By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY — With a splashy marquee that includes big name acts like The Flaming Lips, Hozier, Tenacious D, Ellie Goulding, Alexisonfire and many more, the fifth annual X-Fest will occur in Calgary on September 5 and 6th over Labour Day long weekend. Canadian acts are well represented; there will be performances by Mother Mother, k-os, the Rural Alberta Advantage, The Elwins, The Zolas, Gay Nineties and more. Presented by local station X92.9 in conjunction with Union Events, the festival will cap off the summer in style. Without further ado, we present our top four picks of the festival, hand selected from the 20 bands performing.
The best way to describe k-os (known colloquially as Kevin Brereton) is as an exultant, groundbreaking collagist. Merging rap, pop and alternative rock, the Toronto-based MC, singer and guitarist truly burst out courtesy of his second album Joyful Rebellion back in 2004 and has been inspiring massive dance parties every since. He’s been an alternative radio mainstay for over a decade that chops and skews soulful street poetry to the backdrop of driving, up-tempo rock music that twists and turns artfully. Although few details have yet been released regarding his upcoming sixth studio album Can’t Fly Without Gravity, if the driving “Steel Sharpens Steel” single is any indication, he’ll be burrowing deeper down the rabbit hole with dynamic tracks featuring massive, jackhammer hits, gorgeous violin integrations and his crooning vocals. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to hear some new songs first when k-os and company play Sunday.
Los Angeles, California
Yes, I know. “THEY MAKE FUN OF METAL.” Really, who cares? Whether or not Jack Black and Kyle Gass are “metal tourists,” or if their music focuses on “Low Hangin’ Fruit” or they are simply celebrities taking advantage of their clear love for Ronnie James Dio is irrelevant. Their operatic, rockumentary style songs are ripe for sing-alongs and while simple and ridiculous, they touch on many elements of stardom that are equally ridiculous with their tongues firmly planted in cheek. Plus, you just know a drunken horde of humans will be singing along to “Master Exploder,” “Beelzeboss,” “Fuck Her Gently” or “Rize of the Fenix.” With a backing band to round out their acoustic guitars, Tenacious D is sure to turn your Saturday up to 11.
The son of a blues musician, Hozier has turned into a massive international phenomenon with hundreds of millions of YouTube views thanks to his frequently slow, sad sound. With his haunting, oddly reverberating voice, gently riffing guitar and ambient soundscapes, his music transforms from an almost psychedelic pop blues to jubilant gospel with its backing choirs. Somehow, in an age of throwaway pop music dominated by aesthetics, the soft spoken, multi-instrumentalist 25-year-old has become a superstar and you’re invited to join his congregation when him and the band perform on Sunday.
The Flaming Lips
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
This is the second X-Fest in which Wayne Coyne and company will make an appearance, hopefully with their man-sized hamster ball in tow. Their enchanting, cinematic space rock is metaphysical, grandiose and psychedelic, a blissfully exuberant affirmation of life. After over 30 years of music making, the act continues to thrive, aided by their outlandish live performances and grandiose releases, the most recent being the Miley Cyrus enhanced With a Little Help from My Fwends (2014), a track for track tribute to the Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Beyond the covers, expect an array of tracks from their bizarrely diverse discography, alongside confetti, balloons, costumes, bright lights and video projections. Front man Coyne might even step over your head if you get into the thick of the crowd!
X-Fest takes place on September 5th and 6th at Fort Calgary. Learn more about the line-up and buy tickets online at http://xfestcalgary.com/.AB, Alberta, Alexisonfire, Ellie Goulding, Fort Calgary, Hozier, Tenacious D, The Flaming Lips, X-Fest, X-Fest 2015, X92.9