Justin Strong Lawnya Vawnya, St. John's NL, May 22

Justin Strong Lawnya Vawnya, St. John's NL, May 22
Photo: Adam Hefferman
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Justin Strong was the very first performer of Lawnya Vawnya's 2019 edition, and he eased the audience at the Rock House into the festivities with a mellow performance of atmospheric soul and retro-minded pop. Accompanied by a three-piece backing band, several tunes found him crooning over little more than soft keyboard ambience and lonesome slide guitar.
 
It was a quiet, unassuming start, but things picked up a little with a tasteful mid-set cover of George Harrison's late '70s deep cut "Your Love Is Forever," which inspired one couple to start slow-dancing in the crowd.
 
The musicians were never flashy, but guitarist Alex Bridger had a nimble hand for quick riffs and delicate arpeggios, and his loop pedal trickery helped to flesh out the minimal arrangements. Drummer Steve Maloney was similarly understated as he gave closer "Peace & Understanding" a subtle undercurrent of syncopated funk in its final passage.
 
The set wasn't designed to blow minds — instead, it felt a bit like sinking into a warm, relaxing bath. And even if didn't exactly start the night with a bang, it was lovely nonetheless.