The passion behind the music really chimes through the streets of Downtown Kitchener for KOI Music Fest. Beginning as a passion project and growing into a staple in Kitchener music culture, the fest has become a must-attend event. The festival itself has become massive, with over 100 bands spanning 7 stages over 3 days.
With yet another powerful lineup, and cooperative weather, the crowds flocked to the opening night of KOI Music Fest. Not only did the opening night boast an impressive set of bands, but they also cater to the community, encouraging everyone to join them for a free night of music. The first night free, KOI brings in curious new-comers to the community who have arrived wide-eyed and bushy-tailed to the college and universities. It’s a very warm welcome to the neighbourhood.
We kicked our fest off with near and dear friends Trouble & Daughter, who didn’t let frozen fingers get in the way of a dance-filled, clap-along, set of catchy-as-fuck tunes. Jenni and Jimmy played their roles in the T&D story, making for a captivating set of high-school love tunes and party tracks.
Brother duo, Teenage Kicks, were next to take the stage and brought pounding energy to the set. Playing hits from their (fucking awesome) April release Spoils of Youth, the guys put on a fun, good ol’ rock n’ roll set for the enthusiastic Kitchener crowds. As a unique brand of the classic genre, these guys really made the stage their own and had the crowd hypnotized with their sounds.
Danko Jones was easily one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. A man, a legend that I’d never seen before- he was a spectacle to behold. With his loud, raw, garage-rock style, Danko Jones put 110% into the performance, leaving the crowd speechless. His on stage antics and humour got everyone involved, getting the crowds to loudly boo him and asking “who wants to hear more songs about people having sex?” Spoiler- everyone did.
Back for Day 2, Saturday got the kids moshing early at the Main Stage with Hamilton-based Counterparts. The metalcore group turned up the volume for the sea of crowd-surfing kids who were ready to dance. Their guitar-heavy riffs, fast paced drums and screaming vocals definitely got the party started.
Taking it down a notch, we headed to Opus to catch the farewell performance of Kitchener’s own So Much For Subtle. Fronted by sisters Sarah and Victoria Bernardo, their sweet vocals blend beautifully on stage with their guitar and keys. Playing through a list of fan-favourite originals and a slew of covers, including The Killers’ When You Were Young, they made this last set a memorable one.
Foxy Shazam was one of those bands that I’d heard great things about, but mostly had to see them because of their amazing band name. Not only did the name win me over, but this group had to be one of the most fashionable at KOI, with the singer dawning a pair of red pants and a Hawaiian shirt. They also boasted one of the most energetic sets of the fest, as the singer dropped to the stage and popped back up again multiple times, he did and on-stage flip and the guitarist climbed the scaffolding to play and epic solo. Definitely a memorable moment. Not only did they play the part, but their music was fun, catchy and topped it all off with a Green Day cover of Longview.
Speaking of energy, ska punk band Mad Caddies brought their brass to the Main Stage for a fast-paced set of horns and circle pits. It was unreal to see this kind of enthusiasm from a band who’ve been around since I was 7. Still going strong, playing old hits and new tracks off of their recently released Dirty Rice, The Mad Caddies are far from hanging up their hats.
Sunday began earlier than expected with the promise of afternoon rain. Wanting to capture the sunshine and warmth, The Balconies hit the stage an hour earlier than expected, to a smaller crowd than they should have had. Despite the crowd size, front-woman Jacquie O. put forward a hard-rocking kick-ass performance, holding back nothing when it came to belting out her tunes and showing off her sweet, sweet moves. Easily one of the most exciting performances of the entire weekend.
Hometown heroes Courage My Love played to fans of every age and a group of family and friends. Playing new hits Skin and Bones and We’re Not In Kansas Anymore, twins Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn, rocked the vocals, guitar and drums alongside bassist Brandon Lockwood. They displayed a nostalgic love for the city and played their hearts out in a set packed with hard-rocking hits, as well as a great rendition of Katy Perry’s Dark Horse.
My nostalgic trip of the weekend came when Burlington’s Silverstein hit the stage. I had followed this band’s touring throughout my high school years, seeing their live show more times than I’d like to admit. Being a part of this crowd, seeing folks older and younger than me alike, singing every word to every song was enough to put a smile on any former emo-kids face. Playing through the favourites including, Your Sword Versus My Dagger and Smile In Your Sleep before concluding the set with my Heroine. Just epic.
Keeping the heavy theme going a little while longer, Protest the Hero took the stage and kept the kids moshing. With feet flying through the air, they powered through their set with fast-paced tracks Bone Marrow, Bloodmeat and Sex Tapes. All the while, singer Rody Walker made jokes with the crowd at his own expense and commented, “We headlined (KOI) a few years ago. Either the festival has grown, or we’ve taken a nose dive. I think it’s the latter.” Regardless, the band had a huge crowd who were clearly there to see them.
Closing out the weekend, Toronto’s USS made their mark in a heavy-focussed lineup. The crowds stuck around, while keeping the moshing going for a dance-centric set of DJ beats mixed with fun acoustic guitar. The setlist was riddled with radio hits, including their latest, Shipwreck. Not only did the crowd sing and dance along with the tracks, but DJ Human Kebab danced around the stage in a tiger sweatshirt and balanced on his hands, while being cheered on by fans.
The entire weekend was full of energy and music rang throughout the city of Kitchener. KOI Music Festival continues to grow and conquer each and every year, making 2015 a highly anticipated fest. We can’t wait to go back!
Follow updates from KOI Festival here.