Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Canada Really, Really Rocks - Canada Day Weekend, Fort McMurray Style

I'll be very honest here. I'm still a little bit bitter about last summer, because I was there for the press conference announcing KISS at the Canada Rocks Festival. I wrote about it several times, in fact - but the kicker was that I couldn't attend the concert because we had already booked our family summer vacation - and we left the day before KISS played. I'm not even that big a KISS fan, truth be told, but I hate to miss anything that might be fun, so while I loved my holiday with my family part of me was quite sad to be missing KISS. So, this year I engaged in some strategic planning and ensured I would be in the city for every festival over the summer - and the first, of course, is the  Nexen Canada Rocks Festival, from Events Wood Buffalo.

I attended the press conference for this one, too, just to hear David Whitelock, EWB's Executive Director, list the bands in his Scottish brogue. I knew it wouldn't be a "KISS announcement", as concerts of that magnitude really can't be accomplished every year. I was delighted instead to see a focus on Canadian artists - as exciting as KISS was I think for Canada Day the perfect acts are ones that are truly Canadian, and the line-up this year is very, very exciting.

First up on June 29th we have Joel Plaskett and Hey Rosetta. Now, this one is exciting for a lot of reasons. Joel is pretty awesome, and Hey Rosetta is pretty great. And the best part? This one is free. That's right, General Admission is free to this opening night concert, and I can't imagine a better way to kick off the weekend. Joel is originally from Nova Scotia, and Hey Rosetta are from Newfoundland. Two great Canadian acts, and one great way to start what is sure to be a terrific weekend.

Then, next up, we have two more great Canadian acts - and one with one hell of an interesting life story. On June 30th Classified takes the stage, opening for Somali Canadian K'Naan. Classified is a rapper from the East Coast, and has become fairly well known in recent years. And K'Naan? Well, like I said, what a story. Born in Somalia, growing up in Mogadishu - I can't even quite imagine what this man has seen in his years on this planet. And now he is in Canada, making music and achieving notice and fame. I was delighted when I heard he was going to be playing Canada Rocks, as not only is he an amazing musician I suspect he's also an amazing person.

And, then finally, July 1st. I was delighted to hear that on Canada Day 2012 Fort McMurray will host opening acts Doc Walker, and Corb Lund - and then Blue Rodeo. Look, people, I'm not sure it gets more "Canadian iconic" than Blue Rodeo. This is the band that might have had a country sound but brought it right into the pop mainstream, a band that was getting huge when I was in Toronto many years ago. Suddenly a city that would have frowned upon cowboy boots and huge belt buckles was embracing them, every hip Queen Street West establishment jumping on the "blue rodeo cowboy" bandwagon. And then it went country-wide, Blue Rodeo's style and music finding fans across the nation from rural communities to the largest cities. I'm pleased to report I witnessed it all back then, watched it spread and watched their fame grow. I think most Canadians have a "Blue Rodeo" memory, a certain song linked to a certain memory or time in their life. For me it is the song "Lost Together", which takes me back to a certain time in my life, a time when the idea of being lost wasn't so awful as long as I wasn't lost alone. I can't even begin to express my pleasure at the chance to see them perform live again, and in the company of two other great Canadian acts.

So, there is is, Fort Mac. I might have missed KISS and the last Canada Rocks Festival but I won't be missing this one. In fact I am planning to volunteer for all three days of the event, as I love nothing more than to be right in there and see it all come together. There is something magical about these events, something spectacular about seeing them from the inside (and you can, too, as Events Wood Buffalo is looking for volunteers!). But even if you don't volunteer for them there is something incredible about simply being there, about being in the audience on that first weekend in July when our northern summer seems to truly begin. There is something about Canada Day and the Canadian flag and Canadian musicians and fireworks and the company of friends. There is something about being on the field at MacDonald Island Park, gazing up at the stars, and hearing live music. KISS might have been great, people, and it might have been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event - but to be honest while I am sorry I missed it I am more than happy to know I will be here for Canada Day weekend this year. I know where I will spend the first three glorious days of our summer - and I hope to see you there, listening to some Canadian artists, waving a Canadian flag, and celebrating Canada Day right here in Fort McMurray.

You can find information on the line-up for
Nexen Canada Rocks here,


  1. Thanks for the update! I was wondering who would be coming this year. I had heard K'Naan was coming from a couple guys I work with but thought they were pulling my leg.

  2. Everyone should also look forward to the critically acclaimed Corb Lund & the Hurtin' Albertans. I've been following Corb since he was part of the Edmonton-based indie band "The Smalls" in the early '90s. The country influence of Corb could be seen in the Smalls, usually considered a harder rock band (metal/punk).

    Definitely "a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, Juno-award winning Lund is the current Canadian Country Music Associations Roots Artist of the Year (5 times in a row!).

    Corb puts on a fun, entertaining show. I saw Lund at the Thickwood Arena a couple of years ago and he did not disappoint. Another reason to be there!

    Bruce Anderson

  3. I really enjoyed last year and will delight even more with this line up. David Whitelock and company have put together a real Canada vibe this Canada Day celebrations in McMurray this year.

    Hey, maybe we should invite Mr.Mulcair to our Canada Day celebrations as we showcase talented musicians from across the country who will entertain McMurray and regional citizens, who come here from every part of Canada to help develop the Canadian oil sands in a responsible and sustainable way. He is sure welcome to enjoy our hospitality