Music festival gets bigger & better

Wolfe Island Music Festival organizers Virginia Clark, Tanis Rideout and Sarah McDermott on the waterfront with the Wolfe Island Ferry in the background.
Wolfe Island Music Festival organizers Virginia Clark, Tanis Rideout and Sarah McDermott on the waterfront with the Wolfe Island Ferry in the background.

Preview: Wolfe Island Music Festival—August 5 & 6

The Wolfe Island Music Festival just keeps getting bigger and better.

In only a few short years, the community fundraiser has grown from a quaint celebration of local artists to one of the province’s top-notch summer music festivals. Sarah McDermott started the festival in 1998 with help from her friend Virginia Clark, both of whom are Wolfe Island residents. Clark, who also manages The Grad Club, took over for McDermott three years ago.

Traditionally, all proceeds from the event go towards community development projects on Wolfe Island. This year, the money raised will be used to build an ice hockey rink.

For the first time in eight years, the not-for-profit concert underdog has expanded to two days. The festival will begin on the Friday night in an intimate theatre setting with Queen’s grad Jill Barber, local twangster Luther Wright and gravelly-voiced Grammy-winner Tony Scherr set to serenade.

The festivities continue on Saturday with the all-day outdoor show starting at 3 p.m. featuring a collection of Grad Club favourites like Apostle of Hustle, Cuff the Duke, Matt Barber and Pete Elkas, with former Bourbon Tabernacle Choir boy, Chris Brown and The Old Soul thrown in as well.

Sarah Harmer will close the show on Saturday night, admirably stepping in for The Constantines, who were originally set to headline, but were lured away—quite understandably—by an offer to open for The Foo Fighters on their Canadian tour.

Kingston’s Betablokka, local Wolfe Islanders R.W.I., and Queen’s own bass ’n drum bo-boppers, Tomate Potate, round out the bill. And as usual, there will also probably be a special guest or two.

One of the more unfamiliar names of this year’s lineup is The Old Soul. The Toronto-based band just recently played their first Kingston show, but they’ve been getting increasing exposure at home in the Big Smog, gracing the cover of indie weeklies and playing primo showcase gigs.

They’ve also impressed a few major label reps, and it looks like Universal will be re-releasing their 2004 self-titled debut in October.

The Old Soul’s frontman, Luca Maoloni, is an interesting character to say the least. He’s a handsome Italian fellow, who owns a construction company, plays bocce, makes sausages, played goal for the Barrie Colts of the OHL in his teenage years ... and also just happens to make horn-happy, fun-loving, indie pop.

He’s definitely not the typical Canadian indie rocker, to say the least.

“In theory, I shouldn’t be doing this,” Maoloni told the Journal in a phone interview last week. So why? Why is he doing it?

“It sounds so cheesy, but it’s the smiles on people’s faces.” Yeah, that’s pretty cheesy, but so is The Old Soul. They make unabashed pop music that’s sometimes too big for it’s own good.

“We try to fit a million different things into one song,” he said.

A talented multi-instrumentalist, Maoloni wrote and played almost everything on the record. When playing live, however, The Old Soul is usually eight or nine strong, complete with multiple brass players and the usual guitars, bass, drums and keys.

Maoloni was formerly the frontman of White Star Line and his group of Old Souls is comprised of long-time veterans of the Toronto indie scene.

“We’ve all been in tons of bands,” he said. “But I’m really happy right now because all I’ve wanted to do in music, I’m doing it with this band.”

The record is lots of fun for sure—the melodically-charged party pop bridges the gap between The Beach Boys and The Flaming Lips—but it’s The Old Soul’s live show that is most impressive.

Maoloni bounds around the stage, switching between keyboard and trumpet, all while loosely conducting his gang of equally enthused players. Their shows have left some audiences stunned, wondering what to think of the band’s brassy assault.

“I love it when people are like, ‘What the fuck was that?’ ” he said. “That’s the best.

“We played a show the other night to an audience of, like, 19 to 60-year-olds, and even the 60-year-old dinner crowd were getting up and dancing in the calypso line. It was awesome.” The eccentricities of The Old Soul have made it a little difficult for the band to find their niche in Toronto music circles, though.

“I mean, I’m an Italian dude playing on stage and people don’t really want to see that. They want to see cool kids playing angular guitars,” he said.

The Old Soul’s brand of happy-go-lucky, off-kilter pop has faced a fair amount of criticism for its unapologetic love of melody and the late ’60s influences that Maoloni and co. wear so proudly on their sleeves.

But Maoloni remains steadfast against the critics, defiantly defending his right to play pop music.

“I have to defend what I love,” he said.

Still, Maoloni “couldn’t give a rat’s ass” what the haters think. After all, he’s too busy leading geriatric calypso lines and convincing Toronto indie kids to love his band against all of their hipster impulses.

Yet despite the band’s ever-increasing success and a major label release just a few months away, Maoloni still doesn’t see his music ever becoming his career.

“I’m getting a bit older, you know? I’m getting married next year and I’ve got to start thinking about the future a little more, instead of just debauchery.” Ever the atypical rocker; he’s in it for a good time, without any delusions of grandeur. He’s an old soul, from a different time, who shouldn’t really be doing this, but he is anyway.

“It’s fun and that’s the most important thing.”

Amen to that.

I hope to see you all in the calypso line on Wolfe Island—I’ll be the one with the maracas.

Wolfe Island Music Festival at a glance


St. Margaret’s Hall, 9:00 p.m.
$10 in advance, $15 at the door

· Jill Barber
· Luther Wright
· Tony Scherr


Baseball Diamond, 3:00 p.m.
$15 in advance, $20 at the door

· Sarah Harmer
· Apostle of Hustle
· Cuff the Duke
· Chris Brown's Citizens Band f/Kate Fenner
· Matthew Barber and the Union Dues
· The Old Soul
· Peter Elkas
· Betablokka
· R.W.I.
· Tomate Potate

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