Tragedy Ann: Live at The Home County Music & Art Festival

Tragedy Ann

Following a two-year forced hiatus due to the global pandemic, the 47th annual Home County Music & Art Festival returned to London, ON this past weekend – and while we all wished to be celebrating the 49th consecutive occurrence of this fabulous event, number 47 proved to be a much-needed shot of enjoyment and escapism for this summer weekend.

Our first Home County experience took place back in 2017, and left us with a longing desire to return time and time again to Victoria Park in the heart of the city – something we’ve managed to accomplish (with the exception of those non-event years, of course) to date.  Recalling that first encounter, one of the first acts we caught live were the Guelph, ON-based duo Tragedy Ann – emerging folk music artists at the time who performed a handful of tunes during one of the early afternoon workshops, and who left a very positive first impression. 

With their invitation to return to the festival in 2022, and with a full afternoon slot on the North Stage, this 40-minute set was quickly circled on our “must-see” schedule.  Having recently featured “Heirlooms,” the latest album from Tragedy Ann, we relished the opportunity to witness several of these new tracks being performed live, and of course, Liv Cazzola (vocals/accordion/ukulele) and Braden Phelan (vocals/acoustic guitar) did not disappoint.

Tragedy Ann

Adding extra depth to their sound, Tragedy Ann would be joined by touring multi-instrumentalist and friend Sam Boer (guitar/keyboards/vocals) and Liv’s sister (and “The Lifers” bandmate) Anita Cazzola (banjo/vocals), who both rotated in and out during the set.  Launching immediately into the new material, the quartet would open with their recent single, “The Shield,” and followed with “Perfect Strangers” and “Velveteen” – one of the most poignant and deeply moving tracks from the album. “We’ve been busy having a blast across the east coast and in Europe,” Liv offered at the close of the opening track. “We just got back and we’re so happy that this is our first Ontario folk festival of the summer.”

Howie drinks water / So his wife won’t smell beer on his breath / I think he’s just here / To talk to somebody else / Hanging low at the bar / We both know that he won’t be tipping / He shows pictures of his family / Just magazine clippings.”  As Braden recited the first lines from “Regulars,” I fondly recalled hearing this back at the 2017 festival, which was a new offering at the time. “Here’s one from the Old Testament,” Braden offered prior to the 2022 performance. “I worked for a number of years as a server in restaurants and bars of varying repute.  Recently over the course of the pandemic I came back into the service industry, and that has me feeling some conflicting things, especially when it comes to people in this song.” “Bob stumbles in around 4 / For his daily prescription / His doctor said not to have more / But he doesn’t listen / With poison in his bones / He’s dead-set that he’s going to win / Racing with chemo / To see who can finish him.”

Soaking up the well-deserved applause following “Velveteen,” and as both Sam and Anita temporarily departed the stage, Liv took time to address the crowd. “Yesterday we were lucky to play a couple of workshops at the South Stage, and we were really encouraged by another activity happening at the same time,” she shared. “There was a pro-choice protest happening and we were just so relieved that there were some speaking up for some terrible things happening in the world right now. And this next song speaks to that as well.”  And the following offering of “Float Away” would mirror that protest – powerful and prominent, yet peaceful and unintimidating – like the hundred or so people that we too witnessed marching quietly and respectably along Dufferin Avenue.  

Tragedy Ann

Rejoined by Sam and Anita down the closing stretch, all four artists left the audience in awe with “The Ghost of John McGowan” – delivering all four parts of this almost-seven-minute-passion-filled traditional tale.  A moving tribute was played in honor of the late London town crier, Bill Paul, with a rousing and energetic performance of “Birthday Book,” a tune written for the London local prior to his passing.  “We’re so fortunate to have been able to play this song for Bill on his birthday last year,” Braden acknowledged, with Liz informing the audience that the song would be played during a full workshop tribute later that afternoon (just as a duo that second time around).

With time for one final number, Tragedy Ann mirrored their “Heirlooms” album and turned to “I Hope This Finds You Well,” the closing track from the album. “I hope this finds you well / On the day you hear the callin’ / And that your heart rings / Like a wedding bell / I hope this finds you well.”  With the opening lines delivered a capella by Braden, this traditional sounding folk tune quickly bursts into life with some simply stunning four-part vocal harmonies – if you’ve seen the 2019 movie “Fisherman’s Friends,” you’ll have an inkling of what to expect. Tragedy Ann finished in style, and left everybody around the stage craving much, much more.  A wonderful afternoon of music from a band making waves and rightfully earning many accolades right now.

Set List:

  1. The Shield
  2. Perfect Strangers
  3. Velveteen
  4. Float Away
  5. Regulars
  6. Birthday Book
  7. The Ghost Of John McGowan
  8. I Hope This Finds You Well

Photo Credit: 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.

Tags from the story