Story by Michael Charlebois, Photos by Keegan Richard
A long-awaited sense of normalcy swept over thousands of music-lovers at Wake The Giant – the region’s first live show in nearly two years. But in many ways, the second edition of Wake The Giant was like nothing we’ve seen in Thunder Bay. The festival was imagined as a way to welcome hundreds of Indigenous youth to the community, and foster an environment of inclusivity through music. The full-day event featured a particularly modern lineup of popular acts in the world of many different genres. Patrons were required to show proof-of-vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test prior to admittance. The festival grounds packed people side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, and shoulder-to-ass, for some. Minus the masks, it sure felt like 2019.
Organizers wanted to amplify the display of Indigenous culture – an aspect that’s underrepresented in festival culture in Canada. The early acts featured powwow and Round Dance drum and singing group Northern Cree, Oji-Cree singer-songwriter Nick Sherman, Ojibway jazz musician iskwē paired with Canadian music legend Tom Wilson, and the decorated Indigenous artist William Prince. DJ Shub, a former member of Canadian EDM royalty Tribe Called Red, delivered a particularly resonant performance. His commentary of using music as a means of unity represented the spirit of the festival like none other. Organizers also did well to not let the message of the festival get lost. In between sets, various Indigenous leaders took to the mic to speak their piece and welcome Dennis Franklin Cromarty students to their new home. What made the festival truly unique was the gratitude in the face of every performer, many of whom were playing live music for the first time post-COVID. As the sun set on Marina Park, Loud Luxury’s EDM set had the crowd bouncing to the point that cinder blocks were eventually added to the front gate. The London-born duo had previously played at the Rockhouse in 2017, and acknowledged their day-ones in between songs. They later expressed their civic gratitude by shooting persians out of their smoke machine. Although their set only lasted 45 minutes, the energy of their performance brought the rave out of festival-goers.
Third Eye Blind provided the truest display of musicianship. The ’90s California band bridged the age gap with the catchiness of their power pop classics, and wistful shimmer of their alt-rock sound. They went back and forth between deeper cuts, new music, and of course, “Semi-Charmed Life.” The unmistakable hit and delightful chorus had everyone signing unison – a clear highlight. The night ended with rising R&B/pop star Jessie Reyez – a Grammy-nominated artist and frequent Eminem collaborator. The Toronto-born artist is cut from the same cloth as Drake; resonating with a generation of jaded lovers hopelessly balancing an absence of emotional maturity with their cell phone addiction. A vibe, nonetheless; Reyez played her hits, inspired Gen Z’ers to put up two middle fingers to their exes, and flexed her songwriting bonafides on Calvin Harris’ “One Kiss” to get the crowd moving. Reyez’s swaggering pettiness was the perfect way to cap off the festival. The endless sacrifices of the pandemic are finally unraveling, and now it is about us. Thunder Bay is back outside, and we’re ready to rage. For more photos, visit our Facebook page.