Bluesfest 2015: New Swears Opens Unforgettable Canadian Stage Lineup

July 15th, 2015 by  |  Published in Concerts, Features  |  1 Comment

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros perform at Bluesfest

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Photo credit: Mark Horton

RBC Bluesfest continued on Tuesday, July 15th with an amazing set on its Canadian Stage, featuring local garage-punkers New Swears. Among others, the band shared the stage with Black Lips, a garage-rock band that has to be an influence for them.

New Swears don’t give a %&#$
Almost a year removed from the release of their second LP, Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever, New Swears did their best to make it look like they didn’t really care about the gig, spurning me on my interview request and taking their time getting to the stage.

As soon as they began playing though, they got to work making the Bluesfest festival grounds look like one of their album covers, scattering sandwiches, popcorn (microwaved on stage) and other junk into the crowd, courtesy of an on-stage band-buddy named “Tha Chef.” And despite their “I don’t give a %&#$” attitude, it was clear that the band was having a lot of fun.

Cycling through a half-hour set liberally sprinkled with curious fashion decisions and modest hits like “Rather Be Dead” and “Stay Gold,” the band entertained their growing fanbase composed of 35-year-old men and 18-year-old women. Sure, I’m exaggerating about that—but not too much.

New Swears perform at Bluesfest

New Swears
Photo credit: Scott Penner

METZ a perfect storm
While a dark rainstorm approached from the north, METZ showed anyone who hasn’t seen them live yet (me) why every rock journalist in the world has been bursting at the seams about them for the last three years. The three-piece entertained the expanding after-work crowd with their perfect blend of post-punk and noise-rock, and I was blown away by their energetic, sweaty performance.

Late in their set, the rain finally started coming down after threatening to all afternoon, and seemed to hit the stage harder than the crowd. METZ jammed on their last song as crew members covered the rest of the instruments on stage, most of which belonged to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Unfortunately, the band was forced to leave the stage with one song left to play, but they still managed to make a huge impression with the time they had.

METZ perform at Bluesfest

Photo credit: Scott Penner

Black Lips and Edward Sharpe pleasant surprises
I had never heard of Black Lips before, so when they took the stage after the rain subsided, my curiosity was piqued. I wasn’t disappointed—it was one of those “how have I not already heard of these guys” moments. They played a brand of garage-rock not unlike the type that New Swears had entertained us with not a few hours earlier, as the members of the latter watched from stage right.

Indie-rockers Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros also had a great set, and I’m glad I chose them over the other stage’s headliners (John Butler Trio and Lynyrd Skynyrd). To say the band had a full sound is an understatement; they had two percussionists, two on keys, one bassist, three guitarists, and a singer. That’s nine members, if you weren’t counting.

Vocalist Alex Ebert ambled about the stage in a limping manner, often venturing out into the crowd to connect with the band’s fans, singing songs about peace, love and friendship. Normally I don’t really go for the fuzzy stuff, but the band is charming enough to pull it off.

Their performance climaxed with the hit song “Home,” during which Ebert took the time to ask audience members for their “stories.” Predictably, several guys spoke of the love they had for the women they were with. But when one of them proposed to their girlfriend, the crowd applauded in approval.

The lady in question accepted in a taken aback “we’ll talk about this later” manner.

Although former singer Jade Castrinos is no longer in the band, the audience sang her parts for her, and Ebert had the tact to shut up and let it.

July 14th was a winner. New Swears, METZ, and Black Lips were perfect together, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were a worthy headliner (if not my favorite band of the day). My hopes are high for the rest of this year’s schedule.

Black Lips perform at Bluesfest

Black Lips
Photo credit: Scott Penner


  1. Kailey says:

    July 16th, 2015at 7:32 pm(#)

    Love New Swears!!