As the sunshine bathed the Charlottetown Event Grounds in the late heat of the day this past Saturday, hundreds of sun-baked concertgoers clad in T-shirts and shorts took in the sounds of this year’s Big Red Music Festival.
And it was the punky power pop quartet of Toronto known as Crystalyne that was the first act to take the main stage at 5 p.m., as they kicked off the evening of music with a 45-minute set for the gathering crowd — highlighted by their new single from their 2013 album, The Remedy, Punks Don’t Dance.
It was then time for a set with a lot of firsts in it, as the Canadian electro-rock sensation Lights took the main stage at 6:15 p.m.
After a hiatus from the stage over the past while, the Big Red set by Lights was the first performance in seven months by the 2009 Juno Award best new artist, as well as her first time playing on P.E.I., her first performance since recording a new album that’s due out soon and her first time rocking it live since having a baby this year.
And yet, amid a strong set of songs propelled by her seamless three-piece backing band, there was certainly nothing unpolished, as the crowd was enveloped by slick thumping dance beats and her soaring synth grooves.
“I think time slows down on P.E.I.,” smiled Lights in between songs at one point. “When I got off the plane yesterday I was like, ‘wow, this feels good,’ ” she added, as she was in a similar boat with other acts on the bill who also had a lot of praise for the Island.
Highlights of her 45- minute performance included songs like Peace Sign, Timing is Everything, Toes and her final glowing tune, Banner, where she climbed down into the crowd to high five audience members, as the audience sent her off with big roaring love.
American pop star of Disney Channel fame, Bridgit Mendler, was next on the Big Red bill at 7:45 p.m., while high pitched screams welcomed her to the stage as she belted out her single, Hurricane, to adoring young fans.
To drive the teeny-bopper girls wearing Bridgit Mendler shirts even more crazy, Mendler graciously took a selfie with a fan’s smart phone at one point (noticing that the fan had a banner that read “Selfie Please!”) and then handed it back to them — a photo that will surely be preserved and treasured forever by that concertgoer.
Songs like Fly to You, City Lights, I’m a Blonde and her final tune, Ready or Not, stood out as key moments of Mendler’s mid-evening main stage set.
And to finish off the hot night of music, it was Vancouver’s emo pop punk band Marianas Trench that shifted the sound output into high gear, as the crowd surged in cheers to welcome the band — its first time taking a P.E.I. stage in several years.
Appropriately playing a guitar shaped like a red maple leaf, lead singer Josh Ramsay began the set by himself with a song called Ever After, as the other three members took the stage around him.
Sounding tight, vocally precise (with four-part harmonies at times) and loads of driving energy — playing up to the crowd in a huge way — Marianas Trench held nothing back and gave it all. And, in turn, the fans were with them every step of the way.
There may have been a little too much swearing by Ramsay in between songs for some folks to be able to handle, especially considering some of those very young ears in the crowd, but all in all, Marianas Trench did well to deliver a powerful set for their diehard fans who hung on every note and word.
Next week: Treble With Girls in Orwell.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
Todd’s weekend picks
- Cavendish Beach Music Festival – Cavendish, all weekend long. Visit www.cavendishbeachmusic.com for info and schedule.
- 29th PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival – Rollo Bay Festival Grounds, all weekend long. Visit www.bluegrasspei.com for info and schedule.
- Barra MacNeils and Natalie MacMaster in the Celebration Zone - Charlottetown waterfront, today from 7 to 10 p.m.
- Trailside Café – Mount Stewart, 8 p.m., with Nathan Wiley (today), Mike O’Neil and Mardeen (tomorrow) and Old Man Luedecke (Sunday).
- The Drowsy Chaperone – Kings Playhouse, Georgetown, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.