Visual Features | Otalith 2016 Recap

WRITTEN BY JOSEPH LEROUX & ELYSE MATHES | PHOTOS BY ELYSE MATHES & JACK PERRY 

Video by Colby Carruthers | Edited by Tyler Paterson

In a world with more apps than good reasons to leave your house, small-town mentalities are often devalued. Was human proximity not defined as a leading factor for establishing love in my Psychology 100 textbook, or has it moved down the list in the 2016 edition? Even if knowing your neighbour is a dying practice, Otalith Music Festival continues to succeed in drawing city folk into the quaintness of Ucluelet, British Columbia, nearly doubling the town’s population. This year’s headliners were some of the most disparate and accomplished to perform and included Shakey Graves, FIDLAR, and People Under The Stairs. Unlike a vast majority of music festivals that I’ve attended, people seek more than music out of Otalith; almost akin to a cultural shift from their regular lives. That sounds like a lot to ask from a 2 day music festival, but Otalith is set for success with its oceanfront property, surf culture, and intimate camp setting. The appeal in attending a festival like Otalith might be obvious to the classic Vancouver Island brain, but I was pleasantly surprised in learning that a few musicians had their weekends blessed by the Ucluelet/Otalith mindset.

Rolling into the campsite Friday evening, I threw up my tent in a shaded corner of our camping slot and lingered in the shadow of a sitka spruce to drink a few Caribous. The music was quickly underway and I scampered to catch Band of Rascals, a Vancouver Island band who play with a tried-and-true rock and roll voracity - a kind of party music which felt exceptionally situated to the location. Surf rock pros, The Shivas, were next. Captained primarily by vocalist and guitarist Jared Molyneux’ with his whole-body charisma and head bobbing they kicked up the energy of the evening with their single-coil licks and vibrant stage presence.

The crowd was primed for the rambunctious and final act of the night, Shakey Graves. The Texan folk songwriter, with his penchant for the old days and bad-bad boy singalongs, was met with true enthusiasm by the friday night crowd. His set rotated between solo and full-band performance, stomping his heels on a kick and snare while strumming his six-string. As the stars came out he made it known over the PA just how lucky he was to be there, in the  wilderness so opposite to his own. Of course the crowd of locals and newly-locals loved to hear that it was so.

What the program guide won’t tell you is just how much fun you are going to have indulging in the Otalithian campfire lifestyle. Beer coolers and singalongs, hammocks in old growth, Westies decked out in woodstock regalia - sure it isn’t unique, but the scale and earnestness makes it feel special. There is a nostalgia for that know-your-neighbour lifestyle here that could, at first glance, seem trendy or tiresome, but is justified by the isolated locale, the proud but simple lifestyle that this part of British Columbia exemplifies,  the friendly and mellow party vibes, flitting from fire to fire, the drugs and the late night jams.

Surfing is medicinal when paired with a music festival. As the joy of catching your first wave merges with Long Beach’s numbing ocean water, a morphine-grade painkiller is born.  Surfing is a remarkably high selling point for Otalith, bringing like-minded west-coasters in close proximity including musician Alexi Glickman, lead singer of the San Francisco-based band Sandy’s. After their performance, equal parts nonchalance and chops-laden guitar music, Glickman and his band members exited the stage in matching white beach attire and joined me to talk surfing and the magic of community. Their music’s soothing temperament, melodic rhythms and smooth, beachy harmonies are in all ways reflective of ocean living. In the midst of Glickman’s explanation on the benefits of playing in the great outdoors, the magic of Ukee summoned forth Sonny Smith, lead singer of Sonny & The Sunsets, the next band to perform. The conversation quickly shifted to the relationship that Sonny and Alexi shared prior to the festival and the strong sense of community that connects west-coasters. It only felt natural that they would reunite in the magical land of Otalith.

There’s dad rock and then there’s divorcee-husband rock, just as there are The Eagles and The Eagles of Death Metal. Sonny Smith’s lyrical confessions about letters from his ex-wife, life on the road, and the strange cream he found lying on the seat of his car put the music that him and his band make in the latter category. Live, their jammy garage music reminded me of some Silver Jews Cuts, and amounted to a mix of reality-grounded weirdness and heartbreak that I was charmed by.

Sonny Smith and band member Tahlia Harbour also had something to say for strange connections and shared a most hilarious story about their recent American tour.

I couldn’t help but feel a wave of irony wash over me as I entered the incredibly calm and mild-tempered backstage tent housing FIDLAR. In the midst of the band’s parallel universe, two unidentified gentlemen both exuding a life lived on island time were deep in conversation with the band. Family? Friends? Fans? I knew there was a tale of bonding at the bottom of this. Lucky for me Brandon Schwartzel, FIDLAR’s bass player, was able to explain how the magic of Ukee blessed their weekend with this new friendship.

Meanwhile, People Under The Stairs performed with yin and yang harmony. Thes One used every inch of the stage like a twelve year old on slurpee sugar while Double K had the stage presence of a rap veteran. The duo proved their natural gifts as rap gods by integrating Ucluelet and Otalith into almost all the songs that they performed. Their set was equal parts impressive and upbeat and I began fangirling without warning. I couldn’t resist asking Double K to tell me a funny story after their set, check it.

This being the second time I’ve seen FIDLAR perform this year, I was ready to compare an outdoor Otalith set to an indoor Levitation Vancouver set. For the sake of grungy punk music, I was under the impression an indoor set would do a band like FIDLAR justice, but the experience at Otalith was equally as grungy, high energy, and delightfully sweaty. My experience at Otalith was admittedly better due to a very successful stage dive into the center of the mosh pit, where I remained for a hot minute. Both performances proved not to be forces to reckon with. Schwartzel looked like a giant rugrat in plus-size overalls and an entrancing style of bass playing. There was slight disappointment in repeating elements from both shows such as making the crowd sit and wait for the anticipation of “Cocaine” but I’m going to assume I’m in the minority of people who have seen FIDLAR perform twice in three months.

To complete the trifecta of surfing and music, an after-hours performance in the festival’s campground captivated all those who found it. The campground houses Mother Nature’s gift to Otalith - a mossy amphitheater enclosed in a thicket of ancient cedars. The natural stage hosted the festival’s final performance Saturday night by Victoria-based group Carmanah, which just so happened to be the highlight of my festival experience. Have you ever heard the voice of one-thousand angels? While lying in a mossy bed of nature? Surrounded by a hundred people glowing with an ambient halo of camp fire light? The performance harnessed the level of ethereal magic that festivals like Shambhala and Bass Coast only dream of evoking. Otalith’s motto as, “the world’s most intimate music festival” was perfectly captured through Carmanah’s soft and earthy sound. It paired perfectly with the fairy lights strung through coastal old growth and the dual campfires. Even the band’s name is derived from the breathtaking Carmanah Valley region on Vancouver Island. In the words of festival coordinator, Warren Recker, “As Islanders, a campfire jam is our collective culture. It turned out better than I had ever dreamt.” I’m happy to say that I have experienced a small slice of heaven antemortem. Thank you, Otalith.     

Visual Feature | Pavel - Synedoche, BC (Music Video)

Words From Pavel Himself

I asked my friends if they wanted to make a music video for me. I was kind of joking at the time but to my delight they were totally into it.  I didn’t really have any ideas but lucky for me my closest buds are rad and smarter than I am (thx Amanda, Jared & Brendan!). 

The video is for a song off my debut mini-LP called [sic]. The track is called “Synecdoche, BC” which is inspired by one of my favorite films, the existential as fuck, dark comedy Synecdoche, New York by Charlie Kaufman.  The video ends up referencing the film in a few ways, which I think was largely accidental, which of course makes it even better...

  

Visual Feature | SHAKE! FEST 3 Recap

SHAKE! FEST 3 Recap

With 25 INDEPENDENT artists from all across Canada gathering in Victoria for Shake! Fest 3, this truly was an unforgettable weekend of music. This three day marathon featured a wide range of punk, garage rock, pop, and experimental acts. The Holy Smokes team was lucky enough to have the opportunity to collaborate with Shake! Record’s mastermind Madi C in curating this festival and bringing it to life. The collaborative spirit of the festival contributed to the unique community feel of Shake! 3, as artists and audiences alike rolled from venue to venue, soaking up as much Canadian music as possible along the way.

DAY 1 | SHIP POINT

Kicking off the festival in collaboration with the outdoor summer concert series Eventide, Shake 3 began on a beautiful windy Thursday evening down in the harbour. Victoria synthpop group Croatia started things off. Led by the charismatic vocals and moves of frontwoman Tash Bushwa, this band delivers a spirited performance every time. The heavy synths and poppy guitar were complemented by the recent addition of a drummer to their live show. Playing alongside already punchy pop drum tracks, the live drumming just adds another layer to the captivating performance of one of Victoria’s more unique groups. Nailing their singles “Backseat” and “Sunset”, as well as a cover of MØ’s “Fire Rides”, Croatia is a local act not to miss in the Victoria scene.

Another Victoria outfit Smoke Eaters, was the next to perform, having just returned home from a six week tour of Canada that very afternoon. They wasted little time getting into their energetic garbage pop rhythm, opening up with the goofy and charming track “Dogs”. This is a band that consistently delivers enthralling, impassioned shows, and evening one of Shake Fest was no exception. Playing great new tracks such as “Teacher” and “Bonnie” (which can both be found on their Split 7” with Painted Fruit), Smoke Eaters homecoming was definitely a treat for the early Shake Fest goers. Other highlights of this set include their friend Lauren joining them to play synth through her iPhone, and touring guitarist Dave Neilsen rolling a cigarette between songs and smoking it onstage. Keep your eye out for Smoke Eaters, you will not be disappointed.

Shake Fest 3 then moved into more psychedelic rock/dream pop territory with Calgary’s Crystal Eyes. The floral print one-piece suit of frontwoman Erin Jenkins wasn’t the only nod to the 60s in this set, as their unique brand of melancholy stoner rock grew on the audience track after track. Getting former Calgarian and Smoke Eaters frontman Misha Oreshkov up on stage to play tambourine for a few songs, Crystal Eyes dreamy sound was perfectly suited for the sunny afternoon by the water.

Following Crystal Eyes was another Alberta outfit: Gender Poutine. Besides having one of the greatest band names of the festival, this trio from Edmonton also provided a fun, grin producing set. With jokey songs about roommates eating your leftover pizza, unemployment, and crushes, Gender Poutine’s garagey punk is a fully realized all-around good time. Check out their EP Whatever Dad on bandcamp to revisit the magic.

The slacker beachy pop of The Courtneys came through in full form as the sun set over the harbour in Victoria. It is easy to see that these three ladies have just as good a time on stage as the audience enjoying their tunes. Between cracking jokes about the wind blowing them off the stage and meeting pet lizards, this band’s laid back demeanor and sense of humor only added to the charm of their live performance and tight musicianship. Victoria is lucky to have The Courtney’s just across the pond in Vancouver, and we look forward to their next release which we hope is soon.

COPPER OWL

Making our way to the independent music hotspot the Copper Owl, Death Kart opened up part two of the evening. With catchy melodies on keys, fast paced drum beats, and washed out post punky vocals, Death Kart mashes together multiple genres to make their own moody, coastal, lo-fi sound. The low-key energy of leading vocalist Curtis Lockhart was complemented by the flashy drumwork of Griffon Simms, making this group an interesting and fun to watch bunch. Keep these young Victorians on your radar.

The following act was Diamond Mind, a similarly genre-bending group hailing from Edmonton. This tightly crafted pop four piece has a contagious sincerity, and seeing them at the Owl drove this home for the crowd. Diamond Mind’s atmospheric falsettos and harmonies filled the room with a beach-boys-with-an-edge-in-the-21st-century kind of vibe.

Switching gears quite drastically, alt-electronica artist Hansmole set up her table for yet another mesmerizing performance. Her witty and goofy stage presence is juxtaposed with the dark, heavy dance tracks she plays. In between making fun of her friends in the crowd, Hansmole delivered complexly and creatively layered tracks from her two albums White Whiteness and Comfort. Think Grimes-on-codeine for the feel of this set in the blue and red light of the Copper Owl. You can go ahead and add Hansmole to the list of impressive young Victoria artists coming home from tour and playing homecoming sets at Shake Fest. Don’t miss the chance to hear these bangers on a proper sound system next time she plays, and don’t be afraid to be made fun of by her if you stand in the front row.

The final act of day one was the accomplished lo-fi bedroom pop veterans of Lab Coast. Hailing from Calgary, we got some Minus the Bear / The National vibes from these Albertans. Coming off their latest 14-track Remember the Moon LP, Lab Coast clearly demonstrated why they remain one of Western Canada’s most established independent pop bands. Closing out the exciting first day of Shake Fest perfectly is just another reason we'll find ourselves checking out Lab Coast’s albums and shows for years to come.

DAY 2 | LUCKY BAR

Day 2 of Shake Fest 3 provided a perfect punky escape from the Canada Day madness that overtakes the BC capital every first of July. Vancouver’s Spring Breaks opened up one of the best lineups of punk Victoria has seen in quite some time for day two of Shake. Unphased by the natural light spilling in through the skylight (yes, Lucky Bar has a skylight...), this three piece brought the garage to you in full force. Flawlessly delivering quick punchy lyrics and forcing all heads to bob in pace, Spring Breaks have a classic punk feel that set the bar and the tone for this night at Lucky.

Astral Gunk brings the noise... all the way from Sackville, New Brunswick. These self-described gnar-wave punks showcased their technical prowess and versatility, with each member taking over lead vocal duties, alongside multiple instrument switches throughout the set. Being over 5000km from their home, it surely was a treat to see Astral Gunk here on the West Coast.

Power-Buddies is yet another solid band from Edmonton we were lucky enough to have at Shake Fest this year. Power-Buddies take a no bass no problem approach to their live show, with their throaty screams, powerful keyboards, and dual guitars making more than enough noise to move to. Between the cartoon projections and the inflatable palm tree making its way from the stage into the crowd and back, Power-Buddies offer jangly garage ballads reminiscent of something in between Slam Dunk and Twin Peaks (the band). With just one eight track tape out, we are definitely keeping an eye on this Edmonton outfit, and hope they find their way out West again soon!

As soon as Dead Soft struck their first note, the crowd rushed back to the stage from outside and the bar. Seeing this Vancouver trio is an unironic trip back to early 90s grunge. With duct-taped guitar straps, baggy jeans, and old graphic tees, Dead Soft isn’t trying to prove anything and it shows. The music speaks for itself. Playing one of the tightest sets of the festival, Dead Soft’s live show will keep you coming back to their self-titled album, and any other releases you can get your hands on.

LOGAN’S PUB

As the Canada Day fireworks went off in the distance, the festival goers made their way from the heart of downtown to Logan’s Pub for three more punk bands. Opening things up at this new venue was the Vancouver/Victoria punk rockers Durban Poison. Fearlessly led by the charismatic Madi C, who runs Shake records and organized the entire festival, Durban Poison picked up right where Lucky Bar left off, with tight upbeat punk rock. There wasn’t a dull moment in this set, as Power-Buddies guitarist Cassia (aka Wares) took the stage for a song, and frontwoman Madi blew out the candles on her birthday cake without missing a beat. Lastly, for their final song Durban Poison threw LED bouncy balls into the crowd, as if Logan’s wasn’t lit enough already

Taking the stage next was Calgary’s The Mandates. Clad exclusively in leather and denim, the late 70s/early 80s look was backed up by their classic sound which overtook the pub. With the slightest hint of an Alberta twang, The Mandates have an undeniable Canadian charm that make you feel like a teenage rebel from 35 years ago

The finale of day 2 was certainly a spectacle to behold, as Vancouver’s Punk Rock Baseball Club the Isotopes took to the Logan’s stage and changed it forever. Taking their assumed positions on stage, these boys came to play ball. Donning their infamous baseball caps, alongside sweatbands and louisville slugger tank tops, the Isotopes get wasted and give you a hell of a show whether you like it or not. With hype man ‘jockstrap’ getting fully naked by the end of the set (unfortunately timed with last call and the house lights coming up), The Isotopes were certainly unforgettable if nothing else.

DAY 3 | UPSTAIRS

Victoria has had the treat of hosting Wares twice this year already, and day 3 of Shake Fest was no exception. With the door open to Upstairs Cabaret, Wares provided quite a surprise for the patio crowd at Darcy’s restaurant below, oscillating from soft noodling and crooning with her electric guitar, to long noisy sessions with her pedals. A Wares solo show has a unique and complex flare of passion, as she commands attention from the crowd and fills the stage effortlessly on her own.

After playing 42 shows over the course of a two month tour, the Painted Fruit were tighter than ever for their set a Shake Fest. Highlights included their new tracks “Kitchen of Love”, and “Judgement”, as well as the unreleased “Resignation” and “No Substance” which are available on their tour tape only. These art-pop rockers draw flattering comparisons to the New York Dolls with their post-punk attitude and glam sensibilities. The Painted Fruit showed us once again that they are some of Victoria’s most ambitious and driven artists, and are a band to follow closely.

The Fruit’s set was certainly not the last we would see of them that night though, as they changed outfits and backed Vancouver via Montreal glam-star Johnny de Courcy. Opening up with a head shaking, jaw dropping cover of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, the crowd was taken aback and reminded they never know what they will get at a JDC show. With a glowing crystal ring, and ‘LOSE YRSLF’ sharpied on his forearm, Johnny de Courcy hammered away at his keyboard for moving rock ballads, and danced all over the stage, slowly removing layers of clothing track after track. Described on his bandcamp as ‘freak rock balladry/psych cabaret’, this live show does not disappoint. With Painted Fruit members receiving kisses on stage, and playing instruments with beer bottles, there was never a shortage of spectacle to observe. The grand finale however, featured the man of the hour removing his short shorts, and playing a saxophone solo completely naked for his hit single “Master Manipulator”. This was the final show of the two month tour JDC and Painted Fruit spent together, and it was perfectly wrapped up with an emotional group hug after this riveting set.

If anyone could follow that act, it was hometown heroes Slam Dunk. As the crowd unwound from the Johnny de Courcy experience outside Upstairs in Bastion Square, the first chord of Slam Dunk’s set was heard and half smoked cigarettes hit the ground as we rushed back inside. The excitement was palpable, as a Slam Dunk show in Victoria has been a rare commodity over the last few years. Delivering crowd pleasing track after track, you could feel the floor bend under the bounce of the mosh pit. Little details such as Johnny de Courcy (now clothed) running through the crowd with a Quebecois flag, or the drummer throwing his stick into the crowd, only to have it thrown back at him were almost lost in the blissful chaos that was Slam Dunk’s set. Closing down the 5th of 6 shows at Shake Fest with a true romp, Slam Dunk sounded just as good as ever, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another year for their next show

INTREPID THEATRE

Regathering our senses after an incredible lineup at Upstairs, we made our way to the Intrepid Theatre for the final five acts of Shake Fest 3. Opening up was synth-pop-punk duo Timing X. Setting a quick pace with their minimal drum machine beats, these two traded vocal duties on top of their catchy guitar and synth melodies. With the bleachers folded up against the back wall and two of the walls covered in old cartoons and abstract projections, Intrepid proved an atmospheric and dynamic space throughout the evening.

Whoop-Szo took the stage next, delivering one of the most divergent and interesting sets of the night, with a unique psychedelic, experimental, noise folk sound. Making their way to the coast from Southwestern Ontario, the Whoop-Szo experience included screaming into vocoders, and the lead vocalist/guitarist climbing up the bleachers to play a song from the crowd. This avant-garde noise set demonstrated Whoop-Szo’s unique and developed aesthetic, and they are definitely an experimental outfit to watch out for in the future

Taking the stage with a controversial rubber trump mask on, which proved difficult to sing through, NEEDS is here to challenge everything you thought you knew about hardcore. Frontman Sean Orrs seemed more comfortable in the crowd than onstage at the Intrepid. Challenging audience member and fellow Vancouverite Johnny de Courcy to a duel of intimacy he wrapped the mic cord around JdC’s neck and pressing his forehead against the glam star’s, locked eyes and screamed out the lyrics without missing a beat. NEEDS live show keeps you on your toes, whether you're in the mosh pit or against the back wall, consider this a disclaimer and go to their next show.

Psychosomatic Itch began their set with a long layered intro of noise, building up to their dark psychedelic post-punk tracks. Seeing them craft their songs live brings a new factor to the music this Victoria group is making. With their understated and laid back performance style, Psychosomatic Itch makes it look easy while offering a complex musical experience.
 

Last but not least, closing out the festival was Calgary’s Dri Hiev, taking the stage around 2:30 am. Those who stuck around were truly rewarded, as this four piece’s trappy, grimey, industrial noise punk swallowed up the theatre. The affected vocals, heavy drum machine beats, and dark synths and samples create an undeniable atmosphere at a Dri Hiev show that must be seen to be believed.

RECAP

All in all, Shake 3 was the most accomplished and seamless iteration of this festival to date. Shake 3 was, if nothing else, a weekend of musical community. From chatting about the festival over cigarettes between acts, to moshing with the artists, this weekend brought together some of Canada’s great independent acts in a unique and inspiring way. Cherishing this opportunity to collaborate with Shake, we here at Holy Smokes would also like to collaborate with you, the audience members, readers, fans and artists that make up the great scene here in Victoria. With your feedback on the festival, we would love to share ideas to keep exciting events like Shake Fest! Happening and growing in our city. We still have a few tapes (featuring one track from each artist) and a few slick cheetah t-shirts left, so visit https://shakefestvic.com to support the festival and Shake Records!

Thanks for reading.
-Colin Crawford

Thursday//Friday photos courtesy of Trevor Ball Photography
Saturday photos courtesy of Kay Gillivan

Visual Feature | Levitation Vancouver Levitates From The Malkin Bowl To A Room

HOLY SMOKES AT LEVITATION VANCOUVER 2016 |  Edit: Tyler Paterson | Video: Colby Carruthers

I was so wise in my decision to attend two Levitation festivals that surprised their attendees with changed venues at the last minute. It is such an absolute joy to find out that your modern pastoral vision of watching neo-psych shows in an open field while acquiring the drunkest sunburn with all your friends on a soft blanket is not happening. Rather, I was blessed with the opportunity to breathe in other people’s stale air for nearly 12 hours in the well-lit, joyous venue known as The Commodore Ballroom. Thank you Levitation.

In lieu of my feelings about being trapped in a room forever, it is no surprise that a cancelled Lev Austin preceded a stagnant, indoor Lev Vancouver. Finding scattered shows throughout the downtown core of Austin was like an inner-city treasure hunt. Finding shows in the Commodore Ballroom involved standing still. There was an unquestionable amount of talent during Lev Van, but watching band after band roll out methodically onto the same stage deleted a much-needed element of change for my ADD.

Wondering who shoved a stick so far up my ass? I was born with it! Do I have anything nice to say? Not usually! But the festival’s lineup treated Vancouver right over the weekend, making sure the city was tenderly loved and cared for, while remembering to occasionally sit on it’s face. Allah-Las and Fidlar did a superb job of tag-teaming the stage on Friday – beginning with the sweet nothings and loving lyrics of Allah-Las, whose stage presence resembled something awkward, like pubescent teen romance - an uncomfortable love we never forget. Also akin to my high school sex life, things quickly escalated in the next set. Fidlar likes to play rough – As if the disco ball was a full moon, the crowd became ravenous - scratching and screaming and frothing at the mouths. But even in the midst of the unruliness, Zach Carper successfully directed the audience to sit quietly on the Commodore Ballroom floor. 300-400 people. Seated. Anticipating their last song. “You’ll know when to get up”, Carper instructed. As soon as the intro of “Cocaine” rolled in, everyone erupted into a raging frenzy. Apparently Carper likes making you wait for it.

Allah-Las | Commodore Ballroom

Allah-Las | Commodore Ballroom

Together Pangea | The Cobalt

Together Pangea | The Cobalt

Friday’s main stage was wrapped up with the ever-so-talented work of Tycho, whose performance resembled a mellower Caribou set. Both bands perform with a high degree of professionalism and well-seasoned practice. The combination of Tycho’s chillwave-meets-psych sound and the Commodore’s incredible light show created the sensation of lucid dreaming. Other factors may have contributed to my dream state… but I credit the performance for an amazing, unearthly show.

Although the change of venue is a sensitive topic, the Commodore Ballroom provided a perfectly dark and sweaty environment for Thee Oh Sees performance on Saturday — no one wants to see the light of day while thrashing around to San Francisco’s punk gods. The Commodore’s expert lighting respectfully showcased the band’s dual drummers, Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon, playing harmoniously like Olympic synchronized swimmers. There was also no shortage of light on John Dwyer deep-throating the mic while simultaneously singing into it… talent comes in many forms.

HINDS | Commodore Ballroom

THEE OH SEES | Commodore Ballroom

THEE OH SEES | Commodore Ballroom

The Growlers and Hinds did a flawless job of sandwiching Thee Oh Sees’ set. There was word that the all-girl band, Hinds, had a soft performance, but I found their set and stage presence to be a lot of fun. As for The Growlers, I think I heard a hundred panties drop when they entered onto the stage. In a sea of people eye-fucking Brooks Neilsen, my friend reported a die-hard standing behind him screaming, “I want to suck your dick, Brooks!”. So, obviously, he let fan-boy through to deliver the bouquet of flowers that he was holding onto the stage. Their performance derived a cultish vibe from the crowd that was a new experience for me. The band did an excellent job of playing as many crowd favourites as they could, including “Memories” and “Empty Bones.”

Flying Lotus | Commodore Ballroom

Flying Lotus | Commodore Ballroom

I would like to give a shout out to the gurus in charge of visuals at The Commodore Ballroom. Whoever they are, they brought the best part of my weekend to life – FLYLO’s performance, and I do not use the word performance lightly. His set was enclosed by two massive screens creating three-dimensional visuals that ranged from transfixing illusions to beautiful portraits to completely fucked-up imagery (kind of like his music).  His performance felt like a musical on acid, which I now feel confident checking off my bucket list for attending. During one of his songs, he slipped out from between his trance-inducing cage to spit some mad fiyah. No surprise that the floor met my underwear at this point… anyways…  

Thundercat | The Imperial

Thundercat was another shining star over the weekend. The jazz-inspired, somewhat psych-related California singer/bassist is difficult to place in terms of genre, setting himself apart with his funky sound, soft vocals, and intense lyrics. His stage presence is so incredibly groovy - holding the bass up beside himself with an infectious bob. When “Them Changes” came on, I hugged the stage security dude, who let me on stage, sort of pitifully, to grab a photo (thanks, love you).

My weekend timeline accurately reflects my inner sissy - I attended all the softest performances. Whatever, ok!? As for other shows I didn’t get around to, I was probably buying drugs in an alley, doing drugs in an alley, or hiding in an alley on drugs (just kidding, mum!). Shout out to Timbre Concerts for the press opportunity. Shout out to myself for getting my film camera in the pit. Besides the initial venue curveball, lemons became slightly sweetened.


 

‘Til next year <3

Written and shot by Elyse Mathes

More photos @lilfoxbaby on insta

Visual Feature | BODIES - WEAK [Official Music Video]

With their debut self-titled record set for release May 13th, we are pleased to feature the music video for BODIES first single "Weak". You can catch them live at their album release show May 13th at Lucky Bar alongside locals Croatia and Superfashion.


MAY 13TH @ LUCKY BAR (CLICK THE PHOTO)

yOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE SINGLE FOR FREE!

Visual Feature | Song & Surf 2016 Recap

It was Holy Smokes’ first time attending Song and Surf, Vancouver Island's hidden winter music festival. Set in the picturesque coastal town of Port Renfrew, the 3-day event incorporates multiple indoor venues and a nightly acoustic sunset show on the beach by the fire. After having experienced its bigger sister festival Tall Tree - whose grounds lie just across the bridge from the Song and Surf site - we were drawn to see what this festival had to offer long before the line up was released. We had a blast. The festival offers a much-needed escape from the city and the monotony of winter. The music is just one element. The allure is in the scenery, the intimacy, and the sense of family. The weather doesn’t matter, rain or shine it only enhances the overall experience. We’ll be back next year.

Port Renfrew Bridge | Photo: Scott H.

Photo: Scott H.

Photo: Scott H. 

After following a string of RVs and Westys down the windy and breathtaking drive up the coast, we finally arrive in the post-card perfect Port Renfrew. Its mid-day Friday and you can feel the festival buzz in the cold crisp air. As we pull into the general store for some essentials and a much-needed stretch, a group of fellow attendees swap information over smokes in the parking lot, “First time at the festival?” “Where are you staying?” and so on and so fourth and so it begins. We learn the names of the places that will make up the Song and Surf village for the next few days: Handsome Dans, Wild Coast, Gallery House, and Homestead, these resorts will play home (or at the very least a place to shower) for the “campers” of the festival. They lay the foundation for the sense of community and family that Song and Surf nurtures. It becomes clear immediately that this is the kind of place where you can always borrow cup of sugar from your neighbour.

Yukon Blonde | Photo: Kim J.

Dougal Bain & Sam Weber | Photo: Colby C.

The three Song and Surf venues each have their own contrasting style. There’s Big Fish Lodge, a double venue whose private beach hosts the only outdoor stage; The Community Hall, which is exactly what it sounds like, with a welcoming dance floor and tented beer gardens; and the church…

Steph McPherson | Photo: Colby C.

Sam Weber | Photo: Kim J

...Oh the Church! Where parked outside you can grab a slice of forno baked pizza and a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade before heading indoors. A vermillion backdrop and rustic pews set the stage for the likes of Steph Macpherson, Foxglove and Sam Weber. You may want both hands free of pizza and drink as you raise your arms to the sky during what feels like a religious experience, with people packed into the pews and sitting cross-legged in the aisle as the acoustics rattle the framework.

Photo: Scott H. 

Outside Big Fish Lodge | Photo: Scott H.

Man Made Lake | Photo: Colby C.

Big Fish Lodge with beach access to Anián’s hot-tub will forever hold a special place in our hearts. We have been long time admirers of the boys from Anián and love their come-up story and overall philosophy on life. Everything they have brought to the Victoria scene - from their beautifully handcrafted surfboards and clothing to their sold-out summer concert series at The Anián Yard - has been welcomed and refreshing. They teamed up with Do250 to turn a small sandy beach into an outdoor venue, knocking it out of the park with their bonfire-fueled hot tub. Hanging by the fire, looking out to San Juan Bay in February while being serenaded by bands is nothing short of magical.

Odel Fox | Photo: Scott H.


Colby C. - Video//Photos

Colby C. - Video//Photos

A big thank you to everyone who made Song and Surf such an amazing experience for us here at HOLY SMOKES. The atmosphere blew us away and there were an abundance of good times had that weekend. See you next year!

Scott H. - Photos//Narrative

Scott H. - Photos//Narrative