Highlights From Home County Music & Art Festival (Part 1 of 3)

Home County 2019

Team GDW took a recent trip back to London, ON for the 46th annual Home County Music & Art Festival, held once again at Victoria Park in the heart of the city.  Having had some outstanding experiences at this prestigious ‘admission by donation’ event in both 2017 and 2018, this mid-July weekend was already circled in our calendar the moment we bid London farewell last summer.  We shall bring you three articles focusing on some of the live sets that we enjoyed over the course of the weekend.  In this first installment, we feature Ontario artists Lydia Persaud, Shawna Caspi, and The Mayhemingways.

Lydia Persaud: Main Stage, Friday

As a perennial favorite here at GDW, we were incredibly excited to catch up with Toronto singer-songwriter Lydia Persaud on the main stage this year.  With the recent release of her latest “Let Me Show You” album, Lydia would be accompanied by a highly talented ensemble: Dean Drouillard (guitar), Robbie Grunwald (bass) and Mike Ardagh (percussion) to deliver many of the new tunes.  Opening with a stunning version of “Well Wasted,” Lydia maintained her always-cool composure when faced with gestures from two immature men passing by the front of the stage.  Wishing them a good evening as they got bored and walked away, she earned chuckles from the audience for her polite handling of the situation. “We did hire some back up dancers, but those were the wrong ones,” she later joked.

With an eight track set list, Lydia and her band would perform solely from the new release, sharing “No Answer,” “More Of Me,” and “With You” in succession.  Prior to her performance of the title track, Lydia took a moment to discuss issues regarding the lack of access to clean water in some First Nations communities.  “We have a crisis in our country right now and it has to do with clean drinking water,” she announced, earning applause immediately.  “We associate tragedy, and crisis, and natural disasters with being overseas in other countries … but there is a crisis happening in this country right now.”  It would be during “Hold Out” that Lydia would be spooked by another surprise guest crawling near her on stage, trying hard to avoid being too close.  “I’ve honestly never seen such a big beetle,” she added mid-song.  “I think with all this new weather that we’re experiencing, like the torrential downpours, our beetles are becoming like dinosaurs.”

Pausing to offer gratitude to the CBC for embracing her and her music over the last couple of years, Lydia would explain how the network was not really part of her cultural or social upbringing. “I am the daughter of a Ukrainian mother and of a Guyanese father, so growing up in Brampton I didn’t really feel that the CBC was a place for me,” she explained.  “But I just want to say thanks to the CBC for making me a part of their family … because representation is really important, and it makes people feel at home when they see somebody like themselves doing something that they want to do.” Earning appreciation from the crowd, she would proceed immediately into her popular CBC tune, “Low Light,” before drawing her show to a close with another recent single, “Honey Child.”  Combining her sweet folk, soul, R&B, and jazz grooves, Lydia Persaud proved to be a perfect fit for the Main Stage audience on this balmy Friday night.

Set List:

  1. Well Wasted
  2. No Answer
  3. More Of Me
  4. With You
  5. Let Me Show You
  6. Hold Out
  7. Low Light
  8. Honey Child

 

Shawna Caspi: North Stage, Saturday

As another favorite of ours here at GDW, we can’t believe that even with Shawna’s constant touring of the US, we had never had the opportunity to catch her live until now.  We kicked ourselves earlier this year when learning that she was performing in a nearby MD town, but only found out the day after the event.  So upon seeing her name on the bill for the Home County Music & Art Festival this year, we were determined to catch her Saturday afternoon set on the North Stage.  Performing with just her acoustic guitar, Shawna would share eleven tracks from across her entire catalog, opening her set with “Breakables” from the 2012 “Skyline” album.  “I did put out a record a little while ago called Forest Fire, and it is the time of year when I always think to the folks out west and up north,” she shared prior to her performance of “Oleaster.”  “They are dealing with a lot of forest fires and at it gets hotter and hotter, and drier and drier, that gets to be a really tough job.”

On this hot and humid afternoon, Shawna would share a brand new track with the Home County audience, titled “Celebrate!”  “When I was in university I took a class in ‘music therapy’ as part of my university degree.  I believe music therapists are the reigning angels of everybody in the music business,” she explained.  “And I did not become a music therapist, but what I really am amazed by is that they have to be able to celebrate these really small victories everyday.  There are all of these things that we miss, [because] we’re so busy.”  Digging deeper into her discography, Shawna would recall her 2005 “Trip the Light” EP, sharing with us a little bluesy number about unrequited love titled “Nothing On You.”  She would also share tales of her time performing on Via Rail trains, joking about how she would be asked to sing popular covers rather than her own compositions. Taking her cue, Shawna would offer a cover of the classic country tune, “Tennessee Waltz.”

Prior to performing another popular song, Shawna shared with the audience the reason why she had selected this particular track today.  “I’m going to play you a song I didn’t write, but really, really wish that I did,” she offered.  “I do a lot of touring in the US, and when people meet me and find out that I’m a solo female singer-songwriter from Canada, and I spend all this time tuning my guitar to weird tunings, and I’m also a painter, people always associate me with Joni Mitchell, which is fine by me.”  Finger-picking the riff to one of Mitchell’s well-known tunes, Shawna delighted everybody with an outstanding cover of “Clouds.”  Her guitar picking skills were certainly proudly displayed during both “Devil’s Rolling Pin” and “If You Lived Here (You’d Be Home),” complementing her beautifully soft vocals and vivid lyrics.  Closing her set with “Not So Silent” from her 2014 “Apartments For Lovers” album, Shawna not only captivated us for her 45 minute set, she left us perusing her tour schedule to see if we could catch up with her again soon.

Set List:

  1. Breakables
  2. Oleaster
  3. Celebrate!
  4. Clouds (Joni Mitchell cover)
  5. Never Enough
  6. Nothing On You
  7. Tennessee Waltz (Redd Stewart cover)
  8. Love In A Moving Van
  9. Devil’s Rolling Pin
  10. If You Lived Here (You’d Be Home)
  11. Not So Silent

 

The Mayhemingways: North Stage, Sunday

We definitely spent plenty of time hanging out around the North Stage over the weekend, with many of our favorites slated to play on this side of the park.  And with our good friends, The Mayhemingways, in town, we remained firmly rooted to our spot under the cover of the beautiful trees in Victoria Park to catch their performance.  Hailing from Peterborough, ON, this eclectic-folk duo of Benj Rowlands and Josh Fewings delighted the audience with their energetic brand of ‘fuzz folk’ music.  Setting an upbeat pace from the start, the duo cranked out both “Hunter St Blues” and “Frances The Truck Driver” to get their party started.  “It’s super to be back in London,” announced Josh during a brief pause in between tracks. “We’ve played here a few times, and it’s always great to be back. It’s only four hours, or three and a half away, but it feels further.  We’ve gotta get back here more.”

Performing tracks from both their 2018 “Skipland” and 2016 “Hunter St Blues” albums, The Mayhemingways kept their feet firmly on the proverbial gas pedal for their full 45 minute set.  With Josh handling the percussion and vocal harmonies, Benj would take the lead, rotating several instruments into the mix to accompany his lead vocals, including guitar, banjo, accordion and bouzouki.  Dazzling with his mastery of the squeeze box, Benj would shine during both “Jenny Ran Away In The Mud” and “Oldest Home Bum.”  The duo would also show their softer, traditional-folk side with a slow and atmospheric track titled “Alberta Rose.”  Pausing once more to allow Benj time to retune his guitar, Josh would introduce the next track, “Haybales,” as a song written about the Fall.  “It’s seasonally inappropriate, but it’s correct once a year, and that’s the only way to be inappropriate these days; is seasonal,” Josh shared.  “And after days like yesterday [referring to the heat and high humidity], I start thinking about the Fall.”

Slowing things down once more, the duo would perform both “Into The Ground” and “Bad Old Days” from “Skipland,” before Benj reached for his trusty accordion again.  Whilst perfectly replicating an instantly recognizable riff from a popular eighties tune, the duo would perform “Walk Of Life” at a slightly accelerated pace to give their version the full Mayhemingways treatment.  “Thank you so much for enjoying some Dire Straits on a Sunday,” stated Josh as their fuzz-folk interpretation of this popular hit drew to a close.  Wrapping up their twelve song set list, the duo opted to perform an instrumental track, described as having some Irish influences; delighting the appreciative crowd with “Finnish Polka/Salmon Tails Up The Water.”  Superb entertainment from a great duo, who continue to impress us each and every time we have the opportunity to see them play.  Hopefully it is not too long before we cross paths again with The Mayhemingways.

Set List:

  1. Hunter St Blues
  2. Frances The Truck Driver
  3. Small Town Crush
  4. Jenny Ran Away In The Mud
  5. Oldest Home Bum
  6. Jackson Creek
  7. Albert Rose
  8. Haybales
  9. Into The Ground
  10. Bad Old Days
  11. Walk Of Life (Dire Straits cover)
  12. Finnish Polka/Salmon Tails Up The Water

 

Martin Noakes

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.