interested in the attire of a rainy festival goer. There was a pirate on stilts, and a few bush people wandering around. It’s a good way to keep dry, unconventional, but good.

In-Flight Safety

In-Flight SafetyDog Day played a nice set, it didn’t really tickle my fancy. For me, the day actually started with In-Flight Safety’s set. Another local band, In-Flight Safety is comprised of Brad Goodsell (Bass), Daniel Ledwell (Piano, Keyboards, Guitar), John Mullane (Singer, Guitar), and Glen Nicholson (Drums). They had a more epic, sing-a-long sound that got the crowd clapping in unison. The entire band’s stage presence suited the big stage, and their melodic tunes invited the audience to participate and warm up their vocal chords.

It was great to see other acts supporting the boys from IFS. I had a nice chat with Mike from the Arkells during this set, and we talked about how impressed we were with In-Flight Safety’s performance. Out in the audience, I saw a few members from Hey Rosetta! rocking along with other concert goers. If other musicians were enjoying this set, then it’s no surprise that IFS is a band to watch out for.

Arkells

ArkellsThe last time I saw this band was last year at Virgin Fest Toronto. From playing at the tiny Oh Henry! Stage to playing on the main stage at Halifax is something to marvel at. They’ve had a whirlwind adventure this past year, and they sure have come a long way. Comprised of Max Kerman (Guitar, Vocals), Mike DeAngelis (Guitar), Nick Dika (Bass), Tim Oxford (Drums), and Dan Griffin (Keys), the Arkells blew away the every growing audience with their danceable, indie-pop, rock.

They had lots of energy on that spacious stage, and it showcased the bands maturation as performers over this past year. Max had a very powerful and raw vocal performance, while Mike provided the intricate guitar solos that suited the hard hitting instrumentals from the rest of the band. They played off each others energy, especially during their song “John Lennon.” I could see the sweat and happiness exuding from each musician up on that stage. It was great to see a band playing on the same page, and they’ll go far if they keep this up.

Plants and Animals

Plants and AnimalsAll the way from Montreal, QC Plants and Animals is a trio consisting of Matthew Woodley (Drums, Vocals), Warren Spicer (Guitar, Lead Vocals), and Nicolas Basque (Guitar, Bass, Vocals). They provided a nice dark and eerie edge, but they switched it up throughout their set and gave the audience a little dance rock as well. Woodley had some very intricate drum fillers that sent chills down my neck, and Warren and Nicolas provided some remarkable guitar effects. They were a very organized jam band and very entertaining to watch, something that every band should strive for.

Hey Rosetta!

Hey Rosetta!The last time I saw this bunch was at The Media Club, which has a capacity of 200, so playing at an outdoor festival such as this is a major step in the band’s career. Hey Rosetta! was a definite crowd pleaser. Comprised of Tim Baker (Vocals, Piano, Guitar), Adam Hogan (Guitar), Josh Ward (Bass), Phil Maloney (Drums), Erin Aurich (Violin), and Romesh Thavanathan (Cello) Hey Rosetta! brought the non existent roof down.

With their epic east coast rock, the crowd finally streamed down from the hill to dance with the bush people (people in a bush costume… bush as in shrubs… not the President…). With Tim’s distinctive voice in the background, I finally saw my first crowd surfer of the festival. So I say kudos to you, Hey Rosetta! for bringing out the surfer in all of us.

Handsome Furs

Handsome FursThere are many husband wife duos out there in the musical world. There’s John and Blake of The Submarines, there’s John Lennon and Yoko Ono of The Plastic Ono Band, and of course there’s Jack White and Meg White of The White Stripes (we all know they aren’t brother and sister…). But I must say the most energetic duo I have ever seen perform up on stage had to Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry of Handsome Furs.

Their electro-dance rock style got the crowd moving along to their drum machine. Alexei was like a synth-fairy tripping out on E, because her feet and arms would not (and could not) stand still. Dan was no slouch either, because he kept up with his hyperactive wife, and danced the set away.

Dinosaur Jr, Metric, and The Offspring

The OffspringAll three of these bands are well known enough that they don’t need the exposure from good ol’ Ronatron, but I’ll just write my two cents just in case you wanted to know. For DJ, it was great to see grunge make a come back and also to have these rock legends perform on stage just like the old times. Metric was energetic as always, and a definite crowd favourite and in my opinion, Emily Haines is by far the best front woman. With her crazy awesome dance moves, she can start an indie rock revolution with just a shrug of her shoulder. The Offspring, on the other hand, were stuck in the 90’s, and hopefully they evolve as musicians and come up with something more appealing (“Pretty Fly” served its purpose I suppose).

For more information on Virgin Fest, visit their website for all the wonderful and appealing details.