I’ll be 41 in November. While I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy an unconventional life full of free thinkers and those on the fringe of the experimental arts, I’m settling into middle age with frightening comfort, and it gets harder and harder to drag myself out the door at 11 pm to check out new bands at bars farther from my house than the ‘stones-throw’ Ship Pub that has become my go-to for just about every social or entertainment need.
Which is the only reason I can possibly use to justify why I haven’t been going out to see Bad Plan, XBF, Kuronuma and other kick ass local bands for the past few years. I live downtown, I know these people, they work and live around me … so how did I not know what an amazing scene I’ve been missing?
Shed Island is a music festival in its 3rd year now in St John’s, playing itself out over 4 days with shows at multiple bars such as Distortion, the Peter Easton, and the Rose and Thistle. Started by a small group of friends, it is pretty much the essence of DIY culture, something these people are doing simply because no one else is doing it for them, and they can see it needs to be done.
It exists to showcase and support unusual and experimental genres/musicians and to promote an exchange between local artists working in these fields, and those in the rest of Canada, both bringing in exciting performances and strengthening outside connections for local artists wishing to tour and experience life off the island.
This is what the organizers tell me, and while I fully agree, I feel that the festival also is an amazing opportunity for out of touch 40 somethings like me to get a curated tour of what’s really exciting and new in the city. The ‘best of’ things you won’t find on a ‘best of’ list.
Largely high quality hardcore/punk and experimental electronica, there were softer moments as well. One afternoon’s pop up show made me feel I was in an early 60’s coffeehouse being serenaded by Nico of the Velvet Underground.
Out of town acts like Towanda and Syngja were mind blowing and eye opening. Who knew there were feminist punk icons who take their mom on tour? Where else do you get to see a sparkly unicorn play synth while drinking an India with a cellist who looks like a technicolour Toulouse-Lautrec?
The world of performance art and music is even larger than I knew, and I feel pretty thrilled to have had the chance to experience it. I knew it would be interesting, but I could never have known how much I was going to enjoy it.
I have a deeper appreciation for my city (we are full of so much talent) and am anticipating a richer winter due to the discoveries I made at Shed Island. In the process of creating a music festival, this crew is also creating opportunity and community for young artists. It is giving our city something it needs.