It was noon on Aug. 10 when we made our way towards the ferry dock, where people were already lined up. Festival-goers munched on late Tim Horton’s breakfasts and basked (or, like me, baked) in the sun, discussing their excitement for the day’s line up.
Every year, I’m amazed by how carefully planned the WIMF line up is. Without a doubt in my mind, I know what to expect – a thoughtfully-collected and perfectly planned set of acts that follow each other seamlessly.
Saturday passes were collected, water bottles were filled and spots were taken on the slightly dried grass in front of the main stage. People dashed back and forth from their campsites to the lawn, some children danced in long bohemian skirts anticipating the music to come.
There was something about Grey Kingdom’s Spencer Burton’s mannerisms, facial expressions and overall demeanor that had me curious about what type of music he would play for us.
It wasn’t at all what I expected, and I’m glad for it.
He did much more than sing – he connected with us on a serious but slightly comedic level, which I don’t often find possible with musicians. Some stand, play and leave.
His set was relaxed and had the ease of a small jam session, except he was on a stage and we were watching. At one point, Burton attempted to play us a song he wrote the day before, upon arriving in Kingston, sleeping in his car by the ferry dock.
He forgot the words, but it didn’t matter at all.
Up next was Toronto-based band Wildlife. I watched them as they hung out backstage – they looked like they could be there to help the band set up. But then they all came on stage, dressed in all black with yellow armbands.
Lead singer Dean Povinsky’s energy radiated off the stage. Red-faced and screaming into the crowd his lyrics with no microphone, I don’t think there was one person in the audience who could have walked away from that moment.
The change of pace from The Grey Kingdom to Wildlife was a perfect segue into July Talk’s set.
July Talk singer Leah Fay’s on-stage antics, channeling her inner Emily Haines, were a bit distracting to the overall performance. However, as a whole the band shined. Their upbeat tracks had the audience on their feet and Fay had the crowd responding.
Peter Dreimanis growled into his microphone, his eyes rolled back to reveal a rather demonic face as he jumped and strummed viciously. Audience members looked at each other with shocked faces, and delved into the music.
I saw The Wooden Sky in 2011 at WIMF. They were, by far, my favourite act and still were this year. Gavin Gardiner related to the crowd by discussing their getting stuck on the ferry – this was received by knowing nods from the crowd. Toward the end of their set they performed “Oh My God”, a song almost hymn-like that instills swaying into the body.
The following three acts came quickly – Hannah Georgas, Juno award-winning singer compared to Feist, Toronto-based band Born Ruffians and East-coast musician Joel Plaskett and his band the Emergency.
The hype surrounding these performers was stifling. Having seen Joel Plaskett Emergency at the East Coast Music awards in 2010 in Cape Breton and heard only rave reviews of Georgas, I expected wonders.
The Joel Plaskett Emergency opened with “Down at the Khyber.” As they finished, Plaskett noted that their opening song was, in fact, their sound check, which instilled laughter in the crowd.
He played a common favourite from his 2009 album Three, “Through & Through & Through.” The crowd jumped around in front of the stage, singing the words back to Plaskett and punching their fists in the air.
After Plaskett’s three song encore, many of the WIMF attendees headed to the after party which, surprising to me, was no longer held at the General Wolfe Hotel but at the newly renovated Island Grill.
Although the three bigger musicians and bands certainly lived up to their names, I don’t think they outshined the smaller acts. The reason to attend WIMF, as if we need one, is to discover the lesser-known musicians we wouldn’t have otherwise.
The festival saw the return of many bands that had graced the island with their musical genius in some form or another in years past. As every year, it always follows through with its promise of bringing both unknown and well-known Canadian music to light.
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