by Ashley Smith

Finally, it was here: St. Catharines SCENE fest.  A now two-day party of non-stop music and beer flowing through Montebello park and the local clubs.  SCENE burst out of its seems this year with its highest attendance to date, much thanks to the new addition of Montebello park main stage that hosted Matthew Good, Arkells, Marianas Trench, Lights, Shad and many more over the two day span.  Locals and long-time festival goers were mixed in their feelings.  I heard everything from the idea that SCENE has sold out (which I strongly disagree with) and that it was absolutely awesome (hear, hear!)  But whatever your personal feelings on the festival are, you can’t deny that it’s exploded and grown into a whole new festival.  A friend I ran into at Montebello, Brandon Ross (BKR Entertainment) said it best: that this was a Toronto festival in Niagara, and locals were maybe a little confused and a lot hesitant.

We’ll win them over yet.  SCENE has no plans on slowing down or downsizing, and if this year is any sign of whats to come, Niagara is in for a hell of a ride as the festival grows.

Over two days, I stormed Montebello park and the local clubs to eat up as much of the festival as I could.

I began my day with Boy & Bear on the main stage, an indie-folk-rock band out of Australia who charmed me with their accents as well as their glorious harmonies.

Next up was Mishun Nightclub, which housed the other outdoor stage of the festival.  Here I saw Partycat (Toronto), Through These Words (St. Catharines), a personal favorite RITUAL (Burlington) and Abandon All Ships (Toronto) who gave it their all, sweating through the 40 degree day we were having and keeping the crowd moving all day long.

Retiring back to the main stage, I saw Monster Truck, Hamilton-bred classic rockers.  The main stage closed with Matthew Good, the highlight of my festival experience.  Matthew killed it as he always does, but with a set list that surprised me.  With Arrows of Desire only dropping last fall, I expected a lot of new songs, but his set list was diverse and he even pulled out some Matthew Good Band to satisfy the diehards.

I caught the second half of Rich Aucoin’s set at the Audio Blood stage at Detour Music Hall.  Having seen Aucoin before, I knew what I was in for, but you could see the way he won over the crowd with his inclusive style of performance, spending half his time in the middle of the crowd demanding they sing and jump alongside him.  In typical spirit, he was climbing the railings and brought his rainbow parachute which covered most of the bar.

Practically dragging my tired legs to LIV Nightclub, I hit my last show of the day: Mandroid Echostar.  It had been two years since I saw these guys play, and I was right to think they had only gotten more badass.  My favorite part about seeing them play is that I can tell that they all love playing music, and more importantly that they love playing music together.  This obvious energy they create on stage was mirrored with the crowd, as they enjoyed every last second, and demanded an encore at the end of the set.  They set a pretty delicious cherry on top of a great day that SCENE had provided.

I was able to stick around for day two for a few hours, and caught a couple great acts on the Pistonhead Lager Kustom Skate Stage.  They built a skate ramp on the other end of Montebello Park which acted as a stage (which sometimes people skated on too, just to keep up appearances.)  I caught Trouble & Daughter, a folky pop band out of Toronto.  Also on the Pistonhead stage was Northcote, of whom I am a big fan.

I zipped over to Mishun Nightclub and caught Teenage Kicks, and then back to the main stage where I saw Shad and The Arkells who rocked on as the storm set in Niagara.  It always rains on SCENE, so why should this year be any different?

2014 was a benchmark year for SCENE fest.  I think that the festival has a lot in store for future installments of the festival, and I personally can’t wait to see what comes next.