After two epic nights of country, Rock the Park shifted gears in Downtown London’s Harris Park. New for 2016 was Virgin Fest 2016, sponsored by 97.5 Virgin Radio, in London. Now, I need to be honest here and say this night’s line up was not one I was really keen on. The line up included local performer, Ria Mae, Canadian rapper Classified, Nelly, and Flo Rida. As a guy who listens to mainly country music and some rock thrown in there, this was bound to be an interesting night.
I got to the park late and only caught the last part of Ria Mae. She sounded great and had the crowd, that was already starting to pack the park, grooving and singing along.
After a quick change of the stage, it was time to get into the heavy hitters of the night. Classified was added to the show a few weeks back, and brought his A-game to London and had the crowd fired up. When he busted out, “Inner Ninja”, the place went bonkers. I was behind the stage and could feel the energy of the crowd from where I was.
After Classified, we kept rolling with a guy I did listen to back in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. Nelly came out with all his hits, “EI”, “Its Getting Hot in Here”, and, “Ride Wit Me”, in his killer set. So far, the night hadn’t disappointed and I wasn’t as out of touch with the music as I thought I would be.
You could feel the energy of the crowd as it was almost time for the main event. The 10,000 plus strong crowd was ready for a party. And that’s what Flo Rida brought. He didn’t stop jumping, dancing and moving his entire set.
The crowd was amped up higher then any other night I have seen at Rock the Park in the past few years. It was a sight to see the entire crowd jumping up and down with Flo Rida. He dropped all his hits including, “Apple Bottom Jeans”, and of course, his latest single, “My House”.
I have to admit, again, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I left just before Flo Rida finished up, to beat the massive crowd out of the park, and I couldn’t find Flo Rida on spotify quick enough for my ride home! Virginfest was a great addition to Rock the Park in my opinion and can’t wait to see what it brings for 2017.
After getting some rest from the epic party on Friday night, it was back to the park for the FM96 Rock the Park Extravaganza. The name says it, and this night didn’t disappoint. Pure rock and roll at Rock the Park.
Openers, Ivory Hours, had to play an acoustic set, which sounded great as their drummer wasn’t able to be there- he had a good excuse, as he was ill. They were on stage already when I arrived at the park and the crowds were already packing into the general admission and VIP sides of the park.
After switching the stage around a bit, The Zola’s took the stage. They are a west coast indie band that has a great sound. Keep an eye out for these guys as they are on tour and playing the festival scene this summer. It’s worth catching them.
The day just kept rolling along with more rock. A band I was really interested in catching was, “Awolnation”. I have always liked the song, “Sail”, but had never really looked into their other material. What can I say, the Southern California rockers hit it hard in London and had the crowd rocking in no time. And yes, they played, “Sail”, and yes, the bass line is amazing live.
As the sun started to set, we shifted gears again, for what I am going to call the most eclectic show I have ever seen, “Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros”. I don’t know how to describe this but maybe the words, “awe inspiring”, “interesting”, and, “mind blowing”, would work.
There were so many people on stage, so many different instruments, and the lead singer, who is such an interesting guy. I recognized their song, “Home”. During the song, he took time and let members of the crowd tell stories and also brought a lady on stage, who’s daughter is in a London hospital that the band had visited earlier in the day, to tell her story. If these guys hadn’t made you fan with their music, these moments during, “Home”, would have.
Then it was time, time for Mr. Dallas Green to grace the stage under the stars. He came out on stage and said one line, “We are City and Color”, and right away it was into their set. With his great vocals and amazing guitar work it’s no wonder he is one of the best in the Canadian rock scene, these days. I heard a few people even dub him as the next Gord Downie, lyrically. With a set full of hits, and new material, the crowd loved every moment of the final performance of Rock the Park 2016.
It’s hard to believe that during four days the stage in London was graced by so much musical talent from so many different genres. Country superstars like Jake Owen and Brad Paisley to Hip Hop icons, Nelly and Flo Rida, and rock powerhouse City and Color, the folks over at Jones Entertainment sure knew how to Rock the Park.
With the park packed each night, Rock The Park was able to raise $150,000 for some local charities including Make a Wish and Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of London. Hundreds of volunteers help make this event the spectacle it is, and I have to say thank you to all of them. I can’t wait to be back rockin’ in the park in 2017.
Bill Woodcock / @BillWoodcock