2018, Music

Wolfe Island Music Festival 2018

This was the 20th year of WIMF – we have to say “20th year” because it didn’t happen in 2016 – but I must say that there perhaps a little less anticipation this year, because a lack of a headliner as prominent as previous years, and some concerns about the lineup. But I honestly enjoyed this year’s edition about as much as I have any year I’ve attended. Maybe it was lowered expectations, but I think they just had more bands that I liked.

Friday August 10, 2018

For the first time since I have attended the festival, we actually managed to make it for the opening act on the Friday night, Deux Trois. (We are usually less organized or less determined to get there before sunset on the Friday night.) They were noisy/shouty, but at times they also sounded a bit like a punkier, female-fronted version of The Fall. It was an interesting way to open the festival given how inaccessible they were. It’s the kind of music that needs to grow on you. But they had a good amount of energy.

Up next was NEFE, a soul singer, backed initially by a drummer, then performing solo, then finally with the drummer and a second guitarist. NEFE has an incredible voice that was the absolute standout of her otherwise fairly minimalist performance. She was one of the highlights of the festival for Jenn.

I saw Plants and Animals at WIMF years ago and most of my memory of that show was that I was the only one of us who actually liked it. (Rather, I was the only one of us who really liked it.) But I don’t know how much I remember because I swear they were a trio, but here they were a quartet. (I just confirmed on wikipedia that they are a trio, so they must have brought along a guest musician for the show or the the tour.)

I don’t know that I quite liked them as much as I did when I didn’t know anything about them, but they still put on a pretty good show. I recognized a few songs from the previous show – and I think I must have listened to their debut album at some point. I can’t say I loved their lyrics this time out, but I still felt like the performance was pretty great and they should have headlined the night as they were the right band to do it. Alas.

The headliner for this stage this night was Charlotte Day Wilson. I don’t know whether it was the alcohol or the sedateness of her music, but I am struggling to even remember her right now. All I really remember is that we didn’t stay for the entire set and instead headed over to St. Margaret’s Hall to see the woman performing there. As someone else said, it wasn’t headliner music, it was the kind of music that would have fit in earlier in the night.

At the Hall, we caught the tail end of Julia Finnegan, a pleasant singer songwriter, accompanied by a guitarist for her last few songs. There is something to be said about the venue affecting one’s experience of music, as I found Charlotte Day Wilson far from compelling in a baseball diamond but a softer singer-songwriter compelling in a small building.

The last show of the night was The Weather Station, a woman I saw during the WIMF fundraiser in Toronto in 2016. However, this time she performed with the band and the show was significantly different. (This is a good thing!) I like her songs, but there was a greater diversity to her sound this time, which made her more compelling. There was an encore where we all sat – in order to quiet the crowd apparently – which was much more in line with the version of her I saw a year and a half ago. Anyway, I really liked the show.

A Brief Note About Venues

There were no shows at the General Wolfe Hotel this year. Instead, that bar/restaurant was replaced with shows in the tiny “pizza pub.” Those artists were locals and I didn’t go see them because of the space. Rumours abounded that the reason why there were no shows at the General Wolfe is because the hotel’s new owners demanded veto over the types of people who performed on their stage, due to their concerns over the gender and sexuality of those people. I hope they enjoyed the lack of business their discrimination brought them.

Saturday August 11, 2018

I guess because we went earlier on Friday, we went way later on Saturday. The other reason could be that nobody was really aware of what most of the bands performing this day sounded like. So we ended up missing the first 5 acts, though at least one of them I’d seen before and didn’t care that I missed it.

The first band we did see was Nap Eyes. They played a style of college rock, that reminded me more than a little of The Dream Syndicate – laconic delivery, excellent guitarist. (There were some pretty great lead guitarists this year, which made me very happy.) The lyrics drove Jenn crazy and the more she complained about them, the more they bothered me too. The frontman was also pretty awkward between songs. But I generally liked the music.

Next up was Mappe Of, a singer songwriter augmented by a Moog player and a guy with an iPad. (This latter guy drove everyone crazy, which I found amusing.) The songs were conventional singer songwriter songs backed with unconventional instrumentation that fractured into weird soundscapes. Though I didn’t love it, I liked it more than everyone else, apparently. (My thinking was that it would have been a lot less interesting without the programming and the Moog.)

After that set, we went to get food and missed the tribute to Gord Downie. (It turns out that it was just a poetry reading, so no big deal.) I knew nothing about the next band and did not hurry back, which turned out to be a mistake.

We got there a song or two into Weaves’ set and I was already annoyed that I missed the first few songs. This was one of the best shows I’ve seen at WIMF ever, combining a quirky frontwoman with a great, idiosyncratic and very loud band. Jenn thought she was the most compelling performer she’s seen since she started coming to WIMF with me and I was hard-pressed to come up with an alternative. The band was everything I like about live bands – they were loud, they were weird, they were very much in tune with their audience. They were flat out fantastic and the best show I saw this year and probably since the festival’s break a few years ago. They should have headlined, alas they are not famous enough.

The headliners were Yukon Blonde, a band I saw years ago at the General Wolfe, who did not make a good impression on me. I’d describe them as “indie yacht rock.” They didn’t make a good impression on me this time either but the crowd seemed to like them, so that’s something. I easily could have left after the Weaves show and been perfectly happy, but I was DDing so I stayed through it. It was very meh.

But, on the whole, I enjoyed the music at this edition of the festival about as much as I have any year I’ve gone, which I was not expecting given the pessimism so many people had about this year’s lineup. Just goes to show you that expectations are rarely met.

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