School's Out -- Let's Party!

The 5th Annual Arts County Fair
with Ashley MacIsaac, The Pursuit of Happiness, Bass is Base, The Barstool Prophets and The Super Friendz
UBC Thunderbird Stadium
Vancouver, B.C.
Bass is Base April 4, 1996

Review by P. Freako
Photos by Suzanne Goodwin

Surprise, surprise, it was a cloudy day in Vancouver for this gala event. The Arts County Fair celebrated the last day of classes at the University of B.C. with five Canadian bands, rewarding students for their hours of focused work and labourious dedication to their studies. Really!! Actually, it's more than just a big party: this event through the years has raised $30,000 for various organizations, and this year AIDS Vancouver and the Canadian Cancer Society benefited from the event. Congratulations to the UBC Arts Undergraduate Society and all those responsible for making this event happen! On with the show...

Super Friendz bassist The Super Friendz were the first band to take the stage. Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, this alternopoprock band had the dubious honour of opening up the show early in the afternoon. A mere scattering of people were in attendance at this point, but, then again, a mere scattering is more than you think in a large stadium. Not many in the crowd had seen The Super Friendz before, but as the set rolled on, people slowly migrated to the front of the stage.

Like the crowd and the weather, it took the Super Friendz a while to warm up, with their usual jumping around the stage silenced for the better part of the set. They treated us to new songs, such as the softer, melodic "Landing Light" and the upbeat rockier "Green Like This Machine," displaying more of the quirky pop guitar wizardry found on their current release, Mock Up, Scale Down. The set's momentum built with awesome guitar work on songs such as "Karate Man" and "10 lbs," and, by the end, guitarist Matt Murphy, feeling his normal self once again, was launching himself off the drum kit. The Super Friendz took their last song as an opportunity to finish with a rock flourish showcasing screaming guitars and passion abound, leaving the appreciative gathering just a little bit warmer than before.

Barstool Prophets The Barstool Prophets trekked from our nation's capital (Ottawa, for all you Geography 101 flunkees) to play for us on this cloudy day. Their hard-edged, straight-ahead rock drew a slightly larger gathering to the front of the stage, and they didn't disappoint their fans. The catchy "Mankind Man," the single from their latest release, Crank, was saved until the end and was a crowd pleaser, but in the meantime, the crowd seemed a little restrained as the band played other songs from Crank including the harder rock numbers "Dangerous" and "The Ledge." Breaking into Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s "Relax" during the opening song, lead singer Graham Greer set the emotional tone with his hands waving introspectively through the air and his body pushing forward with every line sung. This is a rock band, make no mistake -- just ask the C-FOX mascot hovering about at the show (that mascot looks more like a rat than a fox, but that’s okay, it’s rock fits). Graham possesses a strong stage presence, with his wild Belushi-esque eyes, his flowing hand movements and his constant interaction with the crowd, but for me, the Barstool Prophets are a cross between Our Lady Peace and Junkhouse (at one point Graham even blurted out, "Tom Wilson is a god"), and it just becomes a little too mundane after a 45 minute set. But hey, they put in a spirited show for the party faithful. Cheers.

Bass is Base Toronto's Bass is Base were the middle band today. They provided a welcome break from rock guitars. Easing into their set, they were feeling their groove and the crowd started to feel it right alongside them, swayin’ to the soulful funky and sometimes hiphop sounds echoing throughout T-Bird Stadium. Performing primarily songs from their current release, Memories From the Soul Shack Survivors...

...closing the set with their break-away hit, "Soul Shack," which had the crowd bouncing up and down and all around. Despite their pretentious, freaky guitar player with the black vinyl suit, Bass is Base is slowly continuing to turn Canada into a nation of bottom jigglers. Peace.

Moe Berg The Pursuit of Happiness were next to grace the stage. The crowd was in full force by now, all warmed up (liquored up better describes it) and you know TPOH was itchin' to rock after having the mundane pleasure of being forced to talk to me. Anyway, lead singer Moe Berg sadly was suffering from an ailment this evening, so their set was limited to 45 minutes instead of the scheduled 75 minutes. Still, they did not disappoint, cramming the awesome guitar work of Kris Abbott and Moe into a tight collection of cool tunes that made it all worth while. TPOH rocked from start to finish. They began their set by playing new material from their current disc, Where's The Bone?, including the Canadiana-flavoured "Gretzky Rocks." Kris Abbott Rocks!! These new songs took us to the edge, and just when we were regaining our balance, they threw us over that edge with a few popular standards: "Cigarette Dangles," "Two Girls in One," "Hard to Laugh" and, yes, the quintessential TPOH song, "I'm An Adult Now." This was a great show, by a band that truly enjoys performing on stage.

The sun is setting, but the temperature is rising. Darkness has entered the land. The beer tent is closed, last call is done, the all-ages performance was about to begin. The minors are released to the stage to see The Man. The crowd is up for the final act of the night. By the way, Hi(TM), How Are You Today?

Who is The Man? One of the hottest music entities in Canada today, the fiddler, the dancer, the performer...Ashley MacIsaac. Supported by his band, the Kitchen Devils, he started out softly, leaving the crowd in suspense, making them wait for what they had come for. Which was stompin, stormin' fiddle music slammed together with modern rock. MacIsaac attacked his fiddle with all his might and played up a Celtic storm, dazzling us with his ability to play such a delicate instrument with such fire Ashley MacIsaac shredding away... and rage. (Ooh, that was pseudo-dramatic.) He played a variety of tunes from Hi(TM), How Are You Today? (doncha just love the little (TM) in there?). As he did on his CD, he displayed a variety of musicianship on this night ranging from traditional fiddle tunes to rock style blasts. The highlight of the show for me was his fiddle rendition of that disco classic, "Stayin' Alive," providing us with a little Thursday Night Fever. The foot stomper from Cape Breton even sang on a couple of tunes, something which, sadly, took away from the momentum. Incoherent, broken sentences and statements between songs had me wondering what the hell this guy was talking about, but it didn’t matter, for when he began to play his fiddle he spoke with clear conviction. This was a well rehearsed, solid live show that left us all dripping with sweat and dancing a little jig into the night.

The Arts County Fair was a huge success, raising a lot of money for AIDS Vancouver and The Canadian Cancer Society. Two green thumbs up for using reusable mugs for beer instead of throwaway plastic cups. Unfortunately, some morons had to use them as projectiles...good thing it wasn't an Oasis show! But I know it wasn't, because from start to finish this was an entertaining, fun event.

Definitely see you next year!

First published in Drop-D Magazine on April 18, 1996

Index | Search | E-mail | Info | Copyright

Considering copying some of the images from this story?
Please read this first. Thanks.