Walk off the Earth wraps up Homecoming Festivities

ReUnion Street Festival unites students and alumni with an lively music

Three of Walk off the Earth's five members in a recent music video.
Credit: 
Walk off the Earth YouTube account

Every October, Queen’s campus sees an influx of alumni joining students in the annual Homecoming celebrations. On Saturday evening, the buildings on Union St. lit up for the highly-anticipated ReUnion Street Festival — one of the weekend’s newer traditions.

This year’s event featured local band Kasador, and headliners Walk off the Earth.

Walk off the Earth is a Burlington-made pop-rock band who’ve recently been projected onto the global music scene with the release of their third studio album, R.E.V.O. The 11-track record is bursting with unique percussion arrangements and tapering harmonies.

I first noticed that the main stage towered over Union street, with a generous amount of crowd space that filled up quickly as students and alumni alike streamed onto the street. The crowd spilled out on either side of the stage, which was decorated with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights spelling out the headlining band’s acronym, W.O.T.E.

Shortly after Kasador finished performing, W.O.T.E.’s five members kicked off thier set with a lively performance of their hit single, ‘Red Hands’. This was followed shortly, by another of the band’s most popular songs, ‘Gang of Rhythm’, both hailing from their third album.

We made our way through the diverse crowd full of young children, teenagers, adults and alumni swaying to the raspy sounds of singer Ryan Marshall’s vocals.

There were smiles all around as the band exploded into another hit, this time a cover of Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’, the song and video that launched W.O.T.E in 2012. Everyone around me was singing along and I took this opportunity to weave through the crowd and get closer to the stage.

My vantage point for the second half of their set was from under the leafy, low-hanging branches of a nearby tree. There were smiling faces as far as I could see, as band member Sarah Nicole Blackwood belted out a soulful rendition of Adele’s ‘Hello’. The echoing sounds of the audience singing the words were as chilling as her raw vocals.

The band didn’t shy away from what most bands would consider risky covers. Appealing to the wide range in their audience, W.O.T.E also covered Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’. The crowd belted out every word and the dancing that kicked off the start of the set continued right until the end.

Through their music, Walk off the Earth delivered exactly what the annual ReUnion Street concert aims to achieve: a musical bridge between generations that gets everyone together in one place.

Around midnight, an hour and half after the performance began, W.O.T.E thanked the crowd and wished everyone a “Happy Homecoming”, as the thousands of crowd members fanned out on all sides to continue the weekend’s celebrations.

While the performances for their original songs were authentic, with raw vocals and dazzling percussion solos, it was their cover performances that made Walk off the Earth truly stand out. They took performance risks and broke down barriers with their genre-defying renditions of other artists’ hits.

The best part: no two songs in the set were alike, transporting audience members through a series of diverse covers and a refreshing balance of upbeat and slow tracks.

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