We hit the road, leaving Kitchener-Waterloo, headed straight to the quaint town of Vankleek Hill near Ottawa for the Beau’s Oktoberfest. The town is home to the Beau’s Brewery, who have certainly made a name for themselves in the industry.
Leaving the KW region for an Oktoberfest event may seem strange, knowing that our home fest is ranked number two in the world, right behind Munich itself. Having been in Munich this past summer, I can certainly agree that the KW festing style closely resembles that of a Bavarian Beer Garden; Beer, Pretzels, Sausage. However, the small-town of VKH made their own event an all-encompassing epic weekend of food, music, fun, classes, and beer.
Having sat in the God-awful Friday afternoon Toronto traffic, we didn’t arrive at the event until late. Luckily enough, we managed to catch the majority of Rural Alberta Advantage, while navigating our weekend turf. The band supplied a great soundtrack for beer drinkers tromping their way through a floor of hay and dirt. Talking to some of the other attendees, we were told that the Groenland set was incredible and Zeus impressed as usual.
Making our way through the eager crowds, we managed to find a decent spot in front of the stage for the beloved east coast group, Joel Plaskett Emergency. At the top of my list for the weekend’s acts, Joel and his band delivered an outstanding performance, despite the obvious battle between them and the sound crew.
Not skipping a beat, the music went on, swimming through a setlist of crowd favourites. They also gave a very sincere dedication and told the wonderful story behind the track Park Avenue Sobriety Test to the man who named the song, Joel’s neighbour and recently-departed friend ‘Roy’. They then launched into the fun track and were greeted with a full-blown sing-along. They kept the sing-along alive, diving into a very east coast rendition of Lorde’s Royals. This was especially fun to see a slew of tipsy attendees attempt to dance and sing along.
After a brief exit, the band returned to the stage to play a final encore, closing the set with his upbeat party track Nowhere With You that got the crowd jumping, stomping, dancing and drinking. What a spectacle!
Wandering the fields, we bore witness to malt sack races, keg tosses and the talented skateboarders doing their thing on the Vans-sponsored half pipe. Yes, this included a “Keg Hippie Skate Jump Challenge” and no, you can’t make this shit up.
The Bamberg/Skate Tent has its own lineup of heavy music, boasting the likes of Audio Visceral, Hounds, and the infamous D.O.A. who also played the Friday night after party at the local tavern.
Back to the main stage, we caught the infectious The Strumbellas who, all wearing their Beau’s winter toques, entertained the crowds. Opening with Sailing set the tone for their folk-inspired, energetic performance, moving into the clap-happy track Did I Die? Their beards, their humour and overall stage presence had me absolutely captivated with their entire set.
Taking to the stage next was the Quebec-based hip hop duo Radio Radio. Their dance-y beats had a very country-meets-city feel with a sea girls in rubber boots jumping in unison. It was definitely a change of pace for the night, bringing a French-focus to the weekend. I’d expect nothing less from the Ottawa Valley.
Weekend headliner’s Tokyo Police Club brought their high power alternative-pop sound to the Beau’s stage. The band played a slew of tracks from this year’s release “Forcefield”, Argentina and Hot Tonight, along with some old favourites Bambi and Wait Up (Boots of Danger). The night seemed to come to an end too early, despite bands playing much past their allotted time slots. Though, after being out in the rain all day, finding a warm, dry, welcome space with cold beer was an alright way to end the night.
Before making the trek back to KW Sunday morning, we hit the brewery for a chef-made breakfast with all of the fixings, including beer while waiting in line. All in all, a pretty fucking excellent time.
Despite Saturday’s rain, the event boasted an attendance of over 19,000, who drained a rumoured 700+ kegs of fresh, delicious, all-natural beer. Even more impressively, this charitable event raised a whopping $95,000+ for community and charity. Feeling bad the next morning has never felt so good.
Until next year VKH…
Follow updates from Beau’s Oktoberfest here.