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Lawnya Vawnya 12 Weird and Wired
Day 4: Saturday, June 11, 2022
Minor Labels Panel!
Friends and community. That was the official theme of day four at Lawnya Vawnya.
I arrived at the Alt hotel for the Minor Labels panel, which was all about releasing music in Canada in the 2020s. We had a stacked crew on deck for the panel with very diverse and highly relevant backgrounds: Tess Roby (QC), Penny Stevens (NB), Nigel Jenkins (NL), and Shaun McCabe (NL). For all the rigamarole involved with releasing music these days, the main takeaway from the discussion was the power of making personal connections with people at all levels in the industry and both utilising and contributing to the community. The artists collabed on a document full of resources for anyone looking to learn more which will be shared online!
- Charlotte Genest
Needle Crafts, Mild Manors, Tunnel Vision, Barnacle, and Sunforger!
Relishing the sun after yesterday’s torrential downpour (a pond-sized puddle still taking up a chunk of the parking lot nearby), a crowd gathers in the Eastern Edge parking garage for a good old fashioned punk show on this gorgeous, scorcher of a day.
Starting us off with a full throttle performance is Needle Crafts with an absolutely face melting set. I immediately regret not picking up earplugs at the merch fair, but punk is pain I guess, as I notice the early signs of sunburns on everyone’s necks. Can Con punk princess Avril Lavigne’s “Everything” gets a gritty makeover by the band, whose lead singer, Elsa Simms, also holds the title of director of the Mount Pearl museum.
The museum’s current show “Punk Rock Pearl” articulates the culture of punk music particular to Mount Pearl, Newfoundland’s second largest city. This lineup of mostly islander bands certainly nods to that legacy; punk is alive and well in Newfoundland.
Up next another local talent Mild Manners cools us down with a slower, moodier set, as their name might suggest them capable of. Some of the lyrics are lovelorn, some morose, and remind us that punks have feelings too (that’s why they have so much to scream about).
Tunnel Vision turns up the heat on this sunny afternoon with a short and spicy (I wouldn’t dare call them sweet) set that sees the town’s teen punks gathered to mosh to this hardcore quartet. The songs are furious and compact, stirring the young ragers who slam into each other and maybe once or twice bounce off the concrete.
Montreal-based Barnacle is fourth on the docket, and brings a pacing that has the band emitting intense bursts of sound and then sinking back into slower cool downs. There’s some breathing room for all of that yelling and frenzied playing, before picking it back up again, rinse, wash, repeat. Punk shows are a marathon, not a sprint.
Closing off the set are the self proclaimed “post-grunge, emo, and slowcore” stylings of Montreal’s Sunforger. As the sun dips behind the buildings of St. John’s, our sunburned shoulders cooling in the harbour breeze, Sunforger plays us out with punk instrumentals, scratchy melodies, and a heartfelt shout out to their billeters, who wave back cheerily, like proud festival parents.
Wape'k Muin, Swimming, and Status/Non-Status!
My Lawnya Vanwnya horoscope yesterday (catch them in Issue 3) told me I was going to experience a holy miracle at the Masonic Temple that night. It was right. Wape'k Muin, a men's pow wow drum group based in St. John’s, performed first. No matter where we are, every time I hear Wape'k Muin I leave feeling alive. They performed some beautiful Mi’kmaq songs that served as the perfect, energising start to a marathon closing night. My friends and favourite local band, Swimming, took the stage next. If you don’t know Swimming, all you need to know is it is comprised of some of the city’s most massive music nerds. Their passion for music is truly infectious and watching them play live is reliably invigorating. This show was their first stop on their upcoming tour and boy are they ever tour-ready. I do dare to say it was their best set ever. Some notable Swimming super-fans made it to the gig and sang along with every word, the crowd at large erupting for iconic lines like “Montreal won’t fill the void.” Status/Non-Status (fka Whoop-Szo) closed the show and they rocked… really, really hard. I was introduced to the band a couple of months ago at The Diving Bell in Montreal so I knew what we were in for and had been preparing myself since the LV lineup dropped. The 5-piece band absolutely brought the house down with bangers that simultaneously explored serious topics like the death of loved ones, friends moving away and colonial violence.
Lawnya Vawnya is the epitome of “friends and community” and we are so lucky to have such an amazing organisation advancing that agenda here in Newfoundland & Labrador. Liam Ryan (Swimming) took a moment last night to sincerely encourage people in the audience to start a band. There is immense power in music and particularly in playing music with others--something that has changed my life. It is never too late to learn to rock. And apply to play Lawnya Vawnya! Let’s rock forever!!!!!
Until next year, over and out.
- Charlotte Genest
Heaven For Real, Sunforger, and Motherhood!
It’s the final night of of the festival and our swan song Rock House show contains all the energy of the night: the excitement for the bands, the familiarity we’ve developed (we’re all in the groove of festival life at this point in the week) and the chaos of a George street saturday outside.
The bar’s atmosphere is a bit giddy, from anticipation and maybe over-tiredness, as Halifax-formed Heaven For Real take the stage. Twin brothers Mark and Scott Grundy, backed by Laura Jeffry, are down to clown, and deliver a set that is slick, dreamy, and refreshingly goofy. At one point Mark hands his brother a handful of change, which Scott cups in his hand to use as a maraca for part of one song. The brotherly banter is in full force, and they invite us in on every joke. The vibe is zany and the music is just killer, by the end of it my face hurts from grinning ear to ear: it’s the perfect feel-good-on-the-last-night opener.
Sunforger come out for their second show of the day, returning with the hard hitting mellowness (a tricky combination to land, but they do it every time) I’m familiar with after their punk show appearance earlier in the day. They lean into the instrumentals, a genre I always presumed involves a fair amount of improvisation (in which case vocalist Spencer Curtis’ baseball hat with the word “jazz” embroidered on it takes on a whole new meaning), but it’s clear to me on my second time with them that their sets are as clean as their sound is gritty, in this thoughtful, edgy performance.
Fredericton’s Motherhood keeps up the punk energy with a force that sends the front rows a’moshing. The band delivers sounds that range from surfer influence (“Freddy Beach?” host Sarah Harris asks of one of Fredericton’s nicknames, “where’s the beach??”) to straight up punk, with a playful snarkiness in tone and vocals that keeps us vibing throughout the set. The crowd eats up every song, desperate for the set (the night, the festival) to go on as long as possible. But all good things must come to an end, and the sweaty (from dancing, from the humidity, from imagining our last walks home up the hill) masses bid the rockhouse a final farewell.
Markus Floats, Ritual Frames, and Jing Xia!
Alas we arrive to day four of LV 12! The final day of our fabulous festival, with the most events we have to offer all weekend long! This is the fourth edition of our official newsletter, Weird & Wired, wonderfully written by my keyboard partners Charlotte Genest and Mollie Cronin. St. John's was hot and humid this Saturday, finally cooling off in the evening to the perfect temperature for us to enjoy non-stop live music and entertainment that deliciously dives well into the night.
First on my docket was Jing Xia, RITUAL FRAMES, and Markus Floats sharing their sounds with an intimate crowd at the S.P.A.C.E yesterday evening. St. Johns' intercultural icon Jing Xia begins the show with an incredible blend of traditional chinese instrumentation and contemporary guitar, drum, and piano. Jing's smile is infectious as she tells us the story of how her musical practice came to be, including the recent addition of her fabulous band she gained during her recent musical residency with Lawnya Vawnya in preparation for the festival. The intercultural dialogue Xia's work demands of us is delightful as soft, dreamlike images radiate behind her magnificent mastery of her instrument. A special treat for the audience was the live debut of a brand new composition in collaboration with her piano player Krista, which effortlessly enchants us all as both originals and adaptations are included throughout her set.
Next is electronic solo project of artist-academic Daze Jefferies entitled RITUAL FRAMES. Jefferies takes the stage for first time since a lengthy hiatus, returning with a newfound passion and imagined future for her musical practice. Distorted and aged archival footage entangle the beginning of her set, with haunting synths emanating throughout the entire venue. Its no surprise as to why RITUAL FRAMES has been a long time staple in local dark electronica, as Jefferies weaves a layered story of ecological change and Atlantic transfeminine desire through throbbing sound, urgent lighting, and spectral image; eventually coalescing into a final fiery crescendo as her set comes to an end.
To close out this trio of talent this evening is Markus Floats, the solo moniker of Montréal/Tiotia’ke musician and composer Markus Lake. A decorated musician with ample experience both in bands as well as solo, Markus' music career has been active for over a decade. This special 30 minute set Lake has planned for us includes experimental music anchoring spoken word poetry, melting together in unison multiple times throughout into an auditory pool of glitch foregrounding the swirling words and expanding sound explored throughout the curated track. This special instrumentation ebbs and flows like waves of the ocean, with an inevitable final crash to the shore of applause by the end of the show.
- Violet Drake
The Phlegm Fatales, Kerub, and Ash Park!
Later on that night, I had a double dose of live music and debauchery as I was the lucky one selected to cover The Phlegm Fatale Closing Party featuring Vancouver based electronic producer Kerub and local legend Ash Park. When I arrive, the venue is transformed into Camp Friend Fatale including the formidable forest backdrop, speakers sprouting from totally safe campfires, and the stage looking straight out of But I'm A Cheerleader. Our drag friends begin their story of camp festivities with Madame Daddy and /garbagefile in full vampire and valley girl getup from the get go. Not long after, Eda Kumquat and matriarch of the family Irma Gerd emerge as the official camp counsellors of the night. All in attendance are completely transported into the mysterious musical theatre production these campers have cooked up for us tonight, including 80s throwbacks with mop choreography, nods to recent queer raptress Ashnikko, and a full live chubby bunny performance courtesy of counsellor Irma. After counsellor Eda serenades us with a campfire song, the Phlegms depart to make way for Kerub to take the stage.
Queer composer Vi Levitt, otherwise known recently as Kerub, introduces themselves and shares that this is their first live gig post-pandemic. We are all more than happy to have them, as they dedicate their set to the queer power of being a faggot in love. The perfect sentiment following the Phelgms, as their set begins with a roaring scream sampled live directly from the mic on set. A kaleidoscope of colourful glitchy images emerge across the backdrop as more and more distorted synths and beats twist and tangle together as their set unravels for all here to listen. Astronomically artificial blips scatter throughout the entire S.P.A.C.E, eventually segueing into a more introspective, meditative darker track with the family resemblance of the trailblazing OOEPU's remix album. By the end of Kerub's set, experimental pitched vocals glide over an illustrious and complex instrumentation that I am sure SOPHIE would be proud to be featured here on our tiny atlantic island.
Something weird and sinister is afoot tonight after Kerub bids us adieu. Many campers as well as audience members are shown with bite marks on their necks during Camp Friend Fatale's talent show. As the story develops deeper, we are confused and curious to know just what exactly is killing all these campers and who is responsible. After much deliberation amongst the campers and the audience, the Phelgms head off to get to the bottom of things while Ash Park lights the dancefloor on fire in the interim break. An absolute staple in the local dance scene both as a producer as well as label head, Ash Park's set begins and the crowd flocks to the floor as the night is still young for many of our late night party fiends. Eventually becoming enormous, the audience is energetic and engaged with banger after banger Park provides, with little to no resistance from just about anyone on the floor.
Finally, the Phelgms emerge for the final act of camp salutations and secrecy. As everyone's costumes have degraded and the campers are tired and bloody, it must be revealed exactly what is going on here at Camp Friend Fatale. Multiple solo and group numbers later, including a vampiric romance, demonic musical accusation, and declarations of love for head-hunting, it turns out that it was Mother Irma all along who was killing all those kids! She just couldn't help it...she hated them so much her rage burned and roasted her hot dogs simply too much. As all campers are initially shocked and stunned, behind all the blood, guts, and murder was the true lesson for us all: blood is the best fertilizer for camp ground trees. And it is this lesson the Phlegm Fatales keep in our hearts as we dance the night away all in the name of Lawnya Vawnya 12! Thank you to the Phlegm Fatales for being the best hosts ever, and of course to Kerub and Ash Park for keeping us moving til they had to kick us out! This has been the best LV ever. And we all can't wait to see what next year will bring.
- Violet Drake