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Shivering Songs proves to be a winter highlight

There’s a moment’s pause as the crowd waits for the rhetorical question to be answered, because truthfully if they were asked what song Owen Pallett should play next, most of them probably wouldn’t have an answer.

“More bummer jams,” he concludes with a smile. The crowd leans back in their respective church pews and gets ready for the next musical adventure that Pallett will take them on.

Though many of the names at this year’s Shivering Songs didn’t have the draw that festivals like Harvest Jazz & Blues bring in, shows were full throughout the weekend, and once the audiences had arrived, the musicianship took over.

Pallett was arguably the biggest name on a roster that included the likes of Buck 65, Bry Webb and Zeus, and the festival certainly seemed to be a success, partly because of the music but also because of the venues and people involved that made the whole thing accessible in a way that most music festivals are not.

Gabrielle Papillon and Bry Webb, for example, played at the Urban Almanac downtown. The musicians performed in front of spices and frying pans that were available for purchase from the general store, and at the entrance there was tea and other refreshments. Owen Steel performed outdoors beside a fire while Buck 65 and Zeus had their show at the Boyce Farmers Market.

Webb offered people the ability to barter for merchandise, as he was tired of carrying it around, and Rachel Ries was selling homemade jam at her Capital performance on Thursday night. Though most of the artists performing have all played bigger shows and with bigger names (it seems that the festival line-up was all about who you know: Ries has toured with Bon Iver, Pallett has worked with Arcade Fire and Webb is the lead singer of the Constantines), they all seemed content with their venues, as well as the new and old fans that came out.

Like the locations, the music itself was eclectic. There were the more traditional folk sounds present, through voices of Ries and Papillon (Papillon reminds of Daughter’s Elena Tonra at times) and the gruff-singing Webb. Hip-hop, indie, classical and electronic were also well represented.

Every musician thanked the people at Shivering Songs for organizing the event, and the sentiment came across as more than just words. If you looked around in the crowd you would often see a different band watching the current performance, or Sean Michaels quietly taking in the music. Michaels was part of the festival as well, as the author spoke with Buck 65 and others at Wilmot United Church. In between songs someone would come and congratulate him on his latest book, or go to the previous band and talk about their great performance.

The musicians spoke to the audience, and the audience felt comfortable enough to talk back. Shows were lighthearted and short enough that you didn’t fall asleep, making them the perfect getaway for the middle of January.

After Pallett’s performance on Saturday night, the audience bundled up and left the warm church to be welcomed by a snowstorm. The streets had yet to be ploughed and people were walking in the middle of the road, following tire tracks.

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