Review: Nine bands blaze in the sun at Rock the Shores

REVIEW

Rock the Shores featuring Billy Talent, the Naked and Famous, 54-40, Monster Truck, Sloan, and others

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When: Saturday

Where: Juan De Fuca Recreation Centre

Rock the Shores got underway with a bang Saturday — and it was a local boy-done-good who supplied the early fireworks.

Metchosin’s Jesse Roper unleashed a blues-rock barnburner set that served as the standalone highlight for much of the day. Roper and his band, the Roper Show, were one of nine stellar acts to take the stage Saturday, the second of three days at the Colwood-based festival. Today, there will be sets by Our Lady Peace, the Wallflowers and Loverboy, among others.

Organizers reported 8,500 fans on site at one point. By the time Auckland, New Zealand, band Naked and the Famous hit the stage at 7 p.m., thousands crowded the stage.

Rock the Shores, now in its third year, was a resolute success on Saturday. Following an opening night that included Tom Cochrane, the Cult and Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, the festival picked up where it left off with a nine-band bouillabaisse that offered a little bit of everything.

Roper was a Rock the Shores sleeper, much like Saskatoon hard-charger Reignwolf — another 12:30 p.m. day-starter — from last year’s festival. Roper’s regional radio hit, Yukon Girl, showed Roper to be a slide guitar sensation. The only bigger question that remains: how on Earth did Roper make it through his entire set in incredible heat wearing an alpaca poncho? Only the rock gods hold the answer. The fact he played his set barefooted might have helped.

No stress — that was the official word Saturday. Police on-site reported no major incidents, while organizers cited few lineups or headaches to contend with throughout the day. Traffic and parking were visibly moderate in terms of flow. Site layout — which, for the first time ever, was able to accommodate an open, non-beer garden liquor licence — was smooth as silk, too.

The music went a long way to helping attendees make it through the heat, which at times was stifling. Beard-friendly Calgary rockers the Dudes were a mid-afternoon delight, with a laid-back nature that endeared them to audiences. “Rock and roll has been good to us,” said Dudes frontman Dan Flacon. “And to think, I almost went to college.”

Daniel Wesley? Not bad. Sloan? Pretty good. Roper was the runway highlight until Hamilton rockers Monster Truck dropped a bomb of riff rock on the site. Though comparable in style to Nickelback, the band was a refreshing full-on-rock revue on a roster somewhat lacking meat-and-potato rock.

54-40, perennial festival favourites, were exceptionally strong, and the synth-pop stars Naked and the Famous were great — up until the point they dropped their hit, Young Blood, at which point the group (particularly singer Alisa Xayalith) were stupendous.

The night’s headliners, Toronto punks Billy Talent, were masters at getting the crowd enthused. Pint-sized singer Ben Kowalewicz was a live wire, and the sound emanating off the stage was thunderous. The Toronto group proved its worth as headliners, stirring the crowd.

The first night of Rock the Shores was good. If anything, Day Two might have been better, simply because the festival proved that neither incredible heat nor an exhausting day of nine bands over 10 hours can keep a good audience down.

That’s saying something.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

[Share your Rock the Shores experiences in the comments section below.]

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