Stellar performers shine brightly at this year’s rodeo

Review: Interstellar Rodeo @ The Forks – Saturday, August 19, 2017

Alright, the birthdays are over and we’re all back from the lake. I have 76 loads of laundry to do, but first…here’s my review:

My Husband woke up first (as usual) and encouraged me to go down to the dock so I could experience the stillness of the early morning in the Whiteshell. This is a rarity for me, as I’m more of a night hawk.

Then I got ready, kissed my family goodbye, and I was on the road by 9 a.m., heading back to Winnipeg for Interstellar Rodeo.

First stop was the realtor’s office so I could sign the offer papers for my Dad’s house (it fell through). Then, home to drop off the cabin stuff.

The sun was relentless as I entered the festival grounds, 15 minutes late for Leonard Sumner’s set. He was telling the crowd about his Mom and how she “killed and skinned that leopard herself”, referring to her leopard print tank top. That was the last time I laughed during Leonard’s set.

Truth be told, he was the performer I was most interested in seeing. I had seen him speak before and I thought he was intelligent, level-headed and he had a great sense of humour. I was intrigued and made a mental note to catch one of his shows.

Leonard Sumner performing at this year’s Interstellar Rodeo. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

To say that his set was powerful would be an understatement. I knew he probably wasn’t going to play a lot of feel good music, but what I hadn’t anticipated was how heavy I would feel afterwards.

I’m struggling because I’m trying to get across to you that this wasn’t a bad thing. He sang and spoke about horrible things – residential schooling, reservation suicides, etc., and the effect on his people – and it was hard and sad to listen to, but my goodness we needed to hear it.

One of the most fascinating things about Leonard Sumner is his ability to transition from folk to rap. It was so seamless; a completely natural progression.

I think I would have struggled organizing time slots for musicians during this festival. Leonard really should have played later in the day when more people could have heard him because his message and art is so very important. That was a heavy way to start the day.

After his set I went back to my car to get my beach chair and debated about whether I liked the new set up or not.

Last year, Interstellar Rodeo separated the front of the stage. One side was for chairs, the other was for standing/dancing. I liked that set up.

This year, less than a week before the festival started, they sent out an email informing everyone that NO chairs would be allowed near the stage, this year that area was for standing/dancing only. Chairs were allowed only on the two hills at the back of the field.

Initially, I wasn’t a fan of this. There was a sparse “crowd” at the front of the stage for Leonard’s set, with most people opting to sit in their chairs on the hills instead.

As the day wore on and more people arrived, the front became more populated and I realized I would have ended up on that hill in my chair anyway. So this new setup didn’t affect me negatively.

I set up my chair on the hill and moseyed over to the food trucks. Fried…BBQ’d…fried…fried…boiled…where were all the healthy options? There wasn’t even a lemonade stand. Isn’t that mandatory for a festival?

I ordered an underwhelming hamburger dripping in messy sauce and then I remembered last year, I bought a delicious little box of fruit. Where was that stand?

I wandered and wandered and finally found it on the other side of the hill. Why was it so far away from the rest of the food? I bought a box of fruit and a tiny box of juice and set myself up in my chair.

At this point I would have paid a minimum of $75 for 8 minutes of shade. Then I noticed Interstellar staff walking around with spray bottles to cool down the audience. Hallelujah!

I finished my burger just after Terra Lightfoot started her set. As I sat there with my garbage in hand, waiting for a good moment to get up, a woman in an Interstellar smock walked over and asked if she could take my garbage for me. That was cool; loved that.

Terra Lightfoot and her band on stage at Interstellar Rodeo at The Forks. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

I’d seen Terra when she opened for Blue Rodeo last year. I thought she was good, but her music didn’t really move me. I watched her set and felt the same this year as well. I was quite content to sit in my chair and listen to her and her band.

I was also interested in seeing Faouzia because I’ve heard some hype about her. She’s got quite the voice. It’s a deep, heavy voice and she sang heavy lyrics.

During her short set, she even managed to make Rihanna’s “Diamonds” sound heavy. She’s still young, so I look forward to seeing where that voice takes her in a couple of years.

Interstellar Rodeo fans are treated to Faouzia’s unique voice. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

Danny Michel was up next. He seemed to really enjoy being a musician and his band was having a lot of fun too, sometimes they seemed a bit goofy. They weren’t super tight, at one point Danny asked the band which key they used for the next song.

Danny Michel having fun with his band on stage at Interstellar Rodeo. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

I left half way thought their set to use the washroom at The Forks. The comfort and convenience of modern plumbing is not lost on me.

I came back to the festival with a cinnamon bun from Tall Grass Prairie. So much for healthy eating…but it was sooo goood.

At this point I was feeling pessimistic and worried that maybe this ticket wasn’t worth the cost. I was sweating buckets, there was no shade in sight and I “enjoyed” Leonard Sumner, but after him, none of the music was really grabbing me.

Enter Adia Victoria.

I sat in my chair pouting as her band took the stage. They started playing and then I heard it…an aggressive whisper. My ears perked up and I sat straighter in my chair.

I watched the screen to see who was making that sound and then I saw her; up on stage with her guitar in her black teddy bear fur dress and combat boots. She was intense and the veins in her throat were throbbing as she whispered lyrics laced with emotional torment…

I got out of that chair and practically ran down to the front of the stage.

An impressive performance by Adia Victoria. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

I watched her set, wondering the whole time whether this was an act, or if she really was this damaged. She threw herself into her music, becoming that song and it was hard to look away and completely fascinating at the same time. At times it was downright creepy.

She was from Nashville and she thanked us for letting her and her young band into our country and then read a dark and intense poem before singing a ballad in French.

Her music was bluesy with dark undertones and I really enjoyed that set. A friend told me afterwards that the sound wasn’t very good from the hill. That wasn’t the case for me near the stage.

Bad sound may have been an issue for Rheostatics though. I know Interstellar was really hyping up this band, but they didn’t really do anything for me. I don’t have a history with Rheostatics and they sounded disjointed and a bit out of tune to me. But maybe that was the sound, I’m not sure.

Rheostatics on stage at Interstellar Rodeo. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

I bought some chicken wings for dinner, which were surprisingly good and then made my way to the front of the stage for Mustafa The Poet’s set.

To my (and many other’s) surprise, Chantal Kreviazuk accompanied Mustafa on stage and sat down at a keyboard. She played and sang harmony with Mustafa and then sang “Feels Like Home”.  That was kind of a cool moment and once it was over, I was shoulder to shoulder with the audience.

Chantal Kreviazuk joins Mustafa The Poet on stage at The Forks. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

People were waiting for Beck.

I decided to stay right where I was, near the front of the stage so I could take some video and then I’d make my way back to my chair.

That never happened.

I’ve never seen Beck before, apparently I know a lot of his songs, but I don’t own any of them and I wouldn’t say I’m a fan.

From the moment that show started, I knew I wouldn’t be leaving. It was a complete sensory experience that I was not expecting and I found myself dancing along with the rest of the crowd to all these really catchy, fun songs.

The graphics behind the stage fit the songs and enhanced the experience even more.

Sensory overloaded “Devil’s Haircut” started the set, followed by “Black Tambourine”. I really enjoyed “I Think I’m In Love”, the rainbow water splashing on the screen was a cool effect and fit the song really well.

Beck’s full-on sensory performance at this year’s Instellar Rodeo. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

The band was tight and the crowd was pumped during “Mixed Bizness”, but I enjoyed the more melodic Beck. “Lost Cause”, “Say Goodbye” and “Heart Is A Drum” were all played with acoustic guitars and very little electronics and even less graphics in the background.

When Interstellar announced Beck would headline Saturday’s show, I was pretty impressed. I wondered how in the world they got him and imagined lots of begging and pleading.

Maybe it was more simple than that, maybe they appealed to his interest in his family history. Three quarters of the way into his set he told us that his great grandfather was from Winnipeg and that he drove a streetcar down Broadway.

He also said he got to meet his 91 year old aunt earlier that day. Later in the show he pondered if he was related to any of the audience members and asked if any of us lived on Campbell Street.

Headliner Beck performs to a pumped up crowd at Interstellar Rodeo. /PHOTO: Anne Martin

The crowd went crazy over “Loser” and “Sexx Laws” was fun and upbeat, but “E-Pro” was my favourite song of the night. It was hard with lights flashing all over the place and I stood there with my mouth open.

“Where It’s At” was the encore song and it felt long, but maybe it’s because they stopped the song in the middle to intro the band. Beck told us each musician’s name, and then that musician played a cover song and the rest of the band played along with him/her. It took awhile for everyone to be introduced and the snippets of covers lasted awhile too. Then it was back into “Where It’s At”.

The song ended and Beck said he didn’t want the night to end, so he had the crowd sing various notes in each section and then he sang a few verses about Winnipeg over top of the notes. I didn’t catch all the words, but I did catch the sentiment.

Beck really likes Winnipeg.

Judging from the crowd’s reaction to that performance, Winnipeg really likes Beck too.

That was a lot of fun and totally worth the price of the ticket. Phew!

Wow, this was a long review. Thanks so much for reading it! The laundry will have to wait until tomorrow.

Good night!

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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