Limestone City shines in spotlight

The Hip’s Robbie Baker plays jaw-dropping rock at RMC.
The Hip’s Robbie Baker plays jaw-dropping rock at RMC.
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Hugh Dillon has never looked better.
Hugh Dillon has never looked better.
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Travis Good proclaims, “There’s a Higher Power.”
Travis Good proclaims, “There’s a Higher Power.”
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Downie’s gonna blow a vein!
Downie’s gonna blow a vein!
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Colin from the Trews.
Colin from the Trews.
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Concert Review: “Across The Causeway” @ RMC Grounds

On Sunday, thousands upon thousands of concert-goers crossed over the La Salle Causeway to the Royal Military College grounds for the Kingston love-in that was “Across the Causeway.” It seemed everything fell into place rather nicely for everyone involved. It was a beautiful day, there were no major glitches or setbacks, and everyone was just that much happier knowing that the proceeds were going towards three wonderful charities, Camp Trillium, The Joe Chithalen Memorial Instrument Lending Library, and of course, the main driving force behind the entire production, The Community Foundation of Greater Kingston.

The CFKG and the other organizers of the concert really seemed to accomplish their community goals with the show, as the audience was an extremely diverse crowd representing just about every age and interest in Kingston and the surrounding area.

Even Kingston’s most popular hockey players, Doug Gilmour and Kirk Muller participated in the festivities. I was almost expecting Don Cherry to make an appearance. Kingston native, Chris Koster had the unenviable task of opening the show at two o’clock in the afternoon. Gord Sinclair of The Hip, may be right in saying Koster is “On the precipice of really big things,” because in only three songs, Koster certainly displayed a knack for crafting very accessible, radio-friendly pop.

Up next were the Spades. Led by James McKenty, the youngsters from Peterborough impressed with their youthful energy, big guitars and songs about “burning stuff.” Like Koster, The Spades were given a very short time-slot and after four songs they were gone, almost as quick as they came.

The Sadies followed with a distinctive set of surf-rock twang. Their unconventional sound was initially met with some blank stares from the now-swelling crowd—most used to Canadian cock-rock classics—but after a few tunes, The Sadies seemed to have won a good chunk of them over, inciting plenty of foot-tapping and head-bobbing with the fiddle-heavy “There’s a Higher Power” and the howling, “Loved on Look.” Despite closing with the raucous “Tiger Tiger,” the fact remained that The Sadies’ sound is better suited to a more intimate setting, rather than a massive, open air, festival concert. Unlike The Sadies, east coast rockers The Trews are built for the big stage, with their grandiose guitar solos and classic rock posturing. Out of all the bands who played on Sunday, The Trews appear the most capable to succeed The Tragically Hip as one of Canada’s few, bona fide arena rock bands. Opening with “Not Ready To Go,” the band continued a high energy set—which also featured the hit “Tired of Waiting” with a cool little segue into a “Hey Jude” jam—through to the end, inspiring the crowd far better than any of the bands that preceded them. Proving that they are much more than a studio success, lead-singer Colin MacDonald belted his vocals out to the far-reaches of RMC with near perfection, and guitarist John-Angus MacDonald displayed his proficiency with extended jams and showy stage moves.

The Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir was next. Arguably, Can-Rock’s only true Rock ‘n’ Roll personality, Dillon—former lead singer of Kingston’s toughest rockers, The Headstones—has cleaned up his image, lost about 30 pounds and now fronts a far tamer outfit in The Redemption Choir. The tattered black sweater, eyeliner, spitting and smoking, has been replaced with a sharp suit, a respectable coif, gum-chewing and friendly winks.

Much like their debut performance at this past year’s North-By-Northeast festival in Toronto, there was great anticipation surrounding Hugh Dillon’s set. The main difference being that on Sunday, Dillon and Co. were playing to over 20,000 people, while in Toronto a few months ago, there may have been 300 in the room.

Sadly, a lot of the excitement and energy that was so evident in that first show at NXNE was absent in his performance on Sunday. While it was cool to see filmmaker, Bruce McDonald, as well as The Hip’s Paul Langlois play with the band, they seemed to struggle with some minor technical problems—the guitar was almost inaudible at times and Hugh was repeatedly asking for the vocals on his monitor to be turned up—but it certainly wasn’t terrible for a band who are still very wet behind the ears.

Until their debut album is released and they have a few more shows under their belt, the jury will remain undecided on Hugh Dillon’s newest musical venture.

Matthew Good boldly began his set with three new songs off his latest release, White Light Rock & Roll Review. Luckily, they were three of the strongest tracks on the record: “Put Out Your Lights,” “Poor Man’s Grey” and “In Love With a Bad Idea.” Still, the crowd was only too happy to sing along when Good brought out the Matthew Good Band hits, “Hello Time Bomb,” “Load Me Up” and his latest single, “Alert Status Red,” eliciting the first bit of moshing for the day.

Good closed the show by himself with an acoustic rendition of “Apparitions,” showing off his awesome set of pipes. While his earlier catalogue has been considerably more popular than his recent releases, Good’s vocal abilities have infinitely improved. Even Good, a Pacific coaster, was joining in on the K-town love. “This is great. There needs to be more of this,” Good said from the stage. “I’m from Vancouver, and I don’t think we’d get this many people out to a charity gig over there.”

And as the sun was preparing to set, The Tragically Hip took to the stage.

Mr. Downie, the Gordfather, was in fine form on Sunday night. He argued with his microphone, carried on conversations with characters that weren’t there and rarely let a single song go by without some inexplicable monologue.

Whenever he was without his guitar, he undulated his wiry frame and contorted his body, before flailing his limbs into messes of uncoordinated, yet still somehow beautiful, freak-out, convulsive dance moves—Downie’s own unique style.

His erratic stage presence juxtaposed the rock-solid, steady performance of his performing partners.

The set list was a good mix of new and old, separately interspersing about half-a-dozen Evolution songs between classics spanning their twenty-year career. The Hip kept the show fresh, while at the same time satisfying the Hip-hungry crowd.

With a discography as extensive as The Hip’s, it’s hard to keep every fan happy, but they did a pretty good job, performing the likes of “Courage,” “Bobcaygeon,” “Nautical Disaster,” “At the Hundredth Meridian” and “New Orleans is Sinking,” each time inciting loud sing-a-longs, lots of fist-pumping and even some more moshing and crowd surfing.

The new songs—while not as boisterously received as their earlier material—showed the band is in no hurry to call it a career. “Goodnight Josephine” and “Mean Streak,” display the kind of passionate intensity not seen since ’94’s Day For Night. Overall, the new tunes were well-executed and indicate the band is continuing to progress.

The Hip returned for a double encore that included “Heaven is a Better Place Today,” written for Dan Snyder, “Wheat Kings,” “Locked in the Truck of a Car,” featuring Dan Aykroyd on harmonica, and “Ahead By A Century.”

They finally closed, fittingly, with “Blow at High Dough.”

Time restrictions must have been a major issue, because they seemed to be shooing The Hip off the stage with a weird drum loop that kept being played—at one point staying on through half of “Ahead By A Century.”

Seeing as how this summer has seen several promising festival concerts cancelled due to poor planning and lack of ticket sales, it is nothing short of remarkable that everyone involved with this show was able to pull it off so smoothly in a month. Really, it went off with barely a hitch.

Yeah, merchandise, food, and drinks were ridiculously over-priced; everyone could have done without the tool from K-Roc, who between acts, would continuously tell us how kids with cancer are still normal kids; the sound quality wasn’t exceptional; and there was some stupid bottle throwing and other mildly idiotic behaviour, but that’s the usual, and somewhat expected, summer festival concert fare.

Sadly, when you have a group of over 20,000, you’re going to get a few assholes. When you add beer to the mix, you can probably multiply those assholes by 10.

On the other hand, there were dozens of wonderful volunteers keeping the place clean for the whole day; entry into the park was fast, efficient and hassle-free; security was ever-present but not over-bearing; there was never long delays between bands; there were no incidents of violence or vandalism; technical problems were minor and mostly insignificant.

Even for the most cynical of concert-goers, one would be hard-pressed to say that the concert was anything but a complete success.

Everyone had a great time, lots of wonderful charities benefited and the city shone. This was a Kingston celebration, through and through, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This city deserves to be celebrated, and it’s a testament to Kingston that an event of this size was pulled off so successfully in such a short period of time.

Hell, even I’ve got to join in on the love-in. After Sunday’s show, it’s hard not to.

Yeah, I can get behind anything.

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