REPORT: Boonstock biggest bush party in Alberta

The dusty grounds of the Boonstock Music and Arts Festival are alive with promiscuity and debauchery this weekend.

Going down in Gibbons, Alberta, about 40 km North of Edmonton, the eighth annual event is supposed to be an exhibition of diverse live music – but it’s also a celebration of tattoos, as intoxicated concert goers shed both clothes and inhibitions. In this atmosphere, wearing a shirt is a sign of sobriety. Weekend camping is preferable, and due to the confusion among the security personal, a lot of people are getting camping permits free. It’s a lawless community. Despite their best efforts, the event volunteers seem to be overwhelmed by the mass of insanity… er, humanity. The rules of no glass bottles, no dogs, no open fires, and no tail-gate parties in the day parking area are being casually ignored. People may not even be aware there are rules in the first place. After all, this event did start as a bush party eight years ago.

“LET’S GET FUCKED UP!” a sunburnt, bikini clad girl with dirty feet shouts, summing up the spirit of the entire event. Nearby, a lone Bob Marley flag soars proudly above a Suzuki hatchback amongst a sea of black pirate flags attached to muddy 4×4 trucks.

Prior to the bands taking the stage on Friday, the karaoke tent was a glorious sweaty mess. Concert-goer Chris Berwick, his leg in a cast, wouldn’t miss it for anything, despite his recent surgery involving nine screws and a plate in his ankle. Meanwhile, girls on the concert grounds are almost invariably wearing calf-high fuzzy boots which they picked up on the midway, while boasting full-body airbrushed tattoos. While enjoying the ambiance, you can pierce one nipple for $40 – or both for $60 – at an unmarked tent in the beer garden.

The bands were scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. on the opening day, yet by 4:15 nothing was happening. A member of the security staff brushed it off, saying they were running behind schedule “because the bands are being girls.”

Aside from the big headliners – Korn and The Crystal Method Saturday, Billy Talent on Canada Day – the music is secondary at Alberta’s premier drinking festival. Vancouver’s Severin Peterson exemplifies the true spirit of Boonstock while chugging a bottle of “Alberta Springs” whiskey. Beersbee, beer pong and bean bags are the favourite past times between sets. Beersbee is among the more popular of this weekend’s sporting activities, played with a Frisbee and beer bottles balanced on poles, resulting in a good deal of spilled beer. The Ferris wheel, among other mid-way rides, will no doubt serve as some amusement to bystanders watching all the hung-over riders.

The Friday night line up at the Bud Stage featured illScarlett, and closed with the Dirty Heads. The afternoon transitioned from the heavy sound of Until Dawn from Fort McMurray and was gradually eased into an evening of reggae with the feel good pop music of Bryan Finlay from Edmonton (who was the winner of The Bounce Showdown in 2010). Between concert sets the beer gardens swelled like the tide coming in. The thirsty masses poured into the oasis for a brief period and then left the area dry. Although people tend to drink less and dance more to pop music, the opposite is true for metal. Bryan Finlay was one of the lighter shows this weekend. Rumour has it that after his set the one hipster in the crowd rode his fixed-gear bicycle all the way back to Edmonton. There’s a metal onslaught to come.

The bartenders are volunteers and get to enjoy some of the shows for free. One says happily, “I just gotta work one day and get drunk the rest!” There is a palpable sense of community within the crowd, in the moshpit and in the camping area. The guy who hauled you off for crowd surfing may well be your drinking buddy tomorrow, and the girl serving you in the beer garden may later be the person passing you a joint near the main stage.

Boobstock Bikini Parade! And, oh yeah, music, too

On Saturday, Boonstock festival organizers attempted to set a Guinness World Record for the largest bikini parade. No word on if they got it, or if anyone from Guinness was there, but you can bet the participants gave it a good try. Korn, the much anticipated Saturday headliner, takes the main stage at 10:05 p.m. while across the site at the Red Bull Dance Tent, the Crystal Method starts at 10:45. Puddle of Mud unfortunately had to pull out at the last minute, but there are dozens more bands and DJs on three different stages.

The Sunday Canada Day line-up features Billy Talent, along with bands like Buckcherry and Gob. Click here for the full schedule. Tickets are still available at the main gate.

(Photos by Derek Neil Pluim)