FLOURISH FEST: DAY 3 PT 2 – FIZZY DRINKS, RIOT GRRRLS, AND FEELINGS

[cw: mention of gendered/sexual violence]

The CSAC is buzzing as Saturday night unfolds at FLOURISH Fest. Alongside local beer and cider options, the bar is serving two flavours of custom-made Flourish kombucha: orange dream, and lavender cardamom. The fizzy, floral drink is a refreshing surprise, and I’m thankful for the small hit of caffeine as I gear up for the fullest night of Flourish.

Opening Saturday night at Flourish is Fredericton trio Terre Wa. A recently formed electronic improv collaboration between Indigo Poirier, Erin Goodine, and Emily Kennedy, Terre Wa’s sound ranges between video game soundtrack, contemporary classical minimalism, and atmospheric beats. High-reverb cello sweeps and riffs played by Emily are live-looped with Erin and Indigo’s rich synth percussion and bass beats. Swelling in complexity, receding into airy softness, then morphing echoes of previous themes into new rhythms, Terre Wa’s performance feels like listening to what dream logic might sound like–rich, enigmatic, and sometimes danceable.

terre wa flourish

Photo by Caitlin Dutt

Emily Kennedy remains on-stage for the next act, her and violist Mark Kleyn’s classical/songwriting project Pallmer. Both musicians’ classical backgrounds are audible in the lush tones and harmonies of their compositions and playing technique, as is their clear passion for the music. Most of Pallmer’s songs begin softly, recording via pedals the loops that act as a foundation for layers of lush strings and Emily’s soft-spoken vocals–during one song, both members of Pallmer team up to record a complex rhythm of percussive taps and pizzicato notes on Emily’s cello, before both return to voice and viola, respectively. The songs themselves are wistful and poetic, exploring themes of memory and longing with a gentle curiosity.

Partway through the set, Emily asks for the stage sound to come down, overall, laughing that her cello is reverberating uncontrollably. It’s a reminder of how sensitive and responsive string instruments can be: every time I hold my own cello, I can feel it vibrating sympathetically to ambient noise, like traffic sounds outside my apartment, let alone an auditorium of amped sound.

pallmer flourish

Photo by Caitlin Dutt

Next, Flourish founder Jane Blanchard takes the stage, accompanied only by her own Fender guitar, and co-founder Stefan Westner on drums. Jane’s set begins slowly, stripped down to feature her soft, unpretentious voice over finger-picked guitar and cymbal sweeps, before building intensity through the instrumentals. There is an honesty in Jane’s songwriting that suits her voice, and a definite rock edge that emerges as each song peaks emotionally. Instrumentally, the songs are rhythmically varied with definite blues and rock influences–which is to say, demanding and impeccably executed timing.

jane blanchard flourish.jpg EDIT

Photo by Caitlin Dutt

Before finishing her set, Jane apologizes in advance before promoting various other Flourish events and thanking this event’s crew, merch designers, and other performers. The depth of Jane’s performance, along with this closing gesture, shows her dedication and skill as a musician and storyteller. This is a songwriter fully invested in her craft, and also in the community she is building.

Quebec City-based l i l a follows Jane’s set, redecorating the stage with purple twinkle lights and silvery fabric–small changes that quickly transform the room into a dark, sparkly dreamscape. In their interview with nybc, posted just days ago, l i l a frontperson Marianne framed their music as an act of self-care, and care generally–an intimate practice with others. Even in the large space of the auditorium, l i l a’s sound feels tender and close, combining Marianne’s floaty, high vocals with airy synths, bowed guitar, and an understated rhythm section that pulses like a heartbeat.

Between songs, the singer performs poems that bridge between each song’s dreamy, introspective feel. Many of the songs about betrayal and heartbreak are written in second person, calling in the audience, drawing us into complicity and closeness. l i l a’s gentle intensity is the kind of night music that, at the end of the most draining days, reminds you to breathe, and fills you with stars.

l i l a flourish

Photo by Caitlin Dutt

“I want to start by saying how much i love this fucking festival,” begins Anna Horvath of Merival, while tuning her guitar. “Sorry about all the cursing. I’m going to play some really tender songs to match it up.”

Tender is the perfect word for Merival’s lyrical, solo folk set. Over fingerpicked guitar, Horvath’s songwriting showcases her astonishing vocal range, which maintains its reach in louder notes as well as in the softest, whispery tones. Between songs, Horvath is bashfully earnest, and jokes about the vulnerability she feels performing songs that are so personal and difficult to expose. In some of her songs, I’m reminded for the second time today of Joni Mitchell–this time, by Merival’s whispery intensity and fiercely confessional lyrics. Her music is deceptively simple and honest to a fault, with newer songs veering into jazz-like riffs that further set off Horvath’s stunning command of her high range. Merival makes a gorgeous end to an evening of magical songwriting.

merival

Photo by Caitlin Dutt

It has finally stopped raining by the time I make my way across town to the Capital Complex for the next wave of Saturday night performances. Shifting moods from the dreamy, introspective emotions of the CSAC show, I arrive to the sounds of joyous screaming emanating from the Capital’s main bar.

Moncton-based Klackers is 5-piece band with bouncy, unapologetically feminine punk sound. The millennial lovechild of 90s riot grrrl excellence, Klackers’ overall vibe dares you to dance. Lead singer Shannon’s bold, high voice gets loud, cute, rapsy and defiant all at once, and the whole band is visibly having so much fun together it is difficult not to join them. The house is packed and dancing at full energy through the entire set, which includes covers of The Adicts and Bratmobile.

KLACKERS.jpg

Photo by Caitlin Dutt

As I run upstairs to Wilser’s room to catch the next band, I happen on a pop-up improv performance by local Hot Garbage Players on the Wilser’s room patio. While I pass through too quickly to catch more than a few out-of-context snippets from a scene, the small crowd gathered around the players is laughing constantly.

Inside Wilser’s, two specialty drinks by local craft breweries are on tap: a hibiscus witbier by Greystone, and a mango-infused Cider by Red Rover. Described in the Flourish program notes as “power-pop doo wop,” BBQT is a pop-punk party raging loud and bright. Their performance features songs “about partying with all our friends in Fredericton, NB,” announces one member of the band (the crowd is so thick I can’t see which one!). “That one was for Iris the dog, who apparently is a huge fan of our band.”

Back downstairs after BBQT’s show, I arrive in time to watch Lemongrab tune up. Named for the infamous Adventure Time character, Lemongrab is a five-person punk outfit impossible to not dance to. Vocalist Gaëlle Cordeau belts hard melodies, veers into spoken word, and wails demonically in the same impressive breath. Even aesthetically, the band’s range includes diy art punk (Cordeau) to 70s vintage mom chic (guitarist and backing vocalist Leonie Dishaw)–the effect of their high-energy, artsy punk is undeniable. Wrapped up in the joyful noise, I meet a friend I haven’t seen for some time in the crowd, and we join what feels like the whole bar dancing.

LEMONGRAB

Photo by Caitlin Dutt

[cw] Unfortunately, the spell breaks when I have to forcibly remove a middle-aged white man’s hand from my friend’s back. While trying to make his way around us in the packed bar, the man laid his hand on my friend’s back from behind, and left it there long enough that he walked all the way around us and had time to pause before I yanked his hand off them. Instead of apologizing, he looked appalled, and told me off, as though I were the rude one. Before getting too much farther in the crowd, he leans back to hand my friend his empty beer glass, motioning for them to put it on the nearby bar for him. I see him laying hands on other femme-presenting people in the audience as he moves away from us; some push him away, but he keeps on groping until he hugs a woman who seems to know him. They leave together, though not before making out mid-crowd and taking up the space of six or more people while doing so. It feels extra insulting that this happens while a feminist punk band performs.

I thought about leaving this out of my account of Saturday night’s Flourish happenings. I still wonder if it’s worth disrupting what I intend to be a positive account of a small, independent art festival to address what happens to femme-presenting people in crowds. But the point is that those of us who face this kind of violence do not get to attend these spaces without thinking about that danger, even if we escape it actually happening, no matter how safe the festival or venue. Part of me wants this man to recognize himself in this. I want this man, and every cis-man, to think about the way they take up space in public, about the way they feel entitled to the bodies of anyone they perceive as other. It doesn’t matter if this man groped my friend sexually, or just because they were a convenient body to balance against; he still felt like their body was there for him to act upon.

A little shaken, but mostly exhausted by another such incident, my friend and I decide to leave and walk each other home. We tell each other stories about other nights ruined by similar, or worse incidents. We talk about the bands we’ve seen, and gush about our favourites. By the time we part ways, we are recommending new music to one another, and reminding each other to text when we get home. [/]


Contribution by Rebecca Salazar (she/her)

Rebecca Salazar is the author of the knife you need to justify the wound (Rahila’s Ghost) and Guzzle (Anstruther Press). Recent publications include poetry and non-fiction in Briarpatch, Minola Review, and The Puritan. Rebecca is currently a poetry editor for The Fiddlehead and Plenitude magazines, and a PhD candidate at UNB.

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