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.
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.
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
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.
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!