Tuesday night saw the 2019 edition of the Halifax Jazz Festival kick off in style. The organizers lined up a pair of top-notch emcees to headline the opening night on the main stage. At the top of the bill was Oscar award-winning performer Common, who has recently wrapped up his forthcoming record (an album that features future Halifax performer Daniel Caesar) Let Love. Opening the night was former CBC Q host, and current host of the series The Evolution of Hip Hop, Shad. Needless to say, it was a bill built for the Haligonian hip-hop heads who turned up in droves to soak in the premium flows of these two talented artists.
It had been 5 years since Shad graced a Halifax stage, a fact that he apologized for during his fiery set. Then for the next 30+ minutes, Haligonians were treated to a thought-provoking set of tunes from the Ontario-based emcee. No matter how many times you hear “The Fool Pt. 1 (Get It Got It Good)” or “Stylin’”, they sound as fresh as they did the first time you heard them. While it wasn’t an overly long set, it was jam packed with slick flow and intricate wordplay. Fans of acts such as Talib Kweli, Mos Def and early Childish Gambino would have been right at home here. Hopefully Shad is back on stage in Halifax sooner than later.
Hip hop luminary Common then made his way on to the Halifax Jazz Festival stage. From the opening track, you knew that this wasn’t going to be a performance that was raw and unhinged; there was no bombastic entrance, instead Common strode onstage and sat pensively in a white chair off to the side of the stage before grooving into “Her Love” (the Daniel Caesar collab). It was a set that was equal parts spoken word performance, one man show, and hip-hop show. For an artist that has been in the game for well over two decades, it’s no surprise that he has a natural comfort level on stage, but it is equally apparent that he has built a career beyond the microphone as well. The performance was solid, but it also felt a bit stale, as everything felt planned and choreographed right down to the <<insert city here>> shout outs.
This isn’t to say people didn’t love Common’s set, the crowd bounced and swayed right along with him, but there wasn’t an edge, or dynamism about the performance. There were shades of vintage Common that gleamed through, but it was largely the smooth, well-polished current-day performer that we all know and love, but ironically enough Common’s set veered closer to middle of the road, commonplace fare, rather than a rousing, dramatic affair. It was the first night of many during Halifax’s week-long Jazz Festival that had something for everyone, and it was a treat to see Common and Shad kick the week off.
With the Halifax Jazz Festival, organizers have a way of putting on shows that carry a reverence for those who were standing in the audience, from shows featuring Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Lauren Hill to War on Drugs, among countless others. The level of talent the TD Halifax Jazz Festival brings to the Halifax waterfront is almost unparalleled. For those nights where the weather co-operates and offers up little more than a cool sea breeze, the Jazz Fest experience can be intoxicating and magical. On Thursday night, the bill consisted of The Barr Brothers and newly minted Haligonian Bahamas.
Montreal-based The Barr Brothers are no strangers to Halifax, having played back in 2016 at the Halifax Pop Explosion in the Halifax Forum Multipurpose Centre. The band has also headlined at the Marquee Ballroom, packing the room for their folky alt-country styling. As a testament to the band’s popularity in Halifax, a healthy crowd crammed in for what I was expecting to be a subtle, somewhat low-key affair. Instead, what we were treated to was one of my favourite sets of the entirety of the Halifax Jazz Festival. It was a set that was bluesy and atmospheric, reminding some of last year’s equally mind-bending set from The War on Drugs.
Each song was its own journey, not over a scant 2-3 minutes, but notes were bent and soundscapes were created over these musical soundscapes that stretched out over 6-7 minutes of pure magic. The sounds and tones that Brad Barr was able to create with his collection of guitars was otherworldly, from playing the guitar by pulling intertwined threads from the strings, instead of plucking or strumming. It was also these tones that Barr was able to elicit from the guitar itself that reminded me of how perfectly The Barr Brothers were suited to open for Bahamas. There were folky moments interspersed throughout the set, but this was firmly a bluesy, atmospheric night for the band, which undoubtedly caused more than a single jaw to hit the floor. It was one of those perfect musical nights where all the elements aligned to make for one of the best nights of live music that I have experienced (and we still had the headliner ahead of us).
Closing out the show was the talented Afie Jurvanen AKA Bahamas, who is no stranger to these parts, having sold out the past two visits to the Rebecca Cohn auditorium, and who recently moved his family to the city. You couldn’t have asked for a better night either, as there was minimal fog and a slight breeze blowing in, and the hazer on stage was providing a degree of texture for the stage lights. If the grounds weren’t previously packed for The Barr Brothers, they definitely were when Bahamas and his band hit the stage. In addition to his pink Strat, the Bahamas lead was joined by Jason Tait on drums, Darcy Yates on bass, Christine Bougie on guitar and the insanely talented vocalist Felicity Williams providing vocal context against the gruffer, low-end register of Afie’s lead vocal.
For close to 90 minutes, Bahamas delighted the crowd with a set loaded with dreamy folk-pop tunes from the band’s latest album Earthtones, along with several fan favourites including “Stronger Than That”, “Your Sweet Touch” and “Lost in the Light”. This show also marked the first time I have seen an artist close out their main set with a well-known cut (“Lost in the Light”), only to return to the stage and kick off the encore with the same tune (this time in a more sing-along rendition). Initially it seemed like a ruse, but then the band started up, and sure enough the train left the station for a second time. It was something that seemed very much in line with his wry, witty personality. Those eagle-eyed folks closer to the stage would have caught that Afie’s wife and kids were taking in the show from side stage as well. The show had the “contractually obligated” stroll off stage, pause, and return, for which the crowd was treated to the aforementioned sing-along, along with a pair of cuts, “Way With Words” and “Any Place”, which could clearly be heard by the folks down on the ferry.
It was another fantastic night staged by the Halifax Jazz Festival organizers, where two talented bands took to the stage and wowed the ever-appreciative crowd. This will be one of those nights that I look back upon with great reverence, recalling the performance that The Barr Brothers put on; and it will live alongside legendary performances from the likes of Sharon Jones and St. Vincent. If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here picking my jaw up from the floor, thanks Barr Brothers.
This past weekend saw Matt Andersen take to the stage at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium for a pair of shows with the stellar Mellotones which marked the end of his homecoming Maritime trek with opening act Bobby Bazini. It was a fitting room in which to wrap up this tour, as it was a room that he played as a solo act a couple years prior, and at that time had another talented singer/songwriter in Donovan Woods opening, his soulful voice, and his mastery of the guitar in his hands are well suited for the room. There were moments on this Sunday evening, that Matt Andersen’s soulful voice evoked the same soulful grit and emotion of Van “the Man” Morrison.
It was roughly this time last year that Andersen teamed up with the incredibly talented collection of musicians otherwise known as the Mellotones and headlined Saturday Night at the Halifax TD Jazz Festival. As a solo artist, Matt Andersen is nothing short of a wonder in the way that he imposes his will on the stage, needing little more than a guitar and microphone to dazzle audiences. By then coupling that talent with an equally talented backing band such as the Mellotones who are more than capable of moving audiences with their soul and R&B chops, it’s a match made in heaven, with both acts elevating the other. The majority of the performance had the Mellotones backing Andersen, but for a trio of songs in the middle of the set, the Mellotones headed off stage leaving a solo Matt Andersen standing center stage, ready to keep the night moving along.
Now on this warm early Summer’s eve, scores of fans teamed into the Cohn to catch the second of two Halifax shows, packing the room to near capacity. Looking around at the attendees, it was clearly an older demographic taking in the show with little more than a handful of young people in attendance. It was never more apparent than when Matt was introducing his song “What would your Mama Say”, as he joked that growing up he had a healthy fear of the wooden spoon, a spoon that his mother would claim was stowed safely in her handbag in the event that Andersen or his siblings ever got out of line. The applause following his quip that the world needs more wooden spoons would indicate that the majority of concert goers also feared a wooden cooking implement themselves (I know I did).
When there is an announcement that Matt Andersen is coming to town, it is one of those shows that immediately inscribed on the calendar encircled in red, as you can guarantee it is a show worth every penny (and doubly so when the Mellotones are backing Andersen up). Sunday night only went to reinforce this fact. Matt and the Mellotones played for close to two full hours, and played a large swath of material from his most recent album Halfway Home by Morning including “Free Man”, “Over Me”, the tribute to his Uncle Joe “Quarter on the Ground (A Song for Uncle Joe)”, there was the occasional cover thrown in for great measure too. In the first part of the set, Andersen broke out The Band’s “Ophelia” which was a fantastic swampy romp through the New Orleans bayou. To close the night out, Andersen returned to the stage to perform “Helpless” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with a little help from pal Erin Costello who was fresh from the airport. It was a special way to cap off a stellar evening of R&B and Soul.
It had been 10 years since opening act Bobby Bazini played in Halifax (supporting James Blunt), and if we’re being completely honest, I was unfamiliar with the Quebecois singer/songwriter upon entering the Rebecca Cohn on Sunday Night. It did however only take a handful of songs to win me over. Bazini’s smooth soulful tone will certainly draw comparisons to Rod Stewart, and at times Hozier. His material evokes the quiet intimacy of sitting in a dimly lit cabaret, while having an ease and accessibility. Bazini was a great choice to open up the evening, and he mentioned we might see him back here sooner than later performing more of his material. Do yourself a favor, and if you see that either Bazini or Matt Andersen are playing in your area, you owe it to yourself to snag a ticket and head to the show, because you will be in for a treat.
It’s hard to believe the clip that time moves at sometimes, but you take your eyes off of the ball for a moment and 2 months have whipped on by. I’m still marveling that we’re already half-way through June, but at least we’re finally seeing some sun shining out there. Hopefully you’ve been out there enjoying some of this warmth, and hopefully a few of these songs find their way to your summer soundtrack. This list is primarily from our mailbag, where we are constantly getting a steady stream of new music, and we wanted to highlight some of the songs catching our ears.
Remember, if you have a new single coming out in the coming weeks and months, drop us a line, and we’ll give it a listen and work on featuring you in one of our Mixdowns, or elsewhere on the site. Also, we’d love to find out what our readers have been listening to as well, so feel free to shoot us a comment on any of our social media platforms and we can dig into those tunes as well.
The Fell – “Dancing on a Glass Floor”
The Fell - Dancing on a Glass Floor (Official Music Video) - YouTube
This is an interesting tune, as it has a great alt-rock sound, but it also manages to bring in a definite Nashville pop-country flavor to the music as well. The production is crisp and clean, and clearly has a country vibe running through its veins. It may not rocket to the top of the charts tomorrow, but it’s song that deserves your attention, and it will potentially latch on to your ears.
Dylyn – “Secret”
DYLYN - Secret (Official Music Video) - YouTube
DYLYN is an interesting voice in the Ontario music scene, as she’s been crafting interesting and engaging pop music for a number of years now, and she is poised to be the next breakout star following in Bulow’s footsteps. Her latest single “Secret” is a sultry number that will have people likening her to Lana Del Rey, albeit slightly more upbeat. Have a listen, and maybe you too will have a Secret for your friends.
Union Duke – “Ladidadida”
Union Duke - Ladidadida - YouTube
This is a nothing short of a Jam, plain and simple. Smackdab in an alt-country, folk, pop venn diagram lies Union Duke. Their track “Ladidadida” is as infectious as it is smooth, and just an absolute pleasure for the ears. I wasn’t familiar with these fellas before, but you can be sure that I will looking for an opportunity to catch their live performance. Once of my favorite tunes to come through our mailbag.
Chout – “Pick Me Up”
Chout - Pick Me Up (Official Video) - YouTube
Let me start off by saying the name of the band irks me, and I expected the music to do the very same, however when I heard lead singer Brendan Maier’s voice and how much it reminded me of the late Layne Stanley, I was hooked. The band is definitely a throwback to the height of 90’s Seattle grunge, but it doesn’t feel like some cheap ploy to draw in listeners. Fans of vintage Alice in Chains should check these guys out.
Natalie Lynn – “One”
Natalie Lynn - One (live at The Marquee Ballroom) - YouTube
It’s clear that Natalie Lynn has found her lane, and she has put the pedal to the floor. This live performance of her single “One ” was recorded at the fabled Marquee Ballroom in Halifax, NS and she just wrapped up a fierce set at the Garrison Brewing’s Backlot Bash this past weekend. The talented singer songwriter has put together a fierce lead single in “One”, and showcases her high-powered pop-rock vibes. Catch her while you can, before the rest of the country steals her away.
On Tuesday night, the Scotiabank Centre shook off the remnants of the Memorial Cup hangover after a great 10 days, and played host to a pair of Canadian legends on a rare beautiful spring evening. For many of us in attendance, the music of both Corey Hart and Glass Tiger was woven tightly into the soundtracks of our lives. I would argue that if you couldn’t sing “Sunglasses at Night” in your sleep, that you clearly didn’t live through the Can-Con classic that has been seemingly ubiquitous since its release in 1983. While that is the song that is instantly identifiable, there are many other songs that are built into that tapestry of our Canadian soundscape, and it wasn’t until Hart’s induction at the Juno Hall of Fame earlier this year, that I realized how many songs I actually knew, and that made up my own personal soundtrack growing up through the ’80s.
For those in attendance on Tuesday, it was clear there was a line drawn in the generational sand, where the room was jam packed with Boomers and Gen X-ers, and some Gen Z-ers as well, but it wasn’t a room where the Millennial/Influencer generation felt the need to tread, having not grown up with the music. This could also be largely to the fact that Hart made a choice to step away from the stage in the late ’90s to focus on his family, which is largely unheard of these days. Especially as, he explained to the crowd, he spent many hours as a young lad standing in front of a mirror singing into a toothbrush, dreaming of one day stepping into that spotlight. It was clear that the connection that he established with his fans over 35 years ago was not only intact, but healthy and strong. There were plenty of vintage shirts hauled out of storage for this occasion, not to mention signs, and unabashed singing and dancing; the ’80s were revived on this evening.
There was very clearly a satellite stage set up toward the opposite end of the area where a few chairs, couches and a piano were, and about hallway through his set, Corey and a few members of his band (and his photographer) made their way through the ecstatic crowd taking pictures and shaking hands the entire way. Once he settled down at the piano, he continued to tell stories, including one about the fear of losing his prize possession to a failed romance, entitled “She Got the Radio”, in which (as you guessed it) losing that radio was perceived to be the worst possible scenario in a doomed romance. He then met a pair of best friends: Michelle Belliveau, who had emailed Corey earlier in the day in an effort to ease the emotional and physical burden of best friend Jackie Koszucki, who was enjoying a much-needed night out before starting treatment for a recent cancer diagnosis. Corey welcomed them to the couch alongside his piano and serenaded the pair with the well-known and apt “I Am by Your Side”. Corey then turned his attention to the love of his life Julie “Maggie” Masse, and as it was her birthday the day prior, performed the song he wrote for her entitled “Third of June”.
It was then time for the entourage to make their way back to the main stage, where Corey wrapped up his primary set with another well-placed (and well-known) cover of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love”. Corey and his band headed for the backstage area. After what felt like an extended absence, they returned with a powder keg of an encore as the Scotiabank Centre became a discotheque for a moment, awash in light and electronic music, which eventually gave way for those iconic opening synth beats of “Sunglasses at Night”, for which the crowd remained on their feet and happily danced along. We were treated to a pair of covers (from Coldplay and Robert Palmer respectively), and Hart closed out the evening with the title track to his 2019 tour “Never Surrender”. It was at this point of the evening I hit the road in an effort to get ahead of traffic, and as I popped out my earplugs, I was astounded at just how loud the show sounded from the concourse.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other Canadian classic on the bill, Glass Tiger, who brought everything full circle for this lifelong music fan. Back when the band was first starting out, and making the rounds on what I can only assume was a promo tour, they made a stop in Halifax and played atop the Zellers which at that time was part of the thriving Bayers Road Shopping Centre. That would have been roughly 33 years ago when I attended my first “concert”, of the hundreds at which I’ve been in attendance. Say what you will about still being together and touring after 33 years, that’s not accounting for Alan Frew’s recovery from a stroke a few years ago, and a recent accident that left him with a broken neck. A neck which was providing some visible discomfort throughout the evening’s performance, but it was a performance that Frew was not going to miss, even against the wishes of his medical advisers. It was a treat to see Glass Tiger take to the stage and play a swath of their well-known material, and it served as the ideal opener to this evening, which was a clear celebration of the ’80s.
There are plenty of rooms in town for acts to play, many of which do a damn fine job of hosting these singers, songwriters and bands, but few are as majestic and magical as seeing a show at St. Matthews’s United Church. This isn’t a room for those that we salute and are about to rock, it’s a room to revel in the intimacy and craft of singer songwriters. Which is why St. Matt’s has played host to acts such as Royal Wood, Hannah Georgas, Hayden, Donovan Woods, Majical Cloudz and most recently Hawksley Workman. I can’t explain what it is to walk into this space, find a spot in one of the many pews and to take in the beauty and craftsmanship of the woodwork and detailing of the windows and organ pipes. I personally get lost in the pattern of the window which lies just below the arch’s apex, and while I may not be overly religious, I can assure you music is proof enough of a higher power, and it is at that Alter where I choose to worship.
Hawksley Workman is a longtime fixture of the Canadian Music Scene, having garnered a great deal of success in the early aughts with the breakthrough single “striptease”. While that served as an introduction for many, that single was in fact a single from his 3rd full length album (last night we were) The Delicious Wolves. That is the modus operandi of Workman’s career, for as prolific as it is, he has toiled just beneath the surface of stardom for long stretches, but never once veering towards anonymity. He has built a loyal and devoted fanbase, as the congregation at St. Matthew’s United Church can attest. For some, Median Age Wasteland served as a reintroduction to Hawksley and his music.
For a large portion of his career, Hawksley has been creating interesting, avant-garde, indie-rock with an operatic flourish here, or a folky undertone there. With Median Age Wasteland the folky singer-songwriter has come to the forefront of his music, that same left of centre indie vibe is still bubbling at the heart of the record, but these aural canvases showcase exactly how great and engaging a story-teller Workman is. From the very first time “Battlefords” emanated from my speakers, I was immediately transported back to the early 80’s, biking alongside friends to the local corner store and connecting immediately to that disapproving Akela. It was a snapshot of a childhood many rural kids shared, and was immediately brought vividly back to life.
The expanse of the church gave the sparse tune “Snowmobile” a haunting, atmospheric vibe of being out on those forest trails in the dead of winter. It’s this immediately relatable experience, or topic that draws the listener into Workman’s material, but not only are the songs engaging, but I’m pretty sure half of the evening at St. Matt’s was spent listening to Hawksley’s tales of travelling to Eaton’s all gussied up to buy some Legos, or buying a snowmobile known full-well it may also be the vehicle that takes him to his grave.
Hawksley reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a handful of songs from those first three (of thirteen) albums including an impromptu rendition of “Bullets” off of his debut For Him and hisGirls which was a request from a member of the congregation. His songs and stories were nothing, if not heartfelt and genuine, there wasn’t a gloss or veneer applied and for the better part of almost 2 hours the crowd sat rapt. The congregation was along for the ride, be it a story or song and had Hawksley wanted to continue storytelling, we could all still be there, listening contently (if a bit wearier than when we entered the room).
Is it just me? Or is alternative rock the new jazz? I’m saying only a select few listen to it, but we know that back in it’s heyday, it was the thing that people couldn’t stop talking about it everywhere. Nowadays, it’s harder to come by, but still mainly appreciated. Anyway, I thought I’d make a list of just that. Here’s the latest on the street…
Beauts – “The City Loves Me”
One of our city’s upcoming bands, Beauts continues to impress me. With each and every release they’ve tiptoed through different genres, from 2016’s self-titled, featuring the rock-arranged energetic track, “After All”, to the cheerful indie pop of “Artisans”, found on their 2016 single. The latest track, “The City Loves Me”, feels very ’80s, with elements similar to Joy Division mixed with early R.E.M. I feel this song is about the city dragging you down, but at the same time getting lost in its charm. Give it a listen.
The City Loves Me (Radio Edit) - YouTube
Hyness – “Choke”
I particularly love this track, cause it reminds me of how cool the ’90s were, and also how vocalist Amy Addams reminds me of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. You know, the I’m too cool for this music video. Oh and btw, this band is named “Hyness”, as in, “yes, your highness”. They’re also from Kitchener, making a name for themselves. I love the guitar fuzz in this track, there are hints of Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice” in the intro, but this is a very chill song to lounge to.
There’s also a cover of The Smith’s “Hand In Glove” that these guys did, floating around the internet. It’s off of their EP, “The End Of Music”. I’m sure you’ll find it.
Hyness - Choke - YouTube
Blessed – “Disease”
From Van City – if you love the vocals of The Killers’ Brandon Flowers, mixed with a dark and downbeat tempo, you are gonna dig this. This is the band Blessed, from their debut album that came out at the beginning of the year, called “Salt”. Which I thought could have fit on The Cure’s “Disintegration” album. The track starts off slow, but once you get into the chorus it hits hard with a power drive that takes you through to the rest of the song. After one listen, you are hooked.
Blessed - Disease - YouTube
Black Foxxes – “Sæla”
The Black Foxxes came out with their sophomore album “Reiði” last year, and it was highly praised for its emotionally-driven story. It’s gloomy at some points and upbeat in others, and it’s about reaching in inside, and just letting it all out. The album was written by lead vocalist Mark Holley, who spent his time isolated in Iceland; which I find kinda cool, having just visited the country myself, and having that experience to reflect on everything and life in general. I think that’s part of the story that this album is trying to portray.
With tonight’s Memorial Cup final set as a rematch of the President’s Cup final, between the host Halifax Mooseheads and the QMJHL Champs, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, we wanted to revisit the opening night of the tournament when the Prince Albert Raiders visited our barn.
The electricity in the Scotiabank Centre was palpable, and the city was ready to cheer on the home team as they started their trek to the Memorial Cup (a cup the Moose won back in 2013). It was a night on which we saw Jean-Sebastian Giguere drop the opening puck and start the evening off. After a hard fought game, the Mooseheads would walk away with their first of two wins, which would set them up with a healthy lead in the standings and at least a visit to the semi-finals. It was those two initial wins which would earn the team a bye to Sunday’s finals, even with dropping Wednesday’s game 4-3 to the same Huskies that they are poised to face again in the finals. Go Moose Go, let’s finally show those Huskies that they are indeed in Moose Country, and let’s bring home that Memorial Cup.
When the initial press release announced Metric’s Art of Doubt tour, July Talk was initially the sole opener on the bill. As the Eastern Canada leg of the tour neared, Murray A. Lightburn (better known as The Dears front-man) was added. All three of the acts have been (or are) long-time darlings of the Canadian indie-rock scene: Metric formed in ’98 but only released their debut album in 2003, July Talk has two albums under its belt, having formed back in 2012, and The Dears formed back in 1995, and released their debut in 2000. It was a treat to have this trio of Canuck acts back on a Halifax stage after an extended absence.
The Scotiabank Centre’s concert bowl set-up was sparsely populated, with people continuing to fill the venue when the lights went down and a sharply dressed Murray A. Lightburn walked on stage carrying little more than his guitar. As an opening act, Lightburn’s airy, retrospective songs were certainly not a jolt to the collective group, instead they were more of a gentle jostling of the senses (think of waking up to a brewing pot of coffee). There was little in the way of banter, as he got right down to business and treated the Halifax crowd to a tightly packed 7-song set, which focused largely on his recent solo album Hear Me Out, but also included The Dears’ “Ticket to Immortality” and “There Goes My Outfit”. This was a set that would be perfectly suited to a room like the Carleton, where you could drink in these songs in a more intimate setting.
Then it was time for Toronto-based July Talk to take to the stage, complete with an oversized moon backdrop, and an inflatable moon suspended above the back corner of the stage. Peter, Leah, Ian, Danny, and Josh have always understood the importance of trekking East to play the Maritime stages, much like legendary Canadian acts such as Blue Rodeo, and the Tragically Hip. Having grown their own legend by playing The Carleton (and befriending local legend Mike Campbell) and rooms such as the Marquee, it is a testament to their talent and craft that they find themselves back on the Scotiabank Centre stage. Their previous show in Halifax found the band playing alongside The Beaches (another rock band on the rise) and Matt Mays, on the very same stage the band found themselves on this Thursday evening.
After an acknowledgement that the band was playing on Mi’kmaq lands, July Talk launched into a set comprised largely of well-known and beloved songs, many of which have received ample airplay across the country. While the idea that July Talk only has a pair of full-length LPs under their belt seems a bit hard to believe, you then have to consider the number of times the band has traversed this vast nation to share their music with a growing legion of fans. There is even a core group of fans who have dubbed themselves July Talk Superfans, some of whom have been to 40+ shows (one of whom was attending her 49th JT show in Halifax and would make Moncton’s show #50). That bond between band and fans is apparent at every show where Leah will make her way off stage and out to the crowd, to interact with the inflatable moon, to share some vocal duties, or just to shake some hands like a seasoned politician.
On this night the band was as sharp (and as loud) as they have ever been, and in among their well-known material, they wove in a handful of new songs such as “The News”, “Pay For It”, “Still the Sacred Can Fall” and “Pretender”, which are sure to become set staples as they are road tested and included on the band’s forthcoming album. It was a treat to see that searing intimacy between Peter and Leah return, as it had been lacking in the past couple of July Talk shows here; that playful energy just adds to the entire experience of their live show. While the focus may get squarely placed on that dynamic duo, Danny Miles, Ian Docherty and Josh Warburton round out the July Talk sound.
Much like any other July Talk show I’ve been to (and there have been a few), the question then becomes “How can anyone follow that?!”. Fortunately, as a longtime headlining act, Metric has more than their share of experience of following up potent supporting acts such as July Talk. Emily Haines and her bandmates in Metric are no strangers to the East Coast, having most recently played here as part of the 2016 TD Halifax Jazz Festival.
Metric may not exactly be a household name to many, but if you flip on a rock radio station in this country, it’s not long before you hear one of the band’s songs such as “Youth Without Youth”, “Stadium Love”, or “Combat Baby”, and that is just a sampling of well-known Metric songs that are staples of radio playlists in Canada, and a handful of the songs that didn’t make the cut for Thursday night’s show in Halifax. It was a set that was firmly focused on the band’s most recent album Art of Doubt, as roughly a third of it pulled from the 2018 release, including the latest single “Risk”, “Dark Saturday”, “Now or Never Now”, and “Dressed to Suppress”. It’s an album well suited to an arena stage show, as the songs are massive rock tunes awash in guitars and synth.
The remainder of the set pulled from the band’s deep discography, going all the way back to their debut record Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? with “Dead Disco”, also the well-known pair of cuts “Synthetica” and “Breathing Underwater” from 2012’s Synthetica. Then they dusted off the great “Black Sheep”, a cut from the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World soundtrack circa 2010. This is another one of those Metric tunes that is still garnering steady radio airplay, as it is inherently catchy and will lodge itself in your ear for hours at a time. In addition to this collection of tunes, Metric paid homage to their 2009 release Fantasies with a handful of cuts, such as “Help I’m Alive”, “Twilight Galaxy”, “Gold Guns Girls” and “Gimme Sympathy”.
It was a set chock full of instantly recognizable songs, many of which are still getting love from rock radio. Emily Haines was busy getting those steps in, as she bounded across the stage effortlessly to engage the fans on either side of the arena, pausing only at times to take up residence at her dual keyboard setup. The energetic set was awash in the neon colours beaming from the elaborate light board backing the stage. The board was a perfect fit for these synthy, electronica-based tunes and elevated the set, and kept the crowd enthralled throughout the 15 songs and subsequent 5 song encore. Hopefully we don’t see Metric stay away as long this time before they return to the East Coast, it was great way to cap off a fantastic night of Canadian indie rock.
Festivals aren’t always the easiest events to endure, but are usually worth the sore feet and ringing ears. The fifth Flourish Festival in Fredericton, New Brunswick, was more than worth the week long hangover of exhaustion that I will no doubt suffer through. It was a long time since I’ve visited NB’s capital and really had no reason to go back; However, with a festival this amazing, I’ll be back annually without a doubt. As much as I would love to relive the entire weekend minute by minute, nobody has the attention span to read that, so here’s my highlight reel of the weekend.
When I heard that Weakened Friends were playing this festival, without hesitation, I bought tickets and figured I’d sort out the details later. With their latest release of Common Blah, and seeing them at Halifax Pop Explosion in 2017, they have quickly jumped into every playlist I’ve made since as well as high rankings in my list of favourite bands in general. With the right mix of accessible punk, and heavy grunge influence, this heavy three piece absolutely crushed their closing Friday set at The Wilsers Room. With a set list full of mostly new songs, those in attendance sang along to gems like “Blue Again”, “Hate Mail”, and “Waste”, while still hanging on every word of older gems like “95”. Sonia Sturino and Annie Hoffman have absolutely perfected their show with the amount of energy and stage presence they have, not to mention, the musical prowess they both exude. If I only saw this show, it was worth the 16 hours in the car.
Imagine if all those emo bands you loved in your late teens were angry instead of sad. This is what No, It’s Fine embodies. Cailen Pygott’s exceptional songwriting, while being surrounded with some of Halifax’s best musicians in KT Lamond on guitar (Like A Motorcycle), Victoria Cameron on bass (Town Heroes, Cameron, Floodland, Hello Delaware…you get it), and Chris Wilson behind the kit, makes for a slap in the face of heavy hitting emo-punk vibes with the emotion and rawness that makes you feel feelings that you can’t drink away. Opening for Weakened Friends was a combination almost as good as whiskey and my lips. Both bands turn it up to 11 and don’t hold back. It’s a jump into the deep end instead of dipping a toe in.
We’re all over the winter right? Well it’s time for those feel good surf rock vibes to bring in the warm weather. With their airy Peach Kelli Pop like sound, BBQT will have you foxtrotting into the sunset. Catchy, and insatiable, it was impossible to not grin along to songs like “Moldy Melody”, “High Wasted”, and “Pepsi”. It’s always a great experience showing up to a gig, not knowing some of the bands, and leaving with a new love for one of them!
I’ve seen these guys before, and fell in love immediately. Their massive amounts of energy and musicianship are absolutely second to none. Their outlaw country feel is what turned me onto the genre as a whole (Thank you!). And their songs are catchy, danceable, and easy to sing along to. When seeing them in Halifax, they certainly went hard, but to see them in their hometown it was something special. Like Slowcoaster to Sydney, Matt Mays to Halifax, or Bruce Springsteen to New Jersey, The Hypochondriacs are absolutely Fredericton’s band! It has been a long time since I saw a bar show that packed, and that engaged. Front man Josh Bravener found himself, doused in sweat, finishing his set first in the crowd, and then on top of it crowd surfing his way into the heart’s of all in attendance. If they’re in your town, country fan or not, NEVER miss a Hypo’s show….EVER.
What happens when a lounge band goes on a mushroom bender, following music festivals, and hanging with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard? Enter Elephants Gerald. Jazz infused atmospheric pop rock rung out on the closing night of Flourish. Beautiful vocals rained over beautiful keyboard melodies, the funkiest of bass licks, and thunderous drums. Odd time signatures, getting absolutely lost in drawn out jams, and crescendo’s galore took over the Wilsers room. It was a welcomed change from some straight up rock from the weekend.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about art. However, I know that the immersion into The Neon Forrest Remix that was created by Kristina Rolander was something special to behold. I’ve seen many of shows at The Capital over the years, but never has it felt like a different planet . Beautiful neon paint covered the walls, and cutouts hung from the ceiling to create a welcoming atmosphere into a magical forrest that we were all lucky enough to experience. If other festivals could take notes on anything, it would be to embrace the immersive art aspect to create a different world for all of those in attendance.
What Jane Blanchard and Stefan Westner have created is incredibly special. Flourish Festival is inclusive, beautiful, exciting, and quite obviously holds a place in Frederictonians hearts. Between the rock camps for kids, diversity on and off the stages, the beautiful art, and the amazing acts everyone got to see, this festival is one of the best that the east coast has to offer. I couldn’t have been happier to have been a part of it, and wish it all the success in the world in the years to come. HAPPY FLOURISH FIVE!