Lupercalia 2018, Owen Sound’s mid-winter music festival, began quietly in a mausoleum, surrounded by the dead. I don’t go to a lot of music festivals, but I believe this is an unusual approach. I and some 50 others shivered in the marble tomb at Greenwood cemetery, attending to the words of Aly Boltman. The local historian and self-described graveyard junkie led us on a tour of 6 grave sites – the final resting places of 6 luminary Owen Sounders. All women.
Aly says that in a town known for “famous dead white men” it is necessary to recognize the important and diverse roles women have filled in shaping this community. Lupercalia 2018, with it’s theme of women and children first, agrees. And so, a strange and macabre union was made. Aly would kick off this raucous mid-winter bacchanal with a cold tour of a graveyard at night.
She told us of Marion Fields Wiley, the local poet, writer and playwright, who lived to 106 and was quoted as saying “I don’t need this walker for myself, it just keeps people at a distance”. We learned of Christina Ann Morrison, who achieved celebrity in 1882 after the steamship SS Asia, of which she was a passenger, sank in Georgian Bay. Of the 125 aboard, she was one of two survivors.
We learned a lot, shivered a bit, and paid respectful homage to the wonderful departed women of Owen Sound. Aly is a firm believer that women look out for other women, and as she passes on the legacy of these great women it is clear that she is not wrong.
From Greenwood to Heartwood. The musical portion of the evening kicked off at Heartwood Hall with the mesmerizing Witch Prophet. Ayo Leilani is the eponymous witch, and she was supported by DJ Sun Sun. While introducing her song Pearly Gates Ayo described dropping a couple bombs on her religious East African parents; “Surprise! I’m a witch. Surprise! I’m gay.” Her music strongly supported both statements. Each track was deeply hypnotic, and one chorus had her locking eyes with and pointing to members in the audience while chanting “I put a spell on you, and now you’re mine”. Later lyrics touched on her trouble coming out to her religious parents and her love for her partner – turns out it’s her DJ! Super cute on-stage couple.
Up next was Ice Cream. Another female duo and these two rocked. Carlyn and Amanda shared vocal duties while Amanda primarily hammered on a Moog synthesizer and Carlyn played … everything. She laid down a sweet driving bass line in their first track then switched to guitar, melting our faces with a massive guitar solo. She also took a crack at the Moog and oh ya, she pounded a cowbell too. These girls danced, they shredded, they cowbelled and they thoroughly won me over (I scream, you scream etc).
Closing out the night was a local act; DJ Osound. She took to the stage somewhat timidly, wearing a stiff turtleneck and tweaking a knob here and there, maybe adjusting a slider, whatever it is that DJs do. But this was just an act, as before she was a minute into her first track she busted out a huge grin and ripped the turtle neck off. This revealed an impressive assortment of gold chains as well as a super fun upbeat style. She got on the mic and added her subtle vocals to the mix. By this point a small crowd was up and shuffling. The crowd filled out and arms were raised as the dancehall tracks built to chest rattling bass drops. Osound was a great pick to close out the night.
The best part about Friday night at Lupercalia? Saturday is still to come!
Written by Zak Erb
Photos by Zak Erb