This weekend marked the inaugural Skookum Festival, taking place right in the middle of Stanley Park, with three days full of music, a great selection of bands from local to international. Something like 50,000 people were reported to have crossed through the gates to see dozens of bands play over the three days.
Click through for a recap of the entire three days, featuring The Killers, Arkells, Metric, Matt Mays, St. Vincent, Whitehorse, Dear Rouge, Mother Mother, Bahamas, Said the Whale, The Zolas, Hey Ocean!, The Matinée, Shred Kelly, Little Destroyer, AND MORE! (whew)Read More
Biltmore's 10th Anniversary ft. Louise Burns, Jody Glenham, Adrienne Labelle (Supermoon/Garbage Dreams), Kevvy Mental (Fake Shark), Courtney Ewan and Andy Bishop (Twin River), Jason Corbett (ACTORS), Jo Passed, Alexis Young (Youngblood), Horsepowar, Zach Gray (The Zolas), Ackee Tecumseh - with the house band: Jody Glenham, Adrienne Labelle, (SUPERMOON), Adam Fink (ACTORS), Louis Hearn
July 06, 2018
Christine McAvoy Photography
Two years ago, we thought we were seeing the last ever SingItFwd with a two-night extravaganza. The show was an annual event, running since 2011, to benefit the children of the St. James Music Academy, and was always a highlight of the year. But now it's back for a very special Juno edition, as the music awards touch down in Vancouver this weekend.
This year's the show featured a host of local bands, many of which had played the event before, and some even nominated for a Juno this weekend. They all played a few songs each, sometimes stripped down, sometimes brand new stuff, and sometimes even joined by the kids from the St James Music Academy.
Starting off the night was the indie pop of Peach Pit, and their song "Drop The Guillotine". They were a great way to kick off the show with energy, especially when lead singer Neil Smith had portions of the crowd screaming with nothing but a hair flip.
(They also managed to make a few people feel old when they said they "grew up" on these SingItFwd shows, as well as some of the other bands performing that night).
Louise Burns was out next, alone of stage for a couple stripped down songs. Her haunting voice rang through the theatre with a couple songs that may be appropriate for the weekend, "Strange Weather" and "Storms", as well as a brand new song.
Khari Wendell McClelland followed, first with his own song, and then and after a cover of Bowie's "Five Years", we saw the first emergence of the kids from the SJMA, as they were out to sing choir on the song "Roll On".
A group of St James kids on strings were out ahead of a couple of The Zolas. Zach said how happy he was to be there as they played a couple songs off their recent album, before giving a shout out to a band that wasn't there, launching into a cover of one of their songs, "Keep On Dancing" by We Are The City, one of my favourites of the night.
Closing out the first half of the evening was Said the Whale, Tyler & Ben trading off lead vocals on, respectively, "Confidence" and "Lilac and Willow". They debuted a new song, called "Broken Man", which was Tyler admitted was being played for the second time ever (the first being downstairs in the green room 5 minutes beforehand).
After a brief intermission, a St James Jazz band was up, followed by the amazingly powerful voice of Dawn Pemberton. Anyone that hadn't heard of her before was immediately won over with her cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and one of her own songs, "Deeper". She then invited the kids back onstage to sing Stevie Wonder's "Love In Need Of Love" with her.
Leif Vollebekk was next, with perhaps the most emotion-stirring set of the night, his voice cutting through the near-silence of the venue as he poured his heart out with songs like "Vancouver Time". He was also joined by drummer Johnny Andrews for a song, joking that he was jealous since Johnny was drumming for at least half of all bands performing that night.
Ryan Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin were out representing Mother Mother, first playing "Body of Years" then also teasing a brand new song. Ryan joked about being 'afraid' of kids, in his own loquacious way, before being joined for their final song by both Ashleigh Ball and the SJMA choir for "Simply Simple".
And finally, after some great thank yous and videos from the stage for people who couldn't be there (including co-creator Ambrosia Humphrey) Hey Ocean! closed out the night. They teased their upcoming album The Hurt of Happiness with the title track, and the kids were out once more to sing with David Vertesi on a song written for Ambrosia, while it was .
Usually, the shows will end with a big, giant singalong cover, with the kids and all other musicians up on stage, and this one was no different, as they paid their respects with a great cover of "Ahead by a Century" by The Hip, Vertesi and Ben the Whale taking lead vocals, the latter absolutely channelling Downie.
On the blog post for the very first edition of SingItFwd, I said something like: "It would be cliché to call it a magical night, but there is hardly any better description." and I feel like that's been apt every year, but especially this one. It was a nice to see them come back for one last dance, and nice to see the celebration of local music ahead of the Junos.
I knew July Talk had exploded in popularity in the last couple years. Last year they sold out the Commodore and added a second show, but even still I was a little surprised when they announced a show at the Malkin Bowl. But, you know, good surprised.
And of course, I wasn't going to miss a change to see them, let alone at a beautiful venue in the middle of Stanley Park (which I hadn't seen a show at in some time), let alone with the band they had opening for them.
And that band was Vancouver's own The Zolas, frontman Zach Gray stating at one point during the set he had seem some amazing shows in the bowl, and was hoping this would rank among them. Starting with the fiery "Molotov Girls", a good portion of the crowd was clearly there to see the hometown band, or even just quickly won over. Highlights from the shorter set included "Get Dark" as the sun was setting on the park, one of my favourites from the new album "Male Gaze", and the insanely danceable combo of "Invisible" and "Swooner" which finished off the set. It's always great to see them play, and I think Malkin Bowl is maybe the one (non-arena) venue I hadn't already seen them live in this city.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' "Dig Lazarus Dig" filled the air as the five members of July Talk took the stage. Before they started, they did something that I'm not sure I've ever seen a band that isn't from Vancouver do; acknowledged they were playing on unceded First Nations territory, which got a respectful cheer from the sold out crowd.
Launching into a raucous set full of their gritty blues-tinged rock n roll, they kicked off with "Picturing Love" off their latest album Touch, for an hour plus that pulled from both that and their self-titled. The entire band has a great presence, but all eyes were on Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. The two of them have an unparalleled chemistry, not just in the way their contrasting voices blend together, but how they play off each other. Fay especially is a dynamo, confidently moving around the stage, and even disappearing and (literally) popping up in the crowd.
A crowd that they had in the palms of their collective hands, singing along to songs like the explosive "Guns + Ammunition" and "Paper Girl". Other highlights included the sexually charged "Lola + Joseph", the frenetic "Summer Dress", and "Push + Pull" which ended the main set. But of course, they were quickly back out for just two more before the hard curfew of the park, with the simmering intensity of "Touch" and then one last rager (after a tease of some ZZ Top) "The Garden" to leave everyone spent.
Here's an interesting metric on how well the band connected with everyone: as people packed (and I mean barely-room-to-breathe packed) onto the only bus that leaves Stanley Park after the show, everyone was not only chattering about how much they loved the show, but also being very polite and cordial and cooperative to everyone for the next few stops. A bus trip like that could have led to spoiled moods or disgruntled riders, but the love that July Talk puts out through their music carried at least that busload of people home that night.
July Talk setlist
Now I Know
Lola + Joseph
Guns + Ammunition
Jesus Said So
I've Rationed Well
Blood + Honey
Beck + Call
Push + Pull
The Zolas setlist
Fell in Love With New York
Frida On The Mountain