The fourth annual Lawnya Vawnya Festival is here and gone: it was the year the fog kept Mathias and Ariel away, the year Fucked Up rocked the Rockhouse, the year Snowblink melted your hearts, and then jumped in the mosh pit at the Mr. Supper show. Here’s ten two 2s as a recap:
Top 2 Locals Who Hit the Festival Hard and Proper
Were they at every show, up in front, chilling out at the sitdown shows then starting a mosh pit at the punk shows? Yes. As were plenty of people, but none so fiercely as these two, who are also some of the best musicians in town:
Len O’Neill (of Green and Gold: http://greenandgold.bandcamp.com/album/the-body-knows)
Nick Hopkins (of The Glowing Goldstones: http://theglowinggoldstones.bandcamp.com)
Top 2 Visiting Musicians Who’ll Be Spreading the Good Word about Lawnya Vawnya
One goal every festival ought to have is to leave such a good impressions with its visiting artists, that they go away raving about their experience to other musicians who’ll then want to come here. Everyone wins. This year, these two seemed to be having the most memorable time: The guy from Monomyth with the long hair and the drummer from Snowblink (who also played as Omhouse). Not only did these two kill their own shows, they took in everything at the festival, every day, from panel chats to shows of every genre. And looked to be having more fun than anyone.
Top 2 opening Acts That Lit the Stage Up
These guys did not warm up the stage: they lit it on fire. We all came expecting it to be good, sure, but not this good. Peter Lannon with a band played big, full hearty songs any music lover would have appreciated, and made a remarkable first impression for those of us who hadn’t heard him before. Matthew J. Thomson and his big band ran a gamut of genres before closing with one of the most explosive finishing songs of the entire festival.
Top 2 Musical Marathon Champs
Not only did Steve Maloney and Kelly McMichael pull off amazing shows themselves, they also sat in for several other acts, as if session musicians for the festival. Steve in particular seemed to be playing drums for at least one band per show, and must’ve played his guitar with blistered hands on Saturday night.
Top 2 Acts You’ll Love all the More Now That You’ve Seen Them
Some bands don’t just take the stage and play, but rather, take the audience and the room to a whole other realm of a listening experience. To really get Diana, you needed to be there, sweaty and dancing to their synth-soaked sound, as the band’s musicians played, for example, two synths at once, or switched instruments halfway through a song — their singer would occasionally pick up an electric just to play a solo and toss it back from where it came. It was a damn good dance party from a very innovative band who sound exceptionally better live than they do on a record, and that’s the sign of a true band. The same could be said of Snowblink. who play one of the dreamiest, harmony filled sets you’ll see from anyone in Canada right now. The trio have the voices of angels, and make truly original and moving music together, but it’s what their singer does with her voice that really stands out: many of the songs instrumental moments have her using her voice like an instrument, doing strange little noises no instrument could make, adding something remarkable to the ethereal, entrancing music. Also: she has antlers affixed to her guitar. They cut the lights in the room to close the night with a singalong and slow dance, they know how to engage a crowd in an intimate sitdown environment, they created a Lawnya Vawnya chant that we’ll officially adopt, and they left with our hearts in their hands. Half their set was brand new songs from a forthcoming album: keep your eyes out for what could be one of the year’s hottest folky albums.
Top 2 Unfortunate Festival Happenings
The people who go to the Rocket sitdown shows, but get bored and antsy and hang out on the patio, smoking and shouting over the music inside. You’re entitled to get bored or pop out for a smoke, but we can hear you in there, buzz killers. The door is wide opened. The conversations you’re having out there aren’t as riveting as the music. Stay or go, don’t linger and be loud. No one’s faulting you for not liking a sitdown show, we’re faulting you for not liking a sitdown show but coming to one anyway.
The damn fog. Of all the bands coming to town, it had to be co-creators Mathias Kom and Ariel Sharratt of the beloved Burning Hell that couldn’t land and play for us? Really? That was sad. But nice save, with the Wobbly Pops playing in tribute.
Top 2 “Who Are Theys?” Turned into Talks of the Town
There’s always a good mix of musicians at Lawnya Vawnya, who are in various stages of their careers, and as a result, not everyone’s heard of all the bands who are in town to play. It’s hard to win over an audience who don’t know your songs — it removes that Oh, I love this song and could sing along feeling of knowing just when all the twists and turns and choruses of a song are coming. Two visiting bands, relatively obscure in comparison to some of the others, seem to have made a lasting impression: Monomyth and Kappa Chow.
Top 2 Local Bands Who Goddamn Nailed It
Before Mr. Supper started playing, Derm Kean plunked his mic stand in the audience, because he needs a ton of space to really lose his shit and mosh with the crowd as the band plays, and the band was explosive. This was an amazing show, bursting with feral energy. And it was funny to see so many quiet, folky musicians getting thunked on the chest by Derm’s flailing arms in the crowd, including the folks from Snowblink. Also, it was great to see Steve Haley playing around town again – Banded Stilts (now a Halifax band or Sackville band to some) played a fabulous set at The Ship (as well as two other shows, like troopers) with a big, full band that included accordions, banjos, and fiddles, and not skimping out on the size of the band translated well — at one point the whole crowd burst into waltzing. Drunken, beautifully clumsy waltzing.
Top 4 Exclaim Magazine Show Reviews
Every year, the Festival flies Vish Khanna to town to be the face of the festival, and he reviews much of what he sees for Exclaim. Nice to see some lovely local acts getting praise in a national publication, like Steve Maloney, Gala, Pet Vet and Monsterbator! They got a 9, from Vish, a nine!
Top 2 Rocket Room Surprises
Fog Lake playing with a full band like that. It really worked. showing a different side to his music than his recordings or solo shows. Also, how quiet Jose Contreras was. He’s got his first solo album coming out soon, so for many, this was a first glimpse at what it might sound like. Turns out the answer is the quietest sound on earth. One would expect a little more life from the man behind By Divine Right, but it was just him and his guitar, and he was barely playing the thing, and it was turned way down. It was the most quiet, bare performance of the festival. His shy-awkward stage banter and hilarious song concepts and lyrics saved the day.
Also: Pet Vet / Monsterbator / Fucked Up. Man. Killed it and killed it and killed it. Really, they killed it, ask anyone.
That the fucked up show didn’t have a single punk band on it is pretty revealing about how tuned in the LV show organizers are to any part of the local music scene that isn’t suckling on musicnl’s sagging tit.