BAM, BAM, BAM! I hear the sound and spend my precious few moments awake trying to determine if it’s actually a knock on the window, or just the pounding in my head. I hear the noise again and am finally able to distinguish it from the drum roll happening in my brain, and reach over to unlock the door. Having passed out drunk in my car, I wasn’t expecting anything less than a shitty morning and a brutal headache, but luckily enough, within seconds of opening my eyes, I had a drink thrust into my hand and was told to wake up and enjoy the show. Less than ten feet from where my hatch opened was a young lady dressed in a leopard skin bikini, complete with matching bunny ears. If that wasn’t enough, she was rolling, splashing and crawling around in a giant mud puddle. Having been eased gently awake by this amazing spectacle, I slam the rest of my Vodka Red Bull and get ready to start my day. It is 9:00 a.m.
At this point you may all be wondering if I am actually a music writer, or just some ridiculous alcoholic detailing the exploits of his latest wet dream. Somewhere in between these truths is where you would have found the RockaSkin Outback Camping Music Festival – a harmonious blend of drunken mayhem and rock and roll.
Victoria Day, or May two four, has always been a big deal in Canada. For many, it signifies the start of summer, as it is generally the first long weekend with warm weather, and the masses assemble at beaches and campgrounds to soak in some sun and booze after a long winter. The RockaSkin Outback Camping Music Festival encapsulates all of these elements, as well as providing three non-stop days and nights of live bands and DJs, to suit almost any taste.
When my friend Kathryn called to invite me that week, it was a no-brainer, despite having a smashed knee from a doomed dirt bike ride the weekend before. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it up the Friday so, I settled for a Saturday afternoon adventure. I picked up my brother and one of my buddies, and we drove through endless miles of nowhere before finally arriving at what George the-tow-truck-guy referred to as “Country Camping”, just outside of Port Burwell, near London, Ontario. Getting through the gate and picking up my passes was as smooth as silk and soon we were balls deep in the party, having met and drank with dozens of people before even getting our tents set up. The weather that morning, and the night before, had been really wet and rainy so, the campground when we arrived was basically a swamp, but it seemed to do nothing to dampen the spirits of the merry drunken campers that happily sloshed through the muddy laneways.
The set up was cool, with the main stage right up front near the entrance. There were beach volleyball courts, washrooms, and a heated pool – all within stumbling distance. I thought this clever because there’s always a bit of a difficulty when running events at parks or campgrounds in getting everyone focused on the stage. By having the main stage front-and-center, even those not necessarily interested in the music were close enough to the action so that every band had a chance to win people over with their performances.
The Tiki Club, on the other hand, was all the way at the back of the venue and it was here that the party moved after the headliners were finished for the night. It was also here that the all-night crazy dance party commenced, with DJs running basically ’till sunrise every day. The Tiki Club was cool and though it was, in essence, an open-air venue, when filled, it somehow gave the impression of a packed sweaty nightclub. This provided the perfect landscape for the many inebriated and half-dressed partygoers to take one last shot at finding a “tent mate” before sunrise. Having arrived late, I admit I didn’t catch much of the main stage the first night, but I was able to catch Grand Analog and illScarlet, both who were good. illScarlet played more covers than I probably would have liked, but considering how hammered everyone was by then, it hardly mattered. I also shared a few drinks with the boys from Madison and Fifth, who in turn shared with me some of their latest works. Hard rock is a very flooded genre, one I generally avoid these days, but the attention to detail, crisp production, and catchy hooks definitely give these guys a better-than-average shot at success, if they continue to work hard.
The second day started with the leopard bikini girl, and after a trip into town for supplies and breakfast, the party consumed us once again. The weather broke and we finally got sun that morning and it stayed with us for the duration of the weekend. This made for a much more enjoyable day and the partygoers responded by starting early and drinking hard. I spent most of my time down by the front checking out the bands, many of whom had a somewhat Sublime-ish feel to them, but I suppose it’s hard to argue with drinking and dancing tunes at a party. I’ll admit, is was nearly impossible to stay focused on anything due to the shear chaos happening all around me all weekend, but I was able to catch up with a couple members from Isle of Thieves, who I had met at a CMW a while back, after their set, which was tight as usual. The headliner that night was the Johnstones and, I’ll admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of these guys, but in this case, I couldn’t argue with the entertainment value. They had a considerable draw, especially with the younger girls who yelled and screamed as if it was a Jonas Brothers concert. They kept it interesting by starting a crowd volleyball game with a giant blow-up sex doll and eventually even people like me got in on the fun. The whole thing ended with a big encore and a flaming couch in the mosh pit, and soon people were stumbling off to their campsites, or to the nightly shit show that was the Tiki Club.
All in all, the RockaSkin Outback Camping Music Festival delivered the goods. The venue was cool, the people friendly, the sound system excellent, and the general feel of the event super chill. I would strongly recommend one of these events to anyone looking for a good weekend party. The next one is being held at the same place over the Canada Day weekend featuring, CLASSIFIED and U.S.S, among many others.
For more information, contact Kathryn Kyte at email@example.com or 416.909.2577
** Photography by: Mark Wlodarski – www.markdub.com