Published Jun 13, 2014Much like the city in which it takes place, Saskatoon's MoSo Fest is growing and has the potential to be great. While supporting local talent is the right way to make sure that happens, the first night of this year's event leaned a little too heavily on home grown acts. This might have made organizational sense to prevent some of the imported performers from stealing the Thursday night crowds, but it was also limiting.
It's no surprise that self-deprecating Hamiltonian B.A. Johnston had one of the best performances. Johnston's trashy shtick borders on the abstract in its sheer relentlessness. Over the course of his set, he employed moves such as dancing around like a pirate, writhing around on the floor at Amigos Cantina and stripping off layers of kitschy sweatshirts to pour beer all over his bare belly. Yet underneath these shock tactics are songs about useless philosophy degrees or telling mother he's moving to Fort McMurray due to a lack of job skills, proving he is actually one of Canada's best satirists. Move over, Stephen Leacock.
Saskatoon hip-hop producer Factor had a solid showing behind the wheels of steel and MacBook Pro in support of rapper Def3, who is originally from Regina and now based in Vancouver. They mostly played tracks off their upcoming collaborative album Wildlif3, and definitely kept the crowd hyped. "Baby Face" had a motivating hook about growing up, and Kay the Aquanaut came on the Amigos stage toward the end to provide a suitable oddball counter for Def3's sincerity on "Catalina Wine Mixer." Factor allowed his beats to speak for themselves, keeping a straight face through most of the show. Although he's a star in Saskatoon and would do well to embrace that more, he seems content to accept his behind-the-scenes role.
At Vangelis Tavern, Gunner & Smith's brand of dark folk-rock sounded professional in quality — an enterprising film or television producer could put these guys on a Western soundtrack. Musically, their debut full-length He Once Was a Good Man has shades of country, and next time around they should go the whole hog with pedal steel guitar to increase the lonesome feel. A cowboy hat on bearded frontman Geoff Smith would be nice, too.
Other noteworthy artists included the soul-infused disco of We Were Lovers, the punked-up classic rock styling of B.C.'s Bend Sinister and the unique instruments used in the orchestral pop of Minor Matter, but some of the other openers were not quite as impressive.