Vancouver’s homegrown SnailFest held their kickoff bash on August 22 at the Rickshaw Theatre. The inaugural instalment, founded by local concert promoters Snail Productions, is an eight day festival that boasts a multitude of venues and a lineup ranging from hardcore to indie pop. Luckily for me, SnailFest’s opening night concentrated on a psyched up brand of rock and folk.
First up were ‘60s style psych-folksters, the Great Speckled Fritillary. Even though their 9:00 p.m. set lacked more than a handful of audience members, frontman Shaun Lee seemed undeterred and had wrapped himself in an oversized red cape before beginning the show. Through their blend of deliciously discordant harmonies and particularly shrill guitarwork, the Great Speckled Fritillary guided the crowd into a nine song psychotropic trance. Highlights included sinister occult-like vocalizations over jams like “Knights In Silver Shorts” and “Her Majesty,” both of which were particularly reminiscent of the gypsy punk style of Gogol Bordello. Closing out their set with “Croak Of The Lock,” the Great Speckled Fritillary set the bar high for the coming acts.
Finally, it seemed, late night concertgoers had begun their ascent into the Rickshaw, packing a much more respectable sized crowd just in time for The Wandering Halls to take to the stage. The trio brought with them a psyched out desert rock feel, constructed through droning, sludged out guitar, relentless drumming, and verbed out vocal wails that echoed throughout the theatre. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist David Novotny could be seen juggling his singing while he bounced between a lap steel guitar and hunched over his harmonica, which provided a twist to their dark, introspective sound. By the time the band hit their tune “One More Shake For The Road,” the crowd had obviously fallen for the smoky charm that is the Wandering Halls.
Next up were Jive Hand, a band drawing on past members from their twin prog-folk project Magic Family. Boasting songs tinged with bluesy, alt-country tones, Jive Hand rolled through what was easily the most explosive set of the night, exuding a kaleidoscopic Wild West vibe that got the crowd out of the seats of the Rickshaw and onto the floor. The crowning jewel of their gig, however, were the roaring harmonies shared between Matthew Magic and Madison Sheane over the rumbling, acidic tune “Hot Dogs And Red Wine.”
Even though it was originally intended for Sh-Shakes to close out the first day of SnailFest, it was Outside Dog who ended the night after the former had cancelled their set. The band wove their way through a largely instrumental show peppered at times with vocalizations by Jacob Scouten, though it was Novotny, once again, that stole the show, drawing out expansive, elongated notes of his lap guitar. Even though some of the crowd did end up ducking out early before the band played their final song, Outside Dog ended the the kickoff bash of SnailFest on a high.