WTFest (The Sheepdogs, USS, The Beaches, Ascot Royals, Bonds of Mara) at Lions Park (Brantford, ON) on July 27, 2019

Brantford, Ontario hosted another edition of WTFEST last Saturday, featuring The Sheepdogs from Saskatoon, Toronto’s own USS, The Beaches, Ascot Royals and the newest “supergroup” Bonds Of Mara, along with local artist Caleb Turgeon!

This was the second time that I’ve covered this festival, and it gets better and better each time. WTFEST boasts (with all the right to do so) that they are the one Ontario music festival that doesn’t get canceled! Moreover, considering that it only costs 28 dollars for the day, it’s quite the musical bang for the concert-goers buck!

The festival grounds are spread out over the enormous Lions Park, with numerous really, really good food trucks and vendors offering a huge variety of culinary treats (this time I went with peameal on a bun and a fresh strawberry shake. Soooo good!), concert merch, festival paraphernalia, and this year there was even a cannabis gear booth. A very large beer pavilion and VIP area even had a smaller secondary stage, so there were concerts going on constantly between the two stages.

A beautiful sunny day and numerous ginormous flying beach balls added to the amazing festival atmosphere; that only happens when everyone is having a blast and completely getting into the music. Opening the festival was local artist Caleb Turgeon. He performed (very professionally) a quick acoustic set to the biggest crowd I’m sure he’s been in front of and they cheered their approval.

The next band to perform was Bonds Of Mara which is comprised of some iconic musical talent. The group features members of I Mother Earth, Finger Eleven, My Darkest Days, Saint Asonia, and Default! WTFEST marked the band’s first festival performance together, and holy shit what a performance it was! These guys rock! Considering what a short time they’ve been together, Bonds Of Mara play together like a well-oiled rock n’ roll machine. I think this was one of my personal favourites of the day, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were next year’s headliner!

Bonds of Mara were “Lights Out” fantastic on this evening:

Next up were Toronto’s all-girl band The Beaches. Another festival favourite of mine. I saw them two or three years ago, and thought “these girls are good.” Well, it’s a few years later, and yup… these girls are really good! Seemingly fuelled by the fans’ enthusiasm, The Beaches strutted and danced their way onto the stage with summer dresses flowing in the wind. Playing a solid set, the gals seem to love performing together and I got the feeling from the audience’s reaction that girl bands are always a fan favourite. The first three songs that The Beaches played were; “Back Of My Heart,” “Moment,” and “T-Shirt.”

Ascot Royals were next up. Also hailing from Toronto, the band announced shortly before WTFEST that this would be their final performance as a band. A real shame as they are really good together, and delivered another strong crowd-pleasing performance. As we were resting in between sets under the shade of a big tree in the media area, Ascot Royals guitarist Tal Vaisman strolled past us. When we asked why the band was calling it quits, he stopped to chat with us a while. What stuck in my mind from what he said was that “these guys are my brothers, but sometimes life just gets in the way.”

The next band of the day was another local favourite. USS, or Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker, are kind of difficult to describe. If you can imagine filling a pot with popcorn, turning up the heat, and not putting a lid on that pot, then sit back and watch what happens, is the best way I can describe these musicians, whose energy levels are just through the roof! Guitarist/vocalist Ash Buchholz is kind of like the runway ground crew giving flight clearance to the other half of this power musical duo. Jason “Human Kebob” Parsons spent more time in the air than he did on the ground, to everyone’s sheer pleasure. Leaping from his giant raised “turntable” platform, and flying across the stage! It was an insane performance. The first three songs USS performed were; “Hydrogenuine,” “Work Shoes,” and “Big Life (26 Letters).”

“Nobody” was one of the most noteworthy songs on The Sheepdogs’ latest record Changing Colours:

The sun had finally set, and an absolutely amazing day had turned into one of those storybook summer nights that almost couldn’t get any better. But it did. It was time for the day’s headliners. The Sheepdogs humbly walk out onto the stage, no big explosions or other loud intros, just no-nonsense straight into their set. A little musical trivia, in 2011 The Sheepdogs were the first-ever unsigned band to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. With six albums already to their credit, The Sheepdogs get down to business and belt out hit after hit. The crowd has grown in the meantime to near capacity, and everyone is literally dancing in the field while the Sheepdogs are grooving up on stage. What an excellent set to close the festival for another year. Well done, The Sheepdogs, and well-done WTFEST. See you next year!

The Sheepdogs’ WTFEST Setlist:

01. Who?
02. I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be
03. Bad Lieutenant
04. Southern Dreaming
05. Right On
06. Downtown
07. Up In Canada
08. How Late, How Long
09. I Ain’t Cool
10. I’m Gonna Be Myself
11. Let It Roll
12. Help Us All
13. Feeling Good
14. I Don’t Know
15. Nobody
16. Midnight Rider

The Sheepdogs’ sixth studio album, Changing Colours, was released on February 2nd, 2018, via Warner Music Canada. Check out the psychedelia-inspired artwork: