THE MODERN GRASS are playing on Saturday April 20th at The Ship with Matthew Hornell and Jared Klok
I’d like to tell you about a Nova Scotian gem. The only group aside from Kenny and Dolly who’ve recorded Christmas music that I will happily listen to any time of the year. But since April is the season of Lawnya Vawnya (not Jesus or your poppa in a red suit) you’ll have the incredible pleasure of hearing their gorgeous blend of Bluegrass, Gypsy Jazz, Folk, Classical and Blues (but no holiday classics). Add in a lot of soulfulness, stir it all up in a cast iron pot with a handmade wooden spoon and you’ve got The Modern Grass.
Yeehaws, honky tonking, smooth and quiet crooning, strings of all kinds. Expect to clutch your heart one minute and stomp your boots the next. For a band that formed roughly 2 years ago, The Modern Grass already have 4 albums (including the award winning High on the Mountain) and a Canadian tour that stretched from The Yukon to the East Coast shores under their belts. These fellas are hard working, exceptionally gifted musicians and it is a huge pleasure to have them back on the island. While you’re having yourself a listen, I’ll just close my eyes and pretend I’m in the mountains, feet in the river, sipping some whiskey.
Put on your Texas tie, your sweetest crinoline or your Sunday’s best for a sharp Saturday night at the Ship with The Modern Grass, Jared Klok and Matthew Hornell!
If you see the biggest, bestest, reddest beard you’ve ever seen during Lawnya Vawnya this year, that’s Grey Kingdom, aka Spencer Burton, and you should stop him on the street and say hi. Tell him that you’re a big fan, even if you’ve never heard him before, because very soon you will be a big fan. I bet you’ll have a nice chat, and he’ll tell you a good story. Spencer played for a long while in Welland Ontario’s fave punk-indie-rock band Attack in Black (alongside Dan and Ian Romano and former Lawnya Vawnya alumnus Marine Dreams). But with Grey Kingdom he travels a new path to show us what’s under his beard: a mouth that can tell a tale or sing a song like you’ve never heard. Grey Kingdom is beautiful, gentle guitar songs sung by a man capable of making you laugh salty tears out of your mouth.
Sackville, New Brunswick may not be held in the same light as Seattle, Montreal or Portland – but it should be. Everyone who knows the place, the festivals it yields, the bands that come out of there and the artists that move there to work know exactly what I’m talking about.
But the thing about that place I find most inspiring goes beyond the high level of creativity – it’s Sackville’s ability to consistently re-invent itself that really gets me. One of the more recent re-inventions in Sackville is the Killer Haze label; a bunch of kids that seemingly came out of the swamp to churn out amazing tapes by a seemingly endless amount of great bands. The Mouthbreathers (who will destroy you on friday night) are involved, so is Astral Gunk (a great band that came to St. John’s a few months back). The kingpins for me, though, are YELLOWTEETH.
Perhaps the loudest band we have this year, YELLOWTEETH are one of the most exciting things I have seen in recent years. On par with the loudness and energy of Monsterbator, they throw in power pop elements and classic rock shredding into the mix. After my first time seeing them, I had to go outside, sit on a curb and breathe in as much air as I possibly could. Have you ever had excessive amounts of air blown into your lungs? Well, it was kind of like that – but with straight up awesome rock music.
I am so happy to be able to answer the question, “What are you doing tonight?” on Thursday April 18th with a simple “Going to see YELLOWTEETH at distortion, obviously.” That should be your answer too – just make sure there is an available curb nearby.
Just after the Ides of March, I put on a dress and a bit of badly-applied eyeliner and joined a Ship full of amateur drag queens and kings, gathered there for the second annual Rock and Roll Drag Show. Over by the pool table I met Chris Picco, who in his Sunday best looked a bit like an extra from The Golden Girls – but this was nothing compared to the efforts of Matt Hender, who had painstakingly straightened his famous ‘fro just for the occasion. The guys gathered the rest of the band, got on stage, and proceeded to demonstrate one riff and one hook at a time why Long Distance Runners deserve every bit of the attention they’re getting these days. Their newest record TRACKS is really, really good, of course. But live, they’ve also become one of the tightest, loudest, most fun bands around. You know how every band seems to describe themselves as ‘high-energy’? Long Distance Runners are one the few bands that can actually say that with conviction, and I’m so excited that they’re opening the festival this year. Drag is optional – but bring your dancing shoes. Actually, bring two pairs, just in case.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the raffle and congratulations to Peter Hanes, Suzelle Lavallėe, Lorraine Michael, Craig Collins and Elizabeth Tobin — they each won themselves a pair of tickets to Leonard Cohen along with a pair of Lawnya Vawnya passes… WHICH STARTS IN EIGHT DAYS!!!
Last year at Lawnya Vawnya, Marine Dreams played a cover of a Wreckless Eric tune called ‘Semaphore Signals’, and it instantly became my favourite song of the whole festival. I couldn’t get it out of my head at all. No surprise there, since Wreckless Eric is the English punk best known for writing what might be the catchiest song of all time, ‘(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World’, which he recorded back in the late 70s and which has been covered by everyone from the Proclaimers to Bahamas to Will Ferrell (yes, Will Ferrell). Turns out, he’s been on the road almost ever since, writing albums and books and more albums, and getting together, musically and matrimonially, with the outstanding American songwriter Amy Rigby. Eric & Amy’s story is a lovely one, and they’ve got an equally lovely new record out called A Working Museum, and HOLY CRAP I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE COMING TO LAWNYA VAWNYA. AGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Ahem, excuse me. Just a little excited.
Check out A Working Museum here: wrecklessericamyrigby.bandcamp.com
Amy Rigby and Wreckless Eric perform Dancing with Joey Ramone:
Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby performing (I’d Go The) Whole Wide World:
Proclaimers cover (I’d Go The) Whole Wide World:
Bahamas covers (I’d Go The) Whole Wide World:
Will Ferrell singing (I’d Go The) Whole Wide World:
I was running this open mic night in Peterborough, Ontario – the kind of open mic where a lot of guys in baseball caps play covers of Tragically Hip songs and drink pitchers of Coors – when up walks this polite, well-groomed rockabilly dude who asks to get on the list. I told him he was next (it was a slow night), and he got up there and proceeded to blow all the baseball caps off all the heads in the room.
I can’t remember the songs he played, but it honestly didn’t matter – he could have played ‘Wheat Kings’ and it would still have come out sounding like only one thing: Bloodshot Bill. The next time I saw him play was at the Indian River trailer park out on Highway 7, and there, in front of a dilapidated RV surrounded by large shirtless men and filthy children screaming as they lit fireworks in their hands under the setting sun, I got to see the full Bloodshot Bill experience, and I was converted.
Sweat and greasy hair flying around everywhere, kick drum and hi-hat about to explode, and the voice of a man who believes in the music with the same kind of freaky intensity you usually find in preachers at fringe churches. Many years, dozens of albums, millions of road-miles and a few international ‘incidents’ later, Bloodshot Bill is coming to town, and I promise that after seeing him you will believe in the raw, primal power of rock and roll again. And by again I mean forever.
Lawnya Vawnya isn’t a cheap thing to pull off. For the third year our volunteer run organization is working super hard to make sure costs are covered by producing fundraisers. Every April since 2011 we’ve produced a boatload of free, community arts events alongside super-affordable nightly shows. We fly artists in from across Canada, and the world and we are committed to paying artists as well as we can. The money we raise has helped us cover programming expenses, educational workshops, readings, gallery shows, artist fees, transportation, hospitality and helps us produce free shows in unconventional spaces.
This year we’ve got the best fundraiser yet! We have 5 pairs of tickets to see Leonard Cohen and 5 pairs of Lawnya Vawnya festival passes to be won. There will be 5 draws (on April 6) and only 500 tickets have been printed. If you do the math it means the odds are pretty decent that you could end up sitting front row for Leonard Cohen’s April 20th show at Mile-One in St. John’s! Four of these draws are valued at $670 and the other at $460.
Even if you don’t win, you’ll be helping a volunteer arts organization keep the stresses of producing an independent music and arts festival at a more reasonable level.
And for that, we can’t thank you enough. Seriously.
(We also have Festival Passes available for sale online. At $60, and with 12 shows, if you go to everything you’ll be paying just $5 a show for this outstanding lineup.)