Begonia Lake Stage, Guelph ON, July 14

Begonia Lake Stage, Guelph ON, July 14
Photo: Matt Forsythe

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Begonia (Alexa Dirks) first appeared earlier Friday evening at a workshop entitled "Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends" and almost immediately took ownership of the Lake Stage in her billowing turquoise mumu, getting the trio Lula Wiles and the crowd singing churchy backup to her gritty soul.
 
The woman has, you would say, presence to spare. When she opens her mouth to sing it's like, "What just happened?" Her recent album Lady in Mind may have just hinted at what Dirks is capable live. At her packed Lake Stage set, she got the crowd up and dancing, seemingly in awe.
 
Like Basia Bulat's last album, Good Advice, Dirks' lyrics are approachable and universal: "I gave back all your old cassettes," she sang. "What's left?" But she sounds more like a modern day Amy Winehouse twist on Motown, and much of her approachability as a performer comes from sharing with the crowd the ways in which she feels messed up.
 
She captivated the crowd with a love song about a dial tone ringing in her heart (her "only" positive love song), her band enthusiastically singing along as ring tones, and a quirky sad love song about approaching a hot dog stand. The highlight of both of her sets was a wild ride of a new tune about all her fears, shouted staccato over polyrhythmic clapping: fear of everyone, fear of being too loud, fear of going crazy. Somehow, though it's not a festival thing, she got encored. "Well shit," she said, "I know some of you are smoking pot but that's really positive," before playing Lady In Mind's "I Don't Wanna (Love U)."