The grand finale of this year’s Rock the Shores did not disappoint. Blue skies and sweltering sunshine set the scene for the third and final day of the festival, which was highlighted by performances from some of Canada’s biggest names in modern rock, as well as an exhilarating performance from the only non-Canadian band of the day, Eagles of Death Metal. With the event curfew falling an hour earlier than Friday and Saturday night, the crowd swelled promptly after the gates opened, with concertgoers looking to make the most of their RTS Sunday.
Kicking off the day’s performances were raucous East Coast scene staples The Motorleague. The fearsome foursome from Moncton, New Brunswick showcased their notoriously intense high voltage-style rock, no doubt making some new fans along the way.
Next up was Oshawa, Ontario duo The Standstills. Comprised of singer/guitarist Johnny Fox and drummer Renée Couture, they generated a much bigger buzz than you’d expect from a 2-piece. Combining straight up rock with a western twang, their set had the crowd doing anything but standing still.
Vancouver-based indie rock vets Yukon Blonde made their triumphant return to Victoria for their first appearance since last November’s performance with touring partners Hey Rosetta! at the McPherson Playhouse. Their mid-afternoon set at RTS included several tracks off their latest album On Blonde, which feature a newly evolved, 80s-synth-infused sound to go along with their snappy melodies and trademark five-part harmonies.
BONUS: Rocktographers went all-access with Arkells as they performed an intimate backstage acoustic set for a select few, prior to hitting the main stage later in the evening.
Toronto alternative outfit July Talk spawned a palpable level of excitement as they took the stage, bringing their bluesy brand of garage rock to RTS. Featuring a unique arrangement that blends co-lead singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay’s widely contrasting vocal styles, the Toronto five-piece showcased several new tunes from their upcoming album Touch (scheduled for a September release), including “Push + Pull” and “Strange Habit”. The band’s RTS appearance was just their second performance on a massive North American and European tour that includes stops in more than 40 cities between July and December.
Palm Desert, California rockers EODM (Eagles of Death Metal) were a definite high point of the day, mostly thanks to the sheer charisma and stage presence of frontman Jesse Hughes. Hughes easily wins the award for best on-stage banter at the Rock the Shores, rivaling and perhaps even surpassing 2015’s unofficial champ Father John Misty. Originally from Greenville, South Carolina, Hughes sounded at times like he was delivering a Southern Baptist sermon, at one point acknowledging that the band’s last several months have been “a bit weird”, a reference to their performance at Le Bataclan in Paris last November. “But y’all came out for us!” he exclaimed, offering assurance that he doesn’t just love us some of the time, before launching into “I Love You All the Time” from the band’s 2015 album Zipper Down.
Someone in the crowd had been waving a Hamilton Tiger-Cats flag all day in anticipation of the festivals penultimate performers, Steeltown’s own Arkells. 2015 Juno award winners for both Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year (2014’s High Noon), the alt-rock power-pop quintet thrilled the crowd with a high energy set, including songs off their new album Morning Report, which drops on August 5. The climax of their performance was a nod to Canadian icon Gord Downie, with frontman Max Kerman and the boys joined on stage by July Talk for a spirited cover of The Tragically Hip’s “My Music at Work”.
Closing out the festival were Toronto new wave synth-rockers Metric. Lead singer Emily Haines delivered a captivating performance, often wandering out from behind her centre stage keyboard rig to engage with the crowd. As the sun began to set both literally and figuratively on the 2016 edition of Rock the Shores, the band played a variety of tunes from past albums, including favourites like “Dead Disco” and “Help I’m Alive”, as well as newer tracks “Shade” and “Cascades” from their 2015 release Pagans in Vegas.
And with that, we bid adieu to another enjoyable adventure at Rock the Shores.