You heard correctly, folks, the 9th annual Gain Music and Arts Festival has begun! This is my second year being involved with the festival, though last year I strictly worked cover at Van Gogh’s Ear, the entrance to three floors of musical magic, in coordination with DSTRCT & DSTRCT Lounge. This year, not unlike others, we were blessed with several awesome and welcoming venues around Downtown Guelph to enjoy the festivities in: Jimmy Jazz, Red Brick Café, DSTRCT & DSTRCT Lounge, Apple Salon, Red Papaya and Brothers Brewing Company. This year, as a newly appointed intern, it became my responsibility to represent GAIN Music at the daytime shows, while resuming my role as cover-girl-extraordinaire at DSTRCT in the evenings – with that said, I wasn’t able to see any of the evening shows.
I began my adventure at Apple Salon on Friday for an afternoon of acoustic one-man gigs performed by Jeremy Dodge, Ben Heffernan, and Jesse Ronan. The original lineup included Olivia Borkosky of the recently disbanded Olivia and the Creepy Crawlies, but she was unable to make it to the show. Nonetheless, the bill was packed with engaging solo acts that, in combination with the lovely salon space, provided a serene afternoon festival experience. Apple Salon has been a staple in the Guelph haircare community since 1996, and is located in an historic Downtown building in Market Square. The show was a casual accompaniment to a routine hair appointment at their favourite studio for some, and an intimate musical experience for the small crowd, most tucked cozily into corners so as not to disrupt the workplace.
Jeremy Dodge is a local Guelph musician, emerging from his former role as bassist in Seducing Medusa who disbanded in 2017. This was his first formal acoustic set, aside from allegedly jamming at parties, though he didn’t seem unsure of himself or his sound. Jeremy has a very honest and comfortable presence as an artist, and it was very enjoyable to see him play a hearty handful of homestyle tunes in his socks. His originals were beautifully written, some finished as recently as the morning of the show, and his covers ranged from Frank Turner to Alexisonfire, adding his own flare to the originals. He mentioned that he has been enjoying the practice of playing and performing more, adding that there will likely be an EP in the works shortly. You heard it here first. Find him on Facebook – tell him Dana sent you.
Ben Heffernan is an award-winning singer/songwriter from London, Ontario. Emerging onto the Canadian folk scene as a force to be reckoned with, he brought with him to GAIN Fest a mighty sound that filled the salon room with a nostalgic sense of home. He started his set with a bustling original song, and carried the audience into the rest of his set that was packed with many more roaring originals, and some covers, one of which was added to the “Canada Covers Tom Petty” Spotify playlist. His presence as a performer was full of energy and very poised, and he was a joy to watch. At only 18, he has played over 150 shows around Canada, usually with a full band, and has several releases for your enjoyment. Check out his website: www.benheffernanmusic.com
Jesse Ronan is a solo artist from Guelph, who brought with him an electric guitar and 8 pedals, which I knew was a sign of some magic to come. I think I met Jesse at a New Year’s Eve party (where we may or may not have shared a legal smokeable), but it was not nearly as radical or dreamy as his music. As a performer, his easy-going personality came through clearly, as he was very casually engaging in conversation with everyone watching, asking for suggestions on what to play, and inviting his friends to join in on the performance. He said he was comfortable sharing his harmonica with us, because he doesn’t have mouth herpes, which I thought was kind of him. His sound was tubular, surfy and spunky all at once, I fell into a slight trance while I was watching. Check him out on Facebook or Instagram.
My time at Apple Salon was enjoyable and full of sweet sounds. I unfortunately had to leave early to set up at DSTRCT, but the rest of the night there ran very smoothly, and we were busy with many loyal show-goers and scene-supporters. On the venue’s second floor, we were graced by the sounds of The Breaking English, Jeremy & The Pink Band, Waivers, The Kramdens, Vida, Wakeless and Texas King. On the third floor we enjoyed Moscow Apartment, Excuse Me., The Boo Radley Project and Boyscout. I heard bits and pieces of all of it from the stairwell when I wasn’t busy assuring the efficiency of everyone’s door experience, but it was undoubtedly a successful evening of community building through expression.
For Saturday’s daytime festivities, I’m hanging out at DSTRCT for the Jam School show. Since 2007, the music school’s focus has been on giving young musicians the opportunity to play in bands, and write and record their own music.
Their regularly-held showcases are culminations of their unique, performance-based teaching style. I attended a school like this in my hometown for many years while I was growing up, so it was exciting and heartwarming to witness young people having similar experiences to the ones I had that made me feel both empowered and humbled as a growing musician.
The second floor of the 10 Wyndham complex was filled with up-and-coming musicians and their families who were eager to see what the students have been working on recently. The lineup was stacked with 2, 3 and 4-piece powerhouses that had to offer a variety of original songs and covers of classics across 9 different acts. Even with a crossover of members at times, each ensemble had their own style, ranging from floaty duos to heavy hitting metal teams. All the performers alike brought their best selves despite being new to the practice of performing, and put on an excellent and inspiring show. Big shout out to the guys who played the Pokémon theme song – I appreciated that.
Check out Jam School on Facebook, or find a child and enrol them in this school!
Tonight at DSTRCT, on floor 2, we have a hip hop showcase featuring Left Lane, St. Flex, 96Soul, Vic NS, Robbie G, Trey YZ and Grand Analog! On the third floor, there’s more music: Livid, Conductor, Herman and Versa. You don’t want to miss this – come see me!
I hope you enjoy your GAIN Fest experience as much as I have so far, let me know how all the shows are going while I shiver at the door! See y’all later.
–Dana CK is a writer with Music Lives and a booking intern for GAIN Music. She’s also the cover girl you see freezing through the winter months at the door of DSTRCT. Find her on Facebook (Dana CK) or Instagram (@ddanasdfghjkl) to ask about the musical happenings of Guelph.
Photos courtesy of Dana CK and Rick Hall