There are three main factors that create a festival’s vibe: the lineup, the location and the people.
And when it came to the most recent iteration of the Gateway Festival, which ran July 21 to 23 in Bengough, SK, the event completely blew it out of the park (as usual) in all three categories.
Friday night’s highlights included Saskatoon’s Close Talker, fresh off a North American and European tour of their album Lens. However, the highlight of the night may have been Basia Bulat. With her seemingly effortless vocal range, it’s no wonder she was nominated for the Polaris Prize in 2016.
Diversity of genres adds to the charm of Gateway: from hip-hop group Factor & Kay the Aquanaut to country performer, Jess Moskaluke, the broad lineup helps in drawing attendees from nearby communities, Regina and elsewhere in the province. This was especially evident during the headlining set of 54-40. Playing hits like Ocean Pearl, the group managed to entertain with a set of songs culled from decades long past. Calgary’s The Dudes also followed up with a familiar-sounding brand of rock that had the the crowd dancing long into the night.
If pancakes weren’t enough of a treat to wake up to on Saturday morning, it was the Karpinka Brother’s serenading those with enough energy to get out of bed before 10am. With the heat getting cranked from there, and festival goers nabbing all the ice from the local Co-op, the best way to cool down in the 30-plus heat, was to enjoy workshop sessions at the Pool Stage in-between dips in the water. Special shout-out goes to The Last Chance, a thrift store located just down the street, who helped cover up those who forgot their swimming trucks for a very reasonable price.
One of the biggest challenges operating a festival in a smaller town is the distance from larger centres. Located an hour-and-a-half south of Regina, it could take some time to get things fixed if anything goes wrong. And on Saturday, not only did main generator for the Main Stage fail, but the backup crapped out as well. Thankfully, festival organizers handled this smoothly and were able to keep things going by moving bands to the Garden Stage.
Saskatoon’s Bombargo were the first bumped to the smaller stage. With increasing intensity and energy, lead singer Nathan Thoen had the crowd cheering for more. Sister trio, The Garrys awed the Gateway with their mix of surfy/50s/60s-style guitar and three-part harmonies. The group is set to tour this fall opening for Elliott Brood, and it’ll be exciting to see what happens for them next.
Instrumental group, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet played one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend including their biggest hit Having an Average Weekend (you’d know this as the theme song from the show Kids in the Hall). On double duty, bassist Dallas Good, also performed with his band, The Sadies. The group played songs from their massive back-catalogue interspersed with songs from their new album Northern Passages.
The final headliner of the festival was Tom Cochrane. Along with his band, Red Rider, they successfully had everyone belting out the lyrics to Big League, Boy Inside the Man and of course, Life Is A Highway – another total festival highlight.
– All photos and review by Ominocity contributor Mike Morien.