Manitoba Night at Canada Games Festival celebrates local stars

Review: 2017 Canada Games Festival @ The Forks (“Manitoba Night”)

I almost didn’t go out tonight. Sixty-five percent of me wanted to stay home and veg out on my deck, soaking in the fantastic weather we’ve been having. Thirty-five percent of me wanted to go to The Forks because how many opportunities does one get to watch the Crash Test Dummies play with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The answer is one.

Message under Mamma Chia cap. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

By 5 p.m., I was still debating what to do. I dropped my Daughter off at my Mom’s house and sat in her driveway with my bottle of hippie/yoga/organic/strain-8-pounds-of-chia-seeds-through-your-teeth-with-every-sip drink (“Mamma Chia”) and twisted off the cap. Under the cap were the words “What Makes You Feel Alive?”

Augh…(insert eye roll here)…it’s concerts. Concerts and writing concert stories make me feel alive. The cosmos was telling me I had to go.

Surprisingly, I was able to park very close to the field at The Forks and made my way over. While host extraordinaire, Ace Burpee spoke to the audience, I walked around and got my bearings. Food trucks over here, miscellaneous tents over there, dreaded porta potties in the distance.

Giant beaver photo op. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

I had a woman take my picture with a giant beaver (why not?) and then headed to the stage to see William Prince and Sierra Noble.

I’d never heard any of their music or seen them play before. Their set was slow, soft and reminded me a lot of Folk Fest. William’s voice was beautiful and his songs were full of meaningful lyrics.

I enjoyed when he told us about his Father and how he wasn’t afraid to tell his children he loved them, sometimes excessively. I’m the same way with my Daughter.

Sierra sounded good and it seemed like there was a mutual respect for one another on stage, but it felt like both musicians didn’t gel well together. I don’t know why.

Sierra in particular, seemed timid when accompanying William. Regardless, I welcomed that warm, comfy lull which spread over me like a thick quilt during their set.

Sierra Noble with William Prince. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

While Ace Burpee announced the Summer Bear Dance Troupe, I ran back to my car and got my beach chair so I wouldn’t have to sit on the ground.

Indigenous drumming and singing sounds more natural at The Forks than anywhere else I’ve heard it. It feels like those sounds should be softly carried on the wind everywhere you go at The Forks. I watched the Jingle Dress dancer and Fancy Shawl dancer and then it was time for The New Meanies.

Indigenous drumming, singing and dancing. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

It’s taken me about six years to see The New Meanies. I remember we used to play them a lot at Power 97 and I always really liked them, but their shows were either super late, or my schedule didn’t allow it. Tonight, the cosmos was on my side.

Here’s what I like about The New Meanies: there’s nothing polished about them. They’re a bunch of older dudes playing blues/rock music. Sometimes Damon Mitchell (lead vocals, guitar & harmonica) was off key, but it was all so…refreshing and real.

“Letting Time Pass” was my favourite from them and I really enjoyed it live. The crunchy guitars in “Rush Hour” gave my goose bumps, and “7620 36th Ave” was fast and fun. Good set; I hope to see them again soon.

The New Meanies. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

At this point I ran to the food trucks and as I was paying for my perogies, I could hear Dirty Catfish Brass Band in the distance. I’ve seen them play before, but the last time was a long time ago. I raced back to my chair, dropped off my food, and raced back to the satellite stage.

I immediately noticed the addition of “spinning” to their performance. I liked it and I think the crowd liked it too.

You know what I’d like to see from the Dirty Catfish Brass Band? Synchronized, deliberate movements executed with confidence and funk. In other words, Motown.

I know there are members of that group that could definitely pull this off, because they’re already dancing and it looks GREAT. I mean they’re a party group right? You have to move, it’s that kind of music. The crowd is already doing it, I’d like to see the band do it too; give us MORE show.

The Dirty Catfish Brass Band continues to improve. They were more solid and confident than last time I saw them and even attempted “These Eyes”. It was ballsy, but I think they pulled it off.

Dirty Catfish Brass Band. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

In an age where DJ’s and keyboards rule, I love how Dirty Catfish Brass Band are making instruments relevant to everyone. I took a quick scan of the audience and there were people from age 4 to 74 totally enjoying this music. It was a short, but sweet set and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for this band.

After their set, I weaved my way to the main stage for Royal Canoe’s set with Begonia. I’d never seen them before and I was anxious to hear what all the hype was about.

Half way to the stage I stopped dead in my tracks. There, on the big screen was that guy from The Waking Eyes (Matt Peters)!

Back in the day, I loved The Waking Eyes and played the heck out of “Holding Onto Whatever It Is”. As I got closer to the stage, I could hear the influence; there were elements of The Waking Eyes sound, but revamped for today’s generation.

However, it was that revamping, that didn’t reach me. I understand the appeal, there was some really creative stuff happening on that stage, but it just wasn’t for me.

Royal Canoe performed with Begonia. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

Begonia gave me goose bumps during “Fussin’” though; I like her more and more every time I see her.

Near the end of their set I ran back to my car to change into jeans and then made my way back to the front of the stage before Crash Test Dummies came out.

I don’t recall if I’ve ever seen them live; I was never their biggest fan. I didn’t dislike them, but I don’t recall going out of my way to see them live.

I understand however, the significance of adding a symphony to rock music. A symphony transforms and emphasizes emotion in songs. So I knew even though these weren’t my favourite songs of all time, they were guaranteed to reach me because of my sensitivity to the power of the symphony.

The songs reached me, but I wouldn’t say it felt particularly powerful. I think I’m in the minority when I say this, as people were freaking out about how fantastic it was. For me, it was more like “Oh man, I haven’t heard these songs in a long time, it’s so nice to hear them again, in this way…(sigh)…”

The Crash Test Dummies (and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra) started with “God Shuffled His Feet” and I was amazed at how tight the band sounded. I know they had been practicing, because I saw pics on drummer Mitch Dorge’s Facebook page, but I guess I wasn’t expecting them to sound THIS tight after such a long hiatus.

Crash Test Dummies capped off Manitoba evening. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

Throughout the set I kept thinking what an honour it must be for this band to play with the Symphony. I’m not a musician, but I assume this pinnacle would be pretty cool in a musician’s career.

During the set I noticed mutual smiles between the band members and while Ellen Reid performed solo, I noticed the other members smiling like they were mentally pinching themselves to make sure this was real.

Brad Roberts (vocals) introduced “Songbird” and dedicated it to his nephews. He said he didn’t have any children, but remarked that his brother, bassist Dan Roberts managed to reproduce to carry on the Roberts name. At which point Dan replied “It’s not hard…” I laughed out loud.

The band played most of their singles and a few I hadn’t heard before, but left “the money track” for the end. “Superman’s Song” was my favourite song of the night. By this time I was sitting back in my seat and to me, the sound of the symphony was better at the back than in front of the stage. The tune was very moving and Brad remarked “That’s the best that song is ever going to sound,” after it was over. Indeed.

The show ended and then Brad said, “Turns out we were only pretending to be finished” and they played “Afternoons & Coffeespoons” during the one song encore.

That was a really special set, and I’m glad I saw it.

The night ended with a mediocre fireworks display that finished spectacularly, when the pyrotechnicians reached the dramatic “Screw it, just light the rest of them all at once” finale. That part was cool.

And that was it. As usual, I’m glad I went. Sometimes bottle caps can be very wise…

Good night!

Fireworks concluded the evening. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here:

Anne Martin


TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here:

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