Tra La Las return with Kitchener show


The Tra La Las played to an excited audience at Café Pyrus last Saturday. The Kitchener venue was teeming with fans in anticipation of the local band’s first show in over a year.

The Tra La Las consist of Emily Slofstra, Laura Ashfield and Janice Lee. Janice, the songwriter of the group, defines their sound as “rock and roll meets sugar-folk, dripping in irony.”

The harmonic trio share a strong passion for social justice around the world and here in Waterloo. During a fifteen-month hiatus last year, Slofstra attended the Climate summit at Coppenhagen, Ashfield travelled to the Palestine for her third time in order to support the struggle against Israeli oppression and Lee attended the G20 protests in Toronto.

Their advocacy for social justice takes a front seat in some of their music, but it doesn’t overshadow their sense of humour, talent or their opportunity to bring joy and hope to their audience: an opportunity they are keen on exploiting.

Their stage held at least twice as many instruments as musicians, from the guitar to the omnichord. But if there is one defining feature of The Tra La Las it’s their harmonies. The trio create a sound that is both nostalgic and yet somehow fresh and unheard of at the same time.

It is not immediately obvious how separate from our generation their harmonies are, but when they sang the iconic WWII song and Andrews Sisters hit “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” slapping on a bow tie and doing the jitterbug did not seem an impossibility.

The Tra La Las often bill themselves as a “cute” harmonic trio with a badass streak attributed to confrontation with police officers, expressed through songs like “Policeman.”

“We go to protests we expect to be peaceful, but the cops end up being the violent ones,” says Slofstra in regard to their collective experience with the police. The Tra La Las advocate for a healthy dose of skepticism towards those who claim to “serve and protect.”

The cover charge for Saturday’s show rested primarily on a “pay what you can” basis and went towards raising money for activists and social justice advocates arrested at the G20 last summer.

Slofstra admits music is not enough on its own to change the world, but the Tra La Las use it as a powerful, fun way to help stir people in a positive direction.

Overall, the Tra La Las have an overwhelmingly positive sound, with songs about the joys of nature, friendship and tae kwon do. All three members are active members of many local activist groups, including the Radical Choir where all three members met.

The Tra La Las plan on bringing their songs to a wider audience in the near future. “If there’s anyone reading who’s from Guelph or Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal we’ll hope to see them this summer,” said Slofstra. You can catch the Tra La Las performing live at the Chainsaw on March 25, opening for beloved children’s entertainer Fred Penner.

The live set at Café Pyrus was dynamic, delivering laughs, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, rap and a little bit of punk for good measure.

“We want to sneak in real things for people to think about, but ultimately we just want people to have a good time” says Ashfield. While the audience left Saturday’s show giggling, few left with nothing to think about.

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