Festival Review – OBEY CONVENTION VI

by Adria Young

obeyA true celebration of THE BEST outsider music and art, OBEY Convention VI (Thursday, June 6 to Sunday, June 9) was absolutely incredible this year. Artists flew into wet, soggy Halifax for showcases that featured some of most avant-garde and on-the-edge music people in Canada and the US, with local artists who make peculiar moves in obscure places. Shout outs to The Khyber Centre for the Arts, The Bus Stop Theatre, WEIRD CANADA, Lost & Found, and Divorce Records. The acts that OBEY recruited this year were definitely some of the most unique that I have ever seen and ever heard. Some highlights include:

MAC DEMARCO – My friend Jon described DeMarco’s show as the perfect union of genuine and trashy. Excellent description. On Thursday night at The Khyber, DeMarco (Montreal’s jizz-jazzer + Weezer cover-er) was all over the bastardization of 50s-crooning and surf-garage-pop. Covers included: “Tears in Heaven,” “Takin’ Care of Business,” “Blackbird,” “Schism,” and then a few bars of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.”  Because people had been reading about his antics (I heard he once pooped onstage, unconfirmed) we may have been expecting penis sightings and broken glass, or something. I wasn’t disappointed, though. Finished off with his really beautiful girlfriend on his shoulders, so that’s one antic.

Mac DeMarco @ The Khyber (Photo by Dan Joyce)
Mac DeMarco @ The Khyber, Thursday (Photo by Dan Joyce)

Mac sold out the first show a month before OBEY, so the Convention booked him in for a second set on Saturday afternoon. Different than Thursday night, the Saturday show was heavenly. It must have been the daytime vibe, the waffle brunch ($1! made by Kat & Morgan), and the pouring rain, but it just felt like a really special thing. Maybe because everyone was sober-ish? Either way, it felt nice and good. Did some “Cocaine,” and a hilariously sampled version of “Wayward Son,” ended with heart-pounder, “Together,” which he sang to and for his beautiful girlfriend and they made out at the end, which is probably what Jon meant. And while I’m here, CONGRATS ON THE LONG LIST for 2!

Mac DeMarco @ The Khyber (Photo by Dan Joyce)
Mac DeMarco @ The Khyber, Saturday (Photo by Dan Joyce)

PISSED JEANS  – This band hardly ever tours. Their list of shows played is under a couple hundos. And yet Pissed Jeans was THE BEST show I’ve been to this year, if not ever. Probably ever. First of all, Matt Kosloff (vox) was the baddest, most feminist punk dude. Also, if Scott Weiland wasn’t such a douche, I’d compare their physical energy. Matt cobra-snaked all over the stage as people crowd-surfed, moshed. He also helped girls up who were shoved, which was really nice. I got a bloody lip, ripped my sneakers, and bruised my hipbone.  This band is so tight and exceptional, and so interesting. I think they’re the real deal. They don’t seem to care much about ‘making it,’ even though they kind of already have? They’re on a sweet label (see my interview with Matt @ The Coast, Halifax’s Weekly). But anyway, whatever. They fucking ruled. Some people were bummed ‘cause no merch, but that was probably a border-crossing thing. I’d definitely road-trip to Pennsylvania or New York or pretty much anywhere to see Pissed Jeans again. If you’re even a little into punk and hardcore, even just cool videos and art, check these guys out.

Pissed Jeans @ The Khyber (I took this)
Pissed Jeans @ The Khyber * note American Apparel shirt (Photo by me, phone quality)

ANDY BOAY + ANDREW PATTERSON – I took a Saturday evening dip into One Block Barbershop for ‘performative’ reading by my pal, Andrew Patterson (OBEY PR / Southern Souls). He recently released a book of poems. His reading involved call-and-response, and although esoteric, it was really neat and thoughtful. Then, out of nowhere? Andy Boay. From NYC/Montreal, and one half of Tonstartssbandht, his set of soul-vocal loops and genre-punching blew my fucking noodle. He was like a talented B.A. Johnston. Kidding. But lots of energy and interaction, 100% for real honesty. I think many noodles were blown.

Andrew Patterson @ One Block Barbershop (Photo by Dan Joyce)
Andrew Patterson @ One Block Barbershop (Photo by Dan Joyce)

MOON + EACH OTHER + MITCHELL WIEBE – The Saturday night show turned into a Sunday morning show in The Khyber’s turret room, which was also a black light art gallery featuring work by surrealist-dream artist, Mitchell Wiebe. Earlier in the night, American Apparel was doling out neon tank-tops to everyone and I was like, ‘wtf is this?’ but it all made sense at 2:30am, when the black lights came on and Each Other turned up. Each Other is the neatest psych-pop-garage-band around right now. Hard to describe: pretty good stuff. Then, Moon – a group of top dogs, who played One Block Barbershop on Thursday with their flautist before this after-show. Moon plays pseudo/nu-krautrock, you know Joy Division & etc, but what’s super interesting is that = unlike kraut/new wave = Moon uses traditional instruments (the flute, for ex.) to create sounds that are usually synths (which is, I assume, what synths replaced in the first place / synth-pop). Andy Boay does this with his voice. Moon’s songs are dark, danceable and fun, and serious. Like, not too much fun. Moon’s drummer, Steph (SUP GURL) dutifully carries the beats as Noel, Andrew, and Graeme create walls of waves, a challenge to identify who is playing what rhythm, which is rad. Moon will be at Sled Island. Each Other / MTL. Wiebe 4 ever.

MOON, me, and the art of Mitchell Wiebe (Photo by Dan Joyce)
Moon, me (smiling, right), and the art of Mitchell Wiebe (Photo by Dan Joyce)

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Ahna from Vancouver, super pumped d-beat, has an amazing drummer. She is tough as fuck and played insanely fast. Of all the OBEY acts, Ahna was the most for anarchy: “This song is about the oppression and misappropriation of First Nations in Canada, fuck this country, fuck nationalism. It’s called ‘Empire.’” And it ripped. Heaven for Real played on Thursday with Jon McKiel on drums (Nate, the usual drummer, is on tour with CROSSS): these are three of my favourite dudes around, great show. H4R will appeal to quirky people out there who like garage-pop. The same night, Yellowteeth (Sackville, NB) laid out serious shreds and squeals. OLD AND WEIRD, my girls and yours, have really amped  it up over the last year. Allison added a glass guitar slide, you know what I mean, and I think they’re having more fun onstage. And JUST TRY GETTING THESE SONGS OUT OF YOUR HEAD. You will fail. On tour right now + new tape! And check out their newest video made by filmmaker Heather Rappard, who was the subject of an OBEY retrospective at the Halifax Library. Her work is really neat and really vintage in approach. She did a great interview with news-bud, Stephen Cooke, for The Chronicle Herald, which explains some of her interests and statements.  Also, JFM – hottie.

Old & Weird at the Waffle Brunch (Photo by Dan Joyce)
Old and Weird at the Waffle Brunch (Photo by Dan Joyce)

FUNDRAISER – The OBEY Convention fundraiser in April (see: my story for The Coast, Halifax’s Weekly) brought in Slim Twig and U.S.GIRLS from Toronto, also JFM’s Divorce Record release (so groovy). Slim Twig was everything I dreamed and U.S. GIRLS laid down a ton of disorienting energies and re-invented covers (“The Boy is Mine”) #girlpower

U.S. GIRLS @ Fundraiser (Photo by Dan Joyce)
U.S. GIRLS @ Fundraiser (Photo by Joeri Coppens)

OBEY VI OVERALL – For me, at least, this was the best OBEY Convention to date. Not only did it incorporate so many disparate kinds of arts and businesses and communities in Halifax, it had a really wide reach on disparate works in farther flung places. And it was all here. Thanks Darcy, Matt, Evan, & everyone. There was also a great representation of female artists (Broken Deer, Grouper, Cousins, Paradise, might as well see the whole lineup). You should come to OBEY next year? You know when you feel your body hair move and you’re like, “what the hell is on me?” and you look and it’s nothing, but you know you felt a sensation that went beyond your own experience of it? That is OBEY.

Special thanks to Dan Joyce, Director of The Khyber Centre for the Arts, for his cool pics.

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