X92.9 brings music, fear and loathing to the Rockies one last time

One Weekend Only 5 had come to an end — and as I headed back to Calgary I had over a day’s worth of tape, two cameras full of pictures and vague memories of robots, hot tubs and fog machines to sort through.

For the past five years, attending One Weekend Only has been one of the prizes dangled in front listeners of X92.9, the city’s alternative radio station. Being caller nine won a ticket to a beer-fueled romp through Banff, with two nights of free music on the station’s tab.

Dan Mangan shows off his novelty Banff t-shirt at OWO5. 
Photo by Ryan Rumbolt

But this year marked the end of the annual contest, and for past winners, it was also the end of an era.

Steve White has been to four out of the five OWO’s — most of which were sponsored by a  brewery — and knows how wild the weekend trip can be.

“It’s like Christmas day for adults,” White says. “I look forward to it all year.

“There’s never a dull moment, and by the time it’s finally over you never want to leave. If you’ve never experienced it it’s hard to understand. The best comparison I can make is that it’s like summer camp when you were a kid — you have so much fun that you want to cry when you have to leave.”

Being the last instalment of the annual contest anything could happen, and I was there to capture it all — from the first beer to last call.

One more time around

This wasn’t my first OWO. I was my roommate’s plus one at the very first OWO, so I had an idea of what to expect over the weekend.

9Past OWO’s featured some big-name entertainment, including Metric, Matthew Good and Public Enemy. This year’s line-up was just as star-studded, with performances by The Dudes, Mother Mother and City and Colour.But the music is only one part of the OWO story. White says the atmosphere of the party is as big a draw as any headlining act.

“It’s great because you see a lot of the same people and I’ve become great friends with some of the people I’ve met, so it’s had a lasting effect on my daily life as well,” says White. “The interesting part is that there are always lots of new friends to make every year.”

While OWO has been characterized as a wild weekend by fans, the station made a noticeable change in trying to curb the enthusiasm of ne’er-do-well winners.
In years past, the station would hand out cans of beer to the winners before heading out to Banff. But this year the only complimentary beverage was bottled water.

Talking to James (Newsboy) Callsen, X92.9’s resident reporter, I found out the zero-tolerance for liquor on and before the bus was an attempt to cut down on cases of alcohol-related mischief.

“Nothing that I’ve encountered has been that bad,” says Callsen of rowdy past contest winners. “But there have been situations of people being (expletive), and most of it is just alcohol related.”

The event-sanctioned prohibition didn’t last long, though. Soon it was just like the OWO’s of old with servers and beverages greeting the booze-deprived crowd in the hotel lobby. One pair of winners even broke out their home made beer bong to celebrate.

The hotel bar went from empty to full capacity quicker than you can say “Jagger bombs,” as hotel room parties could be heard off in the distance getting into full — some of which seemed to keep rolling until it was time to leave two days later.

Full of surprises

I mentioned earlier about how anything can happen on OWO, and OWO5 was no exception. But the element of surprise didn’t just extend to the party, but the music as well.

The station got OWO5 kicked off with a surprise set by Calgary duo Double Fuzz, who got the lubricated crowd off to a head-bangingly good start with their hooky riffs, spaced-out vocals and hard-rock beats.

But the night one’s biggest “WTF?” moment came when The Dudes frontman Danny Vacon went off on an expletive-filled tangent about his dislike for Mother Mother’s drummer Ali Siadat.

Interestingly enough I had just met Siadat a few minutes before the rant and he seemed like a nice enough guy. I guess I will never know what happened to spark the outburst — another OWO mystery added to the list.

Night two was decidedly toned down from night one’s rock and roll bill, but it still kept me guessing. How would Dan Mangan’s folksy crooning and Dallas Green’s acoustic set compare to The Dudes and Mother Mother’s dynamic displays?

But the more laid back feel of the second night worked well with my hangover and Green entertained fans not only with his songs but also with his stories and anecdotes, developing a real connection with the audience.

There was a really great moment during Mangan’s set when a group of cardboard-headed robots rushed the stage, getting the entire crowd singing and swaying along during the song “Robots.”

But no amount of robot love can last forever, and before long the concert was over. It was back to the hotel for one last round of OWO hotel madness, which included warm beers and a midnight game of hallway Twister.

What’s next for X?

Now the days of waiting for November’s OWO contest over, and just like all the OWO5 winners I felt like I had been front row to the end of chapter in Calgary radio history.

But it would seem that when the radio gods close a door, they tend to open a window. OWO may have come to an end, but X92.9 has more in store for listeners.
“We’ve got something really cool planned,” says Chris Lynch, one of X92.9’s afternoon DJs. “But I can’t tell you.”

What a tease.

The station is more forward about its plans for a third instalment of their flagship summer festival, XFEST for 2013.

“We’re trying next year to make it an even bigger monster,” says Lynch of XFEST. “And if it does well maybe do a two-day, Lollapalooza-type deal. So we’re starting to build on it slowly.”

But even with the promise of more to come, White says he’s still sad that OWO has come to an end.

“It’s really sad that it’s over but I think it’s awesome that X did it for five years running and I’m sure that whatever they come up with next will be awesome too,” says White. “I am very grateful to X for the opportunity to attend all these awesome events, and as long as they keep coming up with great ideas I will keep trying to win.”

What do you think of this?