Real Live Action

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ArtsWells 2017

w/ This Way North, The Pack AD, Fortune Killers, Wallgrin

Words + Photography
Luis E. Busca

A festival all-things-art, the final pilgrimage for west coast tree planters, a powerful and magnificent gathering of eclectic, inclusive and ecstatic humans. With over 12 venues covering everything from stand-up comedy and botanical workshops to dance lessons and killer rock n’ roll, it’s hard to not find yourself pulled into the invigorating madness that is ArtsWells.

Wells is the 300-pop town that houses this festival of arts and music – and they’ve been doing it for 14 years now, going from small community gathering to full-fledged west coast music festival in only a few seasons. Now ArtsWells has become the northern festival for grassroots and experimental folk music, highlighting female-fronted Canadian musicians such as Carole Pope, The Pack AD and Fortune Killers, as well as inviting along a rag-tag crew of international performers including This Way North (Australia) and BOUSADA (Argentina).

ArtsWells shines where many other festival fall short – they strive for not only the inclusion of female and non-binary perspective and influences, but also for the importance of highlighting and discussing the music and art that has been created in resistance to heteronormality within the Canadian music scene. Need an example? How about a bad-ass-female-quadro of rockers including Carole Pope, Rae Spoon and The Pack AD performing a collaborative-improv set consisting of songs about homoerotic riots and angry lesbian fist fights. Or how about the story of Leisha Jungalwalla and Cat Leahy? Both Melbourne based musician-activists, whom met in ArtsWells for the first time five years ago while individually touring Canada. This year they returned for their Canadian debut as This Way North, the two-piece all-female rock band that has been making waves in the Australian music scene.

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ArtsWells 2017, celebrating grass roots music, art and culture for 14 years [35mm film] ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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River dip in between sets [35mm film]||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Leisha Jungalwalla of the Australian two-piece band, This Way North [35mm film] ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Melbourne-based drummer Cat Leahy [35mm film] ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Jungalwalla met Leahy five years ago at Arts Wells 2012 [35mm film]||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine

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This years performance at Arts Wells was the first time This Way North had returned to Canada since its inception||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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ArtsWells 2017||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Wallgrin at the Bear Paw Café during ArtsWells 2017 ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Self described as a mix of “angelic choirs, mangles noises and shards of metal” ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Wallgrin||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Tegan Wahlgren is a Vancouver local and has produced multiple scores for film and theatre ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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As Wallgrin, Tegan is able to explore her voice, violin and loop pedal in unusual and interesting ways ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Fortune Killers||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Fortune Killers||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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The smooth and alluring vocals of Felicia Harding ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Tseng incorporates a drum machine and looper into her live sets||Photography by Luis E Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Fortune Killers||Photography by Luis E Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Fortune Killers||Photography by Luis E Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Fortune Killers||Photography by Luis E Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Fortune Killers||Photography by Luis E Busca for Discorder Magazine
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The Pack AD headlined at ArtsWells, playing three different shows and emceeing the festival shenanigans ||Photography by Luis E Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Black also played alongside Canadian rock legend Carol Pole during a collaboration set at ArtsWells||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Maya Miller is the second half of the two-punch-hard-hitting-Vancouver-duo known as The Pack AD ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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The Pack AD ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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The Pack AD ||Photography by Luis E. Busca for Discorder Magazine
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Blue Moon Marquee

w/ Gillian Moranz, Milk Crate Bandits

author
Laura Bee
Image Courtesy of
Blue Moon Marquee

Upon walking into the underground bar, I was met by the pleasant vocal stylings of Gillian Moranz. In addition to her own guitar playing, Moranz was joined onstage by Petunia & the Vipers’ guitarist — and righteous musician in his own right — Stephen Nikleva. Moranz, with her stinging lyrics and smooth, velvety voice, sang through several folk and country songs supplemented by Nikleva’s slide guitar. This, along with the overpowering bar smells of days gone past, provided an eerie mood in the bar and made it feel as though it were an old-timey tavern amongst bandits and thieves.

Fittingly, next up was Milk Crate Bandits. By this time the crowd had swelled and there was no longer room to sit, let alone stand. Fronted by Australian singer and banjoist Jack Ray, the amazing band was rounded out by performers on the trombone, clarinet and stand up bass. With a modern take on New Orleans jazz, the solos from the clarinet and trombone players set off some swing dancing in the crowd. Despite riling up the room, the background chatter began to drown out the music. But the Bandits soldiered on with their swingin’ sound and won the crowd back with more epic trombone and clarinet solos and Ray’s jazzy vocals.

After much anticipation, Blue Moon Marquee hit the stage. Recently returned from an exhausting European tour, Jasmine Colette and A.W. Cardinal hit the stage all smiles and ready to roll! Right away, I could overhear the crowd marvel at the fancy foot and hand work of Colette, who played the bass and snare drums with her left foot, the hi-hat with her right, all while holding the stand up bass with her right hand and intermittently hitting a cymbal with her left. Got all that?

Despite the complicated yet crafty setup, you could tell both Colette and Cardinal loved every second of it as they played with their eyes closed, laughing and smiling throughout the whole show. Cardinal’s clean jazz and blues guitar playing, honed in clubs and bars throughout Montreal and New York, coupled with his gritty and grizzled vocals rounded out the soulful sound to this jazz, swing and blues band.

Blue Moon Marquee had the full attention of the crowd, blowing us all away with their carefully crafted, foot–stompin’ performance. With tunes such as “Double Barrel Blues,” “Trickster Coyote” and “Pour Me One,” I got the sense of their tough, Alberta roots, and their experience playing everywhere from dives to festivals showed. The performance was cut short due to strict noise bylaws, but I have the feeling they would have gladly played us into the night.