Dartmouth's Nowadays Festival Felt Like Home

With Julie Doiron, Nicole Kidman, Dusted, Washing Machine, Bloodshot Bill, Art Bouman, Heavenly Blue and Green Reflectors

Photo: Richard Lann

BY Joe SmiglickiPublished Oct 16, 2023

Being new to a place can be hard. Employment, housing, a network of friends; These things are all important, sure, sure. But where are you supposed to go see live music, and what bands are you going to see there? In walks Dartmouth, NS's Nowadays Festival to point you in the right direction — a small new festival with a big outreach, Thursday and Friday are set in the local Woodside Tavern and Saturday sends you walking around downtown Dartmouth and into local social establishments, coffee and record shops, a brewery and arts centre. With a wide array of venues and quick performance turnovers on a tight schedule, the risk of things flying off the rails was always looming —  but each set went more or less as smoothly as possible, and sounded absolutely perfect. Hopefully there's plenty more to come from Nowadays Festival.

Here are the best things we saw:

October 12

Nicole Kidman 

While the duo's namesake herself didn't make it to their Thursday night set, we were assured that she was in the washroom of the local Dartmouth tavern. Regardless, the local duo didn't need the extra star power, immediately filling the room with heartfelt smiles and weirdo folk tunes like the Fugs or Moldy Peaches for a new generation. Their short set was full of honest and sweet Beefheartian lyrism set to catchy tunes — check out "She's in a Mood" — that balanced playfulness and a thought-provoking sense of off-kilter confrontation. 


Dusted certainly knows how to hold your attention — and having singer/songwriter T. Thomason join you on harmonies for a few songs doesn't hurt. The band is, of course, more than just the one and only Brian Borcherdt (of Holy Fuck and Quilting), but it's his charisma that circled the room and hypnotised while the band added depth to his still hopefulness. Songs like "Baseball," "Cedar Tree" and "Not Offering" hold an awareness of space and depth that worked perfectly on Thursday night, Borcherdt's gentle melodies and spectral guitar work reminiscent of Arthur Russell's ghostly chamber pop excursions. 

October 13

Washing Machine 

Halifax's Washing Machine released their latest record Cheat the Pattern last year, and it's a good blend of what was good (and what aged well) about the late '70s and early '80s new wave and post punk scene, but that kind of decade-specific music can sometimes fall flat in a live setting. If things speed up too much you lose the patience of the hooks and the detailed asides, but if they slow down, things just become watery and tedious. Luckily, Washing Machine have cracked the code and were locked in, accessing all that tasty '80s Clash punk funk punchiness. "King of Cold Comfort" and "Misadventure" bounced around the packed room and will be stuck in my head for the foreseeable future.

Bloodshot Bill 

If you don't know Mr. Bloodshot Bill, it's time to get on board. You'll see him put in the rockabilly camp and compared to other wildmen like Hasil Adkins and Charlie Feathers, but he's a singular force that needs to be witnessed in person. He was in fine form on Friday night, lighting the room on fire (metaphorically speaking, though I'm sure that's happened at his shows before) with his wild rock and roll. He snorted, cooed and howled for "Wine" and had an attendee doing push ups on stage while he bashed his kick drum and wailed on his borrowed guitar. He called up the Green Reflectors (more on them later) to join him for a few songs, and they didn't miss a beat despite guitarist Kyle Furlotte letting the audience know that they had no idea what songs they were playing. Bloodshot Bill had only messaged them that morning to see if they wanted to play some songs, and they would've been fools to say no — wild and fun, just the way rock 'n' roll is supposed to be. 

October 14

Art Bouman 

Music is history, and it's always a gift when artists attempt to bring some of those lesser-known histories to the stage. Art Bouman's solo banjo set to a small but eager crowd at the Dartmouth Buffalo Club showcased that commitment to reaching back and pulling forward. His deep voice was resonant and impossible to shake as he strummed the banjo to blues and folk songs that belong to the African diaspora. Between songs, he shared stories of the legacies intertwined between the music and its sometimes painful history, context that would only sink in further while he played the selection of sombre and thoughtful songs. A very special performance — don't miss it if you get the chance to see Bouman for yourself. 

Julie Doiron 

The new Sanctuary Arts Centre was the perfect place to host an intimate Julie Doiron solo show. Doiron was joined on stage by guitarist Dany Placard and immediately thanked everyone for coming — she mentioned her nervousness, but none of that was felt as Doiron and Placard played through tender renditions of old favourites and choice cuts from 2021's I Thought of You. Beautiful tunes like "Wintermitts," "I Woke Myself Up" and "Darkness to Light" were key highlights of a perfect set in a special room. 

Heavenly Blue 

Hot off the heels of their recent 7" EP on Sewercide Records, the local rock band ripped it up back at the Buffalo Club. The low ceilings, one foot high stage, VLTs in the corner and empties scattered on the tables made you feel right at home while they bashed their way through their garage songs in the vein of '60s punk à la the Seeds and Troggs. Primitive, high energy, hip swayin' rock was promised, and Heavenly Blue delivered tenfold — go see this band live.  

The Green Reflectors 

Having seen the duo jump on stage with the larger than life Bloodshot Bill just the night before, I really didn't know what to expect from their Saturday night set. They were thrown in the deep end by Bill and still managed to play like seasoned pros — what's it like when they're in charge? The duo —brothers Kyle and Aaron Furlotte, on guitar and drums respectively — were an impressive sight. While Aaron is rooted to the stage, Kyle spent maybe five minutes there, running around the room and shredding like a (non-threatening) wildman as they ripped through their cutting surf rock. He ran, danced and shimmied to every corner of the joint, including the men's washroom, (unsuccessfully) tried to start a conga line and got a four foot tall stuffed giraffe to crowd surf. Of course, all of this would've fallen apart without Aaron's equally intricate drum work keeping things grounded. Teamwork makes the dream work! 

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