Riverfest Elora: Shad, Metric, The Elwins

Shad (Photo by Justin Broadbent)

by Lisa Wiklund

While perhaps one of the lesser-known music festivals, Riverfest Elora certainly did not disappoint. In its seventh year, the festival combined small town Canadian talent with big names like Metric and Bruce Cockburn to make for a varied and satisfying experience.

Of the 54 artists that performed over three quarters were from the Great White North, making Riverfest Elora one of the most Canadian festivals I’ve ever attended. This made choosing performances to review a difficult task, but in the end I narrowed it down to Shad, Metric and The Elwins.

From singer/songwriters to rowdy rock bands, there was something for everyone at Riverfest Elora. Shad certainly came through on the rap front, with his socially conscious lyrics and soulful delivery. The new host of CBC’s Q blew the crowd away with his talent and rawness, making him one of my favourite rap performances to date. Unlike many other rappers, Shad didn’t hide behind an armor of bling or overbearing backtrack, and instead offered up only his skill and energy for us to enjoy.

The party only continued after Shad, as we rushed over to the main stage to get decent spots for Metric. Although it may have taken a few elbow nudges to make our way to the front it was definitely worth it, because Metric killed their set. Having never seen the band live before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but any preconceived notions I had were blown away by Metric’s skill and showmanship. The band’s mix of synth pop, dance-rock and electronica had the crowd moving and grooving for the entire performance, myself included. Emily Haines was a force to be reckoned with onstage and kept the audience more than entertained. Her excitement to be back on Canadian soil was contagious and I couldn’t help but feel proud of all the talent our country has to offer. The set ended with the recent hit “The Shade,” and “Breathing Underwater” as the final encore. It was the perfect way to end a stellar performance and the second day of the festival.

I will admit I did feel bad for The Elwins at first. It was the final day of the festival and it was obvious audience members were feeling a little worn out after two full days of drinking and dancing under a scorching sun. Not to mention that it appeared most people were there to see Bruce Cockburn and had no idea who The Elwins were, judging from the average age of the crowd. But despite all this, there was no shortage of spunk and energy during The Elwins’ set. What began as an intimate performance for the few people milling around soon became a full-blown dance fest, as The Elwins’ infectious enthusiasm spread throughout the audience. The band played a selection of refreshing and fun indie pop tunes from their album Play for Keeps (released earlier this year), as well as their first full-length And I Thank You. Although relatively young, the band is no stranger to the festival scene and expertly engaged the crowd with their humorous stage banter and overall quirky aesthetic.

While it may have been small in size Riverfest Elora was certainly not lacking in talent or entertainment, making it truly the little festival that could.

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