Wilderbeat Weekender Country Camping, Port Burwell ON - August 15 to 17, 2003

Given the blackout, rain and cancellation of headliners, the Seeds, it's a wonder this garage, soul and freak-beat happening happened at all. After a sparsely attended opening night pool party, organisers pinned their hopes on a Saturday crowd. Their prayers were partially answered as attendance peaked at about 120. Fortunately, all scheduled bands managed to make it, including U.S. acts the Sights and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, both of whom (along with Kingston's psychedelicious Orange Alabaster Mushroom) provided highlights. The Sights transformed the cabana-like stage into a high-energy power station that could've benefited nearby portions of the Lake Erie loop. The young Detroit band's blistering Small Faces-meets-MC5 routine challenged notions of what a trio is capable of sonically. Pity the poor Gruesomes, who, despite a solid follow-up set, came off as purveyors of elevator music by comparison. Later, as BJM was to take the stage, the cops shut things down. Or so it seemed. Determined to honour their contract and get paid, Anton Newcombe and company grabbed gear and headed for the centre of the campground, far from the prying ears of authorities. What followed was a surreal scene of drone rock played out in the woods in front of a makeshift movie screen emblazoned with a swirling black and white pinwheel projection and the silhouettes of tightly clustered revellers, including a guy serving as Newcombe's human mic stand. The escapade underlined the "wild" in Wilderbeat. Despite the fact numerous DJs missed opportunities to spin, including one bloke that travelled from England for the privilege, the event turned out to be well worth the price of admission. All the bands apparently got paid too, which is more than you can say for many first-time fetes. In order for Wilderbeat II to fly though, organisers will have to promote beyond the goofy politics of nearby Toronto's fickle and fractious Mod scene.