SLCR #251: Gateway Festival (July 22, 2016)

Hey, so this was fun. There’s a tiny town in Saskatchewan called Bengough and they host a music festival every summer and we’ve never been but now we’ve been! And I suppose I could stop right there but then you’d miss out on the murdering part.

I was actually ready to murder before we ever left Regina. The day before the festival, Mika’s friend Shannon came to visit and she complained bitterly about the difficulty of navigating the Regina traffic with all the summer construction. And while I was sure it was bad, I figured she was exaggerating. She was not. Not even close. She was being kind. Getting gas, avoiding the worst road, actually getting out of town, all of those things were much more difficult and infuriating than they needed to be.

It was so bad that when we initially stopped for gas and Mika asked if I was going to get a snack, I said “No. Too angry.” But then I saw the hot dog-flavoured Pringles. The flavour scientists have worked their magic yet again. You can really taste the wiener.

The actual drive was smooth an uneventful once we got out of town. It was a fine way to spend an evening and we weren’t even there yet. I almost never speed to any real degree but I went 130 km/h pretty much the whole way. We listened to podcasts and tunes, and the GPS recovered from its miserable performance on our recent drive into Calgary where it tried to make us cross a river without the use of a bridge.

They had lots of signs up to let us know where to go, and a ton of volunteers to help with the wristbands and parking. It’s a smaller festival than the local folk festival we attend every year, but it seemed really well run. Also, the wristbands were these nice cloth ones and not that waxy paper you get everywhere else.

We stopped at the campground restroom on the way into the grounds. There was a sign outside the women’s washroom advising the ladies not to have water fights in the bathrooms. Women, amirite? Though I suppose it’s worth noting that both washrooms had signs saying that you’d be “punished and banned” for putting sand or dirt in the sinks.

We found our way into the grounds and met up with Jeff and his wife. Despite the traffic woes, we got out of town earlier than I had been expecting, so we showed up in time for the end of Quinton Blair’s set. I didn’t see much of it but enjoyed what I saw. Countryish singer-songwritery stuff, with a good sense of humour when chatting between sets. That says very little!

Unlike the folk festival here, the Gateway Festival has two stages, so as soon as one act ends, the next one starts up right away with no delay. Bands alternate between the main stage and the slightly smaller stage that faces the beer gardens. It’s a pretty good system, though sometimes it results in things like Fred Penner playing to the beer gardens.

To be fair, it was still early and that section of the grounds was not yet closed off to minors. But still.

Jeff’s wife disappeared as soon as Penner started playing; we didn’t see her again until well into Limblifter’s set, when she returned with a picture of her and Fred together. This was not the first time she’d met Fred Penner. We may have a superfan on our hands. As one who is less of a Penner diehard, I took this time to get some dinner. The wiener Pringles weren’t gonna cut it. I wound up with a grilled chicken wrap that was actually pretty great. Kudos, chicken wrap stand! Mika went for a gluten-free salad from another stand; “gluten-free salad” was its actual name on the menu and maybe that should have been a red flag. The server also said something like “I don’t know what’s in it and nobody’s ordered it yet, so come back and tell me how it is!” which was equally ineffective at inspiring confidence. Mika did not go back and tell her how it was. She did tell me and Jeff – not directly, but she said “have you ever wanted to open a can of chickpeas and eat it with a spoon?” which I think says enough.

As a reward for surviving the salad (or about half of it, anyway), Mika went and got some cotton candy. I made her bring me some too. I have never eaten cotton candy while having a beard before. I did not anticipate that it would be so challenging.

I don’t know what to say about Fred Penner. He’s Fred Penner. Maybe he is a cherished part of your childhood? I’m a few years too old for that, and as he was playing, it occurred to Jeff and I that we knew very few Fred Penner songs. The first one I recognized was about sandwiches and I’m pretty sure the only reason I knew that was because he played the folk festival a few years ago. At least I think he played songs there. Mostly I remember him chastising us to pick up after ourselves.

I did eventually recognize Puff the Magic Dragon. Also, the Cat Came Back, which Penner amended with cat-themed versions of Happy Together and Hit the Road, Jack. This was not dissimilar to every song Mika ever sings, as they all have the lyrics changed to be about Carl.

The cover songs led us to talking about the recent trend of bands I see covering the Tragically Hip, and who would do it this weekend, and what songs. This turned into talk of Penner covering the Hip, and what the best (read: most inappropriate) song would be. At the risk of sounding immodest, I declare that my pick of 38 Years Old was the winner.

For the record, I heard no Hip songs at the festival (though I am hopeful that the next show will deliver at least one). But Mika and I only came to the Friday night; Jeff did report that on Saturday, Odds snuck the chorus of Poets into the end of Make You Mad.

Next up was Limblifter, which you’d have known if you read that bit up there. Ryan Dahle, who we saw with Age of Electric a few months ago, was back with his other band. Or one of them, anyway. Jeff said he might have been the only person there who knew more Limblifter songs than Sloan songs, but I bet Dahle did too. Actually, maybe not – there are a LOT of Sloan songs that Dahle might know. Me, I knew Tinfoil because heck yeah Big Shiny Tunes. Also Ariel vs. Lotus and Screwed It Up. So maybe I never listened to a whole lot of Limblifter – and somehow, I’d never managed to see them in concert before now. No time like the present, I suppose. We stood right down at the front and had a great view, and this was all quite delightful. Would see again. (I did maybe like Age of Electric better, though.)

Next up was Bry Webb of the Constantines. Formerly of the Constantines? I don’t know what they are doing nowadays. I won’t lie; I paid very little attention to this. What I heard was fine.

I think it was in here that I went looking at the stuff table. I mean, I went a few times, but was hopeful that I’d discover a copy of Sloan’s One Chord box set, as I had promised to check for Mike. No dice. No Sloan stuff at all, actually. But I did pick up two records: Corb Lund’s Counterfeit Blues, and also You Can Count on Me by the Karpinka Brothers, a band out of Saskatoon who were here hosting the side stage. I went to high school with Shawn Karpinka, and actually ran into him on the way to the merch tent. We chatted for a few minutes and it was nice to get caught up – I don’t think we’d talked in a decade. We weren’t super close friends in high school, but he was never a dick and that is higher praise than it sounds like.

I rushed the records back to the car. Luckily, the host of the main stage was asked to stall for a few minutes before Sloan began. I can only assume this was specifically to give me time to get back. So considerate! But then Sloan came out and the dude kept talking. And then it would look like he was about to stop, and then he’d talk some more. I was never able to tell if this was needlessly aggravating or hilarious trolling.

But whatever. You know it’s a festival show because of the lack of people yelling SLOOOOOOOOO-OOOOOOOOAN. Also because Sloan knows enough to know that a festival crowd doesn’t want the deep cuts – this was pretty much a greatest hits collection. No Underwhelmed, because of course there wasn’t, but there was most every other single you’d want – Money City Maniacs, The Good in Everyone, Everything You’ve Done Wrong, The Lines you Amend, The Other Man, Unkind, If it Feels Good Do It, People of the Sky, Coax Me, Losing California, The Rest of my Life, Who Taught You to Live Like That… there was more but you get it.

So yeah, in a shocker, Sloan played Sloan songs.

I don’t know what was talked about beforehand, but when the band traded off instruments and Chris Murphy got on drums, dude was determined to prove a point. I have seen him play drums before but never with this much showboating. Jeff accused him of showing off to the “cute girl” at the back of the stage, but then we figured out it was actually the drummer from Limblifter. He’s got some nice long blonde hair, but I don’t know if I’d say “cute.” Maybe just not my type.

I’d have to read old reviews but I’d have to think that this wasn’t the best Sloan show I’ve seen – if nothing else, there seemed to be sound issues where it was hard to hear the vocals every time they switched who was singing – but I don’t remember getting their songs so doggedly stuck in my head before. The past week in my brain has been pretty much non-stop Maniacs or California or Everyone or Underwhelmed and they didn’t even play Underwhelmed, I just like it.

Once they wrapped up, I was off to the side stage for Shotgun Jimmie. Mika described Jimmie as “if Joel Plaskett fronted a BA Johnston tribute band” and I love that description and you have no idea how badly I want to actually see this happen. Shotgun Jimmie is someone I know very little about. Every time I hear one of his songs, I think “this is a dude I could really dig if I gave him half a chance” and then somehow I never remember to do so. Gotta change that. This was great fun. He opened with Late Last Year, basically the only song of his that I could actually say I know, and then played his new song Join the Band, making it the second time in a few months I’ve heard someone sing “experience Regina.” I enjoyed it all, though I did duck out before the last song or two in order to get a good spot for Corb Lund, a move that was a mistake in several ways.

First off, Corb Lund might be my #1 reason to constantly quote Sloan: “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” The casino show earlier this year wasn’t too bad, but there have been a few times where the drunken yahoo assholery in the audience has been too much for me. Although I can maybe forgive it this time due to the excellence that happened when a drunk girl staggered over to near where we were and slurred (not to us) “is this the party zone?”

“No?” said Jeff.

“It’s the standing and listening respectfully zone,” added Mika.

The drunk girl stumbled away, saying “I hate it when old people are rude.”

Died. I’m dead now. That killed me and I am reporting back from the afterlife. I hate it when old people are rude. Oh my god. This was the best the best the best the best. I am bad at coming up with titles and I have never liked “Stupid Little Concert Reviews” so now I want to rename all of these to “When Old People are Rude.” When Old People are Rude, Volume CCLI: the Gateway Festival.

This is where you say “shut up and get to the music” and I WOULD say “I hate it when old people are rude” but you have a point in that I am not talking about music BUT I have no more music to talk about. The dark night sky was seeing more and more lightning, so they made the call to delay Corb’s set. As the lightning got worse, Jeff and his wife (and their friends – they had friends there too! I never mentioned them before but they were there) the hell was I talking about? Oh, right. All those people left.

Then I made a plan. Let’s take the chairs to the car now – since we weren’t planning on staying after Corb anyway – so either we can then leave, or we can go back, listen to Corb, and then have an easier time leaving later. So we did. Chairs to car. They’re still in the car now, a week later, in fact, because I am bad at simple human tasks. But we sat there for a bit as the lightning got worse and the thunder got louder. I decided that the show was likely not going to happen and so we left.

Corb did play. I don’t know how long the delay was. Jeff said the grounds were bone dry the next day. This amazed me, as the drive home took us through the worst rainstorm I’ve ever driven in, and it lasted almost the whole way. At one point, I had to pull over. I made up for my 130 km/h earlier by going 50 km/h for long stretches. It all averages out. That’s the law. The law of averages.

The rain brought out the animals – I saw a badger, three deer, a raccoon, some frogs, and oddly, ducks. The water had pooled on the road, and we drove by a duck just sitting in the water, seemingly disinterested in the big loud metal headlight machine that went whipping past it. We remarked on the stupidity of this duck. Then we saw no fewer than three other ducks at various points, all sitting in road puddles. Two of them are probably still ducks to this day. One of them took its sweet time getting out of my way, and I didn’t feel like swerving into either the oncoming car or the ditch, so the duck bounced off our bumper. Sorry, duck. I mean, it was your own fault for being an idiot, but I guess all ducks are stupid so you couldn’t help that. At least the rain washed off any pieces of you that got stuck to the car.

So yeah, it started with a bad drive getting out of town and ended with a bad drive all the way back, but everything in between was pretty great. The festival site was nice, there were decent food options (skip the chickpea salad), the bands were good, the weather was nice (right up until it wasn’t, anyway), would go again. And there was a whole other day of fun that we missed out on. 21 bands, just on the Saturday alone. Lots of local artists, as well as Odds, Mo Kenney, Chixdiggit, the Stampeders, and way more. (Hey Jeff, how was it?) Mika and I aren’t camping people so to go both nights means a lot of driving, but we had a good time so we’ll see what the lineup is like next year. There are too many ducks anyway.

UPCOMING CONCERTS
• The Tragically Hip (August 1)
• Regina Folk Festival w/The Head and The Heart, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Roberts Band, The Mavericks, Bettye LaVette, The Cat Empire, The Strumbellas, Frazey Ford, more (August 5-7)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic (August 14)
• Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters (September 6)
• Dolly Parton (September 13)
• Prozzäk (September 22)
• Hayden (September 29)
• Fred Eaglesmith (October 1)
• Basia Bulat (October 5)
• I Mother Earth (October 8)

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