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Laketown Shakedown: Enjoying hot music on a hot day in the countryside

Laketown Shakedown music festival at Lake Cowichan continues Saturday at 172-acre site, with sets from Glorious Sons, JJ Wilde and Five Alarm Funk
Sugar Ray performing at Laketown Ranch Music and Recreation Park near Lake Cowichan on Friday, July 1, 2022. Credit: Robert Porter

LAKE COWICHAN — The selling point of the multi-day Laketown Shakedown festival in Lake Cowichan is and has always been the open-air site, which is never better than when the sun is beaming.

On cue for the 2022 edition, the rays were hot (but not sweltering) during opening night Thursday, the first day of activity at the festival in two years. A reported crowd of 4,000 caught opening night sets from Arkells, Lights, and Haviah Mighty, among others, which set the tone for a busy — and sunny — Friday. New York City rap icons Wu-Tang Clan were the big draw, which saw a reported 7,000 attendees Friday, but Newport, Beach, California pop-rock hitmakers Sugar Ray also moved the needle.

Wu-Tang Clan fans were surely disappointed at the absence of key members Method Man and Raekwon, who were expected to attend.

But the group turned in a set of hip-hop anthems from the 1990s, and drew the biggest audience of the weekend thus far.

Sugar Ray brought put some rock star sheen into the day, filling the same retro-rock spot that Smash Mouth did in 2019. The band’s frontman, Mark McGrath, of Sharknado fame, was sheer delight, and ran the gamut — he told jokes, mocked himself, and led the crowd through a rendition of O Canada.

The band’s first Canadian show in 10 years was a good one. McGrath turned in the type of performance that makes you follow him on Instagram.

“It’s the frosted tips, man,” he said, one of many references to the 1990s nostalgia that defined their set. “They are getting to my head!”

For parts of the first two days of this year’s festival, it felt like the fans were stationed in the campgrounds instead of the stage pit area. Tailgating was a top priority, especially for those who were taking in a festival for the first time since the pandemic ended. That hurt the vibe, until Sugar Ray and Wu-Tang Clan.

The site, a 172-acre parcel near Youbou, will be busy in the coming weeks, with Laketown Rock (July 22-23) and Sunfest (July 28-31). If the crowds come out of the camping area and into the main stage area at an earlier time. look out. With four stages, including one that goes into the early hours, the site can be electric.

The Laketown Shakedown festival continues Saturday with sets from the Glorious Sons, JJ Wilde and Five Alarm Funk.

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