OUT OF EARSHOT: DAY 3

Outside of attending Skintone’s talk “From the Black Atlantic to the Milky Way: An exploration of Afro-Futurism” at Eastern Edge, I spent most of Out of Earshot day three catching up with friends whose goodbyes I was already grieving.

Muffin, an RPM challenge band, opened up the late, and final, Out of Earshot show. Being their first live performance, vocalist Rebecca eased into their very tender stage presence as their set progressed. Joined with Liam, Jacob, Sarah, Derek, and Nicole, they sweetly sang about having each others backs and being good people.

muffin

Photo by Krystal Morgan

This set was followed by Isolation Kills who were also playing their first show. Formed by Nicole, Pepa, and Kieren, these pals [and neighbours] came together to create hardcore music for connection and healing. During this set, I reminisced about the final Out of Earshot show last year when Hard Ticket played their last show. There were many parallels of the feelings behind these sets – a group of pals being supported and celebrated by a room of all their pals.

isolation kills

Photo by Krystal Morgan

Prime Junk took the stage next wearing a western button up shirt, bolo tie, and corduroy jacket – an aesthetic that I am always charmed by. They were joined with Out of Earshot organizers Sarah Harris and Jess Barry, and revealed throughout their set that their band had recently dissolved. They played with great vulnerability and generously shared the ways they were reclaiming something deeply painful through playing these songs live one last time. This set was an act of resilience and catharsis – while they are firm it was the last of Prime Junk [even saying “rest in peace” as they left the stage], there seems to be hope that they will keep making music after their [inspiring] weekend at Out of Earshot.

The show, and the festival, came to a close with Century Egg from Halifax. The sincerity of their music is one you can really lean into – everyone in the audience was swaying, bouncing, smiling, having fun with each other. Asked for an encore, they came up to play one last song: Since I Caught You. As the song was coming to a close, Shane sweetly sang directly to her husband, Robert (guitar), “And I don’t know what else to do / since I caught you“.

With a final show that inspired and conveyed so much love, connection, and friendship, the second iteration of Out of Earshot comes to a close.

Until next year, xoxo.

OUT OF EARSHOT: DAY 2

I arrived at Eastern Edge to moderate a panel on DIY organizing within arts and music communities that I was invited to by Out of Earshot. While, through not your boys club, I have experience organizing without funding and with little help from other people, I am definitely not an expert – in fact, I think I am often doing it wrong. This was a learning opportunity for me as much as for the room of people in attendance.

Panelists Nick Dourado, Natasha Blackwood, Jenesta Power, Shauna Gilpin, and Nadia Duman, challenged the reality of “doing-it-yourself” and ways in which this work isn’t effective, efficient, or sustainable if we are working in silos. They spoke to the power in collaboration, community outreach, and building relationships. Here was where, after some brainstorming, we landed on “doing-it-ourselves” or “DIO” coined by Nick.

The conversation we had, one that seemed to resonate and energize many folks, wasn’t recorded. It will only exist as an oral narrative for those who witnessed it to share. I guess then, it is our responsibility, as holders of this knowledge, to keep having these conversations about what it looks like to organize within [but also against] mainstream arts and music industry.

Leaving the space, I received some critical feedback on my moderation from Nick, “You fucked up! You didn’t ask everyone’s astrological sign!”.

Kira Sheppard opened the early evening show with a performance that placed me in my own dreamscape world. Between her harp, the string lights at her feet, the reverb on her vocals, the bubbles blown by Pepa, I was floating on my own little cloud.

Our collective dreamscape was shattered by the dystopian future curated by Skin Tone [James Goddard]. With visuals, narration, experimental noise, free jazz saxophone, and tap shoes that stormed through the room, we were captivated. Consumed.

Juice Girls opened their set with Ghoul Gal, a song that could have came from outer-space, to ease us back into our dreamscape. In moments of awareness, I would realize the ways they were enchanting the audience – pulling us in like the moon pulls the tides.

juice girls

Photo by Krystal Morgan

While we moved to The Ship, the world that this thoughtfully curated show created was only briefly disrupted.

Francis [synth/percussion] and Nadia [vocals/guitar/bass] of CUERPOS took the stage. In the ways that each song builds with rhythm, volume, and intensity, so does their set. They have a really great intuition that allows them to communicate to each other, and to the audience, non-verbally. Assessing needs, engaging, and then elevating. For me, the techno beat and bass line during sugar free was the summit of their set.

cuerpos

Photo by Krystal Morgan

I experienced Dregqueen, an electronic project, from an open window next to the stage. While the air and light rain kept me cool, the humid draft coming from all the bodies moving inside the bar kept me warm. The view and personal space that I was afforded by choosing the window allowed me to really connect with and be enthralled by the ways Lees performs and interacts with the audience through their body and movement.

Like the night before, I finished my cigarette as they finished their set and headed home.


Contribution by Nik A Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT: DAY 1

I arrived into St. John’s on the eve of the festival to be with some of the people I have built strong friendships with since the inaugural Out of Earshot festival. From backyard dinner, to soft-serve twist cones, to pre-fest gathering, to a night swim under the stars, I really leaned into laughter, connection, and empathy.

When I woke up, the air felt crisp and cool and the sky promised us rain. I spent the day on a couch with my dear friend and her dog, intermittently sharing thoughts and feelings about community between typing away on our respective laptops.

When it came time to make our way to Eastern Edge Gallery for the artist meal and opening show, rain and fog had moved into the city. The OOE artist meal continues to be a beautiful space where people come together, share a meal, and catch up.

The line-up for the opening Out of Earshot show at Eastern Edge was Greta Warner, Weary, and Ilia Nicoll and the Hot Toddies.

Greta Warner, a young person living in St. John’s, played indie pop for us with only a guitar and loop pedal. Greta’s songs are honest narratives about loss, dating, and her connection to Lindsay Weir from the late 90’s show Freaks and Geeks.

greta warner.JPG

Photo by Krystal Morgan

Weary, a local soft-rock five-piece, followed Greta. Fronted by Kate Lahey, her banter reflects the ways she interacts with her world as simultaneously tender and tough. While being intentional and thanking her band, the sound people, the photographers, showing love and care for her friends, the girls rock alumni in attendance, and her partner, she also introduces her song Grocery Store by saying,

it’s hard to find spaces in St. John’s where you don’t scan the room for someone who makes you feel horrible. mine is the Sobey’s on Merrymeeting Rd.“.

weary

Photo by Krystal Morgan

Increasing in tempo, momentum, and volume, the Eastern Edge show closes with Ilia Nicoll and the Hot Toddies – a playful and enigmatic local pop outfit. Since Ilia’s move to Toronto, her return to St. John’s to play music notoriously brings excitement to any space.

ilia nicoll

Photo by Krystal Morgan

With the rain getting heavier as the night progresses, some of the crowd disperses and some make their way up the alley to The Ship Pub.

The late night loud show starts with a relatively new hardcore / screamo local band, Gossamer, fronted by Rebecca Hammond. Gossamer brings a lot of chaotic energy by playing with auditory and physical space. Rebecca takes to the floor and gives the audience everything that she can.

gossamer

Photo by Krystal Morgan

Walt, the Out of Earshot host of the night, introduces the following local band, Worst Lay. Fronted by Renee Sharpe, she introduces her music as a punk therapy session for herself, her band mates Pepa, Mitch, and Mara, and for everyone in attendance.

The next act, while differing in sound but similar in emotion, Backxwash, delivers a rap set that maintains the anger, but takes it to the next level. Parallel to Kate Lahey’s intro to Grocery Store earlier, Backxwash introduces her song Devil in a Moshpit by sharing that it’s about performing in front of someone that you hate.

Her music and performance is a powerful commentary on her experiences of oppression as a queer and trans black person [so like, you’re walking around harassing people because you’re uncomfortable in your own skin / this shit is ridiculous / i’m laughing at you / i don’t really give a fuck, no sympathy for the cis]. While this is only a glimpse of the dialogue that she has with her audience, this messaging is consistent throughout her music and performance.

Grief, a hardcore band from Halifax, closed out the first night of Out of Earshot. Giving my ears a rest, I listened to them from under an awning outside as I smoked a cigarette with a friend. As my cigarette finished, so did their set, but I’ll have a chance to see them again on Saturday.


Contribution by Nik A. Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT: FEATURED ARTIST – NADIA DUMAN

From St. John’s, Newfoundland, CUERPOS [bodies] is a DIY experimental project that combines Reggaeton rhythmics and Shoegaze elements. Formed by pals, Francis Dawson [synth/percussion] and Nadia Duman [guitar/bass], they’ve recently put out their first EP called íntimo [intimate] and will be playing their final show at Out of Earshot on August 23rd with Aquakulture and Dregqueen.

cuerpos.jpg

Photo by Matt Williams

Inspired by and drawn to this project, I reached out to Nadia [she/her] to have a conversation about her musical history, the formation of CUERPOS, and safer spaces for queer women of colour in music communities.

At age 9, Nadia started to teach herself guitar without any formal lessons. As a kid with many interests and passions, her parents weren’t convinced that she would stick with guitar long-term.

“So, i’ve been playing music since i was like really young, but then once i started grade 8, during the freshman week, i saw this band playing. My school was kind of like glee, honestly, it was really weird. Everyone was in a band and there was like two shows every couple months. Junior high and high school was a really musical experience for me. I remember seeing this all-girl group playing during my first week of grade 8. They were playing Zombie by the Cranberries. I was like “What the hell. This is crazy”. I had never seen that, irl, and i was really inspired by them to become better, not only in my bedroom or in music class, but to like play in a band.

In 2014, Nadia moved to St. John’s to go to Memorial University and spent the first few years concentrating on her studies and student experience. In 2016, she was introduced to the St. John’s music community through Band-Off, an event put on by Renee Sharpe.

“That summer, my friend’s boyfriend told me about Renee Sharpe and a party she throws where you go and meet a bunch of random people, throw your name in a hat, and form a band. It was called Band-Off. It hasn’t happened in a few years though. Basically you would go to a space, at that time it was at Eastern Edge, and there would be different stations for guitar, one for bass, and one for drums. You would move through each station and they would give you a flash tutorial on how to play each of the instruments. Then, at the end of the event, they would take a hat and draw different names and you would form a band with who your named was called with. That was the first time that I did something band-y here in St. John’s.”

cuerpos 1

Photo by Adam Hefferman

After Band-Off, Nadia found herself retreating from the music scene again to focus once more on her studies. In 2018, when she graduated from MUN, she committed to getting back into passions, like music, that empowered her.

“Its been a long road. Ive been on and off from the scene, but I’ve always found a lot of help and a lot of welcoming. I was keeping in contact with local musicians here and receiving a lot of help. Like, this is how you should have your pedal board, this is a good pedal to use. It made me really proud and happy to be part of this community.”

Despite having a musical history of punk and hardcore, she was in a place in her life where she was getting fulfillment from the sounds and values of the Reggaeton music that her pal, Francis, was showing her.

“By the time Francis and I were together and were like, “lets sit down and jam and see what’s up”, I was recently back from a trip to Ecuador. I had a great time, I was constantly consuming music, and listening to what they were playing in the clubs. I was in a really comfortable, creative, fluid, space where I was really invited to experiment and see what different sounds I could put out.”

With making music of cultural value at the root of their project, they would draw inspiration from the sounds they grew up listening to. Starting with an idea, or vision, they would collaboratively build songs by making drum parts, then chord progressions on the synth, and then a bass line.

“The tropical sound, the urban sound, are really what makes our band and unites us musically. We wanted our project to celebrate these sounds because there’s a lot of, sort of like, colonial imposition in the mentalities of people in South America where they think their culture is not of value. So, I guess we are saying no to that. We want to celebrate these sounds and make them prominent.”

cuerpos 4

Photo by Adam Hefferman

Early in their process of making music together, they knew it was going to be a project that made them feel great and wanted a name that would reflect the feeling it gave them. They wanted the name to be fluid, filling any space, without limits, and without alienating any kind of person.

“CUERPOS is a perfect name, just a body, any body, it could be whatever. it goes with dancing and stuff like that and at the end of the day, if you’re dancing, it’s just bodies.”

The process of making their EP, íntimo, was very DIY. It was recorded by themselves in Nadia’s living room and produced and mastered by Francis. They released the EP as an RPM challenge and received a lot of positive feedback from their community in St. John’s.

“What I found was that, if you put out something you care about, other people care about it too. I don’t know, maybe that was a dumb statement, but I feel like people can tell when something is close to your heart. Like, we weren’t just making music for whatever reason, it was something personal and intimate.”

Their first show, during Lawyna Vawyna, was just a few days after Francis returned to St. John’s after a long trip in Europe. Since then, they have filled up their summers by saying yes to every show opportunity. As a queer woman of colour, making music rooted in cultural values, in a city that is predominately white, CUERPOS have been filling in gaps of representation and diversity within the St. John’s music community.

“Honestly like, its kind of hard to navigate certain spaces as a person of colour. You are super aware of ways you behave because I feel like, at times, not that i’m a voice of authority, but I’m a person that people come and ask me my opinion, you can fall into tokenism, or feel like you’re tokenized. I haven’t felt that way in this scene and I appreciate that. That was part of what helped me to put out music so comfortably and being able to share a personal piece of me with people. It was a really beautiful experience.”

On August 23rd, you can hear Nadia speak more to DIY organizing within arts and music communities on a panel facilitated by not your boys club and see CUERPOS live that evening at The Ship.

“We try to engage with the audience, not by talking or bantering, but by making them dance, feel the ambient. It’s nice to have that middle ground of environment and vibes from two people who come from two different schools of thought.

Francis grew as a musician in the DJ scene (electronic stuff) and learned the importance of ambience as a performer by creating an ideal environment for people to dance. In our performances he carries this school of thought, as he suggested to build our set as a DJ set. For example, we start slow and end with the faster stuff (bpm wise), we never stop playing during our performances so we transition into songs using beat deconstruction and by sort of coming back to the basic elements of our songs (ie drums and bass). This is similar to what DJ’s do when they transition from song to song during a set.

From my end, being introduced to musical performance through the punk scene (analogue stuff), I learned the importance of ambience in a different way… more like the energy you play with and how that energy can stick to the crowd. This is reflected by my constant dancing and head banging while performing. I do minimal talk and singing, and while I’m trying to not go full screamo on the mic, my singing style for this project is heavily influenced by my punk background but more leaning towards the cumbia/salsa style of singing.

Our Out of Earshot show is going to be our last show and we are definitely going to put lots of emotions in it.”

cuerpos 3

Photo by Matt Williams

Contribution by Nik A Basset

OUT OF EARSHOT: FIRST WAVE LINEUP ANNOUNCEMENT

Out of Earshot have announced the first wave of artists, musicians, and writers that will be at their second festival this August (22nd-24th) – including not your boys club!

In this beautiful partnership, we aim to facilitate platforms for under-represented emerging musicians, artists, and writers in spaces that are safe, supportive, and affirming.

Jess Barry, a member of Out of Earshot’s Board of Directors, says:

“Out of Earshot is truly a community-driven celebration of music and art. We are constantly learning and are greatly inspired by the thought and care we see demonstrated by other independent festivals in their programming, their support for emerging artists, and their commitment to diversity and to experimentation. Out of Earshot is a change to make lasting friendships, to experience new perspectives, and to come together to celebrate the waysys in which we express ourselves and support each other.”

Similar to last year, not your boys club will be sharing pre-festival coverage highlighting and centering some of the femme, trans, and gender non-conforming folks that are organizing and performing at the festival.

During the festival, nybc will be present and provide media coverage for headlining touring musicians Prime Junk (MTL), Century Egg (HFX), Juice Girls (HFX), Pure Pressure (TO), Hélène Barbier (MTL), and Dregqueen (MTL), local musicians Worst Lay, Gossamer, Kira Sheppard, Weary, Ilia Nicoll and the Hot Toddies, Greta Warner, writers Violet Drake and Carmella Gray Cosgrove, and artists The Rock Vandal and Isha Watson [+ more !!].

Tickets are available online or at Toslow (183A Duckworth Street, St. John’s, NFLD).

OoE 2019 Poster


Contribution by Nik A Basset

FLOURISH FEST: DAY 3 PT 1 – AVOCADOS, MERMAIDS, AND HARDWOOD SOUNDPADS

When I wake Saturday morning, the power has gone out. Outside, Fredericton is blustery and grim, threatening rain, and smoke hangs over the neighbourhood of the Charlotte Street Arts Center from a nearby construction fire; as I turn onto Charlotte street, firefighters are still extinguishing the gutted, half-finished apartment building.

Thankfully, the CSAC has power, and is warm, dry, and well-lit. I make my way to Connexion Artist-Run Center’s office and gallery, where Indigo Poirier of Wangled Teb is setting up a workshop on Ableton Live. Suspended in the middle of the room is an exhibit of miniature-scale couture creations titled Weight of Power, by local fashion designer Tracy Austin: lush, dark, gowns ornamented with petals, thorns, and branches. Workshop attendees are seated in a row of chairs beneath the exhibit, making it seem like they are haunted by a brace of regal fairies floating in midair.

With their computer screen projected on the wall, Indigo begins demonstrating various Ableton functions and plugins that they use while performing. While most of the technical details go over my head, it is fascinating getting to watch Indigo reveal the workings of several of their Wangled Teb sets, including one or two pieces I have previously seen in performance. Most of the workshop participants are other Flourish performers, including the duo behind VERSA Visuals, and folk singer Kylie Fox. The workshop feels collaborative and open, and Indigo takes various questions and suggestions from the attendees, showing them how to create particular effects they request, demonstrating how to map tracks and effects onto electronic consoles, and explaining how to free up processing speed for more complicated pieces.

For the second half of the workshop, Indigo invites the participants to bring out their own computers and instruments to experiment with Ableton. Though part of me wants to stay and listen, when the group breaks for coffee, I thank Indigo, and make my way downtown.

It is stormy and raining by the time I reach Bellwether, a local vintage and art consignment shop. Inside,  Erin Muir and Corey Bonnevie of Wrote have begun playing. Muir’s soft soprano voice and muted, finger picked guitar ballads are accompanied by the sound of clothes hangers faintly clicking as people search through racks of clothing from Flourish pop-up Ok My Dear Vintage. Seated on a vintage wood-and-floral-velvet bench, with her boots neatly removed and tucked behind her, Muir sings about watching houseplants wither, and lupin-planting as grief work. Surrounded by local artwork and macrame plant hangers, Wrote’s music feels at home in the small, intimate setting of Bellwether, each song’s soft, organic tones a refuge from the rain.

The next performer is Kylie Fox, arriving from the Ableton workshop. Her set begins with a cover of Joni MItchell’s “Case of you,” executed so tenderly that I am convinced the song was written precisely for her voice. Backed by acoustic guitar, Fox’s voice is bold and ethereal, with an almost operatic vibrato at its peaks and sweet, delicate tones when she sings softly. Her down to earth humour runs through the storytelling between songs, as well as in the songs themselves. Fox’s song “Avocado” is dedicated to a friend who, while pregnant, discovered one week that her baby was the size of an avocado. “People ask if it was planned and you say– bitch –under your breath,” sings Fox, peppering what could easily have been a sentimental topic with enough sarcasm, reality, and empathy to make it unmistakably genuine.

While heading back to the CSAC, I am caught in a sudden downpour, and end up taking shelter from the rain in the newly opened library of NBCCD, Fredericton’s local craft college. This weekend, the library is hosting Flourish’s annual zine and craft fair. Local and visiting artists are set up to sell their wares: comics and postcards by Patrick Allaby and Laura K. Watson, zines by Al Cusack and Olivia Thompson, hand-sewn scrunchies by Sackville-based designer Jeska Grue, issues of Fredericton-based literary Qwerty Magazine, and more.

Even as I am delighted by the art on display, something begins to nag at me: I am the only brown person in the room. I can’t say this is unusual in the Maritimes, and I’m generally desensitized to being the only person of colour around, but for whatever reason, the presence of several white people with waist-length dreads at the zine fair makes me suddenly hyper-aware of the room’s overwhelming whiteness. It’s hardly shocking, but at the same time, it is. Saying anything about this feels like a risk. I could too easily become a villain, the stereotypical angry brown femme meant to be laughed at and dismissed. I know any anger or discomfort I feel is loneliness, the reminder of how isolated I am from communities that understand this feeling, too.

Scanning my festival program, I realize there are only two visible people of colour among the hundred or so performers featured all weekend. One of the two, Wabanaki fashion designer Mariah Sockabasin, is scheduled to showcase some of her designs at the same time as the event I was headed to before being interrupted by the rain–an open jam session for women, trans, two-spirit, and non-binary youth hosted by Girls+ Rock Camp at the CSAC.

Being torn between the two events is a visceral reminder of the way in which QTBIPOC are made to choose between our communities, forced to abandon our ethnic communities to feel included for our genders or sexualities, or forced to closet ourselves in order to belong with our racialized kin. Even on such a small scale–me, alone, with all my privilege to choose between attending one amazing art event or another–it hurts to defer part of your identity.

I arrive rain-soaked and out of breath at the Girls+ Rock Camp session. Members of various bands performing at Flourish, including Motherhood’s Penelope Stevens, songwriter Jane Blanchard, and Indigo Poirier are guiding about a dozen young people as they play on several drum kits, keyboards, synth tables, and guitars scattered around the CSAC auditorium. A constant groove emerges from the various rhythm stations, and a song begins to take shape as I watch. Two young girls wearing pastel hijabs join Indigo at the mic, and sing about everyone becoming mermaids. Other kids around the room chime in gradually, singing and laughing along, swapping instruments and making new friends.

After stopping to warm up with a coffee from Milda’s Pizza and More, I make my way back through the rain to Gallery 78, a historic, turreted house on the South bank of the Wolastoq river. Featuring several exhibits by local artists, today, the gallery’s main room hosts a pop-up installation by classical/songwriting duo Pallmer and Montreal-based electronic artist Charles Harding.

On the floor, Harding has taped off a large square with arrows pointing through it, accompanied by the words “Step Study.” Pallmer cellist Emily Kennedy and violist Mark Kleyn are set up at opposite corners of the square, and play from scored composed by Harding: though the scores contain standard lines of musical notation, between each line, there are sections denoted by colourful, abstract blobs and waves. The performance begins with Pallmer playing an airy, minimalistic duet, but the twist is revealed when Harding walks through the outlined square, and invites the audience to do the same. As soon as anyone walks into the square in the center of the room, Pallmer’s playing becomes a musical interpretation mimicking the person’s steps.

Tiptoeing through the square incurs soft, plucked harmonics. Stomping results in loud, heavy chords. When three women dance into the square together, holding hands and spinning, the music becomes a raucous waltz that follows their every movement. Pallmer’s improvisations echo the speed, weight, and feel of the audience’s interventions as people become bolder and begin to experiment: one man removes his shoes and slides across the floor; a Flourish volunteer gets down on the floor and log-rolls through the square; some people try squeaking their rain-wet shoes against the hardwood to test the effect; and at one point, people try throwing coats and keys into the ring, incurring a variety of sustained harmonics and chords.

Throughout the performance, the art gallery becomes a dance floor and soundpad, where the audience is invited to collaborate in the music, using their bodies as instruments. Step Study is an invitation to play along with the performers, not just in the musical sense, but in the childlike, imaginative realm. As the piece comes to a close, the final audience intervention that modifies the score is when Erin Goodine (of Fredericton band Terre Wa) pulls up a corner of the tape delineating the square soundpad, breaking the barrier between the scored and improvised music for a moment before gently putting it back. After enthusiastic applause, Harding explains that his goal is to make performance interactive. The performances of his piece at Flourish are also data-gathering expeditions, as Harding intends to compose a future piece based on the step and sound patterns recorded during the festival. As everyone leaves Gallery 78, we leave as co-conspirators and collaborators in this future composition.


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.

FLOURISH FEST: DAY 1 – WHEELIE SHOES + CARTOON SWORDS

The floods that days ago engulfed most of downtown Fredericton have just receded. It is unusually cold and gloomy for late April, but downtown’s Shiftwork Studio is warmly lit and in full colour. I arrive just as the first two bands playing Flourish Fest’s opening set are sound checking, and chat briefly with festival founder Jane Blanchard, who hands me my festival pass, a hand-printed geometric piece made by Jane and her co-founder and collaborator Stefan Westner in the very studio this first show takes place in.

I have lived in Fredericton for nearly six years, just a year longer than Flourish has been running. Having arrived as a grad student with no intention to stay in the Maritimes after my first, two-year program, I spent the first-ever Flourish at home or at the library, buried in books. It was not until I became more involved and invested in Fredericton’s small but impressive queer and arts communities that I became aware of Flourish, and I have made a point to come to a few shows and its annual zine & craft fairs ever since. The festival and the artists it features each year make Fredericton feel shimmering and vital each spring.

Waiting in a corner of Shiftwork studio for the show to begin, I watch members of Frooti-Toot-E zip through the room on wheelie shoes post-soundcheck, and am excited for what this year will bring.

“Who wants to get cozy and come closer to us?” asks the singer of indie rock outfit Terminal, the first band to play. “Or maybe have a dance off?” Dressed in monochromatic baby pink, Cameron Corey leads their band through bouncy riffs, with vocals ranging from  Bowie-esque pop tones to cartoon-villain-worthy cackles.

Introduced by the festival program as “fashion icons from the future,” Frooti Toot-E takes the studio stage next. Recently profiled by nybc, the experimental trio is dressed according to the colours of their band personas: Banana, in a yellow polo dress and rubber duck-print bucket hat, Peach, in pink faux fur and fuzzy antennae, and Tomato, in an oversized red t-shirt that reads “#1 Dad.”

Frooti Toot-E’s first song chronicles Tomato’s existential woes (“I’m a fruit, not a veggie,” she sings). After an initial ballad section, the song shifts into a poppy rap sequence as each member of the band introduces herself in character. The back-beats swell in tempo and build up to a high-energy battle, each band member performing riotous choreography with cartoon plastic swords.

The audience cheers and laughs as Frooti-TootE charm us through their songs with unabashed, artful silliness. Though their song lyrics are largely a series of jokes and puns–excellent puns!– on fruit names, the band cover topics ranging from lost love to self-affirmation with a sense of humour that feels both genuine and infectious.

While I am sad to have to leave the opening show early for another, non-Flourish event, I leave joyful and laughing, still buzzed with the energy of the studio.


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.