August 6, 2011 – the Festival of Friends is held in Ancaster, Ontario. It’s the largest free music event of its kind in the area and attracts upwards of 250,000 music fans over a 3-day weekend. What drew me was the opportunity to see progressive rock group Saga once again, especially now that lead singer Michael Sadler was back on vocals after a couple of years away from the band.
SAGA is one of the most under-recognized bands around. Here’s a group that sold more than 8 million albums and have achieved gold and platinum album status – and there they were in front of me playing “On The Loose” in front of just 2000 fans standing in a grassy field, out in a remote Ontario countryside with farmhouses and corn fields in the background! It amazes me how Saga never got any real momentum in Canada (or to be more accurate – how they lost the great fame they had back in the day). In my opinion, this band should be selling out arenas – they are that good – however I am not complaining as I get to see them at small venues which are much more intimate. The last time I saw Saga was for Sadler’s farewell tour at Healey’s roadhouse in 2007. He is truly a rock royalty and one of the best lead singers in the industry. Saga is playing again on Thursday September 1st at the Sound Academy in Toronto.
Before Saga, Helix and a new band The Reason were on stage. I have never seen either band before and both groups gave a good show. Helix is considered one of the biggest heavy metal band in Canadian history (although their prime was in the ’80s) so it was interesting to see them perform. I didn’t know alot of Helix tunes, but alot of people in the audience including me knew their big hit “Rock You”. These guys delivered a great show. Out with the old and in with the new. The Reason have a new album out “Fools” which they were promoting. This band put on a great show, I recommend that you go see them now while they are still playing small venues because before you know it, they will be selling out stadiums. I will be buying their tunes!Check out The Reason’s upcoming tour dates.
After Saga, were the “headliners” which were The Arkells and The Tea Party (which according to wiki have sold 1.6 million albums). They were both good and rocked the crowd until the night came to a close. Somewhat surprising that the band that sold the most albums by far was not the most anticipated band of the night but in all fairness The Tea Party put on a great show.
On the first night of the festival The Sheepdogs performed, oddly enough, on the same day that they won the coveted Rolling Stone magazine front cover and the Atlantic recording deal! I wish I had seen them. Also I wish I was able to go on the final night where the headliner was Mr. Jon Anderson the front man of Yes!
Verdict – If next years’ lineup is as strong as this years’ I will be there all 3 days! Oh and SAGA ROCKS!