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Lawnya Vawnya 12 Weird and Wired
Day 1: Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Welcome to the 12th Edition of Lawnya Vawnya! Over the course of the festival, each day will be written about by our writers in residence and this newsletter will be distributed to daily!
Charlotte Genest (she/her) is a student and musician currently based in Montreal finishing what she started there 8 years ago--a BA in Poli Sci--but home will always be St. John's. A former service industry Jack of all trades, she is happy to be going into debt finally following her artistic and academic dreams. Charlotte is currently studying the intersection of politics and media and works as a freelance fact-checker. Charlotte would like everyone to write to their local MP to lift the ban on swimming in George's Pond.
Mollie Cronin is an arts writer, cartoonist, illustrator, and curator from Kjipuktuk (Halifax, NS). A musical dabbler and an east coast music festival superfan, Cronin has converted her musical ambitions to cartooning, making semi-autobiographical comics about boys in bands she has dated, drawing cartoon portraits of musicians at shows, and is currently working on a graphic novel about a group of punk musicians living in a swamp.
Violet Drake is a queer, trans, and multiply disabled artist and writer from the coastal community of Lawn on the Burin Peninsula. Now based in St. John's, her multidisciplinary practice blends life narrative, self portraiture, illustration, and performance through her conceptual framework of trans+corporeal cartographies and existential ecologies. Her work has been exhibited and performed at artist-run centres, galleries, stages, festivals, and classrooms throughout Ktaqmkuk (colonially Newfoundland) including Eastern Edge, St. Michael's Print Shop, Unscripted Twillingate, LSPU Hall, St. John's Arts and Culture Centre, and Memorial University. Co-author of transVersing, she has recent and forthcoming publications locally and nationally in Riddle Fence, Understorey, HELD, Newest Magazine, and Home Out of It podcast.
- Mollie Cronin
Soap Opera, Alpen Glow, Lil Omar, Owen Finn, and Irma Gerd!
Here we go b’ys, Lawnya Vawnya 12, we’re in it. Welcome to Weird & Wired, the LV newsletter! I’m stoked to be here for the occasion and to be covering the goings-on with my team, Mollie and Violet. We have lots of *content* in store this week but first, time to jump in with a debrief on Day 1. Here’s what went down:
Local rising star Owen Finn and his band cut the red ribbon on the festival with a high-energy set of original alt-rock. The first time I heard Owen play we were at Jungle Jim’s on George Street and that show was a major highlight of the summer. The band showed up to LV tighter than ever and the crowd showed up having learned all the words to “Painted Lady.” I would personally like to talk about “What’s The Use” because that saucy bass line is still stuck in my head.
Oscar Tecu and his band, visiting us from Fredericton, took the stage next with his project Lil Omar. When the lineup for Lawnya Vawnya dropped this year, I found myself on Lil Omar’s Bandcamp playing Toddler Country over and over again and let me tell you, what a treat it was to hear some of these fresh bossa nova-style songs spring into a new life with a full live band. Oscar closed the set with a solo tune he wrote in honour of George Floyd. Before he began he explained that the purpose of Lil Omar is to explore these topics of racial injustices and what it means to be a person of colour in Canada. The chorus sang, “It’s not getting worse, it’s just getting filmed,” an important parting message.
Next, we took a field trip to the Amerbar. I had the privilege of seeing my friend Amery Sandford’s project, Alpen Glow, do their debut show in Montreal last month and I was blown away. I had been loving these songs since the beginning of the pandemic but throw in a full band and a disco ball and another dimension opened up. They packed up the vibes and shipped them to the Rock with some added layers of spectacle: original animations by Amery herself being projected overhead and some transcendental horn harms on “DJ of Your Dreams” by guests Hannah and Emily.
Alpen Glow passed the mic to our hometown heroes and my very good friends, Soap Opera, who closed off the night. The boys were up to their usual “Bag of Tricks” as it were but performed with an added ease to them that really struck me in a funny way. When Adam riffed on a vocal line in “Phone” it was like my young adulthood flashed before my eyes. They played “Highest Tower” as the encore and I felt like I was getting a hug from 2016.
The perfect start to a perfect festival.
- Charlotte Genest
Irma Gerd x Violet Drake
Violet: It’s fantastic to see you back as a part of Lawnya Vawnya this year. You and your drag family, The Phlegm Fatales, have been a festival fixture for quite some time now. How did you first get involved with the festival?
Irma: Lawnya Vawnya (LV) is an incredible organization that reached out to me a few years ago to host their annual Dance Through The Ages event, which I thought was going to be just like any other gig. To my surprise, the energy that the team brought to the project was above and beyond– fresh, and exciting. The way I was treated with respect, recognition, and warmth was so special and made me realize how blessed I was to work with them, and how we as a city are so lucky to have this organization which values the work of artists locally, and also brings amazing acts from away. The mutual admiration between myself and the LV team is so magical, and I am so happy to see them reaching out to other drag artists to be a part of their events this year. LV is a big supporter of the ‘ART = WORK’ campaign, and that’s an idea that I think the local drag community needs to see.
Violet: What moves you to join the fun again this year?
Irma: Whenever LV reaches out to me it takes very little persuasion to get me involved, the quality of every event they put off is so high that I just want to be there anyway. The festival always has an amazing selection of artists involved. Every year I get to learn of new music and get to see some of my local favourite bands play. Whenever I go to Lawnya Vawnya I feel cooler than I was before!
Violet: Your incredible drag career spans across many years and multiple cities, from inner city Toronto to our Atlantic edge. Could you tell us more about doing drag here and beyond our home harbour, particularly the differences and shared similarities you have found?
Irma: I have been doing drag for a decade now, which is wacky to even think of. In drag years this is 87 years of practice, which means I am slowly climbing up there. Good thing I am an immortal being from beyond the realms of regular thought or capability.
I started doing drag in Toronto but I didn't do very much when I was actually there. I got my start 2 weeks before I moved back to Newfoundland, which was bittersweet. I felt like I was about to do this really fun cool thing… but sadly my home province did not have much of a drag scene here at that time, so I spent a lot of time building that community. There weren't many people doing drag at the time, and it certainly wasn't anything you would consider an industry like it is now. These days there are so many drag performers, events every weekend, and even a drag bar opening soon on George Street. The growing success of drag in our city is so amazing to witness.
The main differences between the Toronto scene and St. John's scene is that most of the drag you see here is relatively new. Most performers have been doing drag for only a few years, and new artists cropping up all the time. With this in mind, the energy between scenes is very different. In Toronto, a lot of the biggest names have family legacies and dynasties to uphold whereas in St. John's the ‘houses’ are brand new and people are branching out and trying new things so they can establish a name and a brand for themselves. It’s the wild wild West (well, East) of drag!
Violet: What do you think makes St. John's drag so special?
Irma: The St. John's drag community is unique because for the most part the community consists of mostly the new generation of drag. It's exciting because as drag becomes bigger and better here, more artists are intermingling at gigs and behind the scenes and the lines in the sand are dissolving. Our drag scene supports each other and what you see is very community driven based on everyone's own personal creativity.
We have less outer influence compared to other scenes. Our ideas here are more influenced by our own geography, life history, and circumstance rather than anything else. I think that’s why St. John's drag is ever-evolving so rapidly.
Violet: Your artist bio emphasizes your absolute admiration and excellent execution of the artistic value of Camp. What does Camp mean to you, and why do you think it’s so important for us to celebrate it?
Irma: I would say that Camp is not only a crucial part of my art practice or my drag, but that it is fundamentally who I am. I would be no one without Camp. I live to make people laugh and I laugh to make people love (yes, I did just say live laugh love). I think taking the piss out of something, or being tongue-in-chic about things is so powerful for comedy but also for coping with reality. Don't get me wrong, I love to watch someone dance the house down boots but when an artist mixes humor into their performance it elevates it and touches me personally more than anything else.
I revere so much Campy media, and have admired so many Camp icons throughout my life. I had that first aha moment when I was a teenager watching the VMA’s: Lady Gaga dying on stage singing Paparazzi. I started paying close attention to her career and it just had this unnameable thing I loved, that no other pop artist had. Some years later I went to art school and learned a bit more about “Camp”. We talked about Camp, but my professors never explicitly defined it or agreed upon its boundaries. I've always been fascinated with this undefinable and contested nature of something that has always inspired me. I think Campness is largely inherently queer, and is a value that will always be important to me in whatever I do.
And while I’m rambling about Camp: Make sure you come to CAMP PHLEGM on June 11 at the Space - The closing show for this years LV festival!
Violet: Would you like to share with us what else you are up to besides Lawnya Vawnya? Anything we can look forward to, or that you are excited for in the future of your practice?
Irma: Let's just say I am going to be a very busy girl in the upcoming months, and I look forward to seeing everyones beautiful faces in the audience.
Violet: Please gift us with some final words or a parting message.
Irma: Two words only: stay tuned.
- Violet Drake
Which member of Alpen Glow are you?
Mirage (Fleetwood Mac)
New Morning (Bob Dylan)
Live Thru This (Hole)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (David Bowie)
Can’t drink beer
Forget to brush my teeth
Loves a bit of gossip
Gets bored easily
Go-to karaoke track?
Eternal Flame (Bangles)
Every Morning (Sugar Ray)
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen)
Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
All-time favorite TV show?
Nirvana the Band the Show
Tetley with milk
Coffee & water
Answers: Mostly A’s - Amery Mostly B’s - Jack Mostly C’s - Frank Mostly D’s - Sarah
- Charlotte Genest