Calgary V-Fest wraps up


Organizers and fans praise the prowess of Canadian bands as our nation’s greatest entertained 18,000 fans


Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip, showed why they\'re still Canada\'s biggest band. (STUART DRYDEN/SUN MEDIA)There were a few more clouds in the sky and the temperature was cooler, but the second day of Virgin Fest still attracted 18,000 local music fans to Fort Calgary yesterday.

Calgary’s inaugural Virgin Music Festival wrapped up with the cream of Canada’s music crop making up the bill.

“The music depth here is so rich and so diverse, it’s wonderful” said Virgin chief marketing officer Nathan Rosenberg about the line up.

“Canadian bands can really hold their own against the best of Britain and U.S.”

Though the festival ran smoothly for the most part, there were a few issues.

Festival-goers complained about the lack of toilets and the long lineups to get into the beer gardens.

“There are lots of toilets, but people miss some of them,” countered Virgin Festivals director Andrew Bridge.

“But that is something we will have make people better aware of next year.”

Bridge said Fort Calgary’s hilly, riverside location posed some logistical dilemmas, but felt they had done a good job of addressing the problems.

High beer and food prices were another bone of contention with some music fans.

“I think $7 for a hi-ball or beer is kind of excessive,” said 22-year-old Michael Rodgers. “What can I do? It’s a festival.”

But Rosenberg said that food prices were on par with how much it costs for take out and Bridge noted that the beer gardens were always packed with people.

There were very few medical or police emergencies during the weekend. Heat stroke hit a number of people on Saturday, but Rosenberg said festival staff made sure people were keeping hydrated.

“There were a handful of people thrown out for being drunk and disorderly,” said Bridge.

“But I think the number was something like 15. A really small percentage.”

While there was more of a buzz around the site for Saturday’s headliners The Flaming Lips and Stone Temple Pilots, the hype was still strong for a number of yesterday’s acts, including The New Pornographers and The Tragically Hip.

Thirty-five-year-old Melissa Halaska brought her daughter Arianna to the festival. It was the 12-year-old’s first concert and she was thrilled to be able to see some of her favourite bands.

“She’s here to see The Spades, 10 Second Epic and City & Colour,” Halaska explained.

“I’m here to see Matthew Good.”

Halaska said the $150 she spent on the day passes for her and her daughter was well worth it.

“Definitely. It’s been pretty good so far so I think it’s a great deal.”

Local bands The Summerlad and Chixdiggit were the first acts of the day.

Chixdiggit nabbed the main Virgin Mobile Stage and while there wasn’t a large crowd that early in the afternoon, they made sure each and every person was singing along to their catchy pop-punk.

Smart-aleck singer KJ Jansen called-out those who didn’t comply and accused those who were sitting on picnic blankets of being from Edmonton.

The Constantines took the stage next and treated the audience to a surprise appearance by Hip frontman Gord Downie during their final song, Do What You Can, from their latest release, Kensington Heights.

Montreal’s Stars snappy pop music was lot on many of the rock fans in the crowd. But those who ‘got it’ couldn’t help but fall in love with Amy Milian’s sugary sweet vocals and Torquil Campbell’s Morrissey-esque belting.

City & Colour fit in perfectly with yesterday afternoon’s laid-back vibe, but was dull as dishwasher. Singer and songwriter Dallas Green has an incredible voice but his stage presence is about as exciting as a civic election.

By the time Matthew Good hit the stage last night, the entire crowd was on its feet for the first time that day.

Those who had taken in both days of the festival for were no doubt tired by the time The Tragically Hip hit the stage last night. But the Hip faithful danced, yelled and sang at the top of their lungs as the band kicked off their set with Yer Not the Ocean from their latest release, 2006’s World Container.

The Tragically Hip were sleek, professional and maybe a little predictable. But they showed exactly why they are still this country’s biggest band.

If Calgary music fans were thrilled with this weekend’s V-Fest, festival organizers were just as ecstatic and were already considering bringing the festival back to the city next year.

“We always say that if we can get the talent and we can get the venue and get all the pieces working together we’ll do it,” Bridge said. “We’re not going to put on a sub-standard festival. We want to make sure we can give festival-goers the best experience they deserve.”