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Wendy Rose: Within range of ‘Out of Earshot’

Montreal duo Syngja closed out the August 24 early show at The Gathering Place, playing ethereal melodic dream pop in wild get-ups.
Montreal duo Syngja closed out the August 24 early show at The Gathering Place, playing ethereal melodic dream pop in wild get-ups. - Wendy Rose photo

Out of Earshot rages on in St. John’s The capital city’s newest festival continued to rage on Friday August 24, with workshops, art exhibits, readings, and shows happening in various locations around St. John’s.

Swapping stories about how we were all still tired from the festival’s inaugural shows the night before, the dedicated show goers, artists, and musicians stifled their yawns and headed out for another evening of local and touring talent.

My evening began at the Gathering Place on Military Road, starting off with an experimental electronic trip hop set from Ritual Frames. Daze Jefferies’ one-woman show opened with “Bee In The House,” off “Diasporas,” moving through a number of reworked songs composed years ago, such as 2014’s “Samson,” updated with vocals. The chill, haunting beats and accompanying vocals make this downtempo electronica a perfect fit for the European pop charts.

In between songs, a quiet chit-chat could be heard from drag queen Irma Gerd’s nail salon in the large venue’s back corner, where Gerd provided free manicures and stimulating, bonding conversation to queer-identifying attendees.

The members of Eastern Owl were next to hit the stage. The local seven-piece all nations, all-women drum circle performed as a five-piece act at the August 24 show.

Playing drums, keys, and guitar, the group played a blend of thought-provoking, uplifting and poignant songs, performing a touching song about Henrietta Millek, an Inuk student who vanished from St. John’s in 1982, and “Textbook Description,” which explores the stereotypes created for Indigenous people, available on their new album.

Switching up genres, themes and mood, next up was Blunt Chunks, the stage moniker of Toronto’s Caitlin Woelfle-O’Brien’s one-woman act. She creates dreamy folk-pop with electric guitar, moving into ambient electronica territory upon ditching her guitar in favour of fiddling with loops, samples, and effects.

I had thought to use the term “ethereal” to describe Blunt Chunks, but that word is far more applicable to Montreal’s Syngja, duo Tyr Jami and Justin Guzzwell, who entered the stage looking like exchange students from the Space Program. Their wild outfits aside, their talent was fierce, with Jami creating sounds I didn’t know a cello could make. Harmonies, loops, samples, and beats, Syngja was undoubtedly the most unique act of the weekend. Digging into “Lang Amma”, Jami’s 2016 release the next day, I was struck by its melodic pop quality. Without the stage show, the music still stands up on its own.

After the Gathering Place show ended, there was another mass exodus as many attendees headed down to The Republic, where local bands Pillowcount (pop punk) and Yee Grlz (punk/pop punk) were setting the stage for the three touring acts on the bill.

Blood Beach, a Halifax based three-piece consisting of two ex-pat N.L.ers, hit the stage around 12:30 a.m., heating up the already sweltering upstairs venue with hard hitting hard-core punk.

The ferocious fire continued to burn with Frail Hands, a remarkable screamo/punk from Halifax with high stage energy. Described by Noisey just last week as “pure catharsis funneled into a microphone,” vocalist Dawn Amelda wowed the audience, easily convincing me that she could definitely beat me up, while wearing stilettos, as she did on stage.

Ottawa’s DOXX finished off the night, launching into a tight hardcore punk set at 1:30 a.m. The four-piece band slaughtered their set, their vocalist also standing out for her impressive ability to spit and scream with raging intensity. A track titled “Asshole” was my favourite of the set.
After seeing so many diverse, unique, and talented acts within such a short period of time, I’m glad I stayed within earshot of the Out of Earshot Festival.

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