KOI Fest in review

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Photo by Jody Waardenberg
Photo by Jody Waardenberg

Friday

Toronto rockers July Talk headlined the night with support from Halifax’s Rich Aucoin and Kitchener-Waterloo-based The Royal Streets, all three of whom fall somewhere in the alternative rock spectrum. This stands in contrary to the sounds of pop punk, emo or hardcore that we’ve come to expect from KOI.

“It’s good to be home,” proclaimed lead singer and guitarist Algernon Friolet of The Royal Streets, as he confidently strummed his guitar. The band delivered a set that infused an array of genres, from roots folk to ambient post-rock. Jillian Dowding, another of the band’s lead singers, did not hold back as she belted through every song with the conviction of a seasoned performer.

From The Royal Streets lush and balanced set came Rich Aucoin’s jagged and frenetic performance of high-energy, shout-along, experimental pop. Aucoin made a point to engage with the audience early by jumping into the center of the crowd to lead them in a chant of his first song.

Energy was sustained throughout the performance with half a dozen confetti cannons and a multicolored parachute, which Aucoin managed to drape over most of the audience.  A final chant of “we won’t leave it all in our heads” from Aucoin’s hit single “It” drew conclusion to the strongest and most unique set of the night.

To end off the night was a much anticipated set from the celebrated Toronto band July Talk. Lead singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fray brought their sexual chemistry to the stage, with tireless hugging, tugging, shoving and maybe a bite or two? Their performance played out as a dysfunctional relationship that paired well with the face-melting hooks and heavy anti-love anthems.

At last, the audience at KOI was in full swing with the usual fare of crowd surfers and “moshers.” July Talk will certainly be welcomed back with open arms to

– Zach Guitor

Saturday

The second day of KOI Fest 2015 took on a more punk-rock and metalcore feel. Insert any genre that you consider a bit heavier than alternative rock and it was accounted for on Saturday.

With bands playing from noon until 11 p.m. on over six stages, there was never a dull moment for the giddy festival-goer. By far, the highlights of the day were two of the final main-stage acts — letlive. and August Burns Red.

With so many people attending the festival, scattered across the various stages, it wasn’t until letlive. took the stage after 8 p.m. that the largest crowds began to gather.

Letlive. did not disappoint, with frontman Jason Butler’s energetic and captivating stage presence taking many fans by surprise. Butler pointed out how pleased and somewhat surprised he was that Canadians were reacting so positively to the band and noted how far they had come since their first visit to Canada in 2010.

The other show that stole the night was metalcore veterans August Burns Red. Fresh off releasing their sixth album Found In Far Away Places, they drew the largest crowd of the night. The pit was raging and the band’s lyrics could be heard from fans throughout. It was a special night for the band as vocalist Jake Luhrs said they played three new songs, including the terrific track “Martyr,” live for the first time.

Other acts that stood out included Survay Says! and Teenage Bottlerocket, both playing loud, reckless shows to packed crowds in tiny venues.

The Ataris surprised with an intimate-sounding, jam-heavy set, while The Menzingers and Hawthorne Heights played to large, enthusiastic crowds.

With many bands expressing how excited they were for this festival and seeing the crowd turnout, you can expect another all-star edition of KOI Music Fest to be back rocking downtown Kitchener next year.

– Dillon Giancola


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