Four-day event takes over downtown St. John's
Lawnya Vanwnya 9 took over downtown St. John’s May 22-25, with a long list of performances, workshops, presentations, readings, film screenings, music crawls and more happening at over a dozen locations.
LV9 kicked off on Wednesday, May 22, with a screening presented by the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF), followed by a performance at The Rockhouse. Local musician Justin Strong opened for R&B duo Bonjay and art-rockers Absolutely Free, two Toronto-based acts.
Thursday’s festivities got an early start, with a 1 p.m. workshop at First Light and the early evening LV x QV Happy Hour.
Heading to the Renee Sharpe Show at the Rocket Room for 7 p.m., festival attendees who saw Bonjay perform the previous night were treated to a cooking lesson with singer Alanna Stuart, preceded by a very relaxed Q&A with Bonjay and Montréal-based folk musician Camille Delean, which included topics such as, “Should Renee get a dog or a baby?” and differing opinions on the validity of astrology.
Thursday night continued with Lonely Parade and Kid Koala at The Rec Room in the Avalon Mall, and Spring Var, Lonely Parade, and Faith Healer at The Ship.
Working my day-job at Tvål Skincare, I was able to catch Faith Healer on Friday afternoon during the Downtown Music Crawl, where the Edmonton-based band presented their impressive and entrancing psych-pop stylings.
Friday was again jam-packed with fun and family-friendly events, like Kid Koala’s “Music To Draw To” at Eastern Edge, a performance by Thank and a reading by Heather Nolan at The Battery Cafe, and the Girls Rock NL open mike at Rocket Bakery.
Attempting to be multiple places at once on Friday night, I made a valiant attempt but failed, completely missing Jenina MacGillivray and Camille Delean at the Rocket Room, plus Wiley, Secret Connection, and Jon Hynes at The Ship.
Running back and forth between the punk show at The Black Sheep on George (formerly The Fat Cat) and Lawnya Vawnya headliners U.S. Girls at Club One, I managed to catch snippets of sets from five of the eight bands on the bills.
After a few songs from catchy local synth-pop four piece Renders, well-known locally for “She's Badass,” used in the 2017 SJIWFF promotional material, it was a hustle down George Street to catch Banana Vacuum, a festival highlight for many visiting acts.
A punk band fronted by a nine-year-old, Banana Vacuum were also celebrated on Saturday evening, the band present for screenings of 11 music videos created during the Nickel Film Festival’s 48-hour Banana Vacuum music video challenge, held May 17-19.
Running back to Club One, U.S. Girls had just hit the stage. Having recently played Coachella, the experimental pop band astounded the audience. The solo project of vocalist Meg Remy, U.S. Girls performed as a 10-piece band with saxophone, two guitars, bass, bongos, keys, drums, and more.
Meanwhile, local bands Gossamer, Pillowcount, Worst Lay, and Swimming were setting the stage for Montréal’s emo math-rockers Gulfer. A personal highlight was when the singer asked if there was “a vegan way to get Screeched in.”
The musical madness continued on Saturday, beginning early at Eastern Edge with panel discussions, an artist talk with rapper Lex Leosis, and Drone Day activities, plus an afternoon Music Crawl happening in Quidi Vidi.
After the Banana Vacuum music video screenings at the Rocket Room, the countdown was on for the Secret East Showcase at The Ship, starting at 9:30.
Newly formed (2018) Tired Wired kicked off the show, followed by Swamps, another band formed just last year. The garage-rock duo was on the must-see list for many, having released a killer self-titled demo before going on an indefinite hiatus shortly after.
Hailing from Guelph, Ont., Bonnie Trash hit the stage around 11 p.m., blowing minds in the audience. Another duo, twin sisters Emma and Sara of Bonnie Trash, created intricate, swirling dark pop/rock with only an electronic percussion pad and guitar, showcasing their highly skilled musicianship.
Speaking with the band after the set, I asked Emma how long she had been playing guitar. Her estimate was “about 18” of her 27 years, and it shows.
For me – and many others – this was the stand-out set of Lawnya Vawnya 9.
Toronto’s Protruders followed, but having already caught an iteration of the band during the Renee Sharpe Show, I instead headed to The Rockhouse for the hip-hop performance.
Arriving just after midnight, British Columbia-based Snotty Nose Rez Kids, a First Nations hip hop duo were about to go on. Clearly well-rehearsed in their art, the pair put on a spectacular show.
The spectacle of Lawnya Vawnya 9 wrapped up later that night at Eastern Edge, where Thank, Moon King, Badge Époque Ensemble and Absolutely Free finished off the festival with fun, danceable electro-pop. Badge Époque Ensemble was absolutely phenomenal, the talented frontwoman flautist creating real Jethro Tull vibes – if Jethro Tull had formed in the mid-2000’s while still eating 1960’s era acid.
Too sober to hit the dance floor, I left, making space for the many artists and attendees deserving of a stress-free shindig to wind down from the chaotic cultural experience of Lawnya Vawnya 9 – possibly the best one yet.