Sunday, July 11, 2010
Photo by: Twila B.
I've just had myself a music-filled weekend at SOSfest with my friend Nadia and I have to say that my brain is completely saturated with music. You could play me more music but I don't think my neurons are capable of processing it.
SOSfest is a live music festival in the Old Strathcona area and this is the first year that it has been put on. There is an ever-increasing live music scene in the city and it was quite inspiring to hear the talent that is resulting from it. It's like a mini musical movement right here in my city! There's everything from funk, rap, indie-pop, electronica and folk singer/songwriters and many others emerging. Of course, not all of the artists at the festival were from Edmonton, but I do have to say a large majority of them were. However, most of them were Canadian artists and it's just wonderful to see and hear the talent. In the back of my mind, I always knew there was a lot going on but it's another thing to see all the acts play one after the other in a variety of venues in the area. It's also fantastic that the whole Old Strathcona area, which is the hip culture/night-life area in Edmonton, was turned into a hubbub for live music over the weekend. I felt like I was wearing a wristband of power that allowed me unlimited entry into different concerts in a variety of different venues within the span of a few blocks.
Festivals are always exciting and somewhat frustrating entities because there is just so much to see but you can only be in one place at a time. You have to plan strategically what you are going to see and along the way there are always hits and misses. However, there are those moments when you are in exactly the right place at the right time and you know that you were meant to be at that concert. Definitely had that moment this weekend at the Michael Bernard Fitzgerald concert, but you'll hear more about that later. In order to organize this entry I'm just going to chronologically list the 21 acts I was able to hear within the span of a few days and post some thoughts about them. Feel free to check out links to these artists to learn more and hear sound clips.
Photo by: Twila B.
Daniel Moir: a Edmonton singer and songwriter. Not too many people in the audience but it felt very intimate and I was interested to hear him after an article about him in the Edmonton Journal. He had a very sweet sounding voice which accompanied the gentle sounds of his guitar and I'll be interested to hear what he comes up with in the future. There's still a bit of polishing that needs to happen soundwise and in showmanship but he has the raw goods to do it.
Lorrie Matheson: the concert where I had to whip out my ear plugs (the Arts Barn studio was quite small and the band was playing fully amped). Don't remember too much from this concert other than the lead singers curly hair. They were alright but nothing that gripped me intensely enough to remember.
Foam Lake: an interesting group from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They used some electronic sound that they merged with the live sound of their band. Listening to clips from their MySpace peaked my interest, but I found that listening to them live didn't really further my interest.
Ann Vriend: a quirky and charming female vocalist. She encouraged audience sing-along participation and enjoyed the use of kazoo solos within her songs. She also looked awesome and had fantastic red shoes and lipstick on. Presentation goes a long way.
Randy Graves: a hard metal band that kind of hurt my ear-plugged ears. I think this was the first act where I was worried for the lead singer and it's almost like I could hear vocal nodules developing. Nobody should be screaming for 1h straight. I had this inexplicable urge to teach him about proper vocal hygiene. It's the speech-path-in-training tendency in me.
Volcanoeless in Canada: a fun group that had this nice dancy vibe to them. Again, a group I listened to beforehand on MySpace but my expectations of them didn't really stack up when I heard them live. I should really stop listening to groups beforehand. But then again, it helped me decide what I wanted to go hear.
Ten Second Epic: unexpectedly enough, the funnest concert of the day! I was somewhat familiar with their hit tunes but I had never seen them live. They've been getting a lot of attention on the Canadian music scene and even abroad with MMVA nominations and their collaboration with JUNO artist: LIGHTS. I have to say that the lead singer spewed out an overwhelming amount of energy with his squinty-eyed intensity while he stared down the audience with a mischievous smile. He also had a Bieber-esqe hair toss. The girls went wild. I also enjoyed the fact that the members of the band don't really look like they belong together. Two of the guitar players looked like they should be playing with an 80s rock metal band with their long stringy hair, the lead singer and drummer look like they're from the current era of teenage rockers, sporting their fitted t-shirts and cut-off shorts, and the other member fell somewhere in between. They were very fun to watch and their energy was infectious. I found myself dancing along even though I didn't know most of their tunes.
Bronze Leaf: a mellow concert in the basement of the soon-to-be-closed Megatunes. Bronze Leaf delivered gentle vocals that made me drowsy but not exactly in a bad way. Her grassroots indie-folk vibe was an chill way to start the day.
Erica Vogel: a previous fellow chorister of mine. She studied at the UofA and went to study at the University of Montreal and has just finished the past year at the Manhattan School of Music in NYC. The way she heard about SOSfest was very interesting. I posted a Facebook note alerting my friends to the fact that this festival was on and one of my classical music friends, Leanne, posted a challenge (via Facebook) to the classical musicians in Edmonton to do a concert at SOSfest and bring some diversity to the band-driven festival. Erica stepped up to the challenge and delivered a lovely set of vocal pieces with Latin flavour.
Still Within: a short stop where I checked out this male duo and their guitars but I didn't stay for too long. It was in the Filthy McNasty's bar venue and I wasn't really looking to sit down and order food but it was a nice break for those who wanted to catch music at the festival but needed a food/drink break.
Pre/Post: a neat band that infused pre-programmed synth beats in addition to their live music. Their overall sound needed some polishing, but I still enjoyed watching them. I felt bad that there were only 4 people in the audience, 2 of whom seemed to know the band as well as Nadia and I.
Artisan Loyalists: a hidden gem I discovered at the festival. I wasn't exactly planning on seeing this group but I am glad I did. Ever since my electromusic composition course, I have this new-found respect and interest for electronic music. This group had an interesting tripod set up. They all had their guitars or drums but in front of each of the guitar players was a keyboard or synth board and a laptop. They were able to whip out electronic snip-bits in addition to their live music and I just really felt like they took the time to create music. I also feel that in electronic music I never know where the musical line is supposed to go, since it just all seems to blend together, but I felt like they had movements within their pieces and I was able to hear the music unfold in an organic way. Extremely enjoyable and I definitely will stay updated on what they are up to next.
Concealer: an electronic male/female duo but I felt like the overuse of electronic synth reverb was hurting my eardrums so I peaced out of this set early to go and meet a friend before Darren Frank
Darren Frank: o.k, so I must admit I didn't watch his whole concert, but I was able to hear it from the outside as I chatted with my friend Ross. He sounded quite good from a background music standpoint.
Michael Bernard Fitzgerald: By far my favorite show of the festival! I had feeling I would really like his musical style since he came highly recommended from my friend, Julia, who saw him at the Starlite Room a few months back. I was excited to hear him for myself. His whole look had an artsy appeal about it with a fitted red t-shirt, rolled-up black skinny pants and barefeet in his preppy sneakers. It also made me smile to see a daisy was attached to his guitar. I think it's his life goal to bring happiness to other peoples lives.
Before his set began, he confessed it was a little awkward to just start, since we were watching him tune, so he alerted the audience that he was going to walk through the crowd, out the back, through 2 green doors, pace up and down a bit backstage, and then come on stage again. Maybe this isn't funny at all when you read about it now but his comedic delivery of it just endeared him to the audience. It also helps that whenever he slips a smile during his songs it kind of stuns you for a second since it's just beaming warmth. He also has hilarious between song banter and made fun of the people leaving his set early confessing that he realized that they probably had to go see a podiatrist halfway across town to fix their foot arch and there was no other time that they would be seen other than at 10:45 pm. Serves them for leaving his concert early! I also enjoyed his quirky on-the-spot twisting as he played his pieces. His music has a flair of happy quirkiness with neat lyrics, cute keyboard chords, and clipped vocal attack. However, he was using an electric guitar for most of the concert and he confessed that he enjoyed how "bad-ass" he sounded. Overall, he had a very unique presentation style-both musically and visually.
I think the highlight of the concert was when he began playing "Brand New Space" and two girls jumped up in the audience and started dancing, and then two more girls, and then suddenly there was a huge hoard of girls at the front dancing in front of him as he played! Eventually he beckoned them to come on stage and dance behind him and he told the rest of the audience to stand up and dance along. At this point, I didn't hold back any longer, I jumped up, grabbed Ross' hand, and we both ran towards the stage! We all danced in a massive on-stage group while somebody filmed (I have a feeling this might be on Youtube) and he even altered the lyrics of his piece to have a hint of Baby by Justin Bieber as we danced. Fun times! When else can you have a spontaneous dance party behind an awesome artist on stage? I left the concert on a dance high and completely satisfied with the musical offerings.
The Paronomasiac: an electronic dance DJ we caught the end part of at the Pawn Shop. We wanted to catch 2 other bands at the Billiards Club. Wheat Pool (and Edmonton alternative-country-rock band) and Wool on Wolves (an Edmonton folk-rock band) but there was a long line to get in so we went to the Pawn Shop venue instead.
Brett Miles and Magilla Funk Conduit: a fun band with funk tunes. Maybe not my exactly my personal music tastes but it was still fun to listen to them jam.
Cadence Weapon: He is the newest Poet Laureate of the City of Edmonton and he just so happens to be a rapper. I've never seen him in action but my interest was peaked ever since I heard his name announced. The Poet Laureate, historically, "served as the official chronicler of state events and occasions and in ancient times, the Laureate was the central means for recording and communicating history." I think the City of Edmonton is daring to choose a rapper to be the poet but I also think that it is an inspiring choice since it acknowledges the fact that poetry can come in many forms but it's about the message and not the vessel it comes in. It was amazing to hear the words roll of his tongue and all I could hear was a blurred speech output. My stamina was definitely waning at this point in the evening since it was just after 1am when he came on stage, so I caught a few of his pieces, and then had to peace out to get some rest.
The Whitsundays: a very interesting alternative-indie band from Edmonton. They had some nice trios of voice choruses in their songs and just something appealing about their sound overall. They also used theremin's which scored them points for my geeky electromusic side. I'll be interested to see what they're up to in the future.
YOAV: a very unique one-man-band. He utilized pedals to establish a percussive bassline and achieved a very rich overlay of sound consisting of percussion and instrumental effects in his song by just using his guitar. It was just neat to watch him at perform since it just requires to much coordination to make music like he does.
Shout Out Out Out Out An excellent end to the festival! This Edmonton band used their electro dance beats and sound filters to get the whole street hopping in a massive dance party. I've never seen that many people dancing on the streets of Whyte Ave! I hope it won't be the last time!
Overall, I dub the SOSfest a huge success given it is it's first year and I heard it mentioned that they only started planning for it about 4 months beforehand. To coordinate a huge number of venues, numerous artists, sound technicians, volunteers, and the shutdown of a main street within Edmonton is no small feat. I was able to hear a ton of local music, which I would have never been able to experience altogether in one weekend, and I have the festival organizers to thank for that. I hope this is just the first SOSfest of many more to come!
What a fantastic weekend! It makes me miss my choir less!
Photo by: Twila B.