Lawnya Vawnya music festival returning this week, with eye to diversity

Backxwash, winner of the 2020 Polaris Prize, is one of the visiting acts coming to St. John’s for Lawnya Vawnya. (Submitted by Backxwash)

Independent music festival Lawnya Vawnya returns live to St. John’s this week for the first time in two years, after dabbling in virtual presentations since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since its start in 2010, the festival has grown from a series of annual volunteer-run shows to a fully staffed festival with events happening year-round. 

After multiple postponements due to COVID-19, the festival’s executive director, Chrissy Dicks, is delighted the 2021 edition is just days away.

“We’re excited that we landed on some dates,” she said. “We’ve got a great array of local, and some visiting performers as well, for the first time since 2019.” 

Kelly McMichael performs Wednesday. (Kelly McMichael/Bandcamp)

Those performers include St. John’s angular pop group Property, Ontario transplant Kelly McMichael, Montreal’s Backxwash, winner of the 2020 Polaris Prize, and Toronto-based non-binary rapper DijahSB.

The full roster, which includes some 34 names spanning music, visual art, literature and drag, is in keeping with the festival’s mandate to form ties between local and visiting artists.

This summer’s lineup also boasts acts like Mohawk performer DJ Shub formerly of A Tribe Called Red and Inuit throat-singing collective Immali.

“I believe that our role as arts presenters and festival co-ordinators really is to create a space where a range of voices can be heard, and that includes, for example, Indigenous, Black, queer performers, people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds,” Dicks said. 

“What we program is really reflective of our audience, and hearing all kinds of perspectives are what people really want to see.” 

In addition to live shows happening Wednesday through Saturday, workshops are also on the schedule. These include a crash course in album art with St. John’s artist Pepa Chan and a DJ workshop with DJ Shub.

But of all the events, Dicks looks forward to the music the most.

“I’m just excited for everyone to get together again, safely, with all COVID guidelines in place,” she said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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