I really enjoyed Seven Music Fest 2017, St. Albert's little festival with ambition. The weather was amazing and the lineup was worth every penny of the ticket price.
That was 2017, this is 2018 and the story runs a bit differently. The lineup didn't have the drawing power based on my listening habits. Last year we had The Strumbellas and The Rural Alberta Advantage, two bands that I followed, had seen live previously and listened to at home fairly consistently. On Saturday, July 7th we had Elle King and Banners, two bands that I had never seen live and had only sampled on the internet (so I wasn't going to the festival unprepared).
After mulling it over on a lazy Sunday morning after the festival I can definitively state that I enjoyed Banners. They were enthusiastic, and that energy struck a chord with the audience as evidenced by an energetic group of dancers and toe-tappers at the foot of the stage. I came home and re-listened to Banners on iTunes and enjoyed them again. I will probably get something on hard copy by them, which is one of the problems I had with this year's Seven Music Fest: the merch tent was very skimpy. I didn't see anything by Banners on the offering. No Banners t-shirts, CDs or posters. Nothing. In fact, the only merch I saw was Seven Music Fest t-shirts, I checked twice in case they were restocking and had just missed it. Anyhow, Banners put on a good quality, high energy show with good banter. I appreciate artists who can banter effortlessly and keep the audience tuned in.
The quality of sound through the festival sound system was good as well, considering that through the previous two acts it had been less than admirable with way too much heavy bass. The volume was acceptable but the bass was way over the top. Delhi to Dublin were victims of this and it's a shame because they had a large group of people in the mosh pit engaging with the music that is a bit more of Delhi than Dublin but still good.
I came into the concert a bit late due to some inclement weather and missed Kane Incognito, Martin Kerr and Altameda but I did get to hear The Wet Secrets.
I always like to see and hear local bands and of the four acts that I heard at Seven Music Fest this year, The Wet Secrets were the only local talent. They are a band that defies labels with their blend of horns, a bass lead guitar and tons of percussion and a smattering of synth. They suffered from a poor sound mix but their energy and enthusiasm were never in question. They engaged with the crowd and put on a decent set.
The closing act was Elle King, a much-hyped genre-bending band that sounds like a collision between George Thorogood, Debbie Harry and Lynard Skynard. She has a seven-person backing group which was very appropriate for Seven Music Fest and they played slick, polished southern flavoured rock on some very nice gear. They all rocked out in white attire and never missed a beat. Elle alternated between banjo, guitar and handled all the lead vocals, and did it all smooth as silk.
A few odd observations. There seemed to be way more kids running all over the place. I thought at one point that I must have been sitting in the kids play zone but a glance around told me that moving would not solve the problem, they were everywhere. I thought it was a novel child care, fenced and patrolled by security no less.
The beer gardens - yes it is plural - often seemed to have more people than the festival grounds. That's not a judgement, just an observation. The beer garden giant Jenga was a real crowd pleaser.
There were a few food trucks but they didn't seem as varied or as plentiful as last year and the prices seemed higher. Water was only a buck a bottle so that is all I spent all day at the festival.
The R.C.M.P. were strolling the grounds and provided one of the highlights of the festival when an officer that was easily 2.0 meters tall went down on his knees to talk to a small child. Canada still has one of the best police forces anywhere in the world.
In conclusion, the highlights were the R.C.M.P., Banners (the band), the rain stopped and the sun felt nice when it broke through the clouds and the nice gear that Elle King's band played with.
Next year? I have to see the lineup before I commit to that.
Norman Weatherly | weatheredmusic.ca