Few people in Fredericton would call winter their favourite season—but that’s bound to change soon, thanks to Shivering Songs.
The winter festival returned for its eighth installment last weekend, giving locals cause to celebrate the cold—and, as with previous years, 2018’s incarnation gave plenty reason to celebrate, indeed.
Shows and events took place in various venues throughout the weekend. I began my experience by taking in the “Songwriters & Storytellers” event at Wilmot United Church. The afternoon performance featured six distinct presenters offering a short set during where each gave us their own version of “storytelling.”
For some, like Greg Hemmings, this took the form of a charming monologue; Michelle Elrick, meanwhile, offered up beautiful poetry, while others used music, like Fiver, whose songs tell the stories of people incarcerated at the former Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane—stories overlooked and forgotten by history.
A personal favourite was Brendan Magee’s performance, who offered stripped-down takes on songs from his band, Brookside Mall. The barebones renditions—especially those played on piano—were particularly effective choices for the venue. The church’s altar offers an awe-inspiring backdrop, and can’t help but lend the event a kind of sacred reverence—just the kind of respect the varied stories deserved.
My Shivering Songs experience continued Saturday evening with Timber Timbre’s performance at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. Opening the show was Camille Delean, who’d also offered up a passionate and engaging set earlier that afternoon during “Songwriters & Storytellers.” Enjoyable as that had been, her evening spot, backed by a full band, was an even stronger showing, fleshing out her songs in full and delivering a hypnotic, almost psychedelic wall-of-sound.
Following up Camille Delean was Motherhood, a local favourite. This was my first time seeing the band, though I’d heard many great things about them before, so I was highly intrigued. I am so pleased to say they surpassed my expectations. The three-piece’s set was one of the best performances I’ve seen in Fredericton. They were bombastic and grunge-y and noisy, and there was something delightful and almost juvenile about their playing—an infectiously childlike glee with which they banged away at their instruments. It felt authentic and earnest, free of the jaded cynicism that accompanies adulthood.
This association was made all the more clear when the band brought out a choir of children from George Street Middle School, who (along with their teacher and conductor) must be heartily praised. Adding charming harmonies that lent a Beach Boys-aspect to the band’s buzzsaw bombast, the accompaniment elevated the performance into the rarefied realm of “Something Special.” The fact that the building we were in used to be a schoolhouse only enhanced the surreal delight of their presence onstage.
Rounding out the evening was acclaimed Canadian band Timber Timbre, who delighted the swaying crowd with a captivating, trance-like performance. All seemed thoroughly impressed, as was yours truly, though I must admit, the preceding Motherhood set had so shook me—perhaps it’d be more apt to say they’d given me shivers?—I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed. It is no insult to the band to say that Motherhood’s just one tough act to follow. That said, their set, too, was highly enjoyable, particularly the trippy, ascending outro to “Hot Dreams.”
Following the show at the Arts Centre, I headed to the Capital Complex, where Les MoonTunes’ lead guitarist was shredding onstage. All three rooms were packed and people seemed pumped up, eagerly awaiting the last few hours’ worth of music, dancing, singing—and most importantly, warming up.
For some in town, winter’s much too long, and they count down the days until spring. For those I encountered on Saturday, though, it seems that, with a festival like Shivering Songs to look forward to, winter cannot come back soon enough.
Photos by Sarah Howden.