The London Ontario Live Arts Festival has come and gone for another year, and again I was there. I previously expressed my concerns over the line-up, and while it didn’t live up to last year’s event, there were still some gems to be found. I didn’t bring my camera, so you’ll have to do without my shoddy amateur photograpy.
I was torn on Friday, as I would’ve liked to see Bocce since I’ve heard their show is much improved. I previously saw them a few years ago after they opened for Shout Out Out Out Out instead of Crystal Castles, who were no-shows. Sadly, even promises of songs about bears couldn’t force me to go clear across the city to see them that early. The free shows appearing at Victoria Park that day weren’t that appealing to me, so I only caught a bit of Do Make Say Think before travelling to Call the Office where the real night would begin. While I wasn’t flat out bored by DMSY this time around, I still have issues with post-rock in the live setting. For me, it works well as background music but when it’s forced to take centre stage, I’m not really sure what to think. I mean, I can’t dance to it, it’s too disjointed. I can’t just sit there, it’s too hypnotic. Anyway, enough babbling, suffice it to say, I was ready for a chance of pace.
I left the park early to beat the rush heading to the bar for the after-party, thus the room was still rather quiet. Sure enough, the masses began to pile in as Woodhands began their set. I was only passingly familiar with the duo, having stumbled upon a few songs in the blogosphere and figuring it was worth the gamble to see them. Indeed it was. A keytar was an integral part of their act, how can you not love keytars? After acknowledging the city, noting that they usually play the Alex P. Keaton (a place I oddly have yet to visit), the pair burst into an electro-dance party that got the people moving. Highlights include a rap session resulting in the drummer jumping into the crowd, hilariously performing a Jay-Z song he didn’t really know, before stopping and moving onto a cover he actually knew. The band closed with Dancer, the first track from their album Heart Attack. In lieu of the woman singing on the album, the drummer took lead vocals on the verses, sheepishly saying it was because he sounded like a girl. All in all, they were good fun.
After a brief interlude and rush to the bar, We Are Wolves took centre stage and owned it for the rest of the night. The Frenchmen commanded your attention while ordering you to dance, and dance you did. I was also relatively unprepared for what the three-piece brought to the table, having only heard the single Fight and Kiss before the show, but the frantic rock and roll was crowd pleasing and a fitting end to the night.
Day two had two acts playing the Victoria Park bandshell I was interested in; the first was Plants and Animals. The band drew quite a large crowd even before they burst into the opening chords of Good Friend. What followed was a pretty excellent set of folk-tinged rock and roll, marked by guitarist/vocalist Warren Spicer existentially musing on life while tuning his guitar, as well as an excellent whistle opening to Feedback in the Field by drummer Matthew Woodley. After ending the show on a high note with Bye, Bye, Bye, the band was brought back for an extremely forced encore after the rather obnoxious MC got the crowd to chant “PLANTS AND ANIMALS.” This isn’t knocking the band, but really the MC, whose schtick got a little unbearable after awhile. Even moreso when he pulled out the classic, “When I say holy, you say: FUCK!”
After the childish chanting of their name (seriously, aren’t we over that yet?) Holy Fuck hit the stage and started performing their phat beats with their fantastic machines. Truth be told, my experiences seeing Holy Fuck have been mixed at best, it’s highly dependent on my mood (or relative degree of sobriety). This time around, I couldn’t help feeling something was off in the sound department. Perhaps it was just the open stage in comparison to the usual seedy clubs I frequent, but that atmosphere can’t be undervalued. It certainly would’ve gotten more people moving, in any case. Anyway, I really only go so I can hear them play Lovely Allen, then I can leave happily.
Line-up concerns aside, LOLAfest is a hugely important event to London, and I have to give full credit to the people that make it happen year after year. I don’t know where I’ll be this time next year, but hopefully LOLAfest is back and stronger than ever.