Ghost Throats 2013, Edmonton – Festival review and photos

June 18, 2013
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Crippled Children at Ghost Throats music festival, Edmonton, June 2013 - photo James Grant, Music Vice

Crippled Children at Ghost Throats – photo James Grant, Music Vice Magazine

Who: Ghost Throats music festival
Where: Edmonton, Alberta
When: 31 May to 2 June, 2013
In One Word: Burgeoning 

Edmonton has always been fertile soil for the kinds of loud, aggressive bands that play to small crowds in even smaller basements. A little too far out of the way for most touring bands, the city has long been a place where; if people want to hear music, they’ll probably need to make it themselves.

Every summer, members of Edmonton’s hardcore, post-hardcore, and emo music communities work to bring like-minded bands together for one weekend. The result is Ghost Throats, a showcase of the some of the best unknown bands playing heavy music in Canada. Now in its fifth year, the DIY festival continues to be a labour of love for those who organize it, and for the bands that play.

In recent years, Ghost Throats has been split between Edmonton and Calgary, with the festival commonly starting up north and concluding with an all-day show down south.

This year saw as diverse a group of bands as has ever played the festival. From delicate shoegaze (Tuques, Edmonton) to crushing doom (Tempest, Vancouver), there were performers to suit most tastes.

The festival’s first night saw a bill of mostly heavy bands, with performances from locals Vitriolage and Mahria, as well as Vancouver’s Tempest. Vitriolage, a relatively-new crust hardcore band opened the show and set a decidedly anxious, energetic mood for the night. Mahria proved to live up to the near-universal praise they’ve received from post-hardcore fans, with a blistering yet melodic set. However, Tempest absolutely leveled the small venue. After a few years’ absence from Ghost Throats, and what was described as a “terrible year,” the five-piece appeared to have lost none of their energy as they thundered their way through a half-hour set.

Two veteran local acts – Crippled Children and Maus – closed the night with reunion sets. Not only were both bands clearly excited to be playing together again, but the crowd was equally thrilled to throw their weight around. While Crippled Children’s set saw a more happily-excited crowd, Maus characteristically evoked a significant amount of anxiety and aggression from those in attendance. At least one member of the audience left to receive stitches.

Saturday’s show, starting at 4pm, saw a much longer, and much more diverse, list of bands. Highlights included tremendous performances from Tuques and local emo-upstarts Coalspur as well as memorable sets from out-of-towners Woolworm (Vancouver), Needs (Vancouver), Shahman (Ottawa), and Greys (Toronto).

However, the set of the night and, perhaps, of the entire festival, was the penultimate performance of Calgary’s Stalwart Sons. Before going on what’s described as an “indefinite hiatus,” the three-piece appeared for two sort-of final shows – one in Edmonton and one in Calgary. Stalwart Sons’ Ghost Throats set, although somewhat bittersweet, didn’t disappoint in the slightest. The band played through a large chunk of their Canadiana-tinged post hardcore before finally closing the set with the title track from their first record Daylights like Torches. Looking around the room, it was hard to find someone that wasn’t singing along troughout the set; proving that Stalwart Sons, even among a full festival of cherished bands, was something special.

Having watched Ghost Throats grow from a small, unnoticed festival into a showcase for like-minded musicians from across Canada, it’s remarkable to think that the festival has only been around for five years. Given the love shown by those who organize the festival, and the energy put in by everyone involved, it’s exciting to think of what Ghost Throats could be in years to come.

© James Grant, Music Vice

Photos by James Grant:

Internet links:
Ghost Throats

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