Smooth opening day as 7,000 music fans hit Rock the Shores

By the time headliners Tom Cochrane and Red Rider stepped on stage Friday night, it was clear that Rock the Shores has grown into a well-greased music machine — and a good testing ground for newly relaxed liquor laws.

There may have been some minor growing pains for the capital region’s largest rock festival, such as the long entry lines last year and the bizarre lightning storm that took up Sam Roberts’ entire set time the year before.

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But in its third year, expanded to three days, Rock the Shores may have found its sweet spot.

“People throw us curveballs, nature throws us curveballs. You just have to adapt,” said organizer Nick Blasko, who runs the show with Atomique Productions partner Dmitri Demers.

There were fewer people Friday than in previous years. About 7,000 attended the 12,500-capacity venue at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre fields. But Blasko anticipated that number would rise 10 to 20 per cent today and Sunday.

Northcote opened the festival, followed by the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, and the Bright Light Social Hour’s powerful vocalists. Electronic-rockers USS initiated the first mosh pit, with Jason (Human Kebab) Parsons surfing the crowd. And Current Swell charmed its hometown.

When Gord Downie hit the stage, it was with some of the same energy he showed when the Tragically Hip headlined in 2012. This time, his snarl was backed by the Sadies’ driving rhythms.

The Cult brought the hardest rock of the day, under frontman Ian Astbury, with Billy Duffy’s energetic guitar solos. Their set culminated in crowd favourite She Sells Sanctuary. And finally, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider gave a distinctly Canadian set, referencing Bobby Orr and complimenting us as a “tough” nation before diving into songs such as Big League and having the crowd singing about The Good Times.

Opening night also marked the largest test yet of relaxed liquor laws in the capital region. No longer sequestered to a beer garden, music fans could wander with an $8 drink in hand.

It proved uneventful: Not a single minor had been busted for consumption by late Friday, West Shore RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Wright said. And only one arrest, for intoxication, had been made. “The day has gone wonderfully. There have been no serious issues at all and everyone is having a great time,” Wright said.

The no-alcohol zone maxed out at about 20 people.

With sunny skies forecast to continue, health experts are warning music fans to stay safe. “On a day like today, our biggest concern is dehydration,” said Michael Dussault, divisional logistics officer for St. John’s Ambulance. “There’s a light breeze so people won’t realize it’s as hot as it actually is out there.”

Dussault recommended avoiding too much alcohol or caffeine and staying hydrated with water or sports drinks. Wear broad-brimmed hats, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen, he advised.

There were no congested lines to enter the festival, with 28 gates open. Although one man got in line at 6 a.m. in anticipation of congestion, entry was speedy all day.

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

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