The party started before the sun had even gone down. The tremors were audible blocks away, and every crowd on the street walked in the same direction: towards the epicenter, towards campus. Dalhousie’s Studley campus had been transformed into a full-fledged festival grounds and a huge mass of students danced and cheered around the arched stage where The Sheepdogs plowed through their set.
This year’s installment of DalFest, Dalhousie’s annual start-of-the-year music festival, was a resounding success, despite the problems incurred by Friday night’s rain.
Hastily relocated to the Grawood, Friday night’s event was kicked off by Willie Stratton and the Boarding Party, followed by Billie Dre and the Poor Boys. By the time the night’s headliners, Canadian indie darlings Born Ruffians, took their place onstage, the crowd reached the far back of the pub and snaked through every open space. Currently on tour promoting their new album, Birthmarks, Born Ruffians gave an energetic performance, touching on both new and fan favorite throughout their set.
The DSU spared no expense in setting up a bona fide festival experience on the quad, and luckily for them, Saturday was the perfect night for an outdoor show. The Sheepdogs—a Canadian band best known for their unlikely slingshot to fame after winning a contest through Rolling Stone magazine—took the stage at 7:30 to an enormous crowd of eager Dal students.
In between blistering crescendos and sweeping guitar solos, The Sheepdogs exuded a genuine enjoyment that was felt throughout the sweaty crowd. By the time they had finished their set, it was dark, the crowd was tired, and nearly everyone leaving centre stage was sporting a wide grin.
Following an act like The Sheepdogs must have been an impossibly daunting task, but Rich Aucoin was up to the challenge, and did so in style.
Rich Aucoin’s take on DalFest was unique from the get-go: a compilation of iconic film and popular media clips were projected on the stage’s roof, leading into a prolonged introduction that borrowed cues from The Lion King to Kill Bill. By the time he broke into his songs, the crowd stood mystified.
Aucoin, a former Dalhousie and King’s student, was happy to announce that he would be celebrating his 30th birthday that night. His endless energy seemed to betray that fact: Aucoin spun across the stage like a top, and at one point, stood in the middle of the crowd, which had formed a great dancing circle around him.
Following Aucoin’s performance, the DSU held a surf-themed after-party at the Grawood.
Aside from being an excellent free party for students, the DSU had also incorporated a new element to this year’s DalFest. For the first time, Dalhousie’s society fair (dubbed the Society Carnival) was held alongside Dal Fest’s musical aspect, and was again a huge success. Over 70 unique societies came out to meet students and give demonstrations.
As Danny Shanahan, vice-president of student relations for the DSU, and chief organizer of this year’s event, puts it, “The artist choice last year was fantastic and really resonated with everyone. We wanted to grow off last year’s event.”
All said, it was a weekend of great music, student involvement, surprisingly cheap beer, and a welcoming atmosphere no matter the weather. Dal Fest once again blew students away, and was a real showcase of what makes Dalhousie such a unique school. And for once, campus was a sought after weekend destination.