Festival Review: Big Music Fest 2014 (including Bryan Adams, Aerosmith, Styx, + Slash)

Big Music Fest
Growing up in a rock n’ roll household, the radio always had the hits of the 70’s and 80’s blasting from the stereo. I learned at an early age how to make my own cassette mixtapes, which were always filled with my dad’s favourite tunes. Songs that I had also made claim to.

When Big Music Fest announced Kitchener as it’s 2014 home, I was thrilled, but when the lineup was revealed, I was ecstatic. Not only was the fest being held in my city, but it was bringing my childhood loves to my adult real life.

Collective Soul rang through the air as I walked into the park Saturday afternoon. Having seen these guys before, I knew they’d put on a great show, playing the crowd favourites and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Always a personal love, December, was the first full track I caught of the day and I sang along with every word- as did much of the crowd. Collective Soul fit this rock scene perfectly, blending their catchy lyrics with solid guitar riffs and toe-tapping drum beats. They played through their hits Better Now, The World I Know and Comes Back to You before launching into their final hit, the crowd-pleasing Shine.

With Styx up next, the night was about to get wild. They got the crowds riled with stories of their former Lulu’s days- days that a fair number of the attendees seemed to remember. They even compared the crowd sizes, “we’ve done an official count and there are more people here tonight then there ever were at Lulu’s“, which followed with screams and whistles. Their hard-rock set was paired with some great rock n’ roll antics. During their hit Miss America, Lawrence Gowan played the keys impressively behind his back with the others shredding around him. They paid tribute to Queen with a great verse from Bohemian Rhapsody before easing into their closing ballad, Come Sail Away.

Headliner Bryan Adams finished out the night on a strong chord, playing his huge repertoire of hits to the BIG Fest crowd, who were all singing along. Opening with Run to You was a great was to get his set going, building the crowd into a dancing frenzy. The front man had a wonderful report with the crowd, keeping everyone laughing and entertained throughout the nearly 2 hour long set. During If Ya Wanna Be Bad Ya Gotta Be Good, he called out for any bad girls in the audience, landing one young lady the chance to dance down a catwalk during the song. This may have been the one moment that evening where no one cared about Bryan Adams, giving full attention to the dancing queen, shaking her thing and making her parents proud, I’m sure. He played a great variety of tunes from slow jams, to acoustic renditions and every fast-paced hit in between. Summer of ’69 and All For Love were the big numbers for me, with the later closing out the evening entirely. Just perfect.

Leading into Sunday, I had the chance to chat with Ian Thornley of Big Wreck, check out that interview here. That chat completely built up my excitement for the day, which for me, began suitably with Big Wreck.

They played their radio hits and rocked them hard. They also showcased their roster of impressive new hits from the new album Ghosts, including the title track. That, along with Albatross and That Song, my day felt complete and it had just begun.

Slash, alongside Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators mashed together a great sing-along set with material from Guns n’ Roses and Velvet Revolver. I never would have imagined that I’d be seeing tracks like Sweet Child of Mine, Paradise City and VR’s Slither performed live in my lifetime. From start to finish, this was a hard, heavy set with gut-busting guitar solos and hair flailing. It was certainly the perfect intro for the night’s headliner.

Another band I was sure I’d never get the opportunity to see live, was Sunday’s headliner Aerosmith. Back in the Saddle kicked off the night, making this set feel familiar as nostalgia swept over me. It was great to hear some of their earlier hits mixed into the setlist, including Toys in the Attic, Kings and Queens, and Same Old Song and Dance. Of course, Steven Tyler’s iconic sound tore through every song with ease. Let me tell you, that voice is even more impressively powerful in person. In between the iconic material, the whole band got involved with crowd banter and Tyler even burped into the mic- why not, right? Dude (Looks like A Lady) and Walk This Way were the final two tracks, before returning with a short encore of Dream On and Sweet Emotion. A complete setlist of magical nostalgia.

Needless to say, Big Music Fest made my inner-child very happy. The memories I banked from this fest will stay with me forever. I can officially cross off some major names from my bucket list.

Review by Shannon Bryan | @xoradioxo

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