ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 8, 1993
By Steve Newton
Seabird Island isn’t really an island, and that’s a good thing, because judging by the massive line-ups of cars on the highway heading to the Agassiz site, the wait for ferries would have been brutal. Seabird is actually a great big grassy field surrounded by a ring of trees and, farther back, lush mountains.
It’s a scenic spot with a secluded feel, and a great place to throw a rock festival, as about 25,000 people found out during CFOX Radio’s 25th anniversary bash. For roughly nine hours, volume-hungry fans were treated to radio-friendly tunes by some of the top-selling acts from Canada, Britain, and the U.S., although not all the bands were worth the intense traffic hassles.
At least one of them has seen better days.
I managed to avoid the worst traffic snarls last Saturday (July 3), but the organizers had pushed the start time up a half-hour, so I completely missed openers Sven Gali from Toronto. I calmed myself with a free beer from the VIP tent and waited for Vancouver’s Rockhead to come on.
Fresh off a European tour opening for Bon Jovi, Rockhead was in fine shape. The band started off with a taste of Cheap Trick’s famous intro number, “Hello There”, before knocking off sharp versions of their own melodic, ’70s-style tunes. Former Love Hunter vocalist Steve Jack was a lean, mean singing machine, and lead guitarist/producer-to-the-stars Bob Rock lived up to his name. With the addition of former Slow and Scramblers guitarist Ziggy Sigmund to the line-up, Rockhead sounds ready to make a big splash in today’s mainstream rock pool.
Ugly Kid Joe was up next, the only band in the Foxfest line-up to add a semi-alternative tinge to the day’s proceedings. Reportedly, lead singer Whitfield Crane incited the crowd at a recent rain-soaked Alberta rock festival to toss mud all over the place, but since Seabird Island remained overcast and dry, he just led the Ugly Kids in thrashy versions of tunes from their two hit releases—including the comical anti-ballad that kick-started their career, “Everything About You”—until it was time to make way for Canadian rock veterans April Wine.
“We’ve been playing rock and roll almost as long as that,” proclaimed singer/guitarist Myles Goodwyn, in reference to the 25 (some say it’s been 26) years that the Fox has rocked. Backed by the powerful percussion of still-hot drummer Jerry Mercer, April Wine proved that age can be a bonus in rock, although great old tunes like “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” far outweighed anything from the band’s latest release, Attitude.
Although he’s not really a hard rocker in the same sense as the other Foxfest participants, Canadian music vet Tom Cochrane certainly knows how to kick out a jam or two. And although it is arguable that—despite recent commercial success—his best work was done in Red Rider, he still knows how to put together a fine band and make the most of the concert experience. And, of course, he’s got that excellent rock voice.
It was sort of surprising that the headlining act at Foxfest turned out to be its weakest link (unless Sven Gali was really bad), but I’m afraid Def Leppard has had its day. I’ve got to give the band credit for carrying on in the face of death and dismemberment, but that doesn’t mean I have to like vapid bubble gum–metal tunes like “Let’s Get Rocked” and “Make Love Like a Man”. And judging by the hordes of people leaving the site during Leppard’s set, I’m not the only one who’s lost interest in the band.
Overall, however, I had a fine old time at Seabird, and I can’t wait to see co-billed Midnight Oil and the Tragically Hip top a six-band bill there on July 17. Now those are headliners I can handle.