The Loonstock promotional materials stated the ‘gates open @ 1:00 pm Saturday, August 16th, 2014’.
However, when driving by the Loons Golf Course & RV Park course on Friday, August 15th, it looked like everyone was already there. Campers and tents filled the open area stretching from Highway 814 to the Clubhouse entrance and then out into the field leading to the Ag Society grounds. On Saturday the Festival crowd grew even more as vehicles streamed into the Loons Golf Course and RV Park to join the camping crowd that had begun to arrive earlier in the week.
Loonstock is like no other music festival. This one day outdoor event is hosted on a professional stage nestled among trees just west of the Loons Golf Course club house. Nothing extravagant, but very serviceable. Entering the stage from an area darkened by the late evening, and shadowed by trees, appeared to be a unique and enjoyable experience for performers John Anthony (Tribute to Rod Stewart) and Rachel Swindler (AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses). The performers travelled to Wetaskiwin from the bright lights and glitter of Las Vegas to perform at Loonstock. As stated by Anthony, “Unlike the Las Vegas venues, where shows are somewhat structured, I'm looking forward to performing outdoors, being surrounded by the scenic location, and giving my best recreation of my Salute to Rod Stewart in my own passionate way.”
Along with the beautiful and talented singer Rachael Swindler, and backed by their Las Vegas based band, the final act of the day was stellar on what Anthony described as, “an exciting, fun filled summer night.”
Loonstock is the brain child of local businessman and promoter, Mr. Larry Moussa, who has a personal passion for music. Through his resourcefulness, Moussa provided the audience with 6 performing groups belting out their tunes during 10 non-stop hours. The performers were ‘cover bands’ paying tribute to original performers such as Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash, AC/DC and Hank Williams. A logical question one might ask prior to attending Loonstock is why go to a performance with ‘cover bands’. The answer came by witnessing the entertainment value of having the performers tell the story about the life of Johnny Cash while using his music and songs as props. This interesting concept was enhanced by the quality of the performances.
The Festival has grown from a modest attendance of approximately 250-300 in the inaugural year, 2012, to an estimated 600 attendees in 2014. Unlike many other Festivals, Loonstock has retained the feeling of a ‘private party open to the residents of Wetaskiwin and their friends and relatives’ where they can gather in a setting that is convenient, yet provides all the amenities of a Festival. As Moussa navigated his way through the crowd throughout the day, it was evident that the ‘guests’ appreciated his efforts that made this party possible.
The performers clearly had a great time at this unique Festival.
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time in Wetaskiwin around family, and it means so much to be able to come back and sing here,” remarked Christina Dennehy, a musician originally from Wetaskiwin and currently residing in British Columbia.
“There is really nothing like playing in front of a crowd so close to home. There is such an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement. I feel so lucky and am incredibly appreciative of Larry and Arlene Moussa for asking me to sing at Loonstock again this year.”
John Anthony arrived direct from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to treat concert goers with his incredible Tribute to Rod Stewart. John’s natural look resembles Rod so much that he is constantly mistaken for the Legend himself. While covering a few Rod Stewart songs with his Boston based band, John discovered he had the ability to emulate Rod’s voice and mannerisms. The result is now a polished, spot on recreation of an authentic Rod Stewart concert.
David James and his band, Big River, are a Johnny Cash tribute act performing the hits spanning five decades of Johnny’s career. Most tribute bands consciously try to look, act and sound like their idols. Dave doesn’t have to try, as his natural voice is close to that of Johnny Cash and all he had to capture were the mannerisms.
Rachel Swindler, direct from Las Vegas, provided the energy-filled opening song for the final act of the night and co-performed and backed John Anthony during his Rod Stewart Tribute. She then took over the stage and electrified the audience with her renditions of songs made popular by hard rock bands AC/DC, Guns and Roses and others.
Rounding out the cast was Wetaskiwin’s Ken Mastel (Moon Dogs) performing a tribute to Hank Williams, Aaron Goodvine, Nashville recording artist and Nashville Star finalist, and Wetaskiwin’s very own, gorgeous Christina Dennehy.
The Loonstock Concert strived to take on a modified identity for 2014, to provide entertainment that is, “something for everyone,” and it did just that. The concert began with packed hours of diverse styles of country music. But, as the daylight changed to dusk, and dusk to dark, the music style began a transition from country to rock and ended with vibrant AC/ DC and Guns and Roses style music.
Although created to provide a fun event for local residents, their friends and relatives, Loonstock provides ancillary benefits. Promoter Larry Moussa suggests, “This is a great opportunity to promote Wetaskiwin by providing a show that will draw people into our community. The more people that come into Wetaskiwin means more business for all the local businesses that will benefit from the spinoff … gas stations, grocery stores, retail, car dealerships and all the others.”
Judging from the enthusiastic crowd that was dancing, singing, swaying and generally very appreciative of the highly energetic performances, I suggest you reserve your tickets and camping spots early for Loonstock 2015. Larry Moussa is promising an even bigger and better event.
Pictured: Christina Dennehy, formally of Wetaskiwin, joined headliners John Anthony, David James and Big River, and Rachel Swindler at this year’s Loonstock. Photo by Barry McDonald. See more photos in this week’s paper.