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REVIEW: Lawnya Vawnya (April 20)

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Saturday Afternoon @ Multiple Locations

By Samm Joyy

Construction and Destruction (telephone performance) & Record Fair @ Eastern Edge Gallery

I started my Lawnya Vawnya Saturday venturing down to Eastern Edge Gallery where the Phone-It-In event was taking place. The eight white phones hung on the wall were an intriguing sight to see, even more so as I watched the listeners’ reaction to whomever was on the other line. As I waited for a free phone, I circled the Record Fair, where the merchandise from most of the Lawnya Vawnya participants was on display. As someone motioned me to have a turn at his telephone, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

All the phones are connected, so everyone is able to hear the same music. I lucked into a set by Nova Scotia duo Construction and Destruction. It was probably the most intimate performance I had ever heard. I found myself actually listening to the music and having one of those retrospective moments that only certain music can create, even though I was surrounded by seven other people who were all probably going through the same thing. It was a very different experience and props to whoever came up with the idea.

Jared Klok / Shotgun Jimmie @ Downtown Music Crawl

After leaving the musical phone booth, I headed towards the alley close to the Gallery, just to be met with a crowd of people and the slight strumming of guitar. I had stumbled upon the third act of the Music Crawl. Jared Klok played a short acoustic act with no wires, leaving the sounds of the harbour front to set the backdrop. The Crawl then continued to Rocket Bakery, as Shotgun Jimmie overtook the window ledge and left the crowd in stitches with his witty lyrics and over exaggerated dance moves.

Grey Kingdom / Fiver / Bry Webb @ Rocket Room

However, the laughter didn’t stop there. When the Music Crawl ended I headed upstairs to the Rocket Room for the afternoon all ages show. I went in expecting run of the mill Indie performers; however I was met with a man whose stand up comedy almost exceeded his musical talent, a female rocker whose quiet appearance hides powerful vocals, and a father’s soothing songs which left me reminiscing about my own father’s lullabies.

Spencer Burton, otherwise known as Grey Kingdom spent more time telling stories and making the crowd laugh then gracing us with his jaw-dropping songs. He defines the category of folk musician, as not only do the lyrics of his songs reveal the circumstances of a story, but he also fits a few tales in between songs. His deep western voice propelled over Rocket Room as he sang about life’s greatest endeavors, and everyone in the room was drawn to his comforting sound. My only confliction with his set was that he spent more time with his comedian act than he did singing. Both were equally worth the listen, but Burton’s voice just draws you in and leaves you wanting more.

Fiver @ The Rocket Room. Photo by Zach Bonnell.
Fiver @ The Rocket Room. Photo by Zach Bonnell.

The atmosphere quickly changed as Fiver hit the stage. Front woman, Simone Schmidt, who is known from her other performances in bands such as One Hundred Dollars and The Highest Order, is quite deceiving. Her delicate and effortless appearance hides a deep, western voice. She sang with her eyes, as the emotion poured out of her and shook up Rocket Room. Although her accompanying band was a little boring, she held the spotlight with her own musical talent. Spilling out powerful lyrics on a number of topics, and proving that girls can indeed play an electric guitar, Schmidt had the audience wrapped around her finger.

Once people settled down from their laughing and shock, Bry Webb stepped onto the stage. Earlier rumours had set my expectations high, but his performance was mediocre. There is no bone in my body that doubts Webb’s talent, but whether it was the long haul of the show, or his less audience-directed performance, I was trying to keep myself from sleeping. There were a couple of moments when Webb clearly did not need a microphone as his voice penetrated the air, which I found impressive. His introspective songs ranged in themes from love to music, my personal favorite being the one he dedicated to his son. Although he showed a lot of emotion and has no shortage of musical talent, his stage performance didn’t capture my attention and set me up for an afternoon nap.

Saturday Evening @ Multiple Locations

By Alyson Samson and Samm Joyy

Tim Baker @ Newman Wine Vaults

By Alyson Samson

Tim Baker performed at the Newman Wine Vaults Saturday evening. Photo by Alyson Samson.
Tim Baker performed at the Newman Wine Vaults Saturday evening. Photo by Alyson Samson.

Lawnya Vawnya organizers announced Saturday morning that Hey Rosetta! front man Tim Baker would play a surprise intimate solo set at Newman Wine Vaults in the early evening. The space provided a select crowd with a low lit, enigmatic ambience and great acoustics for a ten song set of primarily unheard material.

Baker strummed his acoustic guitar and immediately silenced the echo of the chatty audience, who, despite the fact Baker started off on a slow note, gave him their full attention. During several unnamed and previously unheard songs, with lyrics placed on a barrel in front of him, Baker had the audience hanging on every word. He carried on with them as though they were sat across the dinner table, while experimenting with new songs and switching from guitar to piano.

Despite forgetting the words to a couple of crowd pleasing favorites, the captivated audience didn’t waver to clap along to the beat of popular Hey Rosetta! tune Welcome while Baker was bewildered at the audiences’ participation. Baker’s new and unreleased material was laced with the same poetic tongue audiences have come to expect from the conceptual writer, he said some of these songs would be used on new projects in the future though others may never see the light of day again. While the diverse audience was eager for the new songs they were far more engaged in the known, recorded favorites as the evening ended with Baker leading the vaults’ congregation into a chorus of Bandages, concluding the memorable performance.

Jared Klok / The Modern Grass / Matthew Hornell @ The Ship Pub

By Alyson Samson

With the Saturday evening show at The Ship, Lawnya Vawnya festival goers could be forgiven for feeling as though they might have wandered into a New Orleans folk festival. The first of three acts was Alberta native (Newfoundland transplant) Jared Klok, a member of local band All the Wiles. A solo Klok and his guitar greeted the early-coming audience to folk/roots songs with a honkey tonk country charm. Turning up the tempo, he was joined by Jake Nicoll on drums, Knoah Bender on bass and Alison Corbett on fiddle. Klok could make any island bound audience nostalgic for a sunny prairie day.

Matthew Hornell at The Ship Saturday night. Photo by Alyson Samson.
Matthew Hornell at The Ship Saturday night. Photo by Alyson Samson.

Nova Scotia bluegrass quartet The Modern Grass were tailored to fit the ongoing vibe, a sophisticated looking group they were amped with instrumental jigs and the wailing vocals of Tom Terrell accompanied by Andrew Sneddon on lap steel, Adam Pye on standup bass and Donald Maclennan on fiddle. The four were at home playing to an audience that they had swaying and stomping to their southern gospel sound.

Matthew Hornell’s energy encompassed the audience late into the evening as he was welcomed home with open arms. Playing material primarily off his recently released sophomore album, Have It All, Hornell’s lyrical poetry and passion enthralled the excited crowd. Backed by Matt Gallant on drums and several members of The Modern Grass with Sneddon on lap steel, Terrell on keys and harmonica, and Pye on bass Hornell rounded out the evening with audience favorites such as Easy On Me and Khaki Dodgers compelling the captivated spectators to tap their feet.

Waterman and Milley / Pathological Lovers /  @ The Rock House

By Samm Joyy

I arrived at The Rock House just in time to catch opening act Waterman and Milley. The local band has been playing in town for a while now and it was about time I saw them. The two-man rock band, consisting of Andrew Waterman and Devon Milley, produced a much better sound than I had expected, and the audience seemed to enjoy it too. I was very impressed with the amount of energy they each put into their set, but a bit more practice could go a long way.

I watched as people crowded the dance floor in eagerness for The Pathological Lovers. Typically the headlining band in town, it was nice to see their set a little earlier on in the night. The Lovers performed quite a number of new songs, proving their lyrical genius and Jody Richardson’s theatrical vocal range. The music was clearly well rehearsed and the band kept the sound tight and clean. Although known for their energetic stage presence, The Lovers seemed a little less upbeat while on stage, but concealed it well as dedicated fans flocked to the dance floor, toes tapping and heads banging.

Before last night I had never heard of Obits,and now I can’t get them out of my head. Their show was probably one of the greatest alternative rock performances to come to St. John’s. Their heavy, hard rock blew up the speakers and before the chorus of the first song most of the audience members were hooked. They managed to set off the moshing instinct in most of the male audience members, as people were banging up against one another, letting the music take over their bodies. Some brave souls even had the chance to crowd surf and you could see the excitement in their faces as they floated along the tips of fingers while head banging and fist pumping. Of all the shows I’ve attended at The Rock House, Obits supplied the most energetic and entertaining.

Lawnya Vawnya continues this afternoon with part two of the Downtown Music Crawl and ‘Phone-It-In’ event and Record Fair at Eastern Edge Gallery, and Bloodshot Bill is playing a free, all-ages pop-up show at Fogtown Barber Shop downtown at 3 p.m. The festival wraps up tonight with a performances by George Nervous Four, Cousins, and Kid Koala at 11 p.m. at The Rock House ($20, 19+).

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