Olio kicked off on Thursday night at Honey with Slam Dunk, who delivered a set of blistering, saxophone-assisted garage punk. Just down the block at Lick, Sex Church were even more raucous, mixing apocalyptic guitar jams with deafening atmospheric noise and making a good case for bringing ear plugs to the show. Back at Honey, Terror Bird's seductive goth pop was marred by minor technical difficulties, including playing most of the first song with a microphone that didn't work. As most Olio-goers headed to Fortune Sound Club to see the Very Best, Fine Mist wrapped up the night at the Metropole with a performance that included burning incense, twinkle lights and lovelorn electro pop.
Friday night brought Olio's biggest attraction, Chad VanGaalen, to the Rickshaw Theatre. Babe Rainbow opened, but a distracting video backdrop hindered his creepy electro stylings by showing scantily clad women posing on motorcycles. Next up, Calgary's Ghostkeeper didn't fare much better, as their mix of rickety blues and fuzzed-out psych jams made for an uneven and disorienting set. VanGaalen got off to a shaky start, aborting his opening ukulele ballad when he was unhappy with the sound. Things picked up when he switched over to guitar for a handful of cuts from 2008's Soft Airplane. There was also a batch of new songs, including a pair of harmonica-laden rockers that recalled Crazy Horse-era Neil Young.
On Saturday, the Media Club played host to B-Lines, who played what was easily the most energized performance of the weekend. Singer Ryan Dyck spent much of the set writhing on the floor or hanging off the pipes in the ceiling, screaming bloody murder as his bandmates blasted through a selection of jittery punk stompers. Tellingly, Dyck spent the brief pauses between songs swigging a Red Bull. Next up, Needles//Pins were similarly punchy, although their style favoured retro garage rock over sheer punk energy. The set included a cover of the Buzzcocks' classic "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)." Over at the Railway Club, Hard Drugs offered up backwoods acoustic ballads and a gorgeous, harmony-laden cover of the folk hymnal "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." Winnipeg's Boats followed, but the audience grew restless during the hour-plus set-up time. Luckily, the group's quirky indie pop sound was enough to salvage the performance - even if the singer did sound a bit like John Darnielle after a hit of helium.
Olio Festival wrapped on Sunday with a party at W2 Storyeum. Unfortunately, the audience wasn't large enough to fill up the massive venue, meaning that the energy was lacking for the impressive lineup of electronic acts. Still, Calamalka didn't let that stop him from laying down his eerie mix of lurching dub beats and woozy electronics. Minor setbacks aside, if the festival organizers can keep drawing in high-profile artists, expect Olio to keep on growing with each instalment.