Constellation Festival: Day Two -- 07/27/19

Day Two of the Constellation Festival went off with mostly clear skies, and not the rain that was threatened by the forecast (to at least one pale person's chagrin), with an eclectic mix of music throughout the day.

Fred Penner - Christine McAvoy Photography

Fred Penner - Christine McAvoy Photography

A crowd gathered early in the day for Fred Penner, with a collection of all ages; kids as well as adults with a nostalgia for the classic children's entertainer. And Fred clearly knows his audience, slipping a Monty Python reference in to one of his songs.
Penner had the kids (and, let's face it, most of the adults) singing and miming along to songs about celebrating differences and just generally being a good person. He was also joined by a few special guests for "Sandwiches", festival director and general all-around superhero Tamara Stanners, as well as Badgerchild and Valor Grey for backup vocals. Valor Grey also then performed her song "Phoenix" with the ensemble, before Fred ended his set with the perennial favourite "The Cat Came Back". And in yet another nod to his varied fanbase, he slipped in a medley of songs from Ray Charles, The Turtles, and even k-os.

Sam Lynch - Christine McAvoy Photography

Sam Lynch - Christine McAvoy Photography

Next on the Creative BC stage was Sam Lynch and her band, including Stephanie Chatman on violin. Sam’s voice lilted throughout the festival grounds carrying her soft, singer/songwriter sound. Her set started soft, and slowly built in intensity, with songs like "Off The Rails" growing to a heartfelt finish.

Art d’Ecco - Christine McAvoy Photography

Art d’Ecco - Christine McAvoy Photography

Next over on the main stage was one of the the wildest turns they could get to follow Fred Penner: Art d'Ecco.
Adorned in a grey jumpsuit and gold boots, Art d'Ecco started off with "Never Tell", bringing the energy up with their glam rock. I had, for some reason, not had a chance to check them out up until now and was kicking myself for waiting this long, won over by songs like the haunting "Nobody's Home". There was an effortless presence, both singing, bantering and joking with the crowd between songs, and I am definitely
going to make sure to check out more from them in the future.

I caught most of The Sunset Kids while taking advantage of the food cart area. Their synth rock and split vocals drove big, grandiose songs like "Brave" and their upcoming single, which I think was called "Volcano" and sounded like it could be a huge radio hit. Though I have to take issue with the fact that they were playing at 5pm with the sun bright in the sky.

Jocelyn Alice was up next on the main stage. With an incredible voice propping up her soulful, poppy songs, she amassed a growing crowd of people. Some clearly already fans and, from the response, more than a few new ones as well. Songs ranged from the sultry "Jackpot" to the absolutely heartbreaking piano-driven song called "You're The Worst", before ending with a little Hustler-themed mashup of Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Foxwarren - Christine McAvoy Photography

Foxwarren - Christine McAvoy Photography

Next over at the side stage was Foxwarren, the latest project from Andy Shauf. Their chill, downtempo indie rock was highlighted by songs like the infectious "Everything Apart", but I think the timing of the set was a bit of a detriment to the band. Playing smack dab in the middle of the day, I feel like their moody vibes would be better suited to a dark and smoky venue at night, rather than in direct, intense sunlight. Especially when the last song of their set ended with an extended jam. I didn't dislike the set by any means, but I definitely would have appreciated it a lot more in a different setting.

Peach Pit - Christine McAvoy Photography

Peach Pit - Christine McAvoy Photography

Luckily Peach Pit was next on stage to get the energy back up. Dressed in various pastel and primary colours, they kicked off with their single "Being So Normal", hair swinging wildly as they played.
They kept the energy up throughout the set, with a smattering of new songs like "Psychics in LA", telling the story behind the song about an actual psychic in LA who didn't have a great reading for singer Neil Smith's friend's cat. They also played “old” favourites like "Drop The Guillotine", and finished off with a rousing cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl"

Back to the side stage was Shad, no stranger to playing Squamish festival(s). He started off with "The Fool pt. 1 (Get it Got it Good)" as his unmatched charisma drove the set full of hits and favourites, like the rapid-fire "Stylin'", which ended with a powerful freestyle, and recent single "Magic".
Other highlights included the best song ever written about saving money, "The Old Prince Still Lives At Home"; and "Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)" a song that is (sadly) as relevant, if not more, today than it was when it first came out 6 years ago. I haven’t seen Shad play in a few years, it feels like, so it was definitely a treat, and one of the highlights of the festival so far.

Shad- Christine McAvoy Photography

Shad- Christine McAvoy Photography

A Tribe Called Red then hit the main stage, with some unfortunate news to start the set, saying that one of the performers that was supposed to share the stage with them was profiled by the RCMP, and removed from the festival earlier that day. But they were not going to let that stop them as they started off with "We Are the Halluci Nation", the soul-thumping-bass pounding throughout the grounds.
Admittedly, I am not that into dance-electronica music (Christine was having a great time), but I can absolutely recognize how good they are at what they do, as the growing mass of people (and Christine) dancing proved. In addition to their music, they also put on a very engaging live show, with the various dancers and performers they have on stage, many in traditional or ceremonial garb.

A Tribe Called Red - Christine McAvoy Photography

A Tribe Called Red - Christine McAvoy Photography

Much like the previous day, I wasn't sure how anyone was going to follow that, when the attention turned to the final act of the night on the side-stage, multi-instrumentalist Cosmo Mandrake. He had a really cool and chill electronica sound, that didn't nearly match the energy of ATCR, but was more of a calm break between two storms. Throughout the set he was joined by a few people, local singer Andrea Vargas for the song "Rich" (who was on the recording, but they had never got to play live together), and then during the final song, he was joined by some backup dancers in large sunflower outfits.

And finally, closing out the night was Jessie Reyez, her first live show in a couple months, since as she put it “fucking her back up”. I did end up taking off early for the evening, but caught the first few songs of her brash and unapologetic hip hop, as she had the crowd in the palm of her hand, dancing, jumping (much to her management’s chagrin), and even raising middle fingers at her command.

Jessie Reyez - Christine McAvoy Photography

Jessie Reyez - Christine McAvoy Photography

Which brings us to the third and final day of the fest, which will feature Bahamas, Begonia, Half Moon Run, Wintersleep, and loads more. And again, keep an eye out for Christine's daily photo recaps (including ones from Day 2 - click here)!

The Biltmore Phil Harmonic: A Phil Collins Tribute Concert @ Biltmore -- 08/12/15

David Vertesi sure knows how to throw a hell of a party. Every year he and his lovely wife Ambrosia put together a show called Sing It Forward, to benefit the St James Music Academy. Now, about half way between the last one and the next one, Vertesi has organised another fundraiser, a tribute to the great Phil Collins. 

With a backing band consisting of Johnny Andrews on drums, Andrew Rasmussen on keys, Mike Young on bass, and Tristan Paxto on guitar, there was a rotating cavalcade of singers covering the whole spectrum of Phil Collins' career; from his days in Genesis, to his solo material, to his Disney soundtrack. 

And while it would be impossible to give a full rundown of the night, I will say a few of the highlights for me were Dan Moxon (and the rest of Bend Sinister on backing vocals) going "Against All Odds"; a surprise Shad covering Collins' cover of "You Can't Hurry Love" originally by The Supremes; a version of the Genesis song "That's All" by Willa, which rivalled Zeus as the definitive of that song; and, of course, "In The Air Tonight", as owned by Hey Ocean's own Ashleigh Ball. 

Click through to check out photos from every single singer on stage:

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Keloha Festival @ Waterfront Park -- 07/05 - 07/07/13

On the sunny shores of the Okanagan lake in Kelowna BC, the Keloha Festival celebrated its second year. And what a celebration it was. From local heroes like The Matinée and The Zolas, to national favourites like Arkells and The Trews, to international headliners Mutemath, Matt and Kim, and MGMT, the Keloha lineup was the one I was looking forward to most out of all the "local" festivals this summer.
Day one: Friday

I arrived in Kelowna Friday just in time to catch the last couple songs from Yukon Blonde (thanks to a lack of signs and getting blocked out by a body of water and a fence trying to get into the festival). The band sounded great in their hometown, and were definitely a great way to start things off.

After getting settled in and getting the lay of the land; checking out the Island Stage in the middle of a lagoon and the Sandbar Stage right on the beach, and all the vendors in between, it was time for The Trews to take the stage. The Antigonish rockers started with the high energy "The Power of Positive Drinking" and hardly slowed down. They had the hillside crowd singing and clapping along, especially to songs like "Not Ready To Go" and one of my favourites, "Poor Ol' Broken Hearted Me". As they are wont to do, they also had a couple covers slipped in to songs, like U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" in the middle of a new song "Lord, Keep Me In Mind".
After what seemed like not nearly enough time, they ended the set with "Hold Me In Your Arms" to thunderous applause, the crowd definitely revved up.

The night ended with Mutemath, who were the band I was most excited about. I hadn't seen them live in a few years, and was afraid I had hyped them up too much in my mind, but from the minute they hit the stage (and drummer Darren King wrapped his headphones around his head with electrical tape) and started into the title track of their most recent album Odd Soul, I knew I had been worrying for nothing.
The whole band had incredible energy, but especially lead singer Paul Meany. When not at the keyboard, or playing keytar, he would be right up at the barrier, leaning into the crowd singing. He even performed a few of his trademark "keyboard handstands".
Highlights of the set included the relatively-mellow & heartfelt "Noticed", and the explosive "Typical", as well as the grand finale, "Break The Same" which transitioned into "Quarantine" as an air mattress with lights around the side was thrown into the crowd, and Paul got on top to surf the crowd while singing. And as he got back on stage, they ended the set with another bombastic percussion breakdown, leaving the crowd spent and drained for a first night of Keloha that would be hard to top.

Day Two: Saturday

The second day started with a couple Vancouver bands on the Sandbar Stage. Rococode started off the day and were followed by Dear Rouge. Both put on strong sets, despite the early afternoon heat draining everyone's energy (okay, maybe just a certain blogger's energy) and both had a good, dancing-on-the-beach vibe.
(Dear Rouge would later put on an absolute rager at Doc Willoughby's with The Zolas as part of the After Party series)

Over on the Island Stage, Malibu Knights had a pretty generic rock sound, while Fields of Green tore it up for their hometown crowd; their high energy prog-rock sound continuing to grow and amaze me. I caught a bit of Gold and Youth but their dark and synthy sound would be better suited to a dimly lit and smokey venue, not a bright and sunny day.
I also was able to squeeze in a few songs from Shad on the beach stage, "Rose Garden" and "Ya, I Get It", where Shad jumped into the front of the crowd, before his DJ's laptop crashed, and he got the crowd to provide the percussion for the next song.

But I had to leave his set early to go catch The Zolas back at the Island Stage. The crowd was gathering and started to groove as they kicked off with "In Heaven" and "Knot In My Heart", the opening tracks to their most recent album Ancient Mars. As usual, the band had a strong stage presence and energy, especially Zach Gray, who is like a pot simmering over, always ready to erupt.
Most of the set focused on the new album, including the quirky "Observatory", but they also tossed in a couple older songs, like the fiery "Marlaina Kamikaze" and the passionate "You're Too Cool", which ended off the set.

Another one of the main bands I was there to see were up next, Arkells. Even though they had been at a festival the previous night in Toronto, they were advised not to miss this show, thanks to the setting alone, and they made sure to point out it was definitely worth it.
"On Paper" started off the set, with the band's energy through the roof, as usual. They are a fantastic and tight live band, and lead singer Max Kerman has an amazing and effortless stage presence. Highlights included "Oh, The Boss is Coming", which got the crowd yelling along, and they also dug into a little Motown that they save for special occasions with a cover of Jackson 5's "I Want You Back".
They wrapped up the set with one of my favourites, "John Lennon", and the raucous "Whistleblower".

Australia's Atlas Genius was up next, but while they were starting to amass a bigger crowd who were getting the dance party started, I thought their set felt a little flat. It was a pretty upbeat rock sound, and they were certainly very fine musicians, but a lot of the songs sounded pretty much the same and I just couldn't get into it.

And finally, wrapping up the second night was Matt and Kim. I had heard they were good live, but I had no idea just how nuts Matt Johnson on keys (and the odd sample, like the explosion he used to punctuate things) and Kim Schifino on drums (sometimes literally standing atop the drums to play, or clap, or "shake her booty") would be. They came right out with an incredible energy and fantastically likeable personalities to whip the crowd into a frenzy. They weren't just playing for the crowd, they wanted to party with them.
From throwing out balloons, to getting everyone to simultaneously jump, to Kim running atop the crowd to dance while people held her upright, both musicians were full of raw enthusiasm, which was absolutely contagious.
I wasn't too familiar with their music -- only recognizing the bouncy "Cameras" and "Daylight" -- which ended the set, but they definitely put on an amazing show and I wouldn't hesitate to see them again.

Day Three: Sunday

Unfortunately, I had to head back to reality early on Sunday, meaning I would miss MGMT, but I did manage to catch a few local favourites before departing.

I got there just in time for Maurice to take the Island Stage, joined by a couple familiar faces, including Andrew Rasmussen on keys and Stephanie Chatman on violin. Starting off the set with "Get Mad", JP has an effortless stage presence and fills his songs with raw emotion, and highlights included the undeniably catchy "Mistake" and the best song that deals with the repercussions of a threesome, "Robin".

Wake Owl was up next, and I'm not sure if it was where I was perched on the hill, but the sound wasn't too great; their rich and lush orchestral sound didn't seem to translate very well. They played some songs off their Wild Country EP, the eponymous song being a highlight, and a few new ones which were a bit more upbeat and jaunty.

At that point, The Matinée was supposed to be taking the Sandbar Stage on the beach, but they had a little bit of highway trouble and were still on their way, so they swapped with Saskatchewan grunge band One Bad Son who were pretty much an average and generic grunge band.

But The Matinée did manage to get there just in time for their new set on the Island Stage, and despite the ten hours of travel they had just endured, they still put on one heck of a set. Starting off, as they usually do, with "L'absinthe", they put boots to the ground and kicked things into high gear. They got people clapping along to "Sweet Water", which also featured a great banjo solo from Matt Rose, threw in their cover of Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp", and wrapped it up with "The Road", with its top-notch percussion breakdown.

And with that, I had to head back. I was disappointed to leave, but not too sad of missing the rest of the day, as they were mostly artists I had seen or didn't have too much interest in, and the weekend was already packed with enough memorable moments to last a dozen festivals over.

If the lineup is even a fraction as good as this next year -- and if they keep the "After Party" series going, with smaller bands playing in small local venues -- I will be back to the Okanagan in a heartbeat.

Sing It Forward @ Vogue -- 01/10/13

A year (and change) ago, David Vertesi & Ambrosia Humphrey brought together nearly a dozen of the finest musicians from the local scene for the first Sing It Forward, an evening benefiting the kids of the St James Music Academy. It was such a huge success that they decided to do it again this year, with a lineup no less impressive.

Trimmed to eight from last year's eleven -- which made the pacing of the show much nicer -- each act played a short acoustic or stripped down set, with quick turnovers. There were also a few videos playing between sets, usually showing the bands either interacting or playing songs with the kids from the academy, showing their effort to support the kids went deeper than just playing at the show.

Starting off the night was Andy Huculiak and Cayne McKenzie, two thirds of We Are The City. They played a couple new songs, teasing their upcoming album, which were amazing. Dark and moody, but quite catchy; definitely had me excited to hear the full thing. They ended with "That's All" from their most recent EP, High School.

Victoria's Aidan Knight was up next with part of his band, Julia Wakal & Olivier Clements (jokingly dubbing themselves "The Aidan Knight Chamber Trio Orchestra"). They played mostly newer songs, from last year's Small Reveal, starting with "A Mirror" and then the contemplative "Master's Call", and then getting everyone to hum along to the end of "Magic Cupboards".

Next up was the combined forces of Hannah Georgas and Mother Mother's Ryan Guldemond. Starting with Hannah's "Enemies" and then Ryan's "I Go Hungry", they traded off songs, backing each other up. They also brought out some help, first Hannah bringing out Shad to sing backup on "Waiting Game" and they wrapped up their portion with all the kids from the St James Music Academy coming out to join in on (a slightly cleaned up version of) Mother Mother's "Bit By Bit"

The first half of the night ended with a secret surprise guest, none other than Dan Mangan. He played a couple songs, first flanked by Vertesi and Knight for a cover of David Bazan's "Strange Negotiations" and then the SJMA kids joining him for "Oh Fortune", the line "nice to have the kids around" being especially poignant and heartwarming.

After an intermission, the SJMA kids came back for a song of their own, and then slam poet  C.R. Avery took the stage. First showing off his unique harmonica beat boxing, then taking a seat at the keyboard for a song. For his last song, he was joined by Hey Ocean's Andrew Rasmussen on the keys for more of a spoken word number.

Shad was up next with one of the best moments of the night; he was joined by Vertesi and Andy & Cayne as his backing band for a great remix of We Are The City's "Happy New Year". They stayed to back him up for his own song, "Exile", and then he ended his set alone, with the spoken word soliloquy from the end of "Live Forever"

An acoustic Yukon Blonde was up next, joined by Matt Kelly on keys. Their usually high energy set was calmed down, but no less impressive, especially their stellar harmonies. They played some of their mellower songs, "Loyal Man" and one they said they don't get to play too often, "Guns".

And finally, wrapping up the night was Hey Ocean! After starting with "Big Blue Wave", they kept the collaborative spirit of the night going, with Shad and Avery joining them for "Vagabond", then as they went into a cover of Arcade Fire's "Sprawl II", The Aidan Knight Chamber Trio Orchestra jumped on stage to join them joined them. Finally, they invited not only the kids, but all the musicians of the night back on stage for a cover of Annie Lennox's "Walking On Broken Glass" for a huge, heartwarming ending.

I said on my blog post for the last one "It would be cliché to call it a magical night, but there is hardly any better description", and that rings true to this year as well. It was an amazing night, with everyone from the musicians to the venue donating their time and effort, so all the proceeds could go towards the SJMA, and I can only imagine what it must have been like for the kids themselves who were involved.