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Edgefest 2012: Hot, Sticky and Rocking

The sweltering heat and sun didn’t stop the thousands of rockers from descending down on Downsview Park for Edgefest, a yearly outdoor rock festival hosted by Toronto radio station 102.1 the Edge.

Billy Talent headlined the festival, playing songs from all three albums and also their catchy single, Viking Death March, from their new album to be released in September entitled Dead Silence.

Frontman Ben Kowalewicz rocked the stage in his usual stance, hair in his face, hugging the microphone and one leg up on a stage monitor. The band kicked off their set with Devil in a Midnight Mass and ended the show with the contagious Red Flag.

Drummer Aaron Solowoniuk seemed in amazing physical form after having undergone heart surgery in February.  The rocker and dad of to daughter, Willow, also has Multiple Sclerosis.

Silversun Pickups also rocked the stage with hit songs like Panic Switch, Lazy Eye and The Royal We and songs from their new album, Neck of the Woods.

Death From Above 1979 hit the stage with only one full-length album under their belt, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, which was released in late 2004. The Toronto band, reunited in 2011, played hits Black History Month and Blood On Our Hands.  They wowed the crowd with their heavy, electronic-rock vibes.

The festival had a jam-packed line-up with a variety of bands including Yukon Blonde, Young the Giant, Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker, The Sheepdogs, The Dirty Heads, The Pack A.D. and brother-sister band The Balconies.

Edgefest 2012 was a hot, sticky and rocking music festival that has become an annual tradition.

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Alexisonfire’s George Pettit on Music and Becoming a Dad

We know George Pettit of Canadian screamo/post-hard-core band Alexisonfire like this:


But have you seen George like this?

Pettit, singer, vocalist and screamer extraordinaire, can now add Daddy to his resume!

“Owen is three months old but top of the percentile, he’s 18 pounds which is really big for his age,” says Pettit, 28.

“He’s a massive kid and he’s awesome, relatively easy to deal with except for today, I gave him a bath and he was pissed off at me.”

Proud of his little boy Owen Edward, Pettit and wife Megan have reunited after being apart for six weeks while the band toured with Billy Talent. The last date of the Canadian tour was at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on March 28, 2010.

Entering fatherhood with humour and natural instinct, Pettit is definitely on the right track:

After a successful album and tour, Pettit looks forward to spending some quality time with his family. I asked how life has been with baby Owen.

“Most of the time he’s just all giggles and smiles, he’s really easy which leads me to believe that a couple of years from now when we decide to have another one, we’ll have a little screamer, a little monster on our hands.”

Wouldn’t that be appropriate?

I wondered how becoming a father has changed this fast-paced life of a rock-band singer.

“The way you look at life and the way you live your life, it changes. Now there’s a little guy who depends on me. Before then it didn’t really matter, I could go broke, I could pretty much destroy my life, but now everything I do is going to affect my kid’s life.”

Hailing from the small town of Grimbsy, Ontario, Pettit is loved by fans for his unique screaming style and energetic onstage performances.  Often prancing around the stage shirtless, Pettit has also been known to dive into the crowd.

On Alexisonfire’s latest album “Old Crows/Young Cardinals”, Pettit’s true voice is more audible:

“Old Crows/Young Cardinals” (Dine Alone Records) is nominated for a Juno for “Rock Album of the Year”.

Watch the 2010 Juno Awards April 13th on CTV.

Alexisonfire performing “This Could Be Anywhere In the World” at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, March 28, 2010 (via amotherworld‘s cam)

Billy Talent Keeps Rockin’

It’s no secret that my kids and I love Canadian rock band Billy Talent. They request to hear “Saint Veronika”, “Surrender” or “Fallen Leaves” on a daily basis.  I’ve gone as far as posting their ‘performances’ on YouTube because I’m giddy with the thought that they might want to grow up to be musicians.

I had the pleasure of chatting with drummer Aaron Solowoniuk recently and right off the bat, he exuded “cool” just as I had expected. When I asked him how has becoming a father changed him, he said, “It’s the best.  The most amazing thing in the world.”

Travelling and being on the road so much means striking a balance, which can be difficult. “It’s the hardest thing. It’s awful being away from my wife and my daughter, Willow, for so long.”

But when he is in town, his routine is just like any parent.  “When I’m home I’m home, spending time with my daughter, picking her up from school, helping with homework,” says Solowoniuk. Yes, a hot dad indeed.

And humble. How has a rock band from Mississauga making it big stay so grounded?

“We’re very grounded because how long it took us to get where we are,” says Solowoniuk. “From 17 to 27 the furthest we ever got was playing at the Horseshoe in Toronto and getting a record deal and after 7 after 10 years, you never really let the amount of the time that was taken get away.” Finally after years of struggle, Billy Talent I was released in 2003.

Three years later, their second album debuted at number 1 in Canada with hits like “Devil in a Midnight Mass”, “Fallen Leaves” and “Surrender”.

Their latest, Billy Talent III, released in 2009 Billy Talent is up for four 2010 Juno awards: Group, Single, Album and Rock Album of the Year.

Some of the younger fans say that the band has “gone mainstream” with the new album. I asked Solowoniuk how he’d respond to people who say that Billy Talent III is so different from I and II.

“They’re right, it is completely different,” he said. “We’re getting older as people, as a band, we didn’t want to release the same record as the first or second.”

Tracks like “Tears Into Wine” and “Turn Your Back” have the traditional Billy Talent sound that I first fell in love with. But slower tracks such as “Devil on My Shoulder” and “The Dead Can’t Testify” show the band’s maturity.

What undoubtedly matured Solowoniuk  was being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at only 21 years of age.  A disease that can cause numbness, immobility and even paralysis,  he kept his condition secret, telling only some family and few friends. Devastated, Solowoniuk wrote a song about his so-called “friend” in a song entitled “This is How it Goes”, which was the first track off Billy Talent’s debut.

This is How it Goes (excerpt)
Everybody is tired, and poor and sick of trying
If you see me on a corner, will you stop or will you splash me?
Take a look at what we’ve become
Nothing more than silhouettes of
A pretty family, on a postcard, picture perfect
I don’t want it!
So I hold my breath ’till my heart explodes
‘Cause this is how it is and this is how it goes
You can steal my body but you can’t steal my soul
‘Cause this is how it is and this is how it goes

 

 

When the band took off, Solowoniuk had to make the biggest decision of his life – to quit the band or to stay.   “I chose to stay. Music has been my medicine. After years of battling through the depression, I finally saw the light and what it all meant.”

I asked him what made him decide to go public in 1996. “I didn’t want to hide that the man in the song was me. I didn’t want to hide him anymore.”

The band recently finished a European tour and is now touring across Canada with Alexisonfire, who Solowoniuk describes as “fantastic people”, Against Me! and Cancer Bats.  Alexisonfire is yet another amazing Canadian band that I can’t wait to see perform again (both bands also played at Edgefest in Toronto in June 2009).

Billy Talent plays the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on March 28, 2010.   I’m lucky to have bought early bird tix on their website because I get into the venue 15 minutes early which means I’ll be securing a spot right in front of the stage.

For more information on Billy Talent  visit www.billytalent.com.


Saint Veronika

Billy Talent | MySpace Music Videos