Arguably the festival’s marquee event, Femme Wave’s 2019 Fun House featured three floors of programming that spanned the breadth of musical and visual tastes. From emerging rappers to visual art projections, freak-folk guitar solos, witchy doo-wop and this year’s Polaris Prize winner.
Most were waiting for Haviah Mighty’s highly-anticipated headlining set, but there were stacked bands on both the main and top floor of the Legion to keep everyone entertained throughout the night. Upstairs, local upstarts Krill Williams kicked things off with psychy garage jams that sat playfully in the groove — there’s a lot to like in the new band’s dreamy songs, even if they’re still fleshing out their sound. Downstairs, Montréal’s Hua Li brought the growing audience nice and close with cutting raps about, as she put it, “sexual prowess and daddy issues.”
Back upstairs, Winnipeg’s Paige Drobot lit up the ad hoc stage with ‘70s-inspired (complete with matching outfits) guitar freakouts as she wailed and soloed over everyone’s jaws that had dropped to the floor. Described as an “edgy grandma,” Drobot and her trio transported everyone back to Woodstock for a free-flowing set.
Meanwhile, all the way downstairs, Calgary DJs Molly Fi and Kimleestar got the basement rave going among the bright, psychedelic visual art of Saskatoon-based Lindsey Rewuski, who played live with mixed media to create her synesthetic projections.
When it was finally time for Haviah Mighty’s set to cap off the night, a hush fell over the room at the main stage. Anticipation ran high and the crowd felt ready to dive deep into her set, which Haviah Mighty was more than happy to deliver. From the first bars of her explosive rap, she held the Calgary crowd in the palm of her hand, working the stage from left to right and bringing everyone into a tight crowd that felt unexpectedly intimate for such a hype name. This was her third time in Calgary, but as she shouted out midway through her set, it felt like her first real time in town. Effortlessly cool and clad in a shiny, silver NASA puffer suit, Haviah Mighty brought a new set of cutting-edge, woke, feminist rap to Calgary in what felt like a much-needed breath of fresh air. As headliner for Femme Wave, it was a beautiful reminder that, collectively, there’s still so much potential to do all the cool shit we can dream of.
Over in the Beltline, there was standing room only at I Love You Coffee Shop as festival goers piled in on the second night of Femme Wave for an evening of uproarious laughs and human tales from an all-star troupe of comedians.
Local performer, emcee and writer, Jayme Tucker, opened the show with a rollicking and earnest retelling of her experience growing up religious and horny. The crowd had no time to catch their breath as Emily Bilton followed with a high energy set that touched on the trials and tribulations of family, sexuality, and dating men.
Issa Kixen brought the show home with a powerful blend of hilarity and social commentary, putting a comedic spin on their experiences as an Indigenous, Two-spirit performer, activist and parent to the youngest drag queen in Manitoba. Stand-up comedy is another largely male-dominated environment, and as love and laughter resonated through the packed coffee shop these comics showed exactly why that needs to change.
The evening was moderated by Femme Wave board member and fellow comedian Adora Nwofor, who lit up the stage with her larger than life personality between sets. Her forthright and fierce brand of humour is crafted to deconstruct toxic societal norms while leaving audiences howling.