As the sun set on Friday the 13th, Kingston’s Market Square filled with revelers of all ages ready to rock the square. Lawn chairs, bleachers, and standing room were all filled early. As part of the city’s Cultural Services initiative, Friday was the kick off day for the Rockin the Square free concert series. Rueben deGroot—a Vancouver native but Kingston convert—opened the show at 8 p.m., followed by Limestone City icon Sarah Harmer.
Rueben deGroot is well-known in Kingston for his high-energy folk rock sound. His band—made up of himself, Dan Curtis on guitar, bassist Elijah Abrams, drummers Rob Radford and Mark Fraser, and keyboardist Josh Lyon—averages a hundred performances a year. The band plays everything from small-scale shows at the likes of Pan Chancho (that’s June 26th) to huge engagements like the Wolfe Island Music Festival (August 8-9). Friday’s set had a few foot-stomping classic anthems from earlier releases Pine and Hey!, but the bulk of the set came from the band’s October 2013 album Rocket Surgery. “(So Long) Charlotte” is a jazzy but relaxing, with a little calypso swing, but the show-stopping number is “These Days,” a piano ballad that gathers energy with such great lines as “It gets cold here sometimes, down to thirty below. That’s a hell of a thing to consider, I know.” Totally relatable for any Kingston resident! For anyone that missed out on Rueben deGroot’s amazing show, catch the band again many times this summer: Skeleton Park Arts Festival, Canada Day at Grass Creek Park, Wolfe Island Music Festival, and others.
Following up Rueben deGroot was headliner Sarah Harmer. She instantly thrilled the crowd by starting off with what is perhaps her best-known hit: “Almost” from 2004’s All of Our Names. Next came “One Match” from her latest album, 2010’s Oh Little Fire. What followed was a long set of classic Sarah Harmer: beautiful acoustic accompaniment to lyrics with a distinct Canadiana feel. Harmer really is a Kingston treasure, and it was real treat for her to perform a free concert for the city. After playing in town, Harmer jets off to Banff to play Performance in the Park, and then will be in Dundas in August.
For anyone who couldn’t make it out to last week’s delightful Rockin the Square, fret not. The city will be hosting a second Rockin the Square engagement on August 1st, and the headliner was just released: The Arkells will be taking the stage, performing tracks from past hit albums as well as (hopefully) their August release, High Noon. City of Kingston continues to impress with its staunch support of artists both local and from Canada more generally—don’t miss the opportunity to see these amazing acts.