Home Feature Day 1 at the Spring Tide Music Festival in Uxbridge, ON

Day 1 at the Spring Tide Music Festival in Uxbridge, ON


It’s my first time at the Uxbridge Music Hall, and it’s a gorgeous old venue with a semi-circular balcony in a town hall style that holds about 300 people. It’s go great sound, great sightlines, and it’s packed full for the opening night concert of the Springtide Music Festival.

Alannah Kemp kicked off the night with solo electric guitar and voice, an earthy nature girl with funny, quirky banter. Her voice ranges from sweet and gentle to a more urgent tone, and she uses her falsetto beautifully. Songs like “Howling” and “Reckless” were impressive, the former of which included a very enjoyable audience howl-along. Her self-deprecating wit is utterly charming and had the audience rooting for her from the start. Her phone rang in the middle of a song – her ringtone is lovely, chirping birds – but she gamely incorporated it into the performance, turning the error to her advantage (as she often does). It was very satisfying to discover a talent you haven’t seen before; I’ll be keeping an eye out for her moving forward.

Alannah was followed by force of nature Mimi O’Bonsawin, a powerful singer-songwriter who embraces both her Franco-Ontarian and Abenaki roots. Supported throughout her set by background sound-pads from her looper machine, she opened with a riveting vocal piece, “The River,” that pays tribute to “the dawn of my people.” Right from the get-go, her drummer (and life partner), Ryan Schurman, showed the remarkable power, ease, groove, and sense of feel with which he plays, not unlike Daniel Lanois’ consistent drummer of choice, Brian Blade. Mimi has such a clear, resonant voice, occasionally going to vibrato but always controlled – the effect is there when she wants it.

Mimi offered audience members free tomato plant seedlings (she had too many in her garden) from a table at the back of the hall, then offered a great reading of “I Wish I Was A Farmer.” A lively rendition of the Francophone song “Elle Danse” had the crowd clapping along and howling. She played “Here’s to The Women,” which served not only to highlight those in her life, but to celebrate the fact that this opening-night concert of Springtide 2024 was an all-female bill – especially important and valuable, considering the recent report of female under-representation in the Canadian music industry. Mimi played a fresh new song, “Steady,” and plucked a small harp for “Dreamwalker,” a haunting, magical appreciation of the value of dreams that reminded me of the lush sound of Kate Bush. Still on the harp, solo, she played a sad, sweet Francophone song for a loved one who’s passed away, then closed with the upbeat and uplifting “I Am Alive” and “Worthy.” Mimi O’Bonsawin – an earth mother of the highest order.

Headlining the show, The Good Lovelies provided the superb three-part harmonies that live up to their name – both good and lovely. Because they’re almost at the end of a long-awaited Ontario tour, they were tight and polished, singing and playing everything with confidence, strength and a great sense of dynamics – and well-developed between-song humour. Multi-instrumentalists, who between them play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, keyboard, banjo and percussion, they know how to switch it up from song to song to keep everything fresh.

“Kiss Me in the Kitchen” and “Lie Down” lightly but exquisitely captured the physical longing for one’s romantic partner. The tender, heart-rending “Baby I” mourned the demise of an almost-good-enough-to-last relationship with a life partner. “Sleep the Morning Away” was a sweet and lazy ode to the morning after gladly being up all night. “Wilderness” was a rare kind of love song about trying to stay wild within the boundaries of a romance. “I Should Tell You More” was inspired by needing some time together to connect, away from the children in one’s family.

Twice, the trio bravely broke the set down to unplugged performances without any microphones or amplification. The first time was for their take on the traditional song ”Wayfaring Stranger,” adapted from the Johnny Cash version, which was mesmerizing. The second time was for the encore, a funny, charming, a cappella version of a 1926 Louis Armstrong novelty single, “Heebee Jeebees,” which showed off their incredible skills as singers and especially as vocal arrangers.

The Lovelies’ stage patter was very entertaining and often hilarious. To introduce the life-partner-positive “I See Gold,” they mentioned spending two weeks at the late Stuart McLean’s house (the trio were regulars on his CBC radio show The Vinyl Café) to write and came up with the song after “watching a lot of Ted Lasso.” The Lovelies’ Kerri Ough talked about the band taking their picture in front of a Spotify electronic billboard of their image at Dundas Square in Toronto; her dad, something of a luddite, asked for an 8-by-10 print of it. So, he has a print photo of an online photo of the group standing in front of an electronic photo. Her fellow Lovely Carlone Brooks then said, “We should take a photo of him holding the photo… complete the circle!” Kerri mentioned that the Lovelies discovered that one of their songs was being used for a dog training video in Germany. That got the audience laughing. Then she said the song is called “Lie Down.” That got bigger laughs. Then she said, “I wrote it for my husband,” and the crowd roared.

All in all, it was a great first night. I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend.


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