Monday, August 13th, 2007

Wolfe Notes

So what did you do this weekend? I spent Saturday afternoon basking/cooking in the sun and taking in the tunes on an island in the mouth of the St Lawrence River at the ninth annual Wolfe Island Musicfest. Set in the outfield of a baseball diamond in the tiny town of Marysville on the largest of the 1,000 Islands in Kingston, Ontario, it’s a small festival that’s grown larger in recent years as its reputation for hosting top independent Canadian talent in an exceedingly comfortable and casual setting has spread. This year there were more than a few comments about how big it had gotten but ou could have easily scooped up all the patrons and dropped them into a medium-large club and still had room to dance.

Better time than expected was made getting out of Toronto and up to Kingston but when we got to the festival site, things were inexplicably running almost an hour ahead of schedule and so Spiral Beach was finishing when they should have been starting and I barely caught one song. I had wanted to see them – it’d been well over a year since I saw them last and for a band as young as they, that’s an eternity, but this time it wasn’t t be. I did note they were much blonder than they were before, though.

Photos: Spiral Beach @ Wolfe Island Music Fest – August 11, 2007
MP3: Spiral Beach – “New Clouds”
MP3: Spiral Beach – “Voodoo”

So things essentially got started with a familiar face, Ms Basia Bulat. Somehow, her band was even greater in number than at Hillside, boasting ten members at points – at this rate, she’ll soon not be referred to as orch-pop but as a straight-up orchestra. This was the fourth time I’d seen her play this year so I’m plum out of new ways to talk about her show so I’ll just say that I expected her and her band to be terrific and they were. Always a pleasure. Her album Oh My Darling is out on September 18 and she plays a double-header record release party at the Music Gallery on September 22.

Photos: Basia Bulat @ Wolfe Island Music Fest – August 11, 2007
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Snakes & Ladders”
MySpace: Basia Bulat

Born Ruffians seem to occupy their own distinctive musical cosmos of hiccupping, yodeled vocals and odd rhythms that alternately lurch and tippy-toe along but the longer I spend there, the more natural it feels. Still immensely odd, but comfortable. Their generally amiable and goofy demeanor suited the vibe of the day really well and they gained the distinction of getting the audience on their feet far earlier in the day than I’d have expected. Their debut full-length album is due out early next year and a couple of the new tracks sounded pretty impressive.

Photos: Born Ruffians @ Wolfe Island Music Fest – August 11, 2007
MP3: Born Ruffians – “Hedonistic Me”
MP3: Born Ruffians – “I’m Not One Of Those Girls”
MySpace: Born Ruffians

Weeping Tile! For all the merits of the rest of the festival lineup, they were the main reason I made the trek up to Kingston (I detailed my love for the band here). Sarah Harmer, for all her success as a AOR folkie (not meant as a slight – I like her solo work), can still rock it out and looked perfectly natural with the beat up Telecaster or even behind the drum kit for their set-closing cover of Guided By Voices’ “Game Of Pricks”. All of the old gems sounded great and I was especially thrilled that “The Room With The Sir John A View” got aired – one of my all-time favourites. That the band makes a point of saying there are no plans for any sort of full-on reunion is both a shame and a relief – it makes events like this that much more special though I’d be happy if they happened just a little more frequently and maybe not just here in their hometown. But a suggestion to Ms Harmer, if I may? When you head back into the studio to record the follow-up to I’m A Mountain? Bring the Telecaster. Just in case.

Photos: Weeping Tile @ Wolfe Island Music Fest – August 11, 2007
MP3: Weeping Tile – “Au Sud De Moi”

By this time, the organizers had shuffled and stretched the schedule to try and get back onto the originally posted set times so that people didn’t miss whomever they were arriving to see. It was a little too effective as by night’s end they were an hour behind, meaning that somewhere, somehow, they actually lost two hours, but really – having extra time to kill wasn’t going to be any kind of issue with Apostle Of Hustle coming up to bat. I suspect they’ve never seen a set time they couldn’t jam into oblivion. While their first full-length Folkloric Feel didn’t do much for me, the stuff I’ve heard from National Anthem Of Nowhere has been pretty good, particularly the title track. The first portion of their set was actually really impressive, serving as a reminder of how good a guitarist Andrew Whiteman is and how tight the band is. After a while, though, the jamminess of it all got a bit much to take and I went to lie down and watch the sun set.

Photos: Apostle Of Hustle @ Wolfe Island Music Fest – August 11, 2007
Video: Apostle Of Hustle – “National Anthem Of Nowhere” (YouTube)
MySpace: Apostle Of Hustle

As a general rule, electronic acts are either stupefyingly dull live or stupefyingly awesome. Holy Fuck are the latter. Playing with a live rhythm section, Holy Fuckers Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh dived right into their work, playing their arsenal of keyboards and effects pedals in real-time like DJs on decks. No pressing “play” on laptops and queuing up the Frecell here, thank you very much. Holy Fuck were about dancing – themselves, the crowd, even the other performers (Sarah Harmer and members of Basia Bulat’s band were onstage dancing up a storm by the set’s close). Having not really listened to their studio recordings, I’m curious to see if they can translate the energy and excitement of their live performance to record. Their new full-length will be released on October 23, I’ll find out then.

Photos: Holy Fuck @ Wolfe Island Music Fest – August 11, 2007
MySpace: Holy Fuck

The delightful synchronicity of having Wolf Parade play Wolfe Island is self-evident, so I’ll skip that. Instead, I’ll say that I’ve never been into Wolf Parade but that’s based on one live show (which I actually rather enjoyed) and the impression that I couldn’t take the vocals in the band. Well it seems that’s no longer as much an issue as I thought it was because their headlining set to close out the fest was pretty damned impressive. Claiming it to be their first show in some ten months, they used the opportunity to air out a goodly number of new songs though I wouldn’t have been able to tell since I don’t know the old songs (though I assume the ones that got the biggest cheers were the old ones). All of it sounded urgent, rich and ragged and most importantly, so very rocking and the vocals? Didn’t really bother me at all. I think that maybe I’ve grown, just a little. The audience went nuts, the otherwise sleepy little town of Marysville apparently had no curfew (they wrapped up a good hour later than originally intended) and I left a bit early to catch the ferry back to the mainland, fully intending to pick up a copy of Apologies To The Queen Mary at the earliest opportunity. I would call that the perfect cap to great day of music.

Photos: Wolf Parade @ Wolfe Island Music Fest – August 11, 2007
MP3: Wolf Parade – “My Father’s Son”
MP3: Wolf Parade – “Shine A Light”
Video: Wolf Parade – “I’ll Believe In Anything” (MOV)
MySpace: Wolf Parade

As mentioned, the Wolfe Island experience was so casual and enjoyable, it was more like a day in the park (which technically it was) with bands playing rather than a music festival in the conventional sense. Though it would have been nice to have some of the amenities of the larger fests – free tap water or a better than 1-to-100 portapottie-to-patron ratio – it was a minor quibble (that’s why they have shrubbery, after all) and a fine second stop in my Summer of local-ish, laid back festivals (Hillside was stop one, Dog Day Afternoon next weekend will cap things off). Radio Free Canuckistan, whom I thank heartily for shuttling me to Kingston and back, has posted his review of the day.

By : Frank Yang at 8:40 am
Category: Uncategorized
RSS Feed for this post8 Responses.
  1. alan says:

    that was a really fun festival / community day / bands playing at the ball diamond. wolfe island is beautiful.

  2. alan says:

    ps. thanks for the great pics and write-ups, as always

  3. Diamond Dave Returns! says:

    Huge news today in music Frank.
    Van Halen coming to Toronto 10/7 !!!

  4. Tualla says:

    Frank – Thanks for pushing Basia so much. I now can’t wait to see her at LOLA in Sept.

    Geez and that is only after hearing 2 songs ….

  5. palpable says:

    Frank, nice seeing you at the ‘fest. I think Spiral Beach are awesome based on their set and the few spins through my CD player. Holy Fuck did it for me later in the night. I need some more time for Wolf Parade but I agree that they rocked it. I found an old Weeping Tile performance if anyone’s

  6. Jeff says:

    Hey great review of the whole show. Like everyone else I loved Basia’s set, and her great looking backing band. Spiral Carpet was fantastic as were Born Ruffians and Apostle of Hustle I liked a lot. But Holy Fuck was really not that great. The made up for it when everyone came out and danced but they really blew Lovely Allen (normal show closer). But I cant wait to see them again.

    And wolfparade almost made me cry they were so good.

  7. Sarah Harmer returns to set Little Fire | MP3 Music at MixBurner says:

    […] been away that long, but now that I think about it, the last time I saw her in any context was at Wolfe Island in 2007 with the reunited Weeping Tile, and it’s been almost five years since the release of her last […]

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    […] Tile, the Sarah Harmer-led outfit who occasionally break hiatus for special occasions like this, Wolfe Island 2007 or whenever Harmer feels like putting the folk-pop aside to make a righteous racket. Joining them […]