Take me back to colder nights

Thunder and Lightning brings an East Coast artists’ festival to warm up your spirits

Down the quiet sidewalks of Bridge Street in the frigid nights of January, the warmth of Sackville’s intimate and cozy Thunder and Lightning Ltd. spills out into the world. This week, the welcoming, dimly lit bar was the venue for Cold Nights Festival, a five-day event designed to provide a haven away from Sackville’s piercing chill.

The festival kicked off on Wednesday night with Offerings: A Seance in Three Acts. Torin Langen, a cinematographer from Kitchener, Ont., was the mind behind this hour-long silent film. The people of Sackville gathered around the small projector screen in the corner of the bar to take in the work. Each time this short film is shown, it is accompanied by different music scoring. This time, Sackville’s own Evan Matthews performed the music live. “The whole experience was made infinitely better by the fact that it took place in a small local pub with a local musician,” said Margaret Hancox, a third-year Mt. A student who attended the screening. “I think it would’ve felt a lot different if it took place in Halifax or Moncton with a larger audience.”

For Esmé, an art pop band from Toronto, took to the stage Thursday evening to share a tremendously uplifting and energetic set. Audience members couldn’t help but dance along to the band’s bright, eclectic sound. In addition to the funky and cutting-edge music, their songs carry a message that not only inspires listeners but that demands to be heard. Their lyrics tackle issues of self-love, body image and anger among other things that create an anthem of empowerment for all listeners. According to the band’s biography, “For Esmé is an unabashedly feminist exploration of self-love and the courage of conviction in uncertain times. A rare mix of confession and confection, the songs of For Esmé push the limits of pop to embrace infinite beauty while provoking an honest exchange of identity and inner voice.”

For Esmé was introduced by another Toronto act, Lisa Conway. L CON’s experimental avant-garde pop sound was the perfect addition to the festival. Her voice has an elegant simplicity and is delicate and ethereal, with or without a microphone. Although she appears timid and reserved at first, her stage presence didn’t waver. The Toronto Star said, “Conway is bound for greatness, even if she doesn’t realize it yet.” Conway’s moody, ambient voice echoed through T&L and evoked emotion from audience members. At one point, she even stepped away from the microphone to sing a song from within the audience. It was a truly a pleasant and moving experience for audience members.

Friday night brought two East Coast acts to the quiet and quaint corner of T&L. Construction & Destruction of Port Greville, N.S., consider themselves to be a “spook rock book roll emanating from the Atlantic littoral.” They were followed by Sackville’s own Klarka Weinwurm. This band of three evoked the style of garage rock, with Weinwurm herself on guitar and vocals. Weinwurm and bandmates Scott Brown and Luke Patterson added an alternative flare to the festival. Saturday brought Devarrow, an alternative folk musician from Halifax, and Jeff Beam from Portland, Maine.

However, all good things must come to an end, including the Cold Nights Festival. The Lifers, of Guelph, Ont., brought the festival to a close. Along with their gorgeous, harmonious voices, the two sisters played guitar, ukulele, accordion and even a hand saw during their performance. Many of the songs they performed came from their latest album, Honey Suite. Their lyrics revealed the sisters’ strong connection to the Earth and to each other. They even brought some stories of Sackville with them! “The Lifers have a song called I’m Going Mad that’s based on the ghost stories which came from the CBC radio towers on the Tantramar Marsh,” explained Bryenton Innes, a fourth-year music student.

Although the festival has come to an end for this year, Thunder and Lightning remains a cozy sanctuary for nights both cold and warm. Until next year’s Cold Nights Festival, you can still join Thunder and Lightning in welcoming new artists every Sunday at 7 p.m. I know I can’t wait to see what’s in store the next time I walk through those doors!

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