Dispatches from Northern Lights Festival Boreal day two (Friday)
Laura Niquay opened Friday evening’s program in Sudbury with a command that drew me to the front row fast. I wanted a full serving of what she offered. Laura’s style of singing has clarity; her songs have purpose, and she rocks hard. Playing her hand drum with a full backing band, she delivered the messages and medicine for her people and this audience. Laura’s expansiveness finds flight in the blues, with Indigenous musical layers and percussion by Gotta Lago. Her voice rocks with grunge and hope, sharing long slow drinks from the cauldron of human experience with folks who come to these musical troughs for just that. To feel longing, truth and thrill in community, guided by the artists who gathered with the spirits in the flesh and cooked it up, conspired with bandmates to conduct the messages, cured in their practice spaces and in their dreams, travelled roads and bogs and mediums unknown, through venue bookings and onto the stages, to serve us ladles of this sweet elixir to remind us, this is really the only moment that matters. And what does one do when they are completely satisfied by the first act of the night?
Wandering up through the vendors area I came upon a small book publisher who focuses on northern Ontario authors. We had a lovely talk about our favourite, Richard Wagamese, and how we miss him.
With a full heart and arms full of books I made my way through the crafters and found a stall full of textile and stick mushroom ornaments. So very curious and original they were that I splurged on a pair of earrings. What joy!
On the Canvas Cabaret stage I watched some of Kate Maki’s set. This stage was set up in the traditional folk festival style, with music lovers in camp chairs and on blankets enjoying the cool roots tunes of Kate and her band. Accordion, stand up bass and clever lyrics always float my boat, so tunes like “I’ve Got Myself to Please” were well appreciated.
Zap Mama took to the main stage with her band to grace the festival with the beauty of Aphrodite and messages of love and encouragement. The crowd loved the gentle funk groove and received the Zapping happily.
I drove over to the Townehouse Tavern and awaited The Tessa Balaz Band. The vibe in the bar was super friendly, giving a sense of the vital organs of the festival. Many of the musicians were in attendance and ready to party. Full of casual confidence, the band took the stage. Tessa announced that most of the band were part of the festival organization and that they were thrilled to be playing for us. From start to finish each R&B tune was delicious, full of harmonies, and rocked the crowd right through. The chemistry between Tessa and the lead guitar player was unmistakable, so it was no surprise to learn they were partners off stage. The band finished their set with Juno award winning G.R. Gritt, performing their smooth new hit, Turnin’ It Up. What a treat!
And finally, the act I had been most intrigued to see began. Mehdi Cayenne took the stage in a black suit, sans makeup, to join his drummer who awaited in a Devo jumpsuit and bunny ears. I was ready for whatever they were going to do. In about five seconds in, I was dancing with intense pleasure. What Medhi summoned from deep within was the desire to connect, by sass and showmanship, bypassing self consciousness and giving free passes to the audience to do the same. Yes please! I didn’t catch a word of the French performance but the rare abandon and gyrations spoke volumes. Long time fans surrounded me, getting a fix from their beloved Medhi. Tomorrow afternoon at the Canvas Cabaret stage. I’ll be there!