Magnetic Hill Music Festival – Summer Kick-Off!

Posted: 5th July 2009 by refrainmusic in Concerts

Here we are in our first ‘refrain’…our first, I hope of many meetings together. Sit back, read, absorb, and hopefully enjoy…if you don’t enjoy, well, have a nice day anyway.

I start this blog with a concert I recently attended, the Magnetic Hill Music Festival Summer Kick Off!  First let’s talk a little about the venue, the Magnetic Hill concert site, which is a live music venue in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. This venue is in my mind, the premier outdoor venue in Atlantic Canada, in fact one of the best in North America.  Originally designed in 1984 for Pope John Paul II’s visit and a massive papal mass, the site was redesigned in 1990 as a concert venue.  It features a massive natural amphitheater at the base of a large hill, it get’s it’s name from the adjacent natural phenomena of a ‘magnetic hill’  which creates the illusion of visitors cars rolling ‘uphill‘.  It wasn’t until 1998 that the first concert was held there, a concert, where yours truly was on the stage crew.  That concert, a two day event, featured the likes of Lynrd Skynrd, Foreigner, Steppenwolf, Heart, Peter Frampton, Toronto, The Headpins it was a great weekend under sweltering heat.  The city learned from that show, and began to create infrastructure improvements to the site all the while looking for their next act which turned out to be none other than The Rolling Stones in 2005 who played for 85,000+ fans!  After that, the old adage rang true…build it, and they will come…and play great music!

1984 – Papal Visit (Pope John Paul II) (75,000)
1990 – Redesign to concert venue
1998 – Lynrd Skynrd, Foreigner, Steppenwolf, Heart, Peter Frampton, Toronto, The Headpins (35,000)
2005 – The Rolling Stones with Our Lady Peace, Tragically Hip, Maroon 5 (85,000)
2006 – Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Sugarland, George Canyon (45,000)
2007 – Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Leahy, Johnny Reid, Jessie Farrell, (50,000)
2008 – The Eagles, John Fogarty, K.T. Tunstall, Sam Roberts (55,000)
2009 – Bon Jovi, Bachman-Cummings, State of Shock, Mobile (33,000)
2009 – AC / DC, Anvil, The Answer (80,000)
2011 – U2, Arcade Fire, Carney

Now…summer of 2009, June 27…Magnetic Hill Music Festival Summer Kick Off!  As every girl from the 80’s that was choosing to go through life ‘Living on A Prayer’, they ‘Always’ said that ‘I’ll Be There For You’ if you ever come to town…’Wanted Dead or Alive’, Bon Jovi was coming to town!

That’s right, a full sixteen years after his last appearance, the man in the habitually black tight jeans was returning to a collective swoon of formerly big haired ladies.  That’s right the guy that his momma name Jon Bongiovi was coming to town and bringing friends, namely Randy Bachman & Burton Cummings  Canadian rock legends from the days of BTO and the Guess Who.  They also had some new comers tagging along in State of Shock and Mobile.  (There was another band that I didn’t see, a french band from Montreal…I’ll never understand why the promoter feels that he absolutely ‘must’ add a french act at the beginning of every MH concert…sick)

We started the day with a trip to a friends house who lived near the concert to park our car and he drove us to the concert site.  The closer we got the thicker the bodies got, a gaggle of tour buses parked near the main entrance, looked poised for a party to break out.

We entered the concert site by the much improved new entrance walkway that had been built this year, kudos to that improvement.  Of course the first place the ladies with us wanted to hit was the ‘merch’ tent.  One hour, that’s right…one hour later they got out of there with a tank-top…they really need to address the wait at that line (and $50 for a tank-top…really!?).  I in the mean time tried out the new ‘mist tent’, which on a day as hot as this turned out to be was fantastic.  You stand under a canopy that, like it sounds, “mists” you and cools you down…awesome addition to the site!

Onstage, and just ending at the time of our entrance was Mobile from Montreal (we’d missed Alfa Rococo).  What I heard was pretty good.  As we made our way up the hill to the food vendors for some “Shangrilla” french fries, and some “Scoops” ice cream we stopped at the C103 booth to visit some friends (whomever thought to bring the telescope…brilliant).  State of Shock took the stage as we wandered to get some food playing their hits like ‘Money Honey’ and ‘The Best I Ever Had’.  They sounded great, heavier than I expected and hadn’t realized that they had a gal in the band, and another thing that surprised me with this band was how ‘short’ they played.  Next up was one of the groups I came to see, Bachman-Cummings, it was sort of like seeing The Guess Who. 

Now I’m not normally one to stand down near the stage, the operative word in that sentence being…’stand’.    The problem with that was one of the gals we were with is a Bon Jovi fanatic and there was no way I was winning that battle.   I also don’t understand this promoters overwhelming desire to not allow folding chairs into the site, and absolutely ridiculous policy as far as I’m concerned along with no cameras.  So off we went to stand (sigh) in front of the stage.   I remember seeing Burton Cummings about ten years ago in a bar, just him and his piano and it was unbelievable, I hoped this wouldn’t disappoint (was sure it wouldn’t).   The crowd down front got a little thicker as the two lads from ‘the peg’ took the stage to a racous cheer wasting no time and getting right down to business…hmmm, or taking care of business as it were.   Twice, not once, but twice Mr. Cummings commented on how nice a concert site that Magnetic Hill was, I’d have to agree, he even went so far as to say it was one of the best in North America.   They went through all the standards, telling stories, having fun singing Takin’ Care of Business,  You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, Let It Ride, American Woman.  On ‘Share The Land’, Cummings, who is a very patriotic Canuck, told eveyone how pround he was to be Canadian and for everyone to “watch CNN for 15 minutes, then go out your front door get down on your knees and kiss the ground of Canada, the last place on Earth where we get to be human beings”.  At the ages of 65 and 61, Bachman and Cummings respectively, can still perform incredibly.  Randy can still wale on that guitar, and Burton’s fingers are amazing on that keyboard…well worth seeing!

Now it was time for Bon Jovi…there were some fears before this show as ticket sales waned because of weeks of steady rain, but this day was perfect for a concert, warm, clear and concert goers realized it.   Estimates prior to the show were thinking that they would sell 20-25,000 tickets…looking around and seeing people still coming in the entrance during both  Bachman-Cummings and Bon Jovi…I knew they’d surpass that, I knew just looking that we had to be over 30,000.  Final number that was released was just over 33,000 were about to take in the boys from Jersey.  Bon Jovi hit the stage at precisely 9:oopm to the screams and squeals of the plethora of ladies in the crowd.  The hits started rolling out, songs like, Living on A Prayer, Wanted Dead or Alive, I’ll Be There For You (sung by Ritchie Sambora while JBJ took a break).  A couple of cool additions were when the band sang “Shout” by the Isley Brothers and I still had JBJ’s version of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen dancing in my head after the show.  One other cool little tribute to their preceding act was when Bon Jovi picked up a guitar saying he wanted to do something a little different and he an Ritchie kicked into playing “Takin’ Care of Business” and looked like they were having a blast doing it.  It didn’t take long for me to realize why I didn’t like standing down front…”Personal Space People”!  Good lord, if you cannot walk in a straight line without running into me…go sit somewhere.  The final song of the night during the encore, was of course, Wanted Dead or Alive…which it seemed everyone sang along with.

At the end of the show we made our way back up the hill to wait a bit for the crowd to clear, only to be ushered towards the exit about ten minutes later by security.  Here’s a tip for security, if you let people linger a little longer, there might not be such a log jam at the entrance.  As we made our way through the new exit/entrance area the crowd thickened, then I realized that it got dark…hmmm.  It dawned on me that the lights on the street between the zoo and the water park, the street everyone was walking on, were all…off!?  Whomever’s job it was to make sure these lights stayed on this night should be severely reprimanded (and have been by most concert goers in the paper and on the radio).  Not only was this dangerous with 30K+ people filing out of the concert, it made us look bad, and put a damper on an otherwise good evening.  My advice to the city/site is that something has to be done about the ‘bottle neck’ that is created at the covered bridge at the entrance to the Magnetic Hill boardwalk.  This slowed everything to a crawl (that and the two morons who somehow parked their car on the bridge to sell T-Shirts before police ‘asked’ them to move).  Tip to organizers, a new exit directly from Mountain Raod to the concert site needs to be created that is paved, lighted and secure.  Perhaps another addition, create an alternate exit to Gorge Road from the site (obviously not the one backstage) and put a sidewalk down Gorge Road.

My thoughts on improvements that could be made:

Allow people to linger longer at the end of the show.
Make sure all exits are well lit, secure, and unimpeded.
Create additional access (exit) to Mountain Rd.
Create additional access (exit) to Gorge Rd.
Allow point and shoot cameras (no removable lens)
Place at least one video screen on the hill for seated viewers.

Overall…it was a great ‘kick-off’ to all the concerts that are gracing the Maritimes this summer…Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Paul McCartney, KISS and many more.