Presented without exaggeration or hyperbole: This year’s Saskatchewan Jazz Fest lineup is truly an exciting one. Piecing together a number of acts to appeal to a broad range of tastes is a task that’s both daunting and challenging. Yet this year’s week of shows boasts a number of acts that are widely popular (Flaming Lips, City and Colour), eclectically punk and rock (Deerhoof, Cherry Glazerr), nostalgic (Tom Cochrane and Red Rider), dance (Bonobo) and, well, all things wonderful and jazz. Which brings us to our next point. Kamasi Washington. A saxophonist and composer, Washington’s ilk is spread far and wide across the music spectrum, with his appeal straddling the hip-hop and R&B worlds. Paired with openers Shabazz Palaces in the Bessborough Gardens, Washington will no doubt bring one of the most buzzed-about performances to this year’s Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Fest.
Also check out: All of it.
Saskatoon: This is your summer festival and you don’t want to be foolish and miss out on the fun.
If one needed any more proof that Neko Case is one of the most badass talents of our time, one would only need to peep the cover of her latest record, Hell-On. Adorned in a smoky hair-piece lace of cigarettes, Neko is sporting a black tar branding of the album’s namesake and flames erupt around her in an infernal dance of smoke and ember. Intensely personal, eclectic and magic, Case has built a career out of a commanding voice and a live show that celebrates ornate, dazzling songwriting. Catch her headlining Regina Folk Fest on Saturday, August 11.
Also check out: Tanya Tagaq
Because going from a Tanya Tagaq performance directly into Neko Case sounds like a night not to forget. Ever.
Nightshirt is about to bring a weekend of discussion, brunching and, of course, show-hopping. Featuring a lineup of acts both touring and local, there’s plenty of talent to catch. But you may want to make a point of catching Saskatoon’s Shirley & the Pyramids, who are gearing up to drop a new album entitled Pure Pain.
Upon first listen, Shirley & the Pyramids, a sometimes full-band, sometimes solo project perpetually helmed by Aron Zacharias, are as they always have been: Awash in spacey keyboard effects and admirably varied gurgles of noise and sheets of guitar fuzz. But despite the suggestions of the album’s namesake, pain isn’t so much a vehicle for cathartic release as it something to be mused over. On the song “Highway”, hums of mild static chip away at gentle guitar chords, while fragile vocals offer softly intoned melodies. It’s not all airs and atmospheres however. While used super sparingly, the songs tend to bloom and boom when Zacharias briefly careens off of his drone-highways and instead slams on the accelerator, steering into bashy territories with massive sounds – the payoff always feels huge. However, one of the highlights of the LP comes via the album’s self-titled song “Pure Pain”, a short, effervescent instrumental that burbles enthusiasm as it searches for hooks buried beneath breezy soundscapes. A soundtrack to porch-hangs, overflowing ashtrays and that strange number that keeps sending “sup?” at 2am on a weekday.
Also check out: Corey Gulkin
Hailing from Montreal, folk artist Corey Gulkin’s hauntingly beautiful peans are about as quixotic as it gets.
Last time Hooded Fang toured through Saskatchewan, they were on tour in support of their album Gravez, an album that perfectly captured their early potential as one of Canada’s premier pop-infused garage rock bands. They found a perfect balance of trashy, thrashy garage rock with sugar sweet melodies and just-off-kilter-enough pop hooks. On that tour they blew the roof off Vangelis (now Black Cat Tavern) as part of MoSoFest, turning in an effervescent performance that inspired more than a few people to pogo around the dance floor. Since that tour, the band has gone down a weirder, more sci-fi direction with their album, Venus on Edge. Though darker, this new direction is no less compelling; making great use of their weirder tendencies and resulting a creepier, more tense, almost proto-punk vibe that serves the band well. This more cinematic, but still energetic, sound will provide a wonderfully, wild soundtrack for right after the sun sets at Ness Creek and everyone starts settling into whatever indulgences they’ve been imbibing all day.
Also check out: The Sadies
The last time we saw the Sadies at Ness Creek, they blew our minds wide open. A venerable institution of all things rock, punk, folk, country and everything in-between, this group tore through a set that was essentially a raging Best Of mixtape.
Twangy. Stompy. Dark. Jubilant. Evocative. Somewhere along the way, trio Elliott Brood became something of an alt-country institution in Canada. Combining oft-minimal songwriting with noir flair and gorgeously-forlorn vocals, the group puts on a captivating show that never skimps on the drama. Plus, seeing them in one of the southern-most reaches of Saskatchewan at Gateway Festival is probably one of the more fitting venues you’ll ever get to see them.
Also check out: Kathleen Edwards
Her voice is lovely. Her lyrics devastating. Kathleen Edwards is one of the most charismatic indie-folk Can-con acts to emerge from the past decade or so. A performance not to miss.
We had a total blast at Swamp Fest in Regina last summer. Did you know that Regina has an island? That was a pretty dope venue to see bands. Also, lots of cool stuff going down at the German Club. Not too sure what they have in the hopper this year, but we’re totally interested!
Here’s a bunch of cool stuff that’s not from Saskatchewan that you should totally go see anyway!
It’s that time of the year again when festivals overlap and some hard decisions have to be made. On one hand, you could stay put in Saskatoon for the Jazz Fest. Or you could hop over to Calgary for Sled Island, a festival that typical features at least a half dozen or so of Saskatchewan’s most talented, trashy acts.
Courtney Barnett is a goddamned force of nature. Whirlwind poetic jabs and guitar melodies to mash a potato with, this Australian indie-pop singer has crafted several near-perfect albums already, and her latest, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is a literal wringer of joyful peans, witty self-deprecation, and songs that can turn any dishwater-banal activity into a dance party. Plus Edmonton is so close you can still drive home afterwards and make it back to work on Monday morning.
One of those must-do musical pilgrimages to make before you die. This year’s Winnipeg Folk Festival boasts a number of amazing acts, including A Tribe Called Red, Bahamas, more Courtney Barnett, and a whole slew of others. Have you gone? Going again this year? Okay, go!