Jul 08, 2014
Photo credit: Aston Fenby.
And so it begins. Stampede 2014 officially got underway with the famous parade on Friday, July 4, giving attendees the chance to see everything from a tank to Mayor Nenshi riding a horse. Alongside traditionally popular events like this, the Calgary Stampede also offers the chance to see some great musical acts, as artists and bands flock to the city to play to large, lubricated crowds. And such was the case on Wednesday, July 2, at a pre-party of sorts where Canadian superstars Metric and B-list super group Mounties took the stage to play for crowds at the Cowboys Stampede Tent.
The attendees were an eclectic mix of the stereotypical cowboy/cowgirl converts that populate many a stampede party, together with diehard fans of Metric and others that appeared to only be there to partake in the $7.25 cans of Coors and Kokanee. With the audience expected to arrive at 7:00 pm in order to avoid a $40 surcharge, and with the bands eventually going on at 9:00 pm, many concert-goers surely had time to purchase a 12-pack’s worth of beer.
The night began with Mounties, who were founded in 2013. The band features Hawksley Workman on drums, former Hot Hot Heat frontman Steve Bays on keys, and Age of Electric guitarist Ryan Dahle, with all three contributing vocals throughout the night. Mounties took to the stage with an impressive amount of energy and enthusiasm, commenting throughout their hour long set about how glad they were to be playing. The crowd mostly responded in kind, giving the band its due as far as energy was concerned.
The sound and songs were a different matter though. Whether the fault of Workman’s over-zealous drumming (which was quite impressive nonetheless), or the sound of the venue itself, to a first time listener Mounties would have sounded like a drum solo project featuring four other musicians as a backing band. As can be heard from their single “Headphones,” there is some melodic talent within the group.
“Headphones,” the first single released by Canadian group Mounties.
The quieter moments did feature what seemed to be some interesting arrangements and the extended jams for many of the songs did hint at a band that could be potentially very tight. Overall though, this was hard to know for sure.
After a quick setup and another introduction by a local radio DJ, Metric took the stage at 10:15 pm and the crowd made it clear who they had been waiting for. In another testament to the energy and enthusiasm of the night’s performers, Metric certainly did not disappoint. Lead singer and keyboardist Emily Haines showed why the band belongs on the world stage, pumping each song full of her own distinct brand of bravado, punctuating the set with dance moves and crowd interaction. Not to be outdone, the rest of the band injected their own dose of excitement into each of the tunes.
Metric showing off some of their live energy during Canada Day celebrations in 2013.
Once again though, it was hard not to notice the lack of balanced levels for the sound. Rock concerts are supposed to be loud, there’s no argument against that here; but when the players on stage are giving it their all and the sound is so diluted that the audience can’t tell if they are plugged in or not, then there’s a problem. In the case of Metric, whose dance-inducing tunes are always brought to the next level with an added layer of interesting instrumentation and Haines’ voice, this fact couldn’t help but be a disappointment.
Unfortunately for those in attendance who hadn’t had their fill of lager, this Stampede warm-up concert left much to be desired. Despite the best efforts of both bands, the musical side of this event was all but lost.
Hopefully the kinks can be worked out before tonight when Canadian legend Burton Cummings will take the Cowboys stage with fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Colin James as his opening act.–Nathaniel Schmidt