The 11th annual Riverfest in Elora, Ontario, Canada took place August 16-18th.
Saturday was the busiest day. Local news stations reported that there were nearly 6k people in attendance that day. Lots of great and diverse acts which were mostly Canadian, a few international. One of the stages was called "Wax On Wheels" presented by Dine Alone Records where most of the rock acts played and other unique, interactive artists played. The main stage featured easy listening, more or less kid friendly artists. The "Koop" stage was under a tent and featured international or artistic acts. Around the barriers of the festival were hundreds of posters of all completely different people with the tag line " I am a water protector" and the website www.saveourwater.ca. The Save Our Water organization is in and around the Elora/Fergus/Guelph area that aims to protect its local aquifer from Nestle buying it and commercializing groundwater.
I started my day at the festival around 4pm with The Darcys on the main stage. They were heavily 80s inspired in sound and personal style. They were funky to start but transitioned into some more general rock songs. They had the type of rock to be dancing around to.
Next I checked out Skye Wallace. A young, blonde woman from Toronto with her supporting band. She had the perfect tone of voice for a rock band and wasn't afraid to hold back. She did have softer vocal moments which was good versatility. They seemed like a good group of friends having fun with their punk inspired music. She explained that her new self-titled album is partially about the women in her life that have influenced her positively. Toward the end of her set, they played a cover of Somebody Told Ne by The Killers which sounded bang on but then had a stripped back chorus. Her vocals worked very well with the song.
Bouncing back to the main stage, I checked out K-OS. This Toronto native hip-hop artist has a career that spans nearly 20 years and his singles like "Sunday Morning", "Crabbuckit", and "Man That I Used To Be" will forever have its place on people's 2000s throwback playlists. He started his set beatboxing, freestyling, and hyping up the crowd. He has a lot of songs sampled from songs like Phantom Planet's "California", The Beatles' "She Loves You", Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." Overall his energy was a little low but he did his part and felt he had to name drop City & Colour a lot to get the crowd cheering. In his original music, he became more soulful. When it came to his most popular hit "Sunday Morning", he said "I'll only play it if people are singing with him because the song feels like karaoke to me." I guess playing the same songs for 20 years can wear the song down for an artist.
Back to Wax stage was something I didn't know what to expect, and boy it was more than I expected. REYKJAVIKURDÆTUR or "Daughters of Reykjavik" are an all female six member Icelandic rap/hip-hop group. The six women arrived on stage with coordinated outfits, choreographed dancing, and rapped in Icelandic. Some of the dancing included a couple of them dropping to the ground and the rest dragging them by their feet around the stage. Between songs they talked about "being better than all the male rappers in Iceland" and general feminist statements about being independent and being bad bitches. Eventually they asked for a male volunteer. They took him backstage during one song. When the next song was starting, they brought him on stage and made him sit on a chair where they acted super into him and touched him suggestively while "chaining" him and putting duct tape on his mouth like a hostage. Then one pulls out a (safely taped) knife where they pretended to stab him. They backed away from him and he pretended to be dead with fake guts sitting on his lap. I suppose this was an attempt at a feminist message or about being bad bitches, but it might have been a bit of an extreme. Very entertaining however! They went back into rapping and dancing, but this time by popping champagne, filling it into people's Riverfest mugs, and performing in the crowd. It was very interactive and entertaining.
To the main stage I went to see Alice Merton. Originally Canadian but now resides in Germany, the "No Roots" singer was overall pleasant to listen to with her alt-pop sound. She had her emotional songs and her dancier songs. Of course she ended her set with her one hit wonder "No Roots."
At Wax again was female soul/pop artist Begonia. Her personality had a likeliness to Adele with her straight forward way she talked between songs. She was charming and animated and had absolutely beautiful vocals. Cheers and woos at certain notes she hit. Her music was folk/soul with electronic quips for a modern flair. A song about a hot dog stand was mostly vocals and everyone was taken to church listening to her and was very enchanting.
The headliner of Saturday night was Canada's beloved (at least among Millennials) City & Colour, aka Dallas Green of Alexisonfire. Even five minutes before his set people were already chanting "Dall-as Green!" He started his set with newer material which is a folk inspired blues type. His voice was effortless, soothing, and just like his records. Midway through, he was left on his own without his support band with an acoustic set where he played a few songs from his early work. He didn't talk much between songs but when he did he encouraged people to sing along if they knew the songs. When the support band came back, he took a moment to wish his drummer Leon a happy birthday and got the crowd to sing happy birthday to him. An encore was immediately called for where he played a couple of his acoustic songs from his first two records and an acoustic chorus of "This Could Be Anywhere In The World" by Alexisonfire.
Sunday was going to be shorter for myself just based on who I was interested in. However at 5pm when the first band I wanted to see was about to start, a thunderstorm came through and halted the festival for a good hour and a half. I didn't have internet on my phone so I didn't know what time everything got moved to so I missed out on Montreal alt-punk band Pale Lips, and Toronto's punk band Pkew Pkew Pkew. However the last act I wanted to see was still on time, A Tribe Called Red.
They are an Indigenous DJ duo from Ottawa, Ontario who incorporate traditional Indigenous music into trap/house music and have been popular in Canadian festivals. They had a pow wow dancer traditionally and modernly dance to their deep beats. Then two break dancers, and lastly a female pow wow dancer who came on two separate occasions. Once dancing with her fringed traditional outfit, then again dancing through and around a set of about five hula hoops; intertwining them and chaining them in groups and rows. They are an excellent blend of modern and tradition and I'm glad they bring Canada's roots to the stage like they do.
Despite the dampen on Sunday, I felt diversity, eco-awareness, and relaxation at Elora Riverfest. Tickets for 2020 are already on sale for $115 which you can buy here.