If Folk Fest is Christmas, Shine On is New Years.
I wasn’t planning on going to Shine On this year. It was the weekend before I started school, and for some reason, I thought I should save money.
I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I’m incredibly grateful I changed my mind. At the last minute, my good friend Adam and I coordinated to go out for Saturday. He moved two shifts around at work. I cleared my schedule. We arrived just before the music started around noon on Saturday, August 27.
I’d been to Shine On in 2015 and 2013. I missed 2014 due to a horrible accident involving a fire pit. My first year was a new experience for me — I was 18, had attended Folk Fest for the first time, and my then boyfriend brought me along to Shine On. He’s been every year for like 11 years now.
Every year it delivers.
I only saw a small portion of this years line up. The festival now runs from Thursday until Sunday, hosting hours of music each day. Even with the recent price hike, I’m still impressed you can get a camping and festival pass for like over thirty bands for that price.
I hadn’t heard of most of the bands on Saturday before Shine On. I knew Adam Hanney & Co., J. Williamez (of course), Raine Hamilton, Oz Conscious, The Remedies, Micah Erenband, and Mrs. Hoo Hoos. It might sound like a lot in that list, but that’s less than half of the Saturday performers. Not to mention the Alley Cat Stage.
The band that stuck with me most was the Hairy Prairies. I’d seen the singer around before, but hadn’t heard them play. Their style was unlike anything else I saw that weekend. They combined a bluesy-folk style with an almost baroque attitude? Like a little extra swing in the hips, and some sauciness in the vocals.
Raine Hamilton played beautifully. Before the usual Saturday Dinner, the Remedies got people roaring. They play a variety of older covers, songs that almost everyone knows. People were dancing like crazy. The free wine they handed out may have helped. I kept hopping back and forth between the Alley Cat stage and main stage to try and catch Mulligrub, but I missed them (so sad!) Instead, I caught Greek Riots.
I’ve seen Greek Riots a couple times before, but I haven’t seen them play like they did on this Saturday. They had Put ready and waiting alongside their set. They played with ridiculous energy. I’m pretty sure they lost their shirts at some point? Or maybe they didn’t have any to begin with. Either way, they were jumping around, just given’r in every way. At one point I was afraid Seamus would knock himself over.
I’m not a huge fan of Greek Riots music — it’s a touch too alternative for me. I tend to like weird rhythm changes or distinct instrument tones. The alternative sound with a fairly standard 4/4 writing structure is nice listening but doesn’t quite move my insides. This show nearly changed my mind, though. Watching the guys enjoy themselves so much brought me right there with them. If I hadn’t been so lazy, I would’ve danced too.
J. Williamez played the tweener stage before Mrs. Hoo Hoo’s went on. As usual, he was fucking hilarious. He really brought the hate this night, getting the crowd to shout “Fuck you!” at him on occasion. I think people liked the opportunity to let out some negative energy, considering the entire rest of the weekend was purely loving.
Mrs. Hoo Hoo’s was the highlight of the night for me. They played until 4 a.m. They’re a cover band, but the kind that has the sense to spin songs into their own style. The lead singer is phenomenal. They covered some of my favorite artists, like Hendrix and Zeppelin. Those covers take guts. They had the dance floor covered in people dancing. They kept the groove going as long as the crowd asked for it, and the crowd kept asking.
The biggest difference I find between the likes of Shine On and Real Love is the lineup. Of course each has a variety of music, usually slotted to fit the time of day. But Real Love brought in artists from across North America (and one from Amsterdam?!) that played all original music in their own original way. Each band had a different tone. At Shine On, the music genres varied more, and more bands played covers. Personally I prefer original music, but it seems that the crowd loves a good cover band. People dance, sing along… really get into it.
I showed up with the intention of staying. Forgive me. I bought a day pass, brought a sleeping bag and a change of clothes. I figured I could find somewhere to crash, given the amount of people I knew attending.
It worked out magically.
I told a few friends about my plan as the day went along. A couple generously offered their place to sleep. My friend Holly told me I could come stay in the school bus if I wanted…
I’d seen the school bus when we first drove up. The parking lot between the campground and the stage was already full, so we parked along the far edge of the campground. The campground is deceptively large. I have yet to have a year where I don’t feel lost at some point. It’s full of amazing people, though, and even if I did get lost… it’d be the best place to be lost.
I slept in the bus. It was great. I crashed on the floor in line with Holly and I think also Holly, the one pictured above. Jake slept in the bunk.
The camp graciously welcomed me in. The next morning, they cooked up bacon, eggs, and potato and yam hashbrowns with garlic and onion. It was easily the best meal I have ever eaten at a festival. Ever. Incredible.
With an amazing start to the morning, after finding a luxurious place to sleep for a night I was totally prepared to sleep outside, the Sunday brought pure bliss. I watched the stage for most of the afternoon. I managed to stay around to see Jake’s band, The Heinrichs Maneuver, play too!
Saturday night was a long one for me. I don’t usually stay up past 11:30. But Mrs. Hoo Hoo’s kept it grooving all night, and I intermittently wandered into the campground to visit Bel-Air. My ex (we’re on good terms) was staying there, and the guys from Greek Riots, and some other friends. They’re always a ridiculous crowd. The jokes this year… I think of them in class sometimes and laugh out loud still. Like “a man’s butt.” and I wasn’t even around for the creation… just listening to the interactions in this group of people was amazing entertainment.
The thing that stands out most about Shine On is the mood. Everyone’s mood. It’s a fairly tight-knit community at Shine On, though the festival grows every year. When you’re at the stage, you’re close enough to recognize everyone. You remember faces from year to year. There are people that I might only see at Shine On each year, but damn, it’s a good fucking time.
There’s colour, art, ridiculousness and laughter abound. Everyone is welcoming. The fact I got to sleep in a school bus is like… proof. Solid proof.
I made some new friends this year. I built up some older friendships, too. I got to see my friend Nat for a bit, who I haven’t seen in months.
I went to Shine On feeling lost, floating, upset with myself and struggling a bit in life. I trusted myself to the community and the atmosphere, and I was well taken care of. Fed. Warm. And I had tons of fun.
To top it all off, I found $20 on the ground. I broke even. (If it was yours, let me know?)
I came back to the city ready to hug every friend I saw.