Saturday more than any other day really brought on the female band power. Three bands in a row on the main stages were led (or co-led) by women: Misterwives, July Talk, and Daughter. It’s not even fair to lump them together as none of them were remotely similar. I caught the tail act of Misterwives, charmed but not altogether taken by their brand of indie pop. July Talk were a little bit more my kind of thing, as it was for the crowd who flocked to the Scène de la rivière. 5-piece as it may be, there was no doubt that guitarist Peter Dreimanis and singer Leah Fay were the stars of the show. The chemistry between each other was weirdly sexy and sexily weird, thoroughly enthralling the audience. Leah Fay strutted the barrier, borrowed a pair of sunglasses, preached hydration, and gave away water to drink. Going through the hits (‘Push + Pull’, ‘Blood + Honey’, ‘The Garden’), the music was fast and heavy—Dreimanis’ voice seemingly yet to come out of the ‘breaking’ stage—as the guitars chugged away, messing up my heartbeat.
Daughter was a different story altogether. The band’s songs tended to be a bit longer, following a post-rock formula of guitars and keys, scorching the airwaves with oceanic melodies. Their demeanour was also on the other side of the spectrum; as loud and captivating as they were, their shy English-accented ‘thank you’s were barely audible. My favourite song of the set was ‘Doing The Right Thing’, showcasing lead singer Elena Tonra’s perfect folky voice amidst the haze of noise swirling around her.
The Barr Brothers
What I’ve always liked about The Barr Brothers is their penchant for instrumental experimentation. Ostensibly a folk rock band, the last two sets I’ve seen of them included bike wheels and pipes for percussion. Lead guitarist and singer Brad Barr’s instrument of choice is an acoustic slide guitar with electric pick-ups, with which he played some pretty gnarly blues. My favourite moment was when he traded riffs with harp player Sarah Pagé. Finishing with two news songs and ‘Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Cryin’, their wizardry was brilliant as always.
Kurt Vile & The Violators
Kurt Vile & The Violators were in definite chill mode, playing a solid and tight set without complicating matters. While more recent and better known songs such as ‘Jesus Fever’ and ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’ drew some cheers, my highlight was actually ‘Freak Train’ off his 2009 album Childish Prodigy. With slightly less fuzz than the original cut, Vile’s disdain shone through his vocals, screaming on ‘Ridin’ on a freak train, train, train.’ It brought me back to an earlier era of him, when he had an agenda that I could agree in.
Immediately after were Dan Auerbach’s The Arcs. New band, same person. Auerbach played guitars of all shapes, sounds, and sizes, extending the solos to the crowd’s pleasure. With two drummers adding plenty of punch, it reminded me of earlier The Black Keys records, rawer and more gung-ho. Midway through the set Auerbach introduced three members of Mariachi Flor de Toloache who played a mix of violin, trumpet, and guitar. The presence of the Mariachi added another dimension to The Arcs, injecting a bit more soul and transforming them into something a bit more old school with rhythm & blues verve. For a band with only one album, the crowd were into it and singing along. It remains to be seen if Auerbach will continue with this project but judging by the popularity, it’d be amiss not to.
Busty and the Bass
I retired to a smaller stage to rest up for the headliners. At La Scène des Arbres SiriusXM Busty and the Bass were warming up, checking their sound. Around me, there were queues for food trucks, people were doing chin-ups on the monkey bars, and Best Coast rocking out further away. I had never followed the Busty hype even though they’re from here. What one would expect from their opening song is an upbeat Big Band sound, due to their use of brass instruments. However, in their 45 minute set the band managed to cover everything from funk, lounge jazz, rap, to early Aughts rock (mazy guitar runs included). Despite the mix of genres, Busty were clearly appreciated, easily the best crowd movers of the entire day. Sometimes, that’s all you need.