Musicians, fans rock hard at the fourth annual KOI fest

(Jody Waardenburg -- Lead Photographer)
(Jody Waardenburg — Lead Photographer)

This past Saturday Sept. 14, KOI invaded downtown Kitchener.
That’s not to say a school of koi fish suddenly appeared, but rather the Kitchener, Ontario Independent (KOI) Music Festival, a weekend long music festival dedicated to showcasing local talent.

Now in its fourth year, KOI has seen rapid growth. In addition to KOI Fest, as it’s commonly referred to, this year saw the introduction of KOI Con. KOI Con is a day-long event to assist people beginning in the music industry, bringing in music industry insiders to speak about the realities of the music industry.

While in previous years KOI Fest has tended to draw forth a hard rock crowd, this year co-founders Cory and Curt Crossman made the decision to have Canadian rapper Classified headline in an attempt to bridge the gap between mainstream and hard rock fans.
Cord Arts had the great opportunity to cover KOI fest. Here are our top picks of the festival.

Life in Vacuum
Local Kitchener band Life in Vacuum is the kind of band you would assume would be right at home at KOI fest. They clearly have some strong punk roots with their short, fast and highly catchy songs but their sound strays a little bit more to the scream/metal side.
Despite playing to a sparsely filled space at the Opus, LIV played a great set. While their stage presence was sound, they came off as a little unorganized as they appeared to be trying to figure out what song to play next. If you ever get the chance to catch a show, I would highly recommend it.

Marcellus Wallace
Unfortunately, Ving Rhames did not reprise his iconic role as Marcellus Wallace from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. Instead MW is a Motown soul band who is known for their high energy performances and retro style.
The sound quality of the show was fantastic—nothing overpowered each other and allowed the, unfortunately small, audience to hear the intricate guitar parts.
The lead singer was definitely a highlight of the show as he ran around the small stage, then deciding to quickly jump off and run into the audience. He dragged the old school microphone to get the audience to sing along. It worked wonderfully.

The Planet Smashers
Playing on the main stage, Montreal-based ska band The Planet Smashers played one of the strongest performances of the entire festival. Having been performing together since 1994, it came as a shock to no one that their stage presence and chemistry were near perfect. They played a great blend of new and classic hits as to not alienate their old fan base.Their bass-heavy sound and incredibly high energy performance got the audience skanking—a type of dance typically seen at ska shows.
—Compiled by Cristina Almudevar

Grand Format
Starting off the day at Bobby O’Briens was Waterloo rock band, Grand Format.
Playing a 1:30 p.m. set, the group had an unfortunate turnout, playing to only fellow performers. However, the local band understands the difficulties that accompany playing such a festival.
“It’s kind of the mentality of almost any small band is that you have to get used to playing to no one at first. So at this point, we’re just kind of playing for ourselves and we all like it,” drummer AJ Coghill of Grand Format recounted.
With a little more refinement on their sound and vocals, Grand Format could potentially start playing for others too.

Coming off of two releases this year and winning the Best Engagement of Social Media award at KOI Con, LAMBS, a Cambridge psychedelic rock band, had garnered up some buzz before playing their 3 p.m. set at Little Bean Coffee Bar. Forced to start 15 minutes later than scheduled, the four-piece blasted through their set of warm, dynamic songs, complimenting the laid-back atmosphere of the venue.
Being a local band, they felt that KOI Con had more to offer in terms of opportunity. “It was better organized … smaller than KOI Fest … more easier to maintain … we did get more recognition during KOI Con,” Kelsey Meyer, drummer of LAMBS compared.

The Bends
Sporting matching dress shirts and ties, Laurier’s own The Bends played a passable and short 5:30 p.m. set at Queen Street Commons Café.
An obvious mix between The Strokes and Bombay Bicycle Club, the indie-pop quintet performed a handful of derivative songs, carrying an overwhelming sense of familiarity. Their light, breezy sound worked well with the inviting tone of the café.
There is much potential within the band, of course, but only if they begin focusing on carving out their own defined identity and sound. It is worth noting that there was no sound technician actually present during their performance, resulting in poor sound quality.
—Compiled by Jeremy Ramos-Foley

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