Monday, May 21, 2007

Alberta Reports - Edgefest Supplement

July 9, 1998

The job was easy: baby sit Ben at the Edmonton stop of Edgefest ’98. Bernie supplied me with a ticket and little else. But how hard could this be? I accompany a 13 year-old metal-head wannabe to the biggest rock festival of the summer. Easy as cake.

Held at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, Edgefest had two stages, the main stage and the smaller Bear stage, to supply nearly nine hours of continual music. The show started on time at one, a rare thing at rock concerts, under sunny skies. A woman offered me beer, weed, and eye drops. Ben ate too much candy.

Copyright was the sacrificial opening act on the small Bear stage. Bad songs, bad sound, bad band.

Bif Naked started the festivities on the main stage. A high energy, rocking act that pounded out fifty minutes of her hits, including “Spaceman,” and “Daddy’s Getting Married.” I almost bought her CDs. During her set, however, the rain started, and soon the enthusiastic crowd was a soggy, enthusiastic crowd.

Local Rabbits took the small stage and were eminently forgettable. The rain continued, and moved from drizzle into a full-blown rainstorm. There was one advantage – it turned Commonwealth Stadium into the world’s largest wet T-shirt contest.

Holly McNarland played a ragged, but enjoyable set on the big stage. She abandoned one song half-way through and promptly forgot the words to the next song, but she shrugged off the mistakes and carried on, much to the delight of the good-natured and thoroughly drenched crowd.

The Killjoys sounded okay, but I was eating pizza on the concourse. As the rain continued, the grounds, which were covered with tarps to protect the fields, allowed no run-off and huge puddles were forming. Even after the rains eventually stopped, the puddles plagued the popular pig skin palladium play field.

Econoline Crush stormed onto the big stage as the rain worsened. Crush, whose sound owes as much to U2 as to Nine Inch Nails, played a tight, grooving, energetic set. The first band to really get the joint rocking, Crush delivered the goods, including “All That You Are,” and “The Devil You Know.” The mosh pit was in full swing, and the rain ended as Crush took their bows. (I bought two of their CDs.)

Back on the Bear stage, the Matthew Good Band took over. Arguably the best band of the show, their set was criminally limited to a mere 20 minutes, but they made the most of their time, and the sunshine.

With the sun now blazing, Sloan wondered onto the main stage and played a loose set of power-pop nuggets. The between song patter was hysterical, and the band’s four-part harmony soaring. Quirky and off the wall, and well worth catching again.

Creed took control on the Bear stage, and I wish I had gone for more pizza. Instead I made a tally of mosh pit injuries: two broken arms, numerous bruises, cuts and bloody noses.

Next, the Foo Fighters commandeered the big stage. Wasting no time, they plowed into “Monkey Wrench,” and continued a great set that alternated between hard-edged grunge, cowboy song parodies, and the occasional ballad. Dave Grohl must have had an upset stomach as he kept belching into the microphone. (A good belch at 120 db is an impressive sound.) The highlight of the set was when Grohl dedicated a slow song to Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, because “I love his ass.” Billie Joe then sauntered on stage and dropped his drawers so we could all admire his ass, too. Grohl, not to be outdone, changed the words of his song on the fly, and turned it into a love song about Billie Joe’s butt. Rock and roll is a vicious game....

The Watchmen, in the unenviable position of playing between Foo Fighters and Green Day, played a competent, if uninspiring set. The only memorable song was their current single, a great tune called, “My Life is a Stereo.”

Then came Green Day. The masters of post-modern neo-punk anthems did not disappoint. Billie Joe Armstrong strutted the stage like he owned it; cavorting wildly, yelling profanely, and dropping his pants again for good measure. The audience ate up his crazy antics like candy, and rocked, jumped and moshed its collective head off as Green Day crunched its way through its three-chord catalogue. A highlight was Billie Joe declaring himself, “the best fucking heavy fucking metal fucking guitarist in the fucking world,” and slipping into Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” then Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” and even Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” before slashing out the opening riff of his own “Brain Stew.” To close the show, the drummer set his drum kit on fire, the bass player tossed his bass onto the pyre before knocking over a speaker tower as Green Day’s horn section (dressed up as a bee and a yellow pepper) played “Taps,” while all the while Billie Joe was crouched in front of his amps, calling on the gods of feedback to make us all deaf. Amazingly, he redeemed all this excess by sliding into the final song, the somber and reflective “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” If the name of the game was to entertain, then Green Day did just that, fully and completely.

Neither Ben nor I give a damn about The Tea Party, so we left.

We emerged unscathed, uninjured and with most of our hearing still intact. You can’t ask more than that, eh?

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