BARRIE, Ontario With temperatures soaring into the 90s before the gates even opened, it became all too clear that the annual Edgefest was going to be a test of patience and endurance for both the fans and performers.
With nowhere to hide from the scorching sun, the lethargic and eclectic attendees slowly filled Molson Park, hoping for something to get their minds off the heat. They didn't have to wait long.
When a planned 3:20 p.m. set by Sevendust was postponed due to a problem with the band crossing Canada's border, Jerry Cantrell was asked to swap spots with the metal quintet. The seemingly simple flip-flop of set times ended up creating a rift that echoed throughout the large crowd for the remainder of the day.
Taking the stage in blue jeans with black leather accents, a wallet chain and a black T-shirt, Jerry Cantrell exuded the spirit of a carefree man ready to share material from his former band Alice in Chains and his latest solo release, Degradation Trip, with an early afternoon crowd.
For Cantrell, things got off to a good enough start, but quickly lapsed into a series of frustrating mishaps. Opening with the thick, rolling fuzz of "Them Bones," Cantrell performed a faithful version of the Alice in Chains hit. The tightly packed crowd around the stage chanted "Jerry, Jerry!" in response.
Things started to fall apart at the beginning of another Alice in Chains classic, "Would?," in which Cantrell's guitar shorted out before the deep opening bass groove even had a chance to finish. While an apologetic Cantrell rushed to fix his equipment, he acknowledged his chanting supporters by saying, "If you can bear with us, we'll try to get through as much as we can for you."
Midway through "Right Turn," Cantrell was reunited with a working guitar to close out a mellow rendition of the Sap EP track. After tripping on a microphone cable moments before launching into his latest single, "Anger Rising," it was clear that Cantrell was not happy with the direction of his set.
"Anger Rising" would prove to be the last song in his abbreviated set list, but not before Cantrell threw his guitar to the ground and left the crowd with a disparaging remark toward Sevendust. Cantrell omitted the "dust" in Sevendust and substituted a four-letter obscenity in letting the crowd know who was up next.
Crossing the stage shirtless and in black, shiny pants, Sevendust frontman Lajon Witherspoon not only brought music from the quintet's latest release, Animosity, to the Edgefest crowd, but didn't hide his animosity toward Cantrell.
"When Jerry Cantrell says f--- Sevendust, I say f--- you, Jerry Cantrell," Witherspoon proclaimed before reiterating the message by saying, "I hope you heard me, Jerry Cantrell." With no love lost between the apparently now-feuding parties, Sevendust ripped into an aggressive cut, "Waffle," before leaving the stage in an equally disturbed fashion as Cantrell.
The festival's four stages proved to be too great of a distance apart for many to hike more than once in the overwhelming heat. "I came here to see Jerry Cantrell, and now that he's upset, that took a little bit of the fun out of the experience for me," attendee Hal Sultani of Windsor, Ontario, remarked.
The young, predominantly college-age crowd crossed the grounds of Molson Park in everything from practical bathing suits to jeans and winter stocking caps. Of course, many were draped in Canadian flags in celebration of the national holiday, Canada Day. What little shade was available was immediately filled with exhausted fans who slept or drank as much water as they could at nearly four bucks a bottle.
Melissa Auf Der Maur rattled the second stage crowd with her Black Sabbath tribute band, Hand of Doom, which churned out new takes on a slew of tracks from the classic catalogue, including "Paranoid," "Sweet Leaf" and "War Pigs." Sporting a near-transparent white outfit and a Canadian flag as a cape, Auf Der Maur wished the intrigued crowd a "happy Black Sabbath day every day this summer," before her exit.
Headliners Nickelback brought straight-ahead rock to a climax after a mildly received Cake, with a tight, one-hour set that pulled a wealth of material from their breakthrough album, Silver Side Up, and maximized speaker wattage on the cuts "Too Bad" and crowd sing-along "How You Remind Me." At the end of the day, though, the tired, somewhat frustrated fans filed out of Molson Park just as quietly as they had entered, hoping to find refuge in air-conditioned cars and to pull up a seat at their kitchen sinks for a long night of drinking water.
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