John Claus, lead guitarist for Helix, revs up the crowd at Rock the Block last night.
(TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Canadian country musician Dallas Smith belts out a tune at Rock the Block 2013 on Rosser Avenue on Friday evening. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Rock fans watch as Helix performs at Rock the Block 2013 on Friday evening. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Fans crowd the stage as Dallas Smith performs at Rock the Block on Rosser Avenue in downtown Brandon on Friday evening. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
The otherwise sleepy Rosser Avenue got a rude awakening on Friday night.
Rock the Block, put on by the Brandon University Students’ Union, drew thousands of music fans to Rosser Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets to get a serious dose of rock.
Prairie darlings The Sheepdogs, along with Helix, Dallas Smith and 18 Rabbit of Brandon took to the stage during the annual event, keeping Brandon wide awake into the early morning as a wall of sound echoed through the downtown corridor.
Ryan Felstead, lead singer of 18 Rabbit — the band that won a contest to share the stage with Canadian stars — had a message for city hall during his band’s set.
"Who thinks Brandon should do more of these?" He shouted. "I don’t think city hall heard you!"
Felstead, who has been part of the local music scene for 12 years, was excited to have a chance to rock out with the crowd on Rosser.
"You can’t describe it," he said. "Everyone’s having a good time."
But just after his band’s set — the first act of the evening — Felstead said he’s unapologetically disappointed in the state of downtown.
"This downtown’s dying," he said. "It’s significantly, severely, ridiculously underutilized.
"It’s unfortunate because there’s a lot of really neat things down here ... we had the Strand Theatre, two bowling alleys, we had stuff, all these really cool local stores. Now you can fire a cannon off."
Bob Kay, a 20-year resident of Brandon, said closing off Rosser once a month during the summer would appeal to audiences while fostering the city’s music scene.
"But I could just see one incident and it’ll all be shut down for good," he said. "Brandon’s is a safe city, though."
BUSU vice-president external Jenna Clinton said Rock the Block is relatively easy to put on since the city expects it each year, and it bodes well for downtown businesses.
Event organizers were looking to broaden the age of the audience this year — not only to welcome new and returning students, but to attract the entire city.
"Last year was really directed at younger people, and this year it’s directed at everybody," Clinton said. "But there are young partiers too."
And this year, a country act — Dallas Smith — was deliberately included for good measure.
A little more than 2,000 tickets were sold in advance, leaving organizers hoping for around 1,000 people to buy at the gate in order to match last year’s numbers.
BUSU estimates the event will end up costing more than $100,000, funds it hopes to earn back with ticket sales along with alcohol sales.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 14, 2013