For those of you who have been to Burlington before, I know that I don’t need to do very much explaining; for all of its lakefront views and cute cupcake shops, the town is remarkably, hilariously quiet. Something like Ontario’s china cabinet, it is beautiful, exquisite, and expensive, yet notably empty of functional use.

My opinion, innocent but well deserved, of Burlington left me completely unprepared for the Sound Of Music Festival.

Walking along a calm suburban street under the light of a fading sun, my peaceful stroll through Pleasantville was shattered by the unmistakable sound of a powerful blast from an electric guitar. Cutting through my headphones and the World War podcast they played (maybe I’m the boring one), the riff grew in intensity, doubling when I removed my earbuds and tripling as I walked closer to the downtown shore.

The sun seemed eager to reunite with the water, and with their reunion as a backdrop, I approached the Sound Of Music Festival’s western entrance. Taking up the bulk of the city’s celebrated lakefront, the setup sprawled across a boardwalk built for a far tamer and smaller crowd. To my right, a cover band triumphantly smashed out the final notes to what could only be their favourite song. To my left, the dimming sky was lit up by the strobing lights of a Ferris wheel whose dimensions had to have been ripped from a cartoon.

My excitement grew, reserved as it was, and I eagerly headed into the festival. My cynicism faded as the band announced they would play only one more Fleetwood Mac song. A grin broke out on my face despite my best efforts, and I plunged forth into the carnival ahead as I was serenaded by the most passionate rendition of “Go Your Own Way” that I had ever heard.

There is little that sells a festival more than a genuine atmosphere. In an age of irony, a performer’s strength is their enthusiasm for their craft; breaking out in grins and moving with the music, every single artist or band that I saw perform virtually shivered with glee, despite the blistering heat coming off of the water 20 feet to our left.

Wannabe rockstars and homegrown heroes alike lit up the stages during the 9-day festival, with the notable headliner Mariana’s Trench, joining previous Canadian headliners. Deliciously real and perpetually electric, the music performances were consistently fresh.

Equally delicious and fresh (but thankfully half as electric) was the trendy food truck scene that occupied the market-like expanse between the stages. For a student bound perpetually to the Burger King on University, it was everything I could ever imagine. True North Barbeque was a particular standout, with a distinctly Canadian brisket poutine that was too good to even feel guilty about.

Between shows, there is still plenty to do: a full traveling carnival set up shop right in the middle, with all of the calls to “step right up” and test your luck that one would expect. The Ferris wheel acts as the centrepiece, and despite how much fun it was to blow $20 trying to win my date a stuffed dinosaur in a dart game, the view on both sides of the top of the wheel will reign supreme as the best moment of the festival for me. An improvised skyline of its own, with two bands competing for my attention from either direction, the lights and splashes of living colour impressed upon me an awe for how beautiful it all was and an appreciation that I was able to be there.

I have nothing against festivals, just as I promise I have nothing against Burlington. Most are exciting, but as soon as an act performs that you aren’t a fan of, it is impossible to escape or otherwise occupy yourself. The limbo of it is excruciating.

Sound of Music, on the other hand, is heart-thumping from the beginning and foot-tapping to the end.

Feature image courtesy Facebook/Sound of Music Festival.

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