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.