Live at Second Beach was one of the many events celebrating Stanley Park’s 125th anniversary last weekend, August 24th and 25th. The first day featured exciting Canadian and local artists, such as Ali Milner, Watasun, the Washboard Union, You Say Party!, and Born Ruffians.
Ali Milner, the second act of the day, is known for her soulful voice and jazzy tunes. The crowd swayed and bounced to the music that vibrated through the sweltering mid-afternoon heat. Her songs were undoubtedly catchy, causing a good amount of people to hold what seemed like a ballroom dance class in the middle of the field.
Watasun were next to take the stage. They could have been spotted miles away with their neon t-shirts and steel drums. Though at first lead singer Adam Bailie’s nasal voice might seem irritating, everyone soon found themselves grooving to the music, even unconsciously. One of the band’s singles, “It’s You,” has also been named as Vancouver’s tourism campaign’s official song. One thing’s for sure, the crowd at Second Beach enjoyed the duo.
As soon as Washboard Union came onstage, many knew exactly what to expect. Their wide array of instruments included the norm: guitars, a bass, drums and a keyboard, but also featured a washboard and a banjo. The instruments said it all about the band: country music. Despite country music being one of the most widely mocked genres of today, the audience looked like they were having hoedown.
Right after Washboard Union’s set, the highly anticipated local indie pop band We Are the City walked onstage, greeted by a crowd of cheering teenaged fans. Their energy continually pumped up the young crowd, who were enthusiastically singing along to every lyric and dancing. With exciting tempo and dynamic shifts within their songs, Vancouver’s (previously Kelowna’s) We Are the City were a musical force to be reckoned with.
Abbotsford’s You Say Party! followed. Formed in 2004, the quintet has travelled a long road towards success. They have toured across Canada several times, as well as the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany. The band entertained the crowd with an array of dark-sounding synths and dance-punk; the audience swayed along to the hypnotizing music. Although the music did not quite match the atmosphere the sunny skies and the beach set out, no one could refuse the free entertainment.
The crowd quickly thickened for Ontario indie rockers Born Ruffians, who were taken from their usual rounds promoting their newest album, Birthmarks, to play the gig. Most of the young crowd seemed like seasoned fans, many of them singing all the lyrics. Born Ruffians made for an upbeat end to the day’s shows; the light at the end of a mulit-genre tunnel.
Day two of Live at Second Beach presented an equally interesting lineup, guaranteeing a packed crowd. Highlights included the Belle Game, the Matinee, and the Arkells.
The Belle Game released their debut album Ritual. Tradition. Habit. in April are in the midst of playing a host of festivals, including the the Squamish Festival a few weeks ago, the Ottawa Folk Festival, Rifflandia, and, of course, Live at Second Beach. The band filled the warm summer air with their signature dark pop—catchy tunes layered over repetitive synthesizers and heavy lyrics. At first the spectators were a bit hesitant to leave their picnic blankets for a spot near the stage, but eventually a medium-sized standing crowd formed in front. Although the crowd wasn’t staging impromptu salsa dances like the previous day, many were keen on listening to the Belle Game; bobbing their heads up and down to a beat that shook everyone to the very core.
Next up were the Matinee, who have racked up an impressive fanbase. The six-piece, based in Vancouver, have played several high-profile performances including such as at the men’s semi-finals for ice hockey during the 2010 Olympics and the Festival of Lights at English Bay. The music are a blend of roots, rock, and country, with a knack for exciting crowds. Everyone was clapping in unison, singing along, and cheering on extreme banjo solos. The Matinee sang an emotional “Happy Birthday” to Stanley Park, to remind the concert-goers of the real reason they were there. The must was catchy enough to have first time listeners silently mouthing choruses and dancing in their seats within minutes.
The day wrapped up with Arkells. The band hail from Hamilton, Ontario—and won’t let you forget it. Their hearty rock and roll provided music that everyone present could enjoy. The band were bursting with energy right off the bat, despite having flown in earlier day. The guitarist was bouncing all over the place and the excitement seeped into the crowd. Everyone was participating in one repeat-after-me after the other. The band tipped their hats to the previous acts, along with Vancouver’s music scene and Stanley Park. In retrospect, it was a satisfactory conclusion to a weekend of celebrating our city’s oldest park.