X-Fest 2012

Fort Calgary
Calgary, Alberta
September 1, 2012
Photos: Raelyn Ross & Shawn Marie Watson
The second annual X-Fest Music Festival, presented by Calgary’s X929 and produced by Union Events, was held September 1st at the historic Fort Calgary site.  The day was packed full of some of the best in alternative rock, all nestled in a setting that couldn’t compliment the music any better.

Fort Calgary, located in the East Village section of Calgary’s growing downtown district, is a welcomed escape where the majestic trees encompass the junction where the Bow River and Elbow River meet.   The beauty of the area, mixed with an array of eclectic artists, made for a relaxing day, minus a few flaws, which was full of great music.

Organizers worked diligently to improve the experience for festival-goers this time around, by providing a wonderful mix of food and merchandise vendors.  I tried Avatar Pizza’s “ARISTOTLE” pizza. The blend of spinach, mozzarella cheese, red onion, sweet peppers, olives, bruschetta, and feta, all on a gluten free crust was the perfect choice for a light lunch. Plenty of port-a-potties were also strategically placed throughout the grounds, with the VIP’s treated to some rather posh “facilities”.

You can’t expect perfection when planning an event of this size, I get that, but I was very disappointed when I finally made it through the long line, waiting for my pre-entrance  “pat down”, to only be told that I couldn’t bring in my umbrella.  Seriously? This IS Calgary people, and we are at an outdoor festival.   What bothers me the most is the fact that everyone from the DJ’s at X929, to the Calgary Herald’s Mike Bell Tweeted out information urging patrons to dress for the weather… INCLUDING rain gear.  Mr. Bell even took the time to copy and paste the “Don’t Leave Home Without…” and “Don’t Even Think About” lists directly from the X-Fest website.  It made no mention of refraining from bringing in an umbrella and while it may seem miniscule, we were ceremoniously treated to a late afternoon hail storm, in true Calgary fashion.  It’s just an umbrella, I know, I know.

Okay, enough of my ranting, on to the music!  The lineup this year was quite different in terms of what the festival brought to the plate for their freshman year.  2011 focused more on showcasing several established names in the business, such as Weezer, Jane’s Addiction, House of Pain, and Social Distortion – any one of which could easily have headlined the event.  2012 on the other hand opened up the slots on the bill that were once reserved for the “big guys”, and filled them with more current names in the alternative rock scene.

Kicking off the festival was the X929 Xposure Fan Pick, The Suppliers.  Winning one of the coveted spots in the 2012 Xposure contest, the band walked away with $25,000 and airplay of X929.  The Suppliers compare their sound to a mix of “Blondie and Motörhead”.   Tis true – Lead singer Ashtyn Beaudette’s smooth vocals contrast nicely against the bands rock sound.  Likely the band’s biggest show to date, The Suppliers handled their set well, as newcomers to the festival scene.

LP, who hails from New York and was recently signed to Warner Brothers Music, was next, embracing the stage with her eclectic mix of vox-sounds.  Her cover of Beyoncé’s “Halo”, that marries her distinctively folk-esque vocal range with a symphonic accompaniment, captured the attention of the crowd.

Up next was The Pack a.d., a Canadian duo from East Vancouver, which consists of two of the coolest chicks in the whole place that night.  Maya Miller (percussion) and Becky Black (guitar, vocals) livened up the X-Fest crowd with their “tribal, blues and punk infected garage-rock” featuring the familiar song “Haunt You”.

Remember the aforementioned hail I spoke about earlier?  MuteMath took control of their unexpected guest, and put on a wicked show during the craziness of the storm.  Only true fans, and Calgarian’s, would sit through a hail storm to hear the bands quazi synth-rock that outshined the thunder created by the vicious hail.

The clouds broke and the sun appeared once again, just in time for The Joy Formidable.  Ritzy Bryan, their leading lady, seemed rather impressed with our bi-polar weather, dubbing hail during a summer festival as “F***ing Rock-and-roll” adding “That was a bit f***ing dramatic?”  The band fed off the chaos created by the weather, mesmerizing the crowd with their hit “Whirring”.

The crowd began to grow significantly when fun. took the stage, likely in anticipation of hearing their summer smash “We Are Young”. The distinctly unique voice of Nate Ruess echoed high above the sing-along crowd, as literally everyone belted out the familiar tune in unison.

Young the Giant are one of my favorite bands at the moment, so I was really excited to finally see them live.  Sameer Gadhia’s vocals are beautiful in person.  Their performance was one of the best on the bill, by far.  If you appreciate Young the Giant’s music at all, really try to see them live – they do not disappoint.

Silversun Pick-Up’s quietly took the stage next after an extra-long sound check.  What they lacked in “stage presence” was certainly made-up by their flawless acoustics, and frontman Brian Aubert’s haunting vocals.  I would probably appreciate their set more if I was listening to them in a dimly lit bar in New York City, but overall they did a wonderful job as musicians, but not necessarily as performers.  Nothing wrong with that, but the grandiose stage seemed to almost intimidate bassist Nikki Monninger.  I almost felt sorry for her, until I realized where she was standing, compared to where I was standing…

Probably the most disappointing moment for me, and apparently thousands of other Calgarian’s, was the announcement that rock veterans Incubus were unable to perform their set because singer Brandon Boyd was suffering from a nasty throat infection that rendered him speechless, or should I say song-less?   Whatever.  The crowd was terribly disappointed, erupting into a loud grumble, which is understandable but honestly, the man is human and can’t just magically produce a voice when there isn’t one to be had.  Patrons were very generously given the opportunity to receive a complimentary ticket to Edmonton’s version of X-Fest – Sonic Boom—the following day.  In my opinion, that wasn’t necessary at all.  I didn’t get a free pass to the 2013 Boonstock Music Festival because Puddle of Mudd’s Wes Scantlin  can’t get his s**t together to make it across the border, or stay out of jail.  Anyone still complaining about the unfortunate turn in events should make sure they show up for work the next time they are sicker than a d.o.g.

Fort Calgary highlights the rich history that our wonderful city possesses, making this location perfect for Calgary’s very first show by none other than Linkin Park.  After touring the world and smashing out hit-after-hit since 1996, Linkin Park took control of the crowd and preformed one of the absolute best live performances that I’ve ever witnessed.  Their light show was out of this world!  Chester Bennington didn’t miss a beat as famously switched from his piercing screams to his angelic melodious voice.  Linkin Park definitely proved why they are considered to be one of the greatest hybrid-rock bands of all time.

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