Lawnya Vawnya, they say, is an old Newfoundland expression meaning "to have fun at a dance or party, with plenty to eat."
The fourth annual Lawnya Vawnya festival in St. John's is preparing to feed locals with a heaping spoonful of independent music, starting tonight at the Rocket Room.
The festival has already had its obstacles for the year, including flight delays due to fog and their largest booked venue, Club One, turning into a Hooters restaurant, but organizer Bryan Power says the festival is shaping up to be the biggest yet.
Between four nights of gigs at various downtown venues, pop-up shows in the afternoon, a record and press fair and expo of music poster art by local artists, this year's festival will include panel discussions on touring and independent media.
The festival pays its performers, flying musicians in, putting them up and feeding them as well as giving them 100 per cent of record sales, and is a not-for-profit organization. Why go through all the trouble if no money is made? The reason is simple, Power says, and includes benefits for the musicians and a local audience alike.
"We love it. We love it. We love having everyone here like a big family," he says.
"There are a lot of local bands, like Green and Gold, for example, who are doing a lot of touring now, and it's important for when they leave. It's hard to leave the island, A, because it's hard to get off the island, and B, because no one really knows you upalong. These bands all know each other on the mainland, but you just don't know them. When they come here, they're all eating together every day and hanging out together, and they build relationships.
"Also, St. John's has a really great music scene, but it's the same bands playing regularly and there's not a lot of room for growth when it's just the same crowd. Jud Haynes has been doing a great job with Mighty Pop, bringing great bands in that people get to see, so this is our contribution to do the same thing as well."
Lawnya Vawnya was created by David Lander, Andrea Vincent, Ariel Sharratt and Mathias Kom in 2011. Lander, Sharratt and Kom moved away from the island to pursue different projects (though Sharratt and Kom, as part of The Burning Hell, have returned for this year's festival), and organizers now include Vincent, Power, Chrissy Dicks and Ross Connolly.
For the past four years, the festival has attracted some of the country's most popular emerging indie bands and artists, including Dan Mangan, Rae Spoon, METZ and more, along with local acts such as Katie Baggs, Pilot to Bombardier (of which Power is a member), and Monsterbator, among others.
This year, organizers opened 25 per cent of the lineup to applicants, receiving about 80 of them. Among the successful ones are local outfit Green and Gold, Nick Ferrio and His Feelings and By Divine Right.
The rest were curated by organizers starting back in the summer, Power says, and includes Snowblink, 2009 Polaris Music Prize winners F-ked Up, and Banded Stilts. Former Trailer Camp frontman Jon Hynes is coming back from Ontario to perform, and other Newfoundland acts include Steve Maloney and the Wandering Kind, who recently showcased at the East Coast Music Awards, and Gala, featuring Aley Waterman.
"When we're not in festival mode, we're all music fans, and we're always listening. Then maybe in August we're like, 'Holy crap, I head this band, you should check them out.' We're always thinking about it and we want that diversity. We want some good folk acts, some good electronic acts, punk, rock 'n' roll, some fun indie. We're looking to see who we think people here would love to see that they probably wouldn't have heard of otherwise."
This year's Lawnya Vawnya festival will see two music crawls, both free and family-friendly - one downtown and one in Quidi Vidi Village.
"We meet at one location - in Quidi Vidi it's the Plantation and downtown it's at Model Citizens- and we go into a venue. You don't know where we're going and you don't know who's playing in there, but it's a 20-minute set by one of the artists. Then we parade to the next venue," Power explains.
Lawnya Vawnya runs until Sunday. A detailed schedule is available online at www.lawnyavawnya.com.
Some events are free, and festival passes are available at Fixed Coffee and Baking on Duckworth Street.