QPOP! packs a punch

Renowned indie bands takeover campus venues for second annual QPOP!

Born Ruffians performing at The Underground on Friday night.
Headliner Born Ruffians performing at The Underground on Friday night.

Last weekend, QPOP! breathed life into campus' nightlife.

The second annual QPOP! festival was held on campus this past weekend at The Underground, Clark Hall Pub and The Grad Club.

This year, QPOP! brought 15 indie bands to campus. The line-up included popular Queen’s musicians, such as The Attic Kids and Devan & Khalid, as well as chart-toppers, like Toronto indie band Alvvays and Rural Alberta Advantage.  

The Journal attended the festival over its two nights. Here’s what we thought: 


Friday Oct. 2

Born Ruffians, featuring openers The Stringers

The lead vocalist and guitarist of The Stringers Marco Ferraris during their performance as they opened for the Born Ruffians, at the Underground on Friday. (Photo by Arwin Chan)

“I’m sure you guys hear this all the time, but this looks like a spaceship,” Marco Ferraris — lead vocalist of The Stringers— said, looking at the stage mid-set.

While the Underground’s setup for the night was admittedly pure sci-fi, complete with a foggy, purple glow, white strobe lights and metallic rails, the atmosphere was anything but alien.

The Stringers’ set was intimate and comfortable, and had an easy-going vibe. Band members Kyle Meyers and Jordan Lewis took front-stage alongside Ferraris.

Drummer Stephen Roper, Sci ’16, kept the beat behind the band. Some concertgoers called out to him after recognizing the fourth-year mechanical engineering student.

The crowd — which trickled in as the set began — was warm and familiar. They enthusiastically sang back parts of the songs, which Ferraris paused to teach them.

“It feels like they’re our friends playing music for us,” concert-goer Ellie Berry, ArtSci ’17, said.

The energy in the room dialed up several notches as the bands transitioned and Toronto-based indie rock band The Born Ruffians took over the stage. The Born Ruffians, formed in 2004, released their fifth studio album Ruff last Friday.

The crowd applauded before the band arrived on stage. Members of The Stringers looked on with admiration from the side.

“Watching a band that made you want to be in a band is incredible,” The Stringers wrote in the description of a photo they posted on Facebook during the show.

The crowd suddenly got packed tight as concertgoers pressed closer to the stage.

The room pulsed with energy as the band emerged, and Luke Lalonde, Mitch Derosier, Andy Lloyd and Adam Hindle dove into their dynamic set.

Their performance included several new songs off their Ruff album, which they had released at midnight the previous night. Despite the unfamiliarity of the new tracks, audience members — perhaps wrapped up in the energy around them — somehow still shouted along to the new song “(Eat S**t) We Did It”.

The band members weren’t exempt from the thrilling buzz in the room. During the set, Derosier grabbed the mic and breathlessly declared, “This. This is a good day.”

— Victoria Gibson 

Kasador and Tora, featuring opener Brave Shores

As winter approaches, Brave Shores made for a fitting good-bye to the warm weather.

The brother and sister duo performed a confident, grooving set for an energetic Clark Hall. With the support of openers Kasador and Tora, the band rolled through their set of electro-pop anthems.

As audience members settled into their tables and milled around the doors, indie rockers Kasador kicked off the night. Affective call and response vocals and brief forays into synthesized keyboards set the mood for a carefree evening.

Tora — hailing from Byron Bay, Australia — was up next. The chill-wave act lived up to their genre, covering some laidback beats with dreamlike keyboards. The band has quietly made a name for themselves, having recently toured Europe and made serious inroads into North America and Australia. The band’s breezy verses captured the intimacy of Bon Iver without losing its ability to move a crowd.

Toronto’s Brave Shores ended the night with an energetic run-through of their self-titled EP. Performing with a good-natured vibe, they played ’80s throwback tunes with a modern feel.

The multi-instrumentation of both band members shone through the tracks, and gave each song an air of tasteful musicality.

Fan favourite “Never Come Down” was a highlight. Audience members jumped into the song’s vibrant energy, even drowning out its final fading notes with applause.

— Nick Pearce 

Alvvays, featuring openers Devan & Khalid and Moon King

Lead singer of Alvvays Molly Rankin onstage during their performance at the Grad Club on Friday. (Photo by Arwin Chan)

A box of cassette tapes, jangly indie rock and an adoring crowd made the Grad Club show the highlight of QPOP! last Friday.

Dreamy indie-rockers Alvvays, along with Devan & Khalid and Moon King, delivered a raucous showing to a crammed Grad Club.

Recent Queen’s graduates Devan & Khalid kicked off the night with an impressive set of indie folk songs, leaving the crowd to chant a hopeful encore. The Kingston duo’s set was warm and affectionate, a feeling reciprocated by the audience as the band played favorites like “Adult Diversion” and “Atop a Cake.”

Shoegaze act Moon King took the stage afterwards to cement the palpable excitement in the room. The critically acclaimed Toronto act urgently delivered a set of indie rock songs in preparation for Alvvays.

If the crowd’s roar of approval to the first chords of the Alvvays set-closer “Archie, Marry Me,” is any indication, fans of the lovelorn quintet were aching for a reunion. The Grad Club, pushed to capacity, turned several attendees away at the door.

The few people who found their way indoors jostled for a better view of the up-and-coming indie rock stars between bobbing heads and swaying bodies of the crowd.

Alvvays departed from their self-titled debut album set to play a cover of Kristy MacCol’s “He’s on the Beach.”

Frontwoman Molly Rankin, daughter of East-Coast Celtic music stalwarts The Rankin Family, said MacCol was one of her major musical influences.

“She was the first female vocalist I heard that sounded like something like the Smiths,” she said. “That was the first influence that inspired me to play with a band and sound that way.”

The band launched into an encore, with Rankin crooning over fuzzed-out guitars for the rabid audience. During an interview after the show, Rankin said it was a “rambunctious crowd”.

“It’s [the] third time we’ve played here,” she said. “It maybe gets more fun every time we play here, because we know what to expect.”

— Nick Pearce 

Saturday Oct. 3

The Wilderness and The Rural Alberta Advantage


 The Rural Alberta Advantage jamming at The Underground. (Supplied by Sophie Sahara Photography)

Indie rock bands The Wilderness and The Rural Alberta Advantage (RAA) dominated the Underground on Saturday night.

Three of the four members of The Wilderness went to or currently attend Queen’s — and the band was lively on their home court on the second night of QPOP!

The RAA, meanwhile, had an emotional night performing their last show of the year. As one of Canada’s top indie bands, the RAA performed an intense set that culminated in mosh pits and a lengthy encore.

The four-piece Wilderness started strong. With a quick “How are you doing?”, the band was off and running. 

In one of the highlights of the night, lead guitarist Sacha Leah killed one of his solos in a style reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s solo at the beginning of “Voodoo Child”.

It’s no coincidence — Lewis-Anthony said they “definitely” tried to emulate the guitar god.

The band travelled recently on a two-week musical tour through the American Midwest and back east to Toronto.

“South Dakota was the craziest for wild nights. Rock and roll: fucking awesome,” Lewis-Anthony said.

The Wilderness originally formed through an open mic night in Kingston, where Lewis-Anthony said he "begged" the other members to let him jam with them.

Toward the end of their set, drummer Henry Lawrence appeared either exhausted or exuberant.

“One more song?” the band agreed before letting Lawrence know. Upon finding out, Lawrence let out an ambiguous “fuuuuuuuuck!” It didn’t matter what he meant. The crowd was too immersed in the music to pay attention.

The next performance was The RAA's last show of the year, and they didn’t waste any time.

The band immediately grabbed the audience’s attention. Keyboardist Amy Cole acted as an instrumental mosaic, playing the tambourine, keyboard and assisting with vocals.

The long and intense drumming in their song “Mended with Gold” was followed by a brief period of silence. The crowd filled the void, their voices filling The Underground until The RAA turned up the volume and a mosh pit emerged.

More mosh pits formed during the song “Terrified”. According to the schedule, they’d come to their last song. But the crowd demanded otherwise.

“One more song!” members of the crowd yelled.

Lead singer and guitarist Nils Edenloff eventually came out from backstage.

“You guys got persistence,” he said back to the crowd.

During the encore, the band played in a down-key, personal manner. Edenloff began by calmly playing his acoustic guitar. It was hard to tell if the encore was for the crowd, or for himself.

Amy Cole eventually emerged from backstage and joined in. Drummer Paul Banwatt came out last, adding the percussion the band needed to go out hard and strong.

The RAA played as if they refused to leave the stage. After the show, Banwatt told The Journal it was true — he wished they could have stayed.

“If we could have, we wouldn’t have left,” he said.

— Eric Gallo-Miscevich

The Elwins, featuring openers The Attic Kids and Holy Mind Funk


The Attic Kids opening for The Elwins at Clark Hall Pub on Saturday. (Photo by Kendra Pierroz)

On Saturday night at Clark Hall Pub, three talented bands hit the stage for a night of unbridled

Queen’s student band The Attic Kids began the night at 9:30 p.m. to what was a smaller crowd.

Playing a mix of cover songs, such as Tame Impala’s “Apocalypse Dreams”, and originals, along with songs from their self-released EP “Where We Belong”, the band kept the energy high with every song.

By the time Holy Mind Funk came out, the tables at Clark Hall gradually filled. Playing a blend of heavy rock, metal and punk, the band didn’t stray from anything less than the head-banging music their name promised.

The prominently heavy metal set featured original songs such as “Feel So Good” and “Sex Things”, which focused on the power of their instruments rather than their lyrics.

Holy Mind Funk, while unique in their sound, didn’t fit in with the indie rock-pop vibe established by The Attic Kids and continued by headliners The Elwins.

QPOP! ended the weekend with a final performance by Newmarket band The Elwins, which attracted more than 70 students to Clark Hall. As the show began, the front stage was packed to the brim with fans.

“When I say fire it up, you say freaking fire it up,” singer-guitarist Matthew Sweeney shouted to the audience.

The band didn’t hold back throughout their performance, and came back for one more song at the audience’s behest once they’d finished their set.

They performed hits from their latest album Play For Keeps, including the commercially successful “So Down Low”, “Show Me How To Move” and “Bubble”.

QPOP! at Clark Hall Pub didn’t disappoint. While Holy Mind Funk provided unique sounds, it was The Attic Kids and The Elwins that let their passion shine — performing with the crowd rather than for it.

— Alicia Hai 

The Dirty Nil featuring opener Ivory Hours

QPOP! Concertgoers were treated to some bruises on Sunday morning.

Headliners The Dirty Nil set a hard-rocking backdrop to an impromptu mosh pit in the Grad Club this past Saturday.

The Hamilton trio tore through their catalogue of distorted and incendiary rock songs. Stirring melodies tempered the music’s raw, jagged edges, which was only interrupted by the odd audience member flailing onto the stage.

“You rowdy kids try not to knock out my teeth,” guitarist and vocalist Luke Bentham said between songs after a sprawling audience member accidentally knocked a mic stand into his mouth.

However, the show never lost its genial atmosphere. The crowd linked arms and collectively headbanged to an Hüsker Dü cover.

Openers Ivory Hours also showcased their set of danceable alt-pop tunes. The bluesy rocker “Wonder Life” and a driving chorus in “Mary” proved to be the highlights of their set.

The Journal spoke with The Dirty Nils’ guitarist and vocalist Dave Nardi before the show to delve into the snowstorms and relationships that define the band.

“The last time we played here there was major snowstorm,” Nardi said. “ I think there was like five people. But QPOP! seemed cool and we hadn’t played here for a while, so we thought it was time to lift the ban.”

It wasn’t the first time the band has struggled with the elements. During their first tour stop in Brooklyn, they slept in their van in the dead of winter to avoid paying for a hotel.

“It was in the middle of night, the heat was gone, and it was unbelievably cold. We all woke up pretty miserable and drove the rest of the way,” Nardi said. “I think we got paid $22.75 for that show.”

The band has a daunting tour ahead of them. They’ll crisscross North America — with stops ranging from Toronto to Jacksonville — in preparation for their debut album in the New Year.

Nardi said the new album will stay true to what hard-edged rock fans have come to expect.

“It’s not a departure. No one will be unpleasantly surprised,” he said.

“It strengthens our touchstones while pushing things further. There are some heavier moments and some more melodic things. We’re super excited.”

— Nick Pearce

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