MRCY Festival – Laval – September 26th 2015

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MRCY Festival is a back to school celebration, right outside the Montmorency Metro Station (hence MRCY). Think of it as a mini Osheaga in Laval.

My tip for next year, keep an eye out for early tickets, they start at $30 for a limited time, then $40 and finally $60. VIP tickets are $100 but you receive a great advantage, reserved sections in front of the stage for a great view. There is a VIP lounge with private porta-potties to reduce the line-up as well as a regular bar and cocktail bar (after 18h00) with special cocktails produced for the event by a mixologist. Finally, there is complementary popcorn and candy and seating on the side of the main stage.

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Of course, Evenko are always gracious hosts, having a collection of food trucks (considering the line-ups, I think they will need more next year) and interesting sponsors. It’s always tricky with sponsors… how to bring value and not overdo it. Garage had a spinning wheel contest where you could win everything from socks to jeans. Budweiser and Twisted Tea had games such as bean bag toss and giant Jenga. Out of all the sponsors, Telus really was the winner in my opinion. A giant screen next to the main stage would show posts from social media if one attached the #mrcyfest hashtag. A company might be tempted to ask that attendees also put #telus or something similar, but who wants that on their timeline? A centrally located printing machine manned by a team of iPad holding staff ensured that if you posted a picture, you received a printed copy with the Telus and MRCY logo as a souvenir. This is a great lesson in marketing, don’t shove your logo down our throat, but when you give us a memento, feel free to place it there…we appreciate the gesture. Great branding.

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Now let’s talk about music. Unfortunately, both Battles and Angel Haze were not able to make the event.

I don’t want to be a music critic, music is subjective and what I like might not necessarily appeal to you. I entered the event and was able to catch the tail end of Safia Nolin. I’m half French, but, unfortunately, my heart is simply not into French music. I do listen to some bands, but what can I say… it’s just not me. Safia Nolin seemed good, but I was getting a lay of the land and settling down, so I ended up catching some of Alaclair Ensemble, a collection of 5 MC’s and 1 DJ doing French Hip-Hop.

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The early afternoon crowd seemed to like them and at one point they mentioned that everyday is St-Valentines Day as they slid into a slow jam. Wasn’t really my scene, so I opted for the main stage to see July Talk.

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Before the July Talk show, a small crowd had gathered very early on, and a collection of fan girls admitted their love for the band as they helped with sound check. I’m always a little worried about a band that has a following of fan girls, but unbeknownst to me, I would be in for quite a musical treat. July Talk hail from Toronto and since their show, I’m noticing that they are showing up on some of the Apple Music playlists such as Best of Canadian Indie: ‘10s and Best of Toronto Indie to name a few.

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There is playfulness between Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay that is truly entertaining. It’s juxtaposition between an annoying brother/sister relationship mixed with passionate teasing which leaves you confused as to whether they are annoying each other or in love. They started us off with “Blood + Honey” off their self-titled LP. Continuing the juxtaposition is the voice of Peter vs Leah. Think Tom Waits vs Emily Haines. Peter next announced a song about liquor and regret, a bluesy number entitled “Summer Dress.” Leah’s summer dress will need some good dry cleaning after her performance that found her rolling on the floor! Peter next announced a song about strong women called “Gentlemen.” “Guns & Ammunition” had the crowd singing along with the band. Eventually Leah jumped off the stage to sing directly to her audience, causing quite the frenzy from the fan girls. July Talk played a few songs from their upcoming album before jokingly saying their two last songs would be Celine Dion covers. Thankfully, we were sparred my very distant cousin’s music to instead hear “Paper Girl” and “The Garden”.

Would I pay to see this band again when they next come to Montreal? Totally! In terms of having a great performance, they surely delivered and I probably could have left then and there and be satisfied with my day, but I had much more in store.

Off to the other extremity to catch The Joy Formidable, a band from North Wales who also had a similar British playfulness between Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan, childhood friend Rhydian Dafydd, along with drummer James Thomas. Banter included discussions about a cup of tea for everyone, the importance of following the set list to actually know the order of songs to be played and finally describing that Wolf’s Law reminded them of Downton Abbey (the song was feature on the trailer for Season 4). Being from Wales, they noted that their role in that time period would be to clean out the chimney, along with other lowly duties.

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Ritzy can sure create ethereal guitar sounds, a wall of sound that envelops you with joy. The band played songs off Wolf’s Law such as “This Ladder Is Ours”, “Maw Maw Song”, “Whirring” along with some new songs on their upcoming album.

Would I pay to see this band again: This is my cup of tea, so yes. 6pm and I’ve already felt that the price of admission was well worth it.

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Kodaline was next, a band from Dublin, with yet another set of childhood fiends Steve Garrigan and Mark Prendergast. Looking at their tour schedule, they are selling out at many venues in the UK. It was clear that many knew the band and seemed to be enjoying the performance. I personally found them a little too mainstream for my tastes and my 16-year-old daughter simply said she didn’t really like them live. We have our own tastes and preferences, which didn’t seem to bother the crowd as they enjoyed the performance. I took the time to speak to Peter and Leah of July Talk, who were very approachable and they are excited for the new album and returning to Montreal.

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A$ap Ferg took to the stage, visiting from Harlem, New York. I was expecting a live performance but instead it was a DJ-style party where A$ap played songs to the crowd, interrupting the music to insert expletive calls to action. I could see that the crowd was having a good time, grooving to the beats and the energy was high. This really wasn’t my scene so I took the chance to wander around the event grounds and get some pictures from the Telus photo station.

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I returned for the main stage to catch Local Natives, from Silver Lake, Los Angeles. Wikipedia described their sound as “afropop-influenced guitars with hyperactive drumming and hooky three-part harmonies.” Wow… that’s a mouthful. Standing there on the front row of the VIP section, which is right in front of the big speakers, I wished I had brought some earplugs. Hyperactive bass drum was definitely heard and felt!

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I was reminded of Half Moon Run and I could see myself listening to their CD. I can’t say I liked all the songs, but a good majority of them were great and my daughter said it well, they were very present and energetic on stage… they enjoy putting on a show! Definitely a tight band that put on a solid performance. They played such songs as “Heavy Feet” from Hummingbird, “Airplanes” & “Warning Sign” from Gorilla Manor and some new songs on an upcoming album. Taylor Rice did a little crowd surfing before ending with “Sun Hands.”

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Mac Miller was next and all I knew from him was that all his logos for the festival were of a floating head. Mac has come a long way since rapping at the age of 14 in Pittsburgh. The Mac Miller portion was definitely a giant party. People were dancing, hands in the air and I liked his flow. Unfortunately, the swearing was a turn off for me, but needless to say he had the crowd in the palm of his hands and all other attendees had a great time.

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The closing act was Alabama Shakes, who hail from… guess where? Alabama! I will now admit that I had a small moment of feeling dumb when I searched Wikipedia to find out a little about the band and where they were from… it’s been a long day people… I first heard and saw Alabama Shakes on Saturday Night Live singing Hold On and was instantly mesmerised by Brittany and the range of her facial expressions! This woman has the pipes and seeing her live… she gives it her all, fully committing to the music and being the embodiment of that big sound. Playing songs from both Boys & Girls and Sound & Color, she mentioned a few times how she had been waiting for 12 hours backstage to perform for the crowd. You could tell that her favorite place in the world was on stage exposing us to the introspective lyrics that the band uses to explore the stories of their life.

Some of the highlights of their set were Gospel Song, Miss You, Gimme All Your Love, Always Right, Hold On, Don’t Wanna Fight and Over My Head. I enjoyed every minute of the performance and I would definitely recommend seeing them live.

All things considered, MRCY festival had something for everyone and I can’t wait to see the lineup for next year.

Review – Randal Wark
Photos – Kieron Yates & Randal Wark (Local Natives)

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