So I haven’t been to Festival since I was a child. Like, middle school. I remember a maple treat made in snow, and a shop where I could buy a little bit of rabbit fur.
Festival became something very different to me this year.
bands bands bands bands bands
Festival had over 130 bands perform this year? They had multiple tents going each night, multiple genres of music in each, and just an absurd amount of entertainment. I had to be selective, like a lot of others. I didn’t have to stand in lines (thank god) but many people did, and it seemed to really limit peoples’ ability to experience the festival. I also heard that people with passes were turned away at the gate???? Because it was at capacity, and for some reason they licensed the whole grounds, and that made things strict???
Anyway, there were still some amazing performances. Here’s a couple of my highlights.
I’ve wanted to see Iskwe since fall. With an obviously Objiwe name, I figured she’d have some powerful music (I’ve never met an ikwe that’s not powerful). She did.
She performed on La Prairie stage on Saturday night with a violinist, a keys player and a drummer. She made some very unique sounds that night, or I guess she wrote them before then, but she pulled me away from Attica Riots. The composition of her songs sounded very deliberate and intentional, pulling loud vocals over energetic violin and active synth noises. She moved so much while she performed, too. You could see her energy run through the room, following the great sounds blooming forth from her throat. Her make up reminded me a bit of the Inuit tradition of face tattoos. Specifically the white paint on her chin.
It seemed like a culturally informed performance, but her music sounded very brand new. It wasn’t overly complex, using a number of droning notes and steady rhythms and sensible patterns that grew and resolved in a reasonable fashion. But the music sounded more creative than what I heard over at the MTS tent at the same time. It sounded authentic. It sounded like the music ripped itself from her body, like she was on that stage to bring life to this great spirit of music, to deliver this experience to us terrestrial beings and for everyone to commune in rapid yet gentle flowing dance.
Her violinist (fiddle player?) kept the pace up and was just as lively as Iskwe. She danced while she played. I definitely got the sense at this performance that music was something greater than each member in the group, that they were delivering something with power and emotion, creating an atmosphere in the room that brought everyone under the same umbrella.
She also dedicated her last song to Tina Fontaine and MMIWG2S everywhere. She had written the song for these women, and you could feel it. She closed her set with that song, and I think it was the perfect way to leave the crowd after that experience.
I don’t know if their name should be all capitals or not but I DO know that they put on a damn good show. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned these guys on the blog before, so I’ll keep it brief. But I just want to say, I haven’t seen performers build a rapport with an audience this fast ever before. ever. They get up on stage, are full of life, bring energy to the crowd and to themselves and perform. They have a regular back and forth of chants that gets everyone excited, and literally everyone is jumping around, singing, dancing, getting into it. I know people who aren’t huge on hip-hop who still dig them so much. And for good reason! They’re so upbeat, so well put together, and so much fun. You can see how well they communicate on stage. You can see how much fun they have on stage. And their upbeat, happy yet bold and rough attitude brings you into an equally happy, yet punky and bold mood.
It’s great. Props. Can’t wait to see these guys again.
Thank goodness for this guy at this festival. Well, I mean, thank goodness for him in general. But also at this festival. Not only does Leonard Sumner bring a really neat combination of folk songwriting and Indigenous experience and song, but he also brings that political element that gets my gears turning. In the best way.
He sings songs about the experience living on the res, the experience of colonialism and how having your land, family and ways of life attacked can impact people to this day. He sings about the rise of suicide in FN communities, and the dangers of being an Indigenous woman in a colonial state. He sings about things that are every day important, that are deeply tragic and incredibly inspiring. He sings about the potential and future of Indigenous people in Canada, the strength in spirit and the power of their ancestors that will carry the youth forward. He writes songs that I’ve seen children sing along to, want to learn, and fall in love with.
He also banters about the political landscape between songs. At Festival, he managed to get political with the crowd while still keeping their attention. He was critical of #Canada150 in the best way, referencing #resistance150, and how the colonial state continues to commit violence against First Nations daily.
He was also very gracious, thanking people for attending, and being grateful for everyone being together in that space. Leonard, I’m a big fan and have mad respect. And I secretly imagine you and Tasha Spillet as the ideal power couple…
The Middle Coast
These guys really surprised me! I hadn’t heard them before this night. But man, they made me happy. I’ll admit it was like two weeks ago, so my mind isn’t the sharpest on it. But I remember them having a particular combination of rhythm and melody, changes in rhythm and shifts in mood that pulled me in. I don’t think the music was overly complicated, you know, something I could classify as alt-rock, not especially characteristic in any way. But they created a very enjoyable listening experience across each song, like a gentle landscape with some overall feeling of whole.
Great performers, too. I’ve been noticing a lot recently how people act on stage impacts the audience, and people have mentioned to me about it too. Pretty sure the more fun people have making the music, the more fun I have hearing it?
It’s worth saying though, I missed a lot of music at Festival. Both Friday nights I missed. Honestly I didn’t expect it to be so festival? Like, if it were summer, I would have wanted to just set up tent by the river and sleep there right. I guess I remembered more of daytime Festival du Voyageur from middle school…