Feist / Julie Doiron / Ken Beattie / Western States West End Cultural Centre, Winnipeg MB - April 2, 2005

As part of the events surrounding the all-consuming monster that is the Juno Awards, JunoFest saw several good nights of independent Canadian music. On its second night, Winnipeg's Western States were first up with their classic country-folk sound and catchy songwriting. The showstopper of the evening was Ashley Roch's voice, which was highlighted through a single song towards the end of Western States' set. With a sound akin to a folk-infused smoky blues songstresses, Roch's vocals are sure to be heard by a much wider audiences in the near future. The night's disappointment was Ken Beattie's (Radiogram) acoustic set that followed. It's one thing to play a solo show to a hometown crowd who knows your repertoire, but to play the same stripped down tunes to a crowd that is almost completely unfamiliar with your music is a mistake. The whole set left the crowd restless and dozy, which unfortunately carried over to Julie Doiron's set of delicate songs. As half the crowd gathered in close to the stage to absorb as much Doiron as they could, the back of the room (comprised mostly of annoying Juno-ites) would not stop their rudely loud chatter. Although visibly frustrated and gently asking the crowd to be quiet, Doiron put on a graceful set, including a darling cover of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." Only a few hours after receiving a Juno, Leslie Feist stepped onto the stage and somehow managed to hush the obnoxious crowd into eating up her entire set. With the help of a playback recorder, Feist was able to mimic the layers of harmonies that make her sound so textured and sweet on recordings. Feist left the night on a high note by swaying through a set of incredible songs, including a dizzy duet of "Let it Die" with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, demonstrating how well-deserved the hype around her has been.