Four days, a dozen venues, around 40 bands, musicians, and artists, and I have only 500 words to describe the magical musical adventure that was Lawnya Vawnya 8 in St. John’s.
Wednesday, May 23: Presented by the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, a screening of “Play Your Gender,” a documentary on women in music, was the perfect precursor to the evening’s headlining show. A five-piece Canadian indie pop/rock band featuring three female musicians, Alvvays kicked off the festival with a sold-out show. This was the largest audience I had ever seen in Club One, and the crowd was highly energetic — this was just the beginning of four jam-packed days of music and performances.
Thursday, May 24: Sadly I was working through all the afternoon showcases and workshops, my LV8 experience continued late Thursday night, traipsing back and forth from The Rockhouse to The Ship in the May snow.
My attempt to see two shows at once was a wasted effort. Thrown off by the guidebook’s setlists, which were listed in order of headliner to opener, instead of the usual first to last act, I — like many others I encountered — misinterpreted the night’s lineup.
I still managed to cram in an alt-pop performance by Family Video, a couple Ukrainian folk songs by The Kubasonics, and the bulk of Spanish indie-pop trio Lo Siento’s fantastic set. The standout performance of the night would come next, when Montréal experimental art collective/touring rock band Yamantaka//Sonic Titan hit The Rockhouse stage. Not confined to one genre, the band blended Asian pop, prog rock, industrial, doom, and heavy metal music, incorporating operatic elements, First Nations chants, and more.
I hit The Ship again on the way home, catching a few tunes from electro-pop five-piece Bernice. With gorgeous harmonies and an interesting digital approach to traditional instruments, the band played a lovely pop set, but my energy was drained from trying not to blink during the YT//ST show.
Saturday, May 26: After taking Friday night off for work purposes, Saturday would be my final foray into the wild and weird world of Lawnya Vawnya 8.
Saturday night’s punk rock showcase kicked off with local punk four-piece Conditioner, with drummer/vocalist Nick Giles blowing my mind with his dual talents.
Yee Grlz, another local act, took to the stage next. On my personal bucket list of local bands to see, the four female artists slaughtered their set, with “Stop Bothering Me” and “Who’s Protecting Who” highlighted as personal favourites.
Halifax trio Botfly played third. Having seen the band play in a basement years ago, this performance was next level, the noise rock band blending doom metal and punk-rock elements to create a textured sound, combined with a rich and energetic stage performance. I scribbled “most energetic set of the weekend,” in my notepad, and this statement rang true until fellow HFX-ers Booji Boys hit the stage.
Spilling out onto the floor, the five-piece commanded not only space but attention, rockin’ the room with early punk sounds, spliced with new-wave pop and lo-fi distortion. The wild set culminated in vocalist Alex Mitchell tackling one of two guitarists to the ground, wrestling him as he continued to play. This spectacle was the perfect nightcap to a jam-packed weekend of fresh music.
I’ll sum up my entire Lawnya Vawnya experience by sharing one of many scribbled notes from the LV8 weekend: “find synonym for orgasmic.”