Wolfe Island Music Festival celebrates 20 years

Yukon Blonde headlines local weekend concerts

Bolu performs at Wolfe Island Music Festival

For 20 years, the Wolfe Island Music Festival has been a getaway for music lovers across the country.

A short ferry-ride from downtown, the festival ran from August 10 to 11, including local and visiting artists that arrived to play on downhome stages throughout the community including the Main Stage Community Centre as well as St. Margaret’s Hall, Wolfe Island Pub and Pizzeria and The Island Grill. 

Scroll to the bottom for Artist Spotlights

Day 1

The festival kicked off on Friday evening, as a small crowd of people gathered to watch the festival opener Deux Trois.

The night was relaxed as spectators sat in the grass and at picnic tables, hovering around the vendor tents lining the perimeter of the Main Stage area. Despite the small audience, lead vocalist of Deux Trois, Nadia Pacey danced with high energy and ferociously belted out the lyrics to songs like “Late Night Girls. 

Her small size is no indication of the power of her performance—a fact she proved when she began aggressively stomping her feet loudly as part of the beat to her singing.

Singer-songwriter Nefe delivered an equally powerful performance as she sang “Mama”, the title track for her album. The song showcased an expansive range and undeniable vocal talent. 

Her personal lyrics about leaving her mother’s home were deeply relatable and expanded into a performance that conjured the soulfulness of Reggae and the allure of R&B, all set to upbeat rock instrumentals.

Later in the night, at the Wolfe Island Pub and Pizzeria, Michael C Duguay performed an hour long set with guitarist Timothy Seier. 

Duguay introduced each song with the story that inspired it, filling the evening with episodes like a brief romance featuring a mysterious woman he met on a mountain top. The crowd laughed and cheered as Duguay opened up about the experience before launched into the song.

Lit by Christmas lights and neon signs, the pub’s welcoming atmosphere, complimented Duguay’s down-home performance.  That folksy charm and obvious talent built on pastoral and biblical lyrics to create an hour of story-telling at its best. 

Plants and Animals were the second last band to perform on the Main Stage on Friday night. The band’s dominating stage presence, catchy lyrics and liberating indie-rock beats moved the audience to get up and stand closer to the stage to watch.

Afterward, Queen’s student Bolu performed at The Island Grill on the waterfront.

Despite flagging energy, the crowd still danced to the dynamic set of beats on display underneath his lyrics.   

After Bolu took a bow, Rapper Sean Leon followed and closed out the night.

The young rapper’s upbeat tempo—and likely a good amount of alcohol—had the audience dancing and singing along throughout his whole set.

He thanked everyone for coming out and being so welcoming. Then in a moment of reflection, he commented on how beautiful the view of the stars is from the Island and how he often forgets to look up at the night sky.

After asking where the after parties will be, capturing the community values and love of music that the Wolfe Island Music Festival celebrates.

Day 2 

The second day of the festival was off to a slower start. Under scorching heat, many festival-goers opted for the beach before heading to the festival.

A crowded ferry delayed the departure— a recurring issue– turned a twenty-minute boat ride into an hour and a half of baking on the dock.  

The heat dampened spirits—but only slightly. As the artists performed, spectators were spread out across the grounds in search of shade. Luckily for many, the festival had extra umbrellas available at no cost.

Looking out at the crowd assembled around the stage, concertgoers were reclining in the sun,  while others enjoyed a drink and visited vendors as small childrenran free through the grounds.

The O’Pears, the Toronto based-trio, formed at Humber College and played thematically heavy songs tackling womanhood, young love, and loss in life.

The contrasting sound of Boyhood followed the trio. As the petite Caylie Runciman emerged on stage, her sound was a shock. Her fierce punk-metal sound was the polar opposite of her quiet, friendly demeanour. Living just north of Kingston, Runciman’s music and stage improvisation has made waves in the local music community.

While improvisation makes it hard for the audience to participate, it makes a wonderful spectacle.  

In the evening, the event took on a more serious tone as the festival paid tribute to Gord Downie. The late Kingston-born frontman of the Tragically Hip was honoured as a champion of local and Canadian music. The festival itself was dedicated to Downie who died last year of brain cancer.

Before evening’s headliner,  Weaves took the stage and presented their gleefully innovative blend of folk and electronic music. On the Wolfe Island Music Festival’s website, the band’s most recent album is described as “a triumphant assault on all things conventional.”

They didn’t disappoint. Their folksy-electric sound had the growing crowd captivated. As the sun set, and the stars came out, Weaves was the perfect transition for the headline performance of the day.

Closing out the night – and the festival – was Yukon Blonde. The band, touting a strong following, performed songs from their newest album Critical Hit, as well as older fan favourites such as “Saturday Night”.

On a record, the songs of Yukon Blonde are likely to get anybody up and dancing, but when performed live, it’s a guarantee. With an electric energy, Yukon Blonde has the ability to become everybody’s favourite band for the night.

As the 20th annual Wolfe Island Music Festival wrapped up, it became apparent that these festivals are integral to Canadian musical culture—and that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Artist Spotlights

Major Love Q&A

by Brigid Goulem

Can you tell me a little bit about the album that you just released?

This album started with some songs I had written back in 2015.

I went on my first-ever solo tour to Germany and the UK and met the guys from Scenic Route to Alaska. We were on the same stage together and we decided that once we were back in Edmonton, we would do some recording together.

We got into the studio and within [less than a month] we had tracked a whole album.

We held onto it for a while because it just didn’t feel like it was totally finished yet, and I had run out of money… that’s how it goes with most musicians. It’s [came] out on August 24. 

How does it feel to be performing in Kingston as a local band?

I’m originally from Whiteminster on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border so I’m a prairie girl at heart but I think I’ve been in the Kingston area for a couple of years now, and actually lived on Wolfe Island when we actually moved out. It’s a really nice feeling that people who are putting on these kinds of shows, know who we are first of all, but that we can play for our friends! 

How did you come up with the name Major Love?

I think it was something that came up in the studio, because at first we didn’t know that we were going to be a band. We started floating around a bunch of different ideas.

After performing as a solo artist I realized that a lot of the songs that I’d written in my earlier days were really cathartic songs, a lot of ‘oh woe is me’, a lot of them had really dark feelings behind them – revenge, trying to hurt someone who hurt me – they weren’t that negative but they weren’t the purest of intentions.

And I realized later I didn’t like how they made me feel. The words I sing affect me, and they probably affect the people I’m performing for. I wanted to put good energy out with this project. Major Love was just a name that popped up, and I thought, ”this suits.”

Michael C. Duguay Q&A

by Brittany Giliforte  

Q: How did you get your start in the music industry?

A: Very quickly after high school I started playing in a band that got signed to a label so I didn’t go directly to university I just started touring full time internationally. That band was called The Burning Hell and we were a quieter folk band or anti-folk as we called it.

Q: Do you write all of your music and lyrics or is it a collaborative process?

A: Instrumentally in this project we’re playing my originals, which I composed. I’m playing nylon string guitar, classical guitar, Spanish guitar, and a little bit of piano - piano’s my first instrument. I operate my projects as collectives so people are free to come and go as they please. 

I work with people who are competent. If someone isn’t present at a show, [the performance] changes but it doesn’t lack anything and we fill the space to the best of our ability.

My background is pretty mixed. I grew up playing a lot of jazz and punk. Then I got into indie folk and indie rock. In the past few years I’ve gotten interested in traditional folk, country, and bluegrass, but I still have a very deep interest in experimental music so I’m trying to tread a line between the two.

The guys I’ve hired are all jazz musicians so we have this interesting mix of folk, bluegrass and jazz and we’re all super interested in experimental music. 

Q: What are you currently working on musically? 

A: I’ve been focusing a lot harder on the craft of song writing. And for the first time in my life I’m producing work that I’m 100 per cent satisfied with. Which is not to say I don’t feel like there is tons of room to improve, but I mean as a singular piece of work, and my body of work has improved, but I’m always working towards becoming a better musician, a better song-writer, a better poet, a better performer.

 

 

The Weather Station Q&A

by Meredith Wilson-Smith

Q: How did you get your name?

A: When I first started making music, it felt very private and very intimate. I didn’t want to share it as myself – I didn’t want people I knew to know that I made music, so I created an anonymous profile on Myspace and had this sort of ridiculous backstory that the music was made by a person who lived in a weather station in the Arctic.

You know, I was 20, but I think there is a bit of truth to it, the perspective that the music was coming from a very distant place, observing the world from a great distance. In some sense, the observer character in my music is still coming from that direction.

Q: Your most recent album “The Weather Station” tackles all of these themes – politics, power, marriage, change. I was wondering if you could speak to how all of those themes came together under a common umbrella for you in the album?

A: I think the big guiding principle of the record was, if I was afraid to say it, I should say it. If it seemed like it was a bit too much, I should keep it. And also, this idea of having a very sprawling quality – my idea was, let it sprawl, let the words be a bit chaotic. That felt like a very real reflection of where I was at and where everything is at.

Q: Could you tell me the story behind your favourite song on the album?

A: It’s always hard to pick a favourite, but “Thirty” is probably my favourite. It’s a song that’s had a life of its own. Sometimes you write a song and it’s difficult and it takes a long time and it very slowly comes together and sometimes the song seems confused where it wants to go. I think with “Thirty,” that was the case.

I appreciate that song because it doesn’t have a normal structure at all. The chords don’t really change, there isn’t a chorus, but it’s interesting, it just has a very irrepressible quality that works no matter where I put it, which is cool.

 

 

Mappe Of Q&A

by Brittany Giliforte

Q: When did you first start playing music?

A: I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 years old. I was in a handful of metal bands up until about my first year out of high school, at which point there was a bit of a change in my life and I started to experiment further.

I wanted to step back and think more about song-writing, production and other areas I hadn’t really explored thoroughly, being primarily a guitarist up until that point. I went to school for music and there I developed the songs that would eventually become A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone.

Q: Does one person in Mappe Of write all of the music and lyrics, or is it a collaborative process?

A: For A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone, I made essentially the whole thing from conception to mixing. I had Amelia Fraser play violin and flute on it and a few friends help me at various stages, but it was important to me on that record to test the limits of those various skill sets.

That being said, I love collaboration and work with a close group of musicians regularly on various projects outside of Mappe Of. 

Q: What kind of venue have you found to be best for performing your genre of music?

A: We’ve been lucky enough to experience a fair scope of venues opening for Martha Wainwright this past fall and for Matt Holubowski in Quebec. I think it’s always dependent on the crowd’s energy, but the theatre shows we’ve been able to play have been particularly interesting in that there’s a sort of natural commanding of the stage when the audience is sitting rather than standing. 

It’s a little easier performing music like this that’s fairly intimate and dynamic when you’re not fighting the bar crowd. That said, it can be a fun challenge to play sets where you have to fight a little bit for attention.

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