Artists,  Ontario

Artist Spotlight: The 24th Street Wailers

The lineup for the Peterborough Folk Festival was released this past week, and for the first time in seven years, I didn’t do all of the booking. And for the first time in more than a decade, I won’t be working on the festival or even attending, because I’ve got another festival to run here in Toronto. ((Taiwanfest!)) It’s a weird feeling to see things roll along without you, but Nick’s ((PFF’s new Artistic Director!)) doing a great job, and so is Ashley ((PFF’s Executive Director!)) and the rest of the team.

The 24th Street Wailers!One of the bands that I booked  in this year’s lineup is The 24th Street Wailers; ((Full disclosure: I know and like the people in this band, and their lead singer is my vocal teacher.)) I’d heard about them prior to 2012’s Ontario Council of Folk Festivals conference, but wasn’t prepared when I wandered into a very early showcase and was blown away by this incredible band.

I’m really not a Blues girl – tho with the caveats that I like old Blues, and Rocky Blues, and and well, lots of Blues, honestly.  But what I don’t like is wanky Blues; the kind of anemic, trying-to-be-something-you’re-not Blues that seems to attract so very many retired white guys. ((I calls ’em as I sees ’em.))  And that’s where the Wailers shine; they’re emphatically, perfectly themselves, and they aren’t trying to be anything else.

Each of the four members of the band is a skilled player who would be the jewel in any band’s crown; their attention to detail and level of playing are beyond many artists’ reach.  But really, it’s the chemistry between the members, and in particular the personality of lead vocalist and drummer Lindsay Beaver that pushes them beyond their peers.  Like a conductor at a symphony, she directs the music, and though each musician is given room to bring their own personality and flavour to the music, it’s all very deftly managed.

Like most bands I really love, it’s when playing live that they’re at their best.  They have a level of showmanship that pulls in everyone in the room and leaves them screaming for more; I don’t think too many bands would be happy to follow a Wailers set.  They’re the band that other musicians want to watch, too; a glance around the room at any of their shows will reveal artists and promoters, soaking up the great tunes.

And ((Much like ‘The Shitty Beatles’)) it’s not just a clever name: they seriously do wail. Guitar, Sax, Bass, Drums, and especially Vocals all seriously wail.  So much so that I turn into Wayne Campbell a little bit whenever I think about them.

They’re pretty much playing everywhere this Summer, but if you’re in the Peterborough area and you have any sense whatsoever, you’ll be down at the Peterborough Folk Festival on Saturday August 24, catching the Wailers and all of the other great music that’s in store.  It’s going to be awesome; I’ll be there in spirit.  Party on, PFF.