Words and photos by Elizabeth Durnford
I’m sure you heard that Canada Day this year was HOT. I’m talking ‘hottest on record’ HOT. Though, that didn’t stop the crowds of people from flocking to Parliament Hill in Ottawa this year for the official national celebration. The live broadcast played host to a number of big names in Canadian music including headliners, Arkells, Lights and Iskwé.
This happened to be my first Canada Day celebrated on Parliament Hill itself. Hearing about last year’s nightmares of waiting hours to get onto The Hill and lack of food available, I went in prepared for anything. This year being slightly less significant, as it wasn’t the 150th, the lineups were reasonable and speedy. They were made faster by the reduced turn out for the high-noon show start time. Large mist machines lined The Hill to try to cool down the crowds and VIPs were armed with red and white umbrellas.
Bands took to the stage for a condensed version of the longer evening show. Giving an hour and a half of music for those brave enough to face the afternoon sun. Lights performed her hit Giants, with a slight alteration as she sang it in both French and English. Dancers lined the stage for a number of performances including Brigitte Boisjoli. The Arkells took the last slot of the afternoon which included sparklers adding some extra heat to their set.
Festivities were taking place both on and off The Hill itself. The neighbouring park, Major’s Hill, hosted a large-scale easy access concert series and vendors. Anyone was able to go grab a bite to eat, refill and one of the many water fill ups, and take in some music from rising Canadian artists including a Megaphono Showcase of local acts, and Toronto’s The Beaches.
After a quick regroup, rehydration and pep talk, it was back into the heat and back downtown for the evening show. The night started off with a couple of non-music events that the crowd could enjoy. The Snowbirds did a number of flyovers showing off to the crowds making their way through the downtown core around The Hill.
The evening pre-show kicked off with words from different Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Sharing their experiences at the Olympics, and their experiences growing up in Canada. This special segment allowed those who showed up to camp out in the front row to have something to watch and listen to as they awaited the 8pm start time.
Finally the live broadcast commenced. By this time, the temperature had dropped off significantly, and the stage and crowd were no longer in direct sunlight. The crowds had noticeably filled up compared to the hot afternoon show. This show was longer, three hours compared to the earlier one hour show. Many of same artists were playing again, but with longer sets. Each headliner, Lights and Arkells, played three songs each, both sets including fire and sparks for the audience. There were also a number of additional artists who performed during this set including Ruth B, DJ Shub, and The Dead South. Some unexpected surprises also took place. Many fans who were eager to see Canada’s figure skating superstars, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were sad to find out they were not part of the pre-show Olympic segment. However, they got a pleasant surprise from the duo in the form of a video introduction for the Arkells all the way from Japan.
Highlights for me were numerous, but a few standouts included the incredible performance from Iskwé. I had been waiting forever to see her live, and to see her conquer the stage like she did was amazing. A true badass. Brigitte Boisjoli was another highlight, her incredible dancers and showmanship made for a very fun set. Finally, of course, Lights and the Arkells put on amazing sets as always. Max is always fun to see live as he bounces around the stage and interacts with the audience.
I am super impressed with how the artists just went about their business like it was 15º out, instead of 50º (yes, you read that correctly). If they were uncomfortable at all they didn’t show it. Same goes for the crowd, getting off The Hill following the fireworks was a nightmare, which is awesome because that means that the place was PACKED.
Happy Birthday Canada!
Featured image photo credit: Department of Canadian Heritage