Once again the clock strikes Lawnya Vawyna. A long weekend of artful merriment that’s become not only a tradition for St. John’s musicians, artists, and fans, but also a growing staple that puts a tight-knit scene under the lens of the whole country.
It’s a festival that showcases the best and brightest local up-and-comers, and places them as peers alongside the visiting bands for a few days of fun and community building. Each year the stakes increase — the CFAs seem to be bigger and bigger, and the inevitable local reunions more memorable.
Alongside Mightypop, Lawnya Vawnya is one of the most evangelist events of our music scene, getting eyes on local talent through the catalyst of big name visitors. The register of past visitors reads like a who’s-who of Canadian indie talent: Wolf Parade, Julie Doiron, Braids, Weather Station, Dilly Dally, and an endless list of established travelers who have called St. John’s home for a few days in May.
But it’s not just the household names that make the trip each year. Plenty of lesser-known, hardworking touring acts get to explore a part of the country that’s just not possible to get to on lean tour budgets. Artists on their way up, or who have carved out a niche that doesn’t get a lot of exposure here.
Every year, the Lawnya Vawnya organizing committee does a masterful job weeding through the applications and bringing in a diverse crowd from far and wide. This year, Alvvays and Land of Talk sit at the top of the poster (and rightfully so). One is a critical and commercial darling hot off their sophomore release, and the other a reunited and reinvigorated cult staple.
But what about the undercard? Those that may not be on the tip of the tongue of the show-going populace. That haven’t yet gotten their chance to show off their goods. Here’s a varied list of some selects that you should catch while they’re here.
PEI’s dreamy, gazey, poppy export has been one of my favourite hidden gems of the Maritimes since I saw them at the ECMAs in 2016. There’s a subtle power in Emily Sorrey’s voice. It’s both full and sweet, and the layers that support it are radiant and dynamic. My vote for the darkhorse breakout surprise of the festival.
Clairemont the Second
Juno nominated hip hop from Toronto that’s slick, sensual, and on the verge of a breakout. There’s echoes of the off-beat styles of Chance the Rapper and some underground raw appeal. It’ll be an awesome change of pace from the rock and folk that make up the bulk of the bill.
The noise aficionado in me is psyched about this gritty post-hardcore group of Haligonians. It’s riff based chaos in a wall of sound. It’s reminiscent of Swords and Bridges, so St. John’s hardcore kids of both yesteryear and current year should be in attendance.
The lineup is solid through and through. Lawnya Vawnya does an excellent job bringing in a slate of musicians from all corners, from all sounds, from all walks of life. Get your passes. I’ll see you there.