Highlights From Home County Music & Art Festival – Part Two

Home County

We wrap up our extensive coverage of the 47th Home County Music & Art Festival with a recap featuring two of the Sunday night main stage performances.  This much-needed (and highly enjoyable) long weekend in London’s Victoria Park brought with it so much joy – perfect weather, an abundance of amazing live acts, great vendors and food truck options, and the smiling faces of friends we had not seen for three long years. Team GDW plan to be back next summer for the 48th Home County experience.

Leela Gilday: Live on the Main Stage

One of the artists on the Home County schedule that we very quickly circled as a ‘must-see’ performer was Yellowknife, NWT singer-songwriter Leela Gilday.  Having featured her most recent “North Star Calling” album back in 2019, we hoped that our paths crossed one day to catch some live music – we’d caught up with Leela’s brother Jay Gilday on a couple of occasions, and knew that the musical talents run deep in this family.  And with a Sunday evening main stage set at their disposal, Leela and her band put on an incredibly powerful show.

“Mahsi Cho. It’s so good to be back on stage after this brief hiatus that was Covid,” Leela shared, when greeting her audience. “There’s a lot of things that have happened in the last couple of years for me and my family, but one of the beautiful things that happened was that I started to learn to reclaim my language, which is a very difficult thing as an adult. So, I thought what better to do than write songs in my language – I didn’t want to write how are you today, I’m fine, I know the color blue, how are the kids, let’s count to ten – this is the level of my comprehension and fluency at the moment, but I’m working on that. Instead of writing a song like that, I learned to collaborate with some [fluent] speakers.”

Leela Gilday

Performing a pair of tracks throughout the set in her native language, Leela (vocals/acoustic guitar) also drew heavily from her recent material, accompanied with some stellar musicianship from bandmates Billie Zizi (guitar/vocals), MJ Dandeneau (bass/vocals), and Tony Raybould (drums/vocals).  The standalone summer 2020 single “Giants” was also included, a co-write with musician/producer Hill Kourkoutis for the 2020 World Cup of cross-country skiing – just before the pandemic hit. “I tried to figure out what did I share with a world class athlete,” Leela offered, when explaining how she approached this challenge. “We share struggles, and I’m always reminded that my ancestors lived so I could be here, [with] courage, resilience running through my veins.”

“During the pandemic there was no better time to focus on mental health, no better time, and I think it’s really important to acknowledge that many of us struggle with mental illness or mental wellness issues, and it’s important to talk about them,” Leela offered, leading up to the performance of “North Star Calling,” the album’s title track. “I struggled with anxiety and depression, and why did I not do therapy before this year? What is the matter with me? It’s amazing, and should be free for every one. So, this song is for whoever needs to hear it today. To know that you are part of something that’s greater than yourself.”

Set List:

  1. Rolling Thunder
  2. “My Friend”
  3. Giants
  4. All Alone
  5. Space
  6. Falling Stars
  7. North Star Calling
  8. “Take My Hand”
  9. K’eintah Natse Ju

Madison Violet: Live on the Main Stage

Touring to support their very recent eleventh album release, itself coincidentally titled “Eleven,” popular folk-roots duo Madison Violet shared many new songs with the Home County crowd, while adding a few fan-favorites and one cover into the mix too.  Having warmed up their vocal cords during one of the late afternoon workshops (joined by The Trainwreck Two and The Heartaches Stringband), Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac performed on the main stage to an engaged and appreciative crowd – although, as Brenley acknowledged, it was a little unusual to see them out there without touring companion and multi-instrumentalist Jakub Zapotoczny along for the ride.

“During this pandemic, I found it difficult. I felt so disconnected. This is something that Brenley and I have done together for 22 years, and being on stage and this reciprocation of energy is something that I missed so much that I felt like I lost a part of myself,” Lisa shared. “I started a thing called Tuesday Tune Therapy, so every Tuesday – and I think this is week 94 or 95 – and sometimes [with] Brenley, I’ve just wanted to feel that connection again.”

Madison Violet

Performing cuts such as “Utah” (a co-write with Brenley’s father) and “Sweet Desperado,” Madison Violet happily addressed the audience about recording an album during a pandemic. “Lisa and I went back to school. We couldn’t just go to a studio and make a new record, so I bought a 1972 Airstream and turned it into a recording studio,” Brenley offered. “We both went to the Berklee college of music to do online courses and learn how to produce our own records, and we did. Number eleven, it’s our new record.” Brenley would also discuss being part of an online support group among female and non-binary artists; a group that includes Leela Gilday, who she was finally able to meet in person at this very festival earlier in the day.

Following a performance of their popular hit, “Come As You Are,” both would converse with the audience once more.  “We have a really difficult time writing really happy, happy songs, so sometimes we have to find a song somebody else wrote and think that it’s really happy, but then we realize that it’s not happy at all, but sounds happy,” Brenley commenced.  “Here’s the thing, we just play sad songs fast and hopefully you don’t know the difference,” Lisa interjected. “What we like to do is put all of our dirty laundry out there so you guys can see just how sad we are through our songwriting, and then you feel so much better about your own lives.” 

Set List:

  1. The Sycamore
  2. Crying
  3. Ohio
  4. Sweet Desperado
  5. Utah
  6. Come As You Are
  7. Dancing On My Own (Robyn cover)
  8. These Ships

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.

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