For anyone fearing that recent years’ rash of synth pop and glittery club bangers had killed the almighty guitar, fear not. After Sunday’s plugged-in parade of Fenders that was WEDG’s Edgefest at Canalside, one would be safe in paraphrasing a famous Mark Twain quote: reports of the instrument’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
By simply looking at the event’s lineup – with co-headliners City and Colour and the eardrum-crushing Deftones, Sam Roberts Band, the Joy Formidable and others – concertgoers weren’t traveling to Buffalo’s waterfront for a dance party. And from the top down, the annual festival amplified a long day’s worth of six-string assaults for the city’s black T-shirt contingent.
At the head of the ticket were the intensified emotions of the Deftones and Toronto’s City and Colour, albeit delivered in different flavors. For the Chino Moreno-fronted Deftones, sound was served in darker shades – and with heavier scoops of feedback. Amid the fog and early evening breezes stormed tracks like “Acid Hologram” and “Changes” unleashed by a thundering Moreno at center stage, and backed by a diesel-fueled wall of sound that remained omnipresent throughout the band’s blistering appearance.
Dallas Green’s City and Colour delivered heavy messaging in a milder manner – but that’s not saying much when compared with the Skyway-shaking Deftones. Green’s set list shined with both the lyrical content of songs like “The Lonely Life” and “Wasted Love,” as well as the stellar electric guitar accompaniment of Dante Schwebel. On cuts like “Sleeping Sickness,” Schwebel’s presence lifted the work into the more reverberated realm of the day’s performances.
But before the festival headliners, the day’s guitar-driven dynamic hit its stride with longtime Buffalo favorite Sam Roberts Band. Before the Montreal quintet arrived, the day’s attendance seemed scattered in all corners of Canalside. By the time Roberts and Co. kicked into the down-picked chords of second song “Human Heat,” attendees packed the front stage and lawn for that and the following run of familiar tracks, whether the friendship allegiance of “Hard Road” or finishing fury of Roberts’ and Dave Nugent’s guitars on the multi-tempo “Mindflood.”
And then there was the early appearance of the North Wales trio, the Joy Formidable.
When set times were released last week, it seemed odd to some that the Ritzy Bryan-fronted act were batting second. By the end of its kinetic set, it proved the same. Winding through anthemic tunes like “Radio of Lips” and an extended “Whirring” with bandmates Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas, the threesome stood tall – especially the diminutive Bryan. With a guitar handle and stage command reminiscent of Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster, she helped inject the early set time with headliner gusto.
Following Joy Formidable were the day’s mid-festival spirit injection, courtesy of Tokyo Police Club and I-90 compatriots, Joywave.
For Newmarket, Ontario’s TPC – and its undesirable task of chasing the chord hail of Bryan and Co. – the quartet delivered an ample serving of its bouncy power pop, whether in the form of “Favourite Colour” and “Tessellate,” or in its set-ending edition of fan favorite, “Your English is Good.”
As for Rochester’s Joywave, its members turned up the volume, turning in a set of pristine near-hometown electro-pop. Punctuated by the on-stage ferocity of bespectacled vocalist Daniel Armbruster, the lanky frontman shined on “Tongues” and charmed locals by tweet-messaging Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey to sign with the Sabres while on stage – before encouraging the crowd to do the same.
Setting a scorching tone for the day at its start was Des Moines, Iowa’s Holy White Hounds. The Brenton Dean-led quartet blazed through a 30-minute set of tunes off its spring EP “Sparkle Sparkle,” as well as introduced early arrivals to the freewheeling Fender chemistry between Denton and lead guitarist James Manson.