Chatham Daily News: Mellencamp Delivers Wild Night

Chatham Daily News

About 15,000 Bayfest concertgoers were hoping their wild night Friday won’t hurt so good in the morning.

Legendary roots rocker John Mellencamp was the headliner for Sarnia Rogers Bayfest’s second night.

The 60-year-old singer-songwriter - inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 - brought his infectious brand of foot-stomping American heartland rock north of the border, playing a 75-minute set.

Mellencamp may have dropped the Cougar years ago, but he was still able to make the Bayfest crowd roar with a catalogue that includes 22 top-40 hits.

Following an introduction proclaiming him “an advocate of free speech for all,” Mellencamp launched into Authority Song.

“I fight authority, authority always wins,” he sang, accompanied by the crowd.

Fans continued to sing along throughout his set, including during an acoustic version of megahit Jack and Diane.

Sources said actress Meg Ryan was waiting backstage as Mellencamp performed.

“The best thing about Mellencamp is you can put the needle down and you can play whatever and not get bored of it,” said former DJ Curtis Dewar.

The 42-year-old Sarnia native is a veteran of more than ten Bayfests, but had never seen Mellencamp play.

“He’s got his pop stuff,, but he’s also got his laid back, ‘let’s have a beer and sit in a lawn chair’ stuff,” Dewar added.

The Cowboy Junkies got things going shortly before 7 p.m. in front of a growing crowd. Guitars and harmonicas blared as the country-infused folk rockers played a set spanning more than a quarter-century of songs. The early crowd erupted when they heard the opening riff of Sweet Jane, a Velvet Underground cover and the band's biggest single.

The Sheepdogs were up next, opening with the hard, slow driving radio hit Who? and mixing it up with slower grooves like Southern Dreaming.

The four-piece bluesy rock outfit from Saskatoon came to town riding its most successful year since forming in 2006. The Sheepdogs catapulted from unsigned band to multiple Juno Award-recipients after winning a contest to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

The alcoholic beverages were flowing again on night two of the festival.

Bayfest attendees can drink their way through up to 32 palettes of beer in the first two nights, said Terry Slowka, who’s in charge of beverages for the festival.

Servers will dispense about 15 cases of hard liquor, 1,200 bottles of pop 3,000 pounds of ice per night, Slowka added.

The tents are manned by volunteers from three different local organizations - St. Clair Child and Youth, the St. Clair Tae Kwon Do club, an the Sarnia Kinsmen.

Slowka said liquor sales peak early in the night, and level off as responsible drinkers slow down.

Heavy metal heroes Iron Maiden will headline night three of Bayfest Saturday, accompanied by Alice Cooper and Bleeker Ridge.