X-FEST 2011

Fort Calgary, Calgary AB

by Craiger (August 20, 2011)

Well music fans, we're here in Calgary for the first ever X-Fest (made possible by, 92.9X-FM, and UnionEvents.com)! The day-long outdoor event was at Fort Calgary, a vast park-setting located just blocks from Calgary's downtown core. The huge stage (with skyscrapers as the backdrop) made Fort Calgary one of the coolest venues I've attended to date. You could feel the anticipation in the air with the kickin' line up including Jane's Addiction, Weezer, Social Distortion, House of Pain, Awolnation, Rural Alberta Advantage and local rockers The Dudes and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald. With a mix of alternative rock legends, some up-and-comers and a hip hop blast from the past, the 13,000 rock-fans in attendance were in for a great show on a fine sunny day.

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald hit the stage early. Who is he you ask? I wondered the same thing. It turns out he's an indie-rock front-man from Calgary. I was intrigued when I noticed the three piece horn-section take the stage. With an obvious local following, you could feel the energy starting to build. As the set went on, more and more people started dancing and cheering, and it started to feel like a real festival.

In between acts, the folks at 92.9 X-FM and UnionEvents.com provided us with live pro-wrestling matches! As cheesy as it was, you couldn’t help but be entertained. From the music to the wrestling, to the always beautiful Calgarian women, my mind was almost over-stimulated...almost!

With the last available spots on the grass filling up, and the beer and bathroom lineups getting longer and longer, Toronto's indie-rock trio Rural Alberta Advantage took the stage. It may have been just nerves, but they sounded a little off
at first. Two songs into their set however, they settled right in. Their sound was similar to R.E.M and The Tragically Hip, and the crowd really started to get into the show. Rural Alberta Advantage left a lasting impression after a slow start with the help of the powerful voice of front-man Nils Edenloff and high-energy, multi instrumentalist Amy Cole interacting with the crowd.

Although having the three indie-rock acts was a great way to start the day, I think most of the fans in attendance (including me) were ready for something a little harder. When local rockers The Dudes took the stage, X-Fest was officially a rock festival. Front-man Dan Vacon has the look and sound of a true rocker. They loosened up the crowd with hits such as "Dropkick Queen Of The Weekend", "Pretty Lies", "Do The Right Thing" and "Girl Police". This rockin' band from Calgary fit in perfectly with the rest of the X-Fest lineup.

House of Pain took the stage about fifteen minutes late, which left me wondering for another quarter hour about how they fit into this "festival of rock". But I kept an open mind. Lead singer Everlast took the stage and told us that his band mate “Danny Boy” was denied entry at the Canadian border crossing and wouldn’t be joining us. Apparently, Everlast himself was given a hard time for gun charges stemming from 1991. He went on to praise the quality of Canada's marijuana (...like Calgarians don’t know how good they have it). He asked the crowd who the first-ever gangster rapper was and screams of "Easy E" and "Snoop Dogg" echoed from the masses. When he told us "Jonny Cash", we stood corrected! The crowd erupted as they played a rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues”. Everlast's solo hit “What It's Like” followed soon after. I was beginning to wonder what band I was watching! But to the delight of all the fans, they finished strong with House of Pain classics “Shamrocks And Shenanigans” and of course “Jump Around” (and oh how Calgary jumped!). Being one band member short didn’t stop House of Pain from being a definite fan favorite.

Awolnation, the techno-rock band out of California, was up next. Their popularity is on the rise, especially with their hit single "Sail" breaking ground on the new music front. With singer Aaron Bruno leading the way through an energy-filled set, accompanied by their unique techno sound, Awolnation is a name you will be hearing much more of in the near future.

Having seen Social Distortion two times previous, I knew I was in for a true rock
-n-roll experience. The sound at X-Fest was as good as it had been all day and Social D put on a solid live show. Mike Ness rocked the Calgary crowd with hits such as "Machine Gun Blues", "Mommy's Little Monster", "Story Of My life" and the second Johnny Cash hit of the day..."Ring Of Fire". I only wish they had enough time to play more classic Social Distortion!

After Social Distortion's set I noticed people getting frustrated with the hour-long bathroom lines and the fact that the V.I.P section was out of beer. Not a good thing to tell fans from Calgary. Granted, this was the first ever X-Fest and I'm sure the folks in charge of next year's event will make the necessary adjustments. With those being the only blemishes on a well-put-together event, we made do with canned Margaritas!

So the big surprise of the night was Weezer...they stole the entire show! Their 80 minute set of nothing-but-hits had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. They paid tribute to "Radiohead" (who they consider to be one of the best bands of all time) with a flawless version of "Paranoid Android".  After 16 songs I figured they were done, but Calgary brought them back to the stage not once...but twice! In true Calgary fashion, Rivers Cuomo donned a cowboy hat for the encore. With 19 songs in the books, it was hard to imagine that we still had Jane's Addiction coming up.

's Addiction was faced with the daunting task of following Weezer. With Perry Farrell in his fifties and Dave Navarro not far behind, I was eager to see if Jane's Addiction still had the sound that made them so big back in the nineties. Dave Navarro put on a guitar clinic (as expected) and Perry Farrell did not disappoint. However, the level of excitement never reached the frenzie that Weezer created. "Jane Says" was the lone encore song and by that time I was ready to call it a night.

Well, X-Fest 2011 is in the history books folks. On behalf of all the festival-goers I'd like to thank 92.9 X-FM and Unionevents.com for hosting a memorable day of music here in Calgary. Assuming there will be an X-Fest 2012, we have only one request...don`t underestimate the beer-drinking capability of Calgarians at the next show!

Best overall performance: Weezer

Best stage show: Jane's Addiction

Personal favorites: Social Distortion & The Dudes

Check out some pics here!
Affiliation with KNEW GEN None

Contact Craiger at craiger@knewgeneration.com