I don’t wanna miss a thing

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Big Music Fest rocked its way through Kitchener’s McLennan Park July 11 to 13. Featuring three days of music over a gorgeous weekend, over 20,000 spectators came out for each of the weekend shows, once again proving that rock and roll will never die.


The festival began on Friday night with the Breaking Bands competition, featuring 25 bands from across Ontario vying for a grand prize that included a main stage performance at next year’s festival and studio time to record their winning song.


Unfortunately, I was unable to make it out to the free-admission event, but I would like to congratulate the Modern Hearts for winning the event and mention that I look forward to seeing them next year.


Onto the main event though! The opening acts on day two were solid, including the first Moist festival show in 13 years (according to frontman David Usher himself) and a rousing rendition of “Shine” by Collective Soul during their set, but I’m not going to lie when I say that Styx was the band I was most excited to see on Saturday.


Thankfully, I was not disappointed — Styx was phenomenal, and easily my favourite act of the festival (though Aerosmith came close, but more on them later). From the very first note of “Grand Illusion” it was clear that Styx came to rock, and rock they did throughout their hour-plus-long set.


The highlight of the set, at least in my eyes, was frontman/keyboardist Lawrence Gowan warming up the crowd with a sing-a-long to part of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen before leading an ear-shattering rendition of “Come Sail Away” in which I’m pretty sure the crowd’s collective voice could be heard as far away as UW.


Certainly, it was a set for the ages, and one that rates in the top three of bands I’ve ever seen live (which is saying something, as I’ve been fortunate enough to see such bands as the Police and Prince in the past).


Following Styx, Canada’s-own Bryan Adams — who looks remarkable for his age, might I add — closed out Saturday night with a set that unfortunately, in my opinion, dragged on a bit too long.


Early on in the set, in response to a fan calling out requests for songs, Adams told the crowd that he was going to play everything, and man, he was not kidding. While of course I rocked out along with the crowd during hits like “Summer of 69” and “Cuts Like a Knife,” by the end of the set I was secretly glad it was over.


That’s not to say that Adams wasn’t great — he was; I just hit my Bryan Adams fix about an hour or so in, and Adams played for almost another hour after that. The show was excellent and Adams certainly still has it, but I think I’ll be removing the Bryan Adams off my iPod for the next little while.


Day three started just as well as day two, with Toronto&rsquo;s Q107 radio station host Kim Mitchell playing a particularly awesome set featuring fan-favourites such as &ldquo;Patio Lanterns&rdquo; and &ldquo;I Am a Wild Party,&rdquo; and Big Wreck rocking the crowd with old favourites as well as songs off their most recent album, <em>Ghosts</em>.


Meanwhile, Slash, playing alongside Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, put on an orgy of guitar brilliance during his set, resplendent with multiple 10-minute-long solos, a double-necked acoustic/electric hybrid guitar, and a face-melting amount of sweet, sweet shredding.


Kennedy, singing a number of excellent songs of his own as well, provided a more-than-ample stand-in for Axl Rose on a number of GnR hits, including an entire-crowd-sing-along version of &ldquo;Sweet Child o&rsquo; Mine&rdquo; and a more-than-fitting rendition of &ldquo;Paradise City&rdquo; to close out the set.


To be honest though, I thought it would be difficult to top Slash&rsquo;s set &hellip; but then Aerosmith took the stage, and man did they not disappoint &mdash; Aerosmith put on an unforgettable show.


I&rsquo;m not going to lie, the song I was looking forward to the most was &ldquo;Livin&rsquo; On The Edge&rdquo; (as some of you may remember, I named <a href="http://uwimprint.ca/series/livin%27+on+the+edge/">my old column</a>&nbsp;after it), so when they played it early in the set, I pretty much lost my mind.


After that it was just gravy for me, but the hits continued to roll, capped with an epic Steven-Tyler-on-the-piano-led version of &ldquo;Dream On&rdquo; and an emphatic &ldquo;Sweet Emotion&rdquo; to finish it all off.


Big Music Fest was an excellent weekend of fun and music, and I cannot wait to do it all again next year. Before I go though, I want to give a huge shout out to Paula Danylevich, the publicist of the festival, for going the extra mile in helping Paul (our photographer) and I on a number of occasions throughout the weekend. Thanks Paula!


And with that, I will leave you with the advice given to us from the immortal Steven Tyler before leaving at the end of the show: &ldquo;Remember, the light at the end of the tunnel could be you.&rdquo;
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