In the audience, and on the stage, women dominated the Iceberg Alley Performance Tent on Tuesday.
The all-women lineup – added after much criticism from local media, including this writer – was a smashing success, with the venue packed with enthusiastic music lovers ready to sway along during an evening of stunning music from talented females.
Local singer-songwriter Rachel Cousins opened the show, playing folk-pop selections from her 2017 debut album, “This Fire.” Accompanied by a four-piece band throughout the show, Cousins finished her set with her new electro-pop single, “Let Go.”
Moving from folk to pop – and doing a spectacular job in this new genre – Cousins is proving she really is St. John’s own Taylor Swift.
The band that inspired me to seek a press pass for this year’s festival was next to play.
Toronto’s The Beaches — siblings Kylie Miller (guitar) and Jordan Miller (bass), Eliza Enman-McDaniel (drums) and Leandra Earl (guitar, keys, tambourine) — are refreshingly original and surprisingly heavy.
The group channels ’90s alt-rock legends – think Garbage, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, riot grrl Kathleen Hanna, Veruca Salt – filtering that sound through 1970s-esque garage rock, with a sweet hint of indie pop.
This vintage vibe is interesting, as the band members were born closer to the millenium than 1990.
Their age is irrelevant when evaluating their musicianship, however – on top of their three-piece harmonies, this band can play their instruments as well as any musicians double their age, who likely aren’t performing synchronized dance moves and high-kicks mid song.
The 2018 Juno Award-winning Breakthrough Group of the Year played mainly material from their most recent release, “The Late Show,” ending their set with the title track.
After seeing this performance, I’m definitely in agreement with the album’s co-producer, Metric’s Emily Haines, who told The Globe and Mail that “Rock 'n' roll is definitely in the hands of 19-year-old girls.” ‘Nuff said.
Lush, layered and lively, Serena Ryder closed out the evening, performing with a full band – bass, drums, guitar, keys and two backup singers/dancers.
Raving about her love of St. John’s, Ryder was having a great time onstage, regularly dropping casual F-bombs while promoting her new national radio show, on which swearing is not allowed.
Her personality is as likeable as her music. I was surprised by just how many tunes were familiar to me, like the 2012 megahit “Stompa,” and her highly successful 2017 single “Got Your Number.” The catchy riffs, simplistic yet robust percussion, and repeated chorus lines burrows into your brain and is impossible to get out – but I’m not complaining.
Giving the band a break while she jammed out some acoustic songs, Ryder gave her audience a sampling of her vast catalogue, also paying respect to the recently departed Aretha Franklin.
The highlight of the show was Ryder’s impromptu rap verse in “Baby Come Back,” which seemed to surprise even her band.
“I’ve literally never rapped onstage before,” she said, laughing.
She attributed this special part of the performance to her love of St. John’s, and being comfortable here, “like I’m in my own living room.”
Come back any time, Serena. We’ll put the kettle on for ya.