Fredericton’s annual Frostival brought the prominent stylings of one of Canada’s hottest upcoming bands and one of its most seasoned artists to campus this past weekend. Toronto quintet July Talk, a unique balance of commercially successful hits and pure, powerful storytelling, was reunited with the folk-rock brilliance of Matt Mays for the first of two east coast dates. The shows have been in the making since 2013, when the two acts first joined forces for a slew of tour dates across Canada. Both bands were adamant during their sets that they have been best friends ever since.
“We just wanted to come to the east coast and play together,” said July Talk’s frontman Peter Dreimanis.
The show kicked off with another Toronto band, The Beaches, who brought their vigorous brand of all-girl rock to the east coast for the first time. They refused to be just another opening act and jam packed their brief set with energy that certainly left the crowd wanting more by the end.
The growth and progression of July Talk.
July Talk built its set on vulnerability with the results being the best they have ever been. Opting to open with the slow-paced title track of their latest album, Touch, instead of the crowd-pleasing “Picturing Love,” the band showed progression in the way they manage their infectious energy. The radiant presence of vocalist Leah Fay had the audience in the palm of her hand, creating hush or hysteria wherever she saw fit.
The band’s set contained two bonus tracks off their first record, “Gentleman” and “Blood and Honey,” that maintained the pace of their performance alongside massive hits like “Paper Girl” and “Guns and Ammunition.” They also brought a new stage show this time around, with captivating projections and visual effects providing an extra layer to their already pleasing aesthetic.
Frontman Peter Dreimanis also shared a heartfelt moment with the audience. Dreimanis revealed that his mother Elizabeth, who was born and raised in Fredericton, has taken ill and will soon pass away. He went on to say that his mother almost passed on meeting his father due to those around her discriminating against him because of his accent. Knowing this, Dreimanis preached for those in attendance to accept the differences of others into their lives.
“If [Dreimanis’ mother] had stayed away from [Dreimanis’ father] then I wouldn’t be here … I think in Canada, the things that make us different are the things that make us the same,” he said.
Matt Mays, an icon on the east coast.
Matt Mays closed the night with a performance that was awe-inspiring, yet not surprising in the least. Playing through his catalogue of material, Mays took the audience on an exciting trip filled with equal parts happiness and pain.
Mays locked in with his everchanging line-up, nailing every song off his new record and breathing new life into his old favourites. His performance highlighted the unparalleled chemistry between himself and Adam Baldwin, guitarist and withstanding member of Mays’ former band El Torpedo. Baldwin’s melody, that has been mastered through his amazing solo work, showed its dividends not only on classics like “City of Lakes” and “Cocaine Cowgirl,” but on newer tracks like “Take it on Faith.”
Mays’ rhythm section, made up of bassist Serge Sampson (ex-The Guthries, Mays’ first band) and drummer Damien Moynihan, were thunderous from start to finish, shaking the entire venue with every note they played. The ensemble’s newest member, keyboardist Leith Fleming-Smith, showed off his masterful playing by executing an unbelievable, psychedelic solo on the track “Travellin,” which wowed all in attendance.
Undoubtedly, the pinnacle of the set was Mays’ raw passion on the track “Terminal Romance.” Setting down his guitar and fully engaging with his fans, Mays hit every note to perfection, with the most emphasis on the lyrics “time heals all.” Most dedicated fans will know how deep those words resonate with Mays, having witnessed him work his way back from the tragic death of his guitar player Jay Smith. It’s a loss that is permanent his mind, but ineffective at breaking his spirit to enthrall audiences across the country with his music.