When it comes to mixing big name talent with small town vibes, no other music festival in southwestern Ontario compares to Riverfest Elora. Set on the banks of the Grand River in the picturesque village of Elora, this year’s late-summer festival featured headliners like Walk Off The Earth (Burlington, ON), Chromeo (Montreal, QC), and the Sheepdogs (Saskatoon, SK). But it wasn’t the headliners that made my Riverfest experience so memorable – it was the local acts and emerging talent that truly stole the show.
With only one international act, Riverfest’s 2016 lineup of over 50 artists showcased an eclectic mix of established acts and promising new musicians. Nearly every province was represented at this year’s festival, including a number of budding musical acts hailing from nearby towns and cities in Southwestern Ontario.
Here are 6 of the most impressive local acts from this Riverfest Elora 2016:
DCF’s groovy tunes were the perfect way to close down the secluded Dine Alone Records Wax on Wheels stage on Sunday evening. Elora native and locally-hailed pop prince, David Charles Fisher, along with HIGHS bassist Doug Haynes, delivered an multifarious mix of neo-pop tunes that skillfully combined elements of deep hip hop bass with the gummiest pop riffs.
Stream DCF’s “Down We Go”:
5. Rich Burnett
Rich Burnett’s mellow folk vibes provided a moment of peace on a hot Saturday afternoon. Alongside David Neigh’s poetic fiddling, Rich Burnett’s slow, calming tempo perfectly complimented the low-key vibes of the Dine Alone Records Wax on Wheels stage. Local love was in no short supply for Rich Burnett either, as fans from Elora and nearby towns shouted out requests from his most recent album, Not So Blue, which Rich Burnett was happy to oblige.
Listen to Rich Burnett’s “Crippled Station Blues”:
4. John River
Genre: Hip Hop
Following on the heels of Kardinal Offishall’s hyped up Saturday afternoon performance, John River’s evening set got off to a raucous start as DJ K Easy spun some heavy beats at the Dine Alone Records Wax on Wheels stage. But as the Mississauga-native settled into some deeply personal, introspective rhymes, his largely a capella set cooled things down as the sun set on the second day of Riverfest Elora.
Listen to “Hope City II” by John River:
3. Goodnight, Sunrise
Goodnight, Sunrise kicked off the final day of Riverfest Elora with an interactive set, complete with in-your-face performances and confetti canons. Lead singer Vanessa Vakharia’s powerful vocals, along with some seriously psychedelic riffs provided by guitarist David Kochberg and drummer Paul Weaver, couldn’t help but remind me of my recent discovery (and subsequent love affair) with Vancouver’s Black Mountain.
The Toronto band’s extended, experimental instrumental interludes set a high bar for the remainder of my Sunday lineup. Listen for yourself – check out the title track from Goodnight, Sunrise’s recent EP, Deal With It:
2. DeBoer and Joël
(Elora, ON/Toronto, ON)
There was no better place to rock out on Friday night than the Elora Legion. With a framed photo of Queen Elizabeth II and some patchy twinkle lights as their only stage decoration, electronic duo DeBoer and Joël spun beats that practically peeled the paint right off the walls at Friday night’s most raging after party.
Hometown love was in no short supply as Elora native Liam DeBoer dropped sticky mix after sticky mix, providing the perfect backdrop for vocalist Joël’s melodic rhymes. What was the stickiest mix of all? A cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” that rocked even harder than the original (sorry, Justin).
DeBoer and Joël’s first single, “Fame” is currently trending on SoundCloud’s #Indie chart. Take a listen:
Genre: Folk Rock
Crammed onto a tiny stage with monitors propped on kegs and a backdrop of vats of brewing beer, this Guelph-based five-piece’s moody brand of folk perfectly complemented the dark, intimate feel of the Elora Brewing Company at one of Saturday evening’s after parties.
Lead guitarist and vocalist Gordon Auld’s intentionally out of tune guitar, combined with smooth pedal steel and a palpable beat that persisted even in the absence of drums was as sticky as southern molasses. But it was the slow moving melodic interludes and gradually building crescendos that rocketed this underrated folk band to the top of my Riverfest Elora list.
Listen to “Take My Spirits” off Lowlands’ recent album huron: