Hullo, Shivering Songs

Category: community 106

A quick recap highlighting some of Shivering Songs’ open night performances.

Mike Nason

ss1It’s a quiet, slightly chilly, Thursday evening and I’m walking downtown on powdery snow on top of 3-5 inches of ice. I’ve got a coffee and a little laminate pass dealy and a bag with some gloves in it, just in case. I feel warm, despite lots of reasons not to. I am heading to the Shivering Songs festival kickoff event at the Playhouse.

Shivering Songs is a beautiful little thing. For three days and change, Frederictonians emerge from their feverous winter cabins to open their ears and their hearts to songs and stories. It’s hard not to love it. The shows at the Wilmot United Church allow for a quiet calm that can feel almost heavy at times, like you’re under a giant quilt. At the Capital Complex, people trudge into venues kicking snow off their shoes to stand close together. They wave to the bands. Bands nod back. People are downtown. People are chatting. People are listening.

The kickoff was a challenging one, I think. One fitting and vital. A packed Fredericton Playhouse full of people and community to watch the Gord Downie/Jeff Lemire collaboration, Secret Path, the story of Chanie Wenjack’s tragic end at the hands of Canada’s Residential Schools. An event collaborated by the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre, the United Way, and Shivering Songs, we see a prayer, the film, and a discussion featuring The Honourable Graydon Nicholas. The film itself is hard to watch (although this does not, perplexingly, prevent the guy sitting in front of me from sort of rocking out more or less the whole time). Gord Downie’s message that something is not right in this country resonates deeply. How did so few of us know?

In some ways, it’s an interesting choice for an opening event. A solemn and challenging narrative, delivered to a quiet room, being challenged to heal a spectacular rift. But it is so representative of what I love the very most about Shivering Songs:

It challenges you.

At its best, Shivering Songs makes people sit with space that is different than they expect. So often, when we look for warmth in cold winters, we imagine soft and comfortable spaces. We imagine friendship and body heat. Hot beverages. But we don’t expect cold tones; sharp sounds. We don’t expect discord. We don’t expect work. But Shivering Songs always offers a challenge, whether it’s emotional or aural. It gives us both warm and cold, and I love it.

I pop out of the Playhouse and head over the Capital Complex. Bad People, from Saint John, are about to play. They sing a sort of bluegrassy/indie folk about doing horrible things. Love Land, from Halifax, perform a synthpop slowjam set. It’s all wet falsettos and synth stings. Local boys, The Sentimentals, play a rowdy pop-rock set with thick, thick guitars. Toes are tapped. I am tapped. But, I’m also tremendously satisfied. I walk home in the cold, humming a song I’d heard much earlier in the night, thankful that I know which way I’m heading.

It’s night one! Just one night! Tonight will be just as beautiful and challenging and warm and friendly and full of beverages and hugs and and and and and…

See you out, I hope.

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