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WENDY ROSE: Out of Earshot music festival showcases Newfoundland and Canadian talent

Newfoundland-based Cuerpos is an electropop meets dance hall meets slow reggae meets shoegaze band, according to reviewer Wendy Rose (Ryan Christy photo.)
Newfoundland-based Cuerpos is an electropop meets dance hall meets slow reggae meets shoegaze band, according to reviewer Wendy Rose (Ryan Christy photo.) - Contributed

Line-up featured women-identifying people, Indigenous artists and people of colour

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The second annual “Out of Earshot” festival took over the downtown core of St. John’s this past weekend offering a series of performances, workshops, readings, artist talks, art installations, and panel discussions at a number of venues.

“A community-based festival dedicated to showcasing DIY and emerging Canadian music and art,” Out of Earshot’s diverse line-up featured local and come-from-away talent, giving women-identifying people, Indigenous artists and people of colour a platform to showcase their art forms.

Kicking off on Thursday, Aug. 22, the festival’s first musical performances took place at Eastern Edge, with an early show full of local talent that began at 7 p.m.

Greta Warner opened, and Weary followed, and Ilia Nicoll & the Hot Toddies closed out the night.

A mass pilgrimage to nearby The Ship followed, where two local acts – Gossamer, a five-piece screamo band and Worst Lay, touted as a “punk therapy session” – opened for Montréal-based transgender rapper Backxwash.

Unable to attend but still wanting to keep up on what I was missing out on, I paid close attention to attending pals’ Instagram stories, catching snippets of the performances.

Though these clips were short, I was able to catch a glimpse of what I was missing out on, like Backxwash’s performance of the aggressive and catchy rap song “Devil in a Moshpit” off their 2019 album, “Deviancy.”

Halifax hardcore noise band Grief closed out the night, the lead singer shouting lyrics from amidst the dance floor.

Thursday also featured an interactive street art piece at The Sprout, and the opening of an installation of digital prints at new(ish) local bar, Toslow.

Friday was jam-packed with events, starting off with two workshops at Eastern Edge Art Gallery.

Ilia Nicoll offered a free guitar pedal workshop, and later, five musicians and organizers presented a panel on DIY organizing, moderated by Nik Basset of independent blog “Not Your Boy’s Club.”

Opting to include literature in the art forms showcased during Out of Earshot, the festival partnered with The Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador to present a series of readings by local authors and poets Violet Drake, Carmella Gray-Cosgrove, and Terry Doyle, held at Broken Books.

After a short dinner break, it was back to Eastern Edge for local harpist and singer Kira Sheppard who gently tugged the audience out of a food coma with soft but stirring alternative tunes.

The crowd was soon fully roused by the jaw-dropping performance of Montréal’s Skin Tone, an experimental free-jazz one-man band, featuring field recordings, spoken word, and an unorthodox approach to the saxophone.

Halifax five-piece Juice Girls finished off the early show, with their alternative dream-pop sound and girl power lyrics inspiring smiles and new fans – myself included.

At The Ship, local act Cuerpos, previously described (by me) as “electropop meets dance hall meets slow reggae meets shoegaze,” kicked off the show.

This would be their last show ever, with one of the two band members soon leaving Newfoundland for the mainland.

From nearby Halifax, Aquakultre was next, a collective of musicians performing high energy funk/soul/hip-hop with a focus on keyboards.

The four-piece played selections from the six singles and two EPs released in the past two years.

Dregqueen is a Montreal-based experimental gothic synth music band (Ryan Christy photo.)
 Dregqueen is a Montreal-based experimental gothic synth music band (Ryan Christy photo.)

Unable to stay until the end due to unfortunate Saturday morning work commitments, I missed out on Dregqueen, another act hailing from Montréal. Experimental gothic synth music, the band – according to short clips – kept the energy high, also spilling off the stage and into the crowd.

Tied up at work on Saturday afternoon and attending an Iowan wedding on Saturday night, I missed out on the fun of Aug. 24.

Natya_NL was first on the bill at Eastern Edge that afternoon, performing classical Indian dance form, Bharathanatyam. Backed by a five-piece band, local vocalist Justin Strong performed soulful pop, with Toronto’s Problem Patient, described as an “electroconvulsive mood disorder rock band” ending off the show.

Skin Tone then took the floor at Eastern Edge for an artist talk titled, “From the Black Atlantic to the Milky Way: An exploration of Afro-Futurism.”
The later Eastern Edge show featured another set by local emo/pop-punkers Swimming, followed by Toronto-born, but locally raised hardcore punk band Dog Food, with Grief as the final act.

At The Ship that night, new local garage-power-pop band Muffin made its debut, followed by another new (winter 2019) local three-piece hardcore Isolation Kills.

Montréal garage-pop trio Prime Junk, described as “loud, abrasive songs for soft, sad people,” followed, with Halifax’s Century Egg playing the final set, comprised of rock and Chinese folk-rock.

Fingers crossed that none of my friends decide to get married during next year’s Out of Earshot Festival – my FOMO (fear of missing out) can’t handle forgoing limited-time-only art and music presented by diverse groups of local and Canadian musicians and artists.

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