BY NICK PEARCE
The state of Kingston’s local music scene is a preview of the Junos
a few years later — this city sets the course for Canadian music, year-in and year-out. On any given night, there’s enough up-and-coming live shows in a three block radius to guarantee a pub- crawl.
One of those bands is The Wilderness, which formed three years ago in the cramped doorway of a café following an open mic night.The band spent years hopping between the city’s pubs before piling into a van and crisscrossing North America.
Despite all the traction, their lead singer, Jonas Lewis-Anthony couldn’t play at their last show: the crowd had put down their beers to sing the bridge to The Wilderness’ “81 South”. “I had to stop playing. I just said,‘you guys do this. This is the best moment of my life.’”
Written while Lewis-Anthony was completely “miserable” on tour in Atlanta, the song is the final track on the band’s debut album.“81 South” and the other tunes making up Saxton’s River are the kind of danceable anthems that soundtrack break-ups and road trips in equal measure.
“Maybe we’re big fish in small ponds,” Lewis-Anthony said.“But when you see bands do good things in Kingston and start [to] take them way further, it gives you that sense,‘It’s totally achievable.’”
That extends to stadium shows at the Leon’s Centre, where local band and Juno winners The Glorious Sons headlined their hometown arena for the first time.
In that show, local openers Kasador didn’t seem too far behind. Formed at Queen’s University, the band offers powerfully relatable stories told over melodic, radio-ready choruses. It’s music you sing along to, whether you’re having a drink at a pub or crowd surfing in the Leon’s Centre.
Something about this city has a better depth of creativity that gets smothered in a bigger city,” guitarist Cam Wyatt said. “[There’s] something freeing about being in a smaller city.”
Folk musicians Kris and Dee are one of those community members that make the music scene what it is. They’re established artists that sing intimate, evocative folk songs. Recording their music at the Tragically Hip’s Bathhouse recording studio, they write intricately woven harmonies that can make a crowd go quiet. Their music can be dark but it lives off a sense of community, grounded in the city around them. “There’s an underlying current of hope. And not just hope but a little bit of kick- ass,” Kris Abbot said about the duo’s music.
That goes double for the city’s up-and- coming musicians.
Plan your Kingston getaway at VisitKingston.ca and experience the big sounds of Kingston’s vibrant music scene for yourself.