Give praise to the weather gods, please.Weeks of watching the weather app for changing forecasts was making a few of us paranoid. Thankfully, we got the Friday night we desperately needed as temperatures rose to actual summer levels and openers Jesse Jam and the Flams kicked off the 2019 edition of Interstellar Rodeo.If anyone was feeling sleepy from the sun, Weaves provided a necessary wake up call. No lulling rhythms for a post-supper audience, oh no; the Toronto-based four-piece certainly weren’t complacent. Afrobeat guitar melting into Sonic Youth noise, garage sludge, buzzing lo fi pop, an increasingly chaotic stop time stagger, all in one set, all pointing at directions that the band might explore if they weren’t continuously nudging outside the margins.It was strong meat for a festival crowd, but those that chose to venture to the front were rewarded with a fiery performance as lead singer Jasmyn Burke restlessly paced the stage, eyes alight with glee while she stared down the crowd, her band twisting with the music. A lurching and spiky version of Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm, which morphed unexpectedly into Hanson’s MMMbop, was a particular highlight.You had to be careful when you chose to go for food or beverages. One moment you’d be ordering a refreshing A & D Monolog Arinto P24 (paired with Weaves), and suddenly Calgary-born rapper Kinnie Starr was on the dance floor, face-to-face with the audience, exuberantly and animatedly rapping. It was a stripped-down operation, Starr backing herself with a laptop while the crew quickly set the stage for the next act, and it was riveting, especially the song Ghost. If you’re reading this early enough on Saturday morning she’ll be at the 11 a.m. kick off party; more of her next time, please.The last time many of us saw Sharon Van Etten it was as a disembodied image in a vanity mirror in The OA. Thankfully the singer-songwriter is alive and well in our dimension, and served up a set of moody indie-rock in the second last slot of the evening. The highlights were many as she led her keyboard heavy band through an eclectic and electrifying set, including a heart opening, swelling Malibu, the ominous Hands, and the pulsing electro-rock of Comeback Kid.
Aloe Blacc and his band perform during the first night of the Interstellar Rodeo music festival at Hawrelak Park in Edmonton, on Friday, July 26, 2019.
Ian Kucerak /
There was only one possible way in which to end the night, and that was with a good old-fashioned soul revue party. Veteran Interstellar favourite Aloe Blacc was up to the task, serving a light and frothy mix of disco, funk, and soul to the growing crowd out front. Blacc and his six-piece band The Grand Scheme went straight for the pleasure lobes, opening with Lift Your Spirit, slinky funk that hinted at and then finally capitulated to The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back.From there on it was an unashamed dance party, Blacc and crew piling on tracks like Love is an Answer and I Need a Dollar in and amongst Stevie Wonder covers and Hall & Oates references. A perfectly fitting ending to a perfect evening, and if Sheila E happens to be looking at this article, we’re looking at you to up the ante on Saturday night.Interstellar RodeoWith: Weaves, Sharon Van Etten, Kinnie Starr, Aloe Blacc, and moreWhen: Friday nightWhere: Heritage Amphitheatre, Hawrelak ParkTickets: $249 to $279 adult weekend passes; $149 to $169, youth. Day tickets are also available at the gate or in advance from the Interstellar website