By Carey Langsner, Rock At Night Ontario Correspondent
URG Festival, Ontario, Canada–August 26 2017
“If you host it, they will come”
You are about to turn 50 – what would you like to do to celebrate?
If you are Graeme Tosh, the owner of nine restaurants known as the Unique Restaurant Group or “URG”, and you’ve always liked the 80s Canadian music you grew up listening to, then you;
Rent a field – the Ancaster Fairgrounds – check
Call a booking agent and arrange for seven bands: Platinum Blonde, Honeymoon Suite, Saga, Doug and the Slugs [replaced by Helix], The Kings, and two local bands Freedom Train and The McFlys to play – check
Throw up some tents; get a liquor license, – check, check
Call it the “URG Music Fest” invite the public to attend, and throw in an 80’s costume contest– check
The sun was shining and the temperature was in the low 20’s [Celsius]. The day was perfect for a festival.
Each band on the main stage was allotted a forty-five minute set time, with the exception of Platinum Blonde who was given an hour time slot. With the time slot being so short, each band only had time to play their biggest hits. Freedom Train and The McFlys alternated playing 80s tunes on a smaller side stage while the main stage was being set up for the next band – a great idea that kept the crowd entertained.
The Kings started off the festival to an energetic audience. With Dave Diamond belting out the lyrics and Mister Zero playing guitar, they played hits like “Unstoppable” and “Listen and Learn” before closing out their set with their big hit “This Beat Goes On/Switching To Glide”.
Next to take the stage was Helix, filling in for Doug and the Slugs who had to cancel due to a medical emergency with lead singer Ted Okos. With lead singer Brian Vollmer’s non-stop interaction with the crowd, Helix did not disappoint. Playing hit after hit like “Rock You” and “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” and their new song “The Devil Is Having A Party”, they definitely got the party going.
While they were clearing the stage of Helix’s equipment, it was time for the 80s costume contest. There were around 30 festival goers who did come dressed up like they actually did or thought people did in the 80s. The audience’s choice for the winner was a gentleman who dressed up like a member of DEVO.
Saga who are on their “4.0 Anniversary The Final Chapter” tour (which is their final tour), was next to take the stage. This was the band I really wanted to see. Though I grew up listening to all of these bands and seeing all of them multiple times, I had never seen Saga live. I also met a couple who came all the way from Texas to see Saga live. Lead singer Michael Sadler’s voice sounds just as powerful today singing hits like “On The Loose” and “Wind Him Up” as it was back in the 80s. Not to be out done, keyboard player Jim Gilmour can still belt out the hits like “Scratching The Surface” and the last song “Careful Where You Step”. Just like that, their set was over. On the plus side, I did manage to get a guitar pick that Ian Crichton tossed into the pit as well as a set list as they were resetting the stage.
The next big 80s band to hit the stage was Honeymoon Suite. From the first note as the band took the stage, they displayed the same energy level as they did back in the 80s. Honeymoon Suite played many of their hits like “Feel It Again”, “Burning In Love”, and “Wave Babies” before ending their set with their biggest hit “New Girl Now” with the audience singing along.
Headlining the festival was Platinum Blonde. They were the only band to be allotted a full hour for their set, and they did not disappoint the crowd. While the hair might not be as big as it was in the 80s, lead singer Mark Holmes can still belt out the songs like he did back in the day. Throughout their set, Platinum Blonde played many of their classics like “Crying Over You” “Hungry Eyes” “It Doesn’t Really Matter” as well as a salute to Chris Cornell with a cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”.
After the concert part of the festival was over anybody who wanted to stay was invited to watch the Mayweather vs McGregor fight on the two large screens on either side of the stage.
Thank you to Graeme and his wife for all their hard work in organizing this festival. I am looking forward to attending this festival again next year.
Classic “Honeymoon Suite”
Classic “Platinum Blonde”
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