John Lawnya Vawnya, St. John's NL, May 25
Published May 26, 2018It'd take a long time to think of a band with six members that have ever arrived more fully formed than John, the discovery highlight of this year's Lawnya Vawnya — for those of us who came from away, anyway.
Made up of local musical veterans, the band were jaw-dropping from their opening notes, easing the Rockhouse crowd in with nearly glacial West coast country vibes, turning on a dime into a raw and ragged riff stomp that landed with a vicious punch. The band have only played a handful of shows, but there's no way you'd be able to tell.
Bandleader Joanna Barker introduced one particularly poignant song, about her Indigenous heritage, by bringing her sister Barb on stage to sing (joining her other sister Nora). Barker explained that because of the enrolment process the federal government has been putting Newfoundland Mi'kmaq through, Barb didn't qualify for status as part of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation, while Joanna retained hers, despite the fact they're from the same family.
All three sisters singing together provided one of the night's most powerful moments, as John sonically conjured the harshness and the majesty of the rock they're living on, Barker blowing Barb a kiss as she left the stage. Their furious finale shortly after was another bait-and-switch, bringing the crowd in with a soft beginning, and then laying a slow motion hurricane of monumental roots riffage down on them.