As the second annual Go North Festival approaches, bands from across the country are gearing up to make the trek to Northern Ontario to perform.
This year’s festival takes place Saturday, July 14 at St. Joseph Island.
The lineup includes:
- Headliner Juno award winning Elliott Brood,
- Fast Romantics,
- Shred Kelly,
- Andrew Parkhouse Band,
- Ambre Mclean,
- Harrow Fair,
- Andy Chillman, and
- CASS FM
“Music is great. Live music – people should see live music. And it’s so much different when you see it live – I mean, I love music, I love listening to music, but live music is a whole other experience that people should have,” said Jody Wildman, Go North Festival organizer, about the importance of events like these. “I think that just because we live in Northern Ontario shouldn’t mean that we always have to travel for music. And so I think having great bands who put on a good live performance – it’s just a great experience for people.”
Wildman said one of the big things the events committee wanted to do was to support local businesses and vendors.
“One aspect we have to the day is we have a vendor marketplace for artists and we have a maple syrup producer, we have the people who make llama wool and stuff like that, and artists. And then we also have local food – so Low and Slow, Vibe, Pho King, and (The St. Joseph Island) Hunters and Anglers. Great local food,” he said.
“We also support local – like Northern Superior is one of our sponsors, as well as Magnotta wine is coming – that’s new this year – and then regular domestic-type stuff. And then the idea (of) where the bands are from. It’s not a mistake that most or all of the bands are from Canada – we think we’ve got a great scene, and we saw that through our concert series – and we just wanted to give sort’ve bigger bands, or bands that need a bigger venue, an opportunity to come here as well.”
Wildman said the committee’s vision for the festival is to promote the arts and culture on the island.
“So the vision is we looked at it, and when you look at St. Joseph Island, most people think of more of a recreational aspect to St. Joseph Island. We have lots of people from the area, and from all over North America, summer here and look for recreational things to do while they’re here. There’s a great arts and cultural, crafts, arts type aspect history to, more recent history, to the island, and so we thought that that fits in with sort’ve our brand, or our profile I guess, as a community. And also trying to see those grounds get used more.”
SaultOnline had the chance to speak with members of two of the bands performing in the festival – Fast Romantics and Shred Kelly.
Matthew Angus – Lead Singer, Fast Romantics
How long has Fast Romantics been a band?
“The band has gone through a bunch of different versions. The name Fast Romantics has been around for seven or eight years, but this is pretty much a brand new band starting with the last record we put out a year ago. This group got together about three years ago.”
Have you done a lot of shows?
“Yeah. Last year was pretty insane – we played over 100 shows through Europe, the States, Canada. We’re a big band; we’re six people cramming into a van and traveling around like insane people.”
How long have you been involved in music?
“My mother, she basically sat me down in front of a piano when I was two-years-old. She’s a piano teacher, so I was pretty much indoctrinated with music before I could even read books I was playing piano.”
Would you say your mom has been a big influence on your musical career?
“Oh yeah. Big time. Both of my parents – my mother was the piano teacher that got me hooked on music and my dad was into all these old bands – The Beatles, Neil Young – and was sort’ve the rock and roll influence. So I got both.”
Have you played at Go North before?
How did you hear about it?
“Well we got asked to play it, but what’s really crazy is my whole mother’s side of the family, like for generations, grew up on St. Joe’s Island. Really weird coincidence, considering like eight people or something live there. (laughs).”
Have you ever met your family that lives on the island?
“Oh my God, like my mom grew up there, and my grandparents had a waterfront property on the island, so like every single summer I spent two months of my life up there until I was a grown up. So this is like my childhood summers were basically on St. Joe’s Island.”
How do you feel about that?
“It’s really cool. I haven’t been up there in like way too long. It’s been probably 10 years – my grandparents passed away, and my mom’s moved out west now, off the island, and so I rarely go back and haven’t been back there in years, so I’m really excited.”
Are you hoping to reconnect with some of your family? Is there anyone still up there?
“Yeah, tons. Like tons of uncles and aunts and cousins and people I haven’t seen in so many years, so I’ve got the word from my mother that there’s going to be family coming to hang out so that’ll be awesome. It’s a total surprise. It’s like the last place you’d expect to be asked to come and play.”
What is the band up to right now? Gearing up for the festival?
“Right now, we’re working on a new record. We’ve been like mostly in the studio, so we’re kind of studio rats right now; we haven’t really been playing too many shows; we’ve played maybe like three or four festivals and stuff this year so far, but yeah, we just kind of decided to come out of our hole and try out a few of these new songs in front of people.”
How is that going so far?
“It’s always a little scary, you know, when you play something new for the first time, but we’ve really, like, over the last few years, we’ve really made a point of every time there’s a new song, before we even try to record it, we take it on the road, and we play it for people, let it shape itself a little bit, see how people are connecting with the song, and it’s been nice. I think it’s just sort’ve becoming something that we do. It’s daunting at first, but we really kind of look forward to it. Just kind of pray that there’s applause at the end of it.”
Do you have a general good reception when you play?
“So far, the reception of the new stuff has been really really rewarding. Every time we make a record with this band, I feel like it changes so much and the newest reel is definitely an evolution. It’s always a little scary, but I think people, especially fans that we got from the last record, are really being super supportive of where we’re going. So that feels really good.”
What can people expect from your performance at Go North?
“We’re gonna play them some songs. We’re a big band and we get loud a lot, so it always ends up being a party, our shows. So hopefully St. Joe’s is feeling in a party mood that night. People have been known to dance on occasion at our shows. All in all, I think it’s going to be a good time.”
What are you looking forward to about the festival?
“I’m pretty stoked – I don’t really know where it is or anything, exactly. I’m just really excited to be on the island. It’s really, personally, it’s going to be kind of a trip. That’s what I’m excited about. I’m sure that when you spend every single year as a kid in a place like that, the sort of a small town atmosphere and really chill, and I have so many memories I’m sure it’s going to be slightly emotional in some way. So I’m looking forward to that.”
What’s the rest of your summer look like?
Have a few more shows here and there, but mostly the month of August, we’re just going to be in the studio working pretty hard on the record and leading into the fall that’s the plan, too. We’re going to try and stay active, because we just want to keep playing new songs for people, so we’re talking about maybe going out and hitting the road in the fall to try out the whole album, maybe do some small surprise shows in various cities, just showing off new material. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. It’ll be a busy year. It doesn’t seem like it’s ever not a busy year with us.”
Background of SK?
- Based in Surrey, B.C.
- Met about nine years ago – “Tim, the banjo player was having a jam night and a few of the other band members were just going with some other groups and then he kind of recruited us to join the band at the open mic night that he was hosting and then we just started going ever since.”
- Just released fourth album in February.
- Folk alternative – “It’s pretty high energy. It’s definitely not traditional folk, but it has some folk elements.”
How did you hear about the festival?
“We’re with a booking agency out of Toronto – our booking agent presented us with the option to go play it, and it sounded amazing. We’re all based in B.C., but four of us are from Ontario originally, so we always want an excuse to come back to Ontario in the summer to visit our families and hang out around the lakes and get to see a bit more of our country in the summertime as well.”
Is this your first time at the festival?
“Yeah. We’ve never been before, but it sounds incredible.”
What can people expect out of your performance?
“We definitely have a very high energy and set, so just lots of dancing, lots of fun. We have the best time performing, so festival season and playing live shows is our favourite thing to do. And we definitely love to share that with the audience. If the audience is having a good time, than we’re having an equally incredible time. So we’re just looking forward to sharing that experience with everyone at Go North.”
What are you most excited for?
“Well, I think it’s right by a lake, so I’m pretty excited for swimming, and we always love to see what kind of amazing food vendors and things festivals have and also just to play with some of the incredible other bands on the bill, like Elliot Brood and the Fast Romantics, so there’s lots to be excited about. Festival season is our time of year, because it’s like music, food and all ages coming together, so we’re excited for all of it.”
What’s next? What does your summer look like?
“This summer is mostly festivals every weekend. So we’ll be in Ontario for most of July, and then we’ll be back in B.C. for most of August. So just playing lots of festivals, traveling around the country and, one of our favourite things about festival season is just getting to see so many bands that we already love and get introduced to so many other bands that we haven’t heard of before, so there’s always lots of new musical discoveries, so that’s something to really look forward to.”
Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the gate. New this year is a youth rate of $15 from ages 13-18. Children 12 and under can get in at no cost. They can be purchased at the 17 East Trading Post at the St. Joe’s turnoff, the St. Joe’s township office, and in the Sault at Case Music and The Rad Zone and also online on Eventbrite.
Gates open at 2 p.m.http://gonorthmusicfestival.ca/