Junofest Highlights

Photos by Alex Ramon

Now that the Junos have come and gone, it’s time for me to reflect on the chaos that littered the streets of downtown Vancouver. This event was just a precursor to how Vancouver will deal with the influx of people coming for the Olympics, and if this was any indication of how it would go, then I would say it passed (with flying colours… no… but it was probably because of the construction that was occurring on Granville Street that might have swayed my opinion). Aside from the commotion on the streets, I really wish the Junos would come to Vancouver every year, mainly because all these talented people make their way from wherever they are to come visit this one city and be united as fellow Canadian musicians. Not only that, it also showcases the local music scene, and I was so proud to know that the musicians here in Vancouver got the recognition they deserve.

Marble Rye

Marble RyeThis four-piece from Vancouver is one of the most energetic bands I’ve seen in a while. Consisting of Shannon Marshall (bass/vox), Mike Durrant (drums/vox), Brandon Woudzia (guitar/vox/keys), and Jared Manierka (vox/guitar/keys/sax), they played a lively set at Richard’s on Richards that left me wanting more. It was a shame the place wasn’t packed, but given the fact that they were the opening band of the night, the turn out wasn’t that bad and everyone in attendance had a blast watching this talented foursome up on that stage.

They’re a heavy piano pop punk band that’s a mix of Panic! At the Disco, Silverchair, and a hint of New Found Glory. They even dabbled into some blue grass country-ish tunes that were both melodic and intriguing.

I enjoyed every aspect of this band, especially the showmanship Jared displayed. When they played “Everybody’s Famous,” he stepped onto the side of the stage and played with the crowd, while deeply entranced in his mic. Brandon went on to play one of the sickest solos I’ve seen from any local band (sick is a good thing in this case… it’s street lingo for cool), shredding the guitar with his finger tapping solo, which is quite reminiscent of the legendary Kirk Hammett.

Marble Rye had one of the most entertaining sets at Junofest and will no doubt be a band to look out for in the future. They’ve got all the talent and charisma to take them far, it’s just a matter of time before they get noticed.

Mani Khaira

Mani KhairaThere is a lot to say about this Vancouver based singer-songwriter, and I’ll try to do his music justice by writing this article. Mani is a piano-pop master, and possibly a modern day Mozart if you ask me, who uses his delicate fingers and sincere voice to share what’s in his heart. He opened up for John Mayer on his Western Canadian tour, as well as spreading his intricate live performances all across France and the UK. There is nothing this boy genius can’t do, and the sky is the limit for this talented musician.

I got a chance to check him out during the Juno festivities here in Vancouver and got a taste of his superb musicality. There were a lot of people in attendance, listening intently to every line coming out of Mani’s voice. He was accompanied on stage by Mark Olexson for a few songs, but he was mainly up there by his lonesome. Being the professional he is, Mani wasn’t deterred at all and performed with his heart on his pea coat.

He serenaded all the ladies in the house with his sweet and tender voice, and if the girls were drunk enough, I’m sure they would’ve thrown their panties up on stage. I really enjoyed “I Love It,” a track where he commanded the stage with his elaborate instrumentals and powerful voice.

He has a new album coming out titled “Between Pure Love and Thunder Bolts” so make sure you keep both eyes and ears on when it is released.

Em

EmSo what does this petit blonde have that screams success? Well it could be her voice, it could be her guitar riffs, it could be her hard rock mentality, but I would have to say it’s her personality. She’s not just a musician, she’s also an entertainer. Isn’t that what we look for nowadays? It’s not good enough to have catchy hooks anymore because let’s face it, there are a lot of talented musicians and bands out there that could easily be on the radio, but aren’t. You know why? Because they don’t have that “IT” factor. What that is exactly no one really knows, but in my opinion it all comes down to who wants it more and if they’re willing to put the time and effort into it.

Em is a perfect example of someone who will one day be streamed throughout the airwaves and plastered on every magazine. Winning a radio station contest, Em was granted the wonderful opportunity to fly here to beautiful Vancouver, walk the Juno red carpet, as well as perform at Junofest.

When I caught her set at The Cellar she instantly reminded me of Lights (who won a Juno for New Artist of the Year), but with a lot more edge and angst. Watch out Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry, there’s a new pop-punk princess in town and she actually knows how to write music!

It was unfortunate, but her band couldn’t come along for the ride, so instead she brought her acoustic guitar as well as some backing tracks to give the crowd a little taste of what she would sound like with an entire band. I really enjoyed “Alive” and “Pressure,” both tracks could easily be a hit single.

Em mentioned how much she loves Vancouver and how she wants to move here (well needless to say I love you too… I mean Vancouver loves you too), so instead of waiting for her to make that journey here, why don’t you just take a listen for yourself on her myspace and join the fan club.

Laurell

LaurellI must have a thing for blondes because Laurell amazed me with each and every song she played up on that glorious stage at The Cellar. She provided an up-beat, lively performance that just called out to the weather gods to bring more sunshine (so Vancouver, I think you owe a big “THANK YOU” to Laurell for making the rain go away).

The beginning of her set saw myself and Alex up near the stage, but halfway through people started piling onto the dance floor to get a glimpse of this talented musician. There was one fan in particular that caught my attention. She was a hippie/gypsy who danced with such conviction that I myself had to groove along to the tunes blasting through the speakers.

Aside from people watching, I couldn’t keep my eyes off that wonderful stage. Laurell captivated the audience with her summer time songs, as well as her perma-smile, and I couldn’t help but compare her to one of my favourite musicians Colbie Caillat. I particularly enjoyed her song “In The Air,” and I’m not the only one as Virgin Radio has recently given it a little radio play (so call them and keep requesting it!).

Once her set ended, I was devastated and wanted her to continue serenading me with her tender, soulful voice. Well all good things must come to an end (just like this article!) but don’t fret, she’ll be on tour this summer, strolling through BC so check her myspace and website for more details.