Everybody and their nan has tried to start a festival on the island at one time or another, it seems.
So what makes the latest attempt to build another celebration of music and arts different than most others?
Lawnya Vawnya, the brainchild of David Lander, Mathias Kom, Ariel Sharratt and Andrea Vincent, is a grassroots effort that, if successful, will rest on a foundation built by music fans and local businesses in St. John’s.
The festival’s name was pulled from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English and means “having a good time at a dance or party; plenty to eat.”
“It’s so Newfoundland that even most Newfoundlanders haven’t heard it before,” jokes Kom, who moved to St. John’s from Ontario last year and fronts popular indie band The Burning Hell.
He explains that Lawnya Vawnya was a mere idea just a few months ago.
“In the fall we were talking about how there are these bands that aren’t represented at festivals here that we’d love to bring in,” he says.
“We started talking about doing a festival in maybe a year’s time (and) going through the proper channels, applying for funding and doing things slowly and methodically. Then we all got too excited and (decided) to do it in April and just make it happen one way or another.”
The group has “funded the entire festival … entirely through having dance parties at CBTG’s,” Sharratt explains.
Running April 20-24 at various downtown venues, Lawnya Vawnya will attract some of Canada’s most acclaimed emerging independent artists, including Tony Dekker, Dan Mangan, Rae Spoon and bands Huron, METZ and Construction & Destruction.
It will also include a strong contingent of local talent, showcasing artists like Pre-Raphaelites, Pilot to Bombardier, Monsterbator, Kill Popoff, Say Fire, Katie Baggs and The Newish Klezmer Ensemble, among others.
“Part of what we want to do is showcase the incredible local bands here, not just to the people in St. John’s who maybe haven’t seen them before but also to (the artists) coming from away,” says Kom.
“It’s so Newfoundland that even most Newfoundlanders haven’t heard it before." - Mathias Kom
The festival will coincide with the end of university exams, “so we thought it would be a good way to kind of have a party when school’s over,” Lander explains.
“Some students that leave for the summer don’t get to experience all the awesome stuff that happens here,” adds Kom.
Though dominated by musical artists, the festival will also feature readings by famed Canadian author and musician Dave Bidini and local author Craig Francis Power, a special presentation of Words in Edgewise, a craft fair and a spring bike tuneup and citywide scavenger hunt presented by bicycle collective Ordinary Spokes.
A festival headquarters and gallery space has also been opened at 183A Duckworth St. beside Model Citizens for the month of April. It will feature the work of visiting artists Jesse Stewart and Colleen Collins and will be the go-to spot for festival information and merchandise like T-shirts and mix tapes.
This Thursday, a special Fake Prom fundraiser event will take place at The Rock House. Guests will have a chance to revisit their high school prom experience and dance to prom hits from the past few decades, spun by local DJs and performed by all-star band The Wobbly Pops (Kom, Mark Bragg, Darren Browne, Jud Haynes and Jake Nicoll). Advance tickets are $7 and are available at Model Citizens; otherwise cover is $10 at the door.
Lawnya Vawnya events will be held at the LSPU Hall, The Ship Pub, Eastern Edge Gallery, Rose & Thistle, Afterwords Bookstore, Gower Street United Church, Distortion, CBTG’s and Headquarters.
“I think what’s important to us all is a certain independent ethos, when it comes to all the art that’s being presented,” concludes Sharratt.
“So within that mandate we can hopefully grow in the next few years.”