Two Australians and Ten Canadians who impressed at BreakOut West 2017

If you know where to look, you could stumble across a music industry conference and festival just about every week of the year. It’s a rare week, however, you’ll find a barrage of events happenings simultaneously around the world. A little over a week ago now there were no less than four major festivals happening at the same time – Americana in Nashville, Music Matters in Singapore, Pop Montreal in the Quebec capital and the 15th annual BreakOut West in Edmonton, Canada.

While Sosefina took you to Music Matters, today I’ll be taking you to the last festival on this list, where I was honoured to be asked on as a speaker for an event which shines a light on the music from the Western Provinces of Canada – alongside a few guests from the country’s east coast and even Australia.

I may be biased, but the two bands who flew over from Australia sat as easy highlights of the whole week; likely due to the fact that they had more runs on the board than a lot of the other bands playing the event. Central coast quartet Winterbourne delivered a rollicking set in their first Canadian voyage, playing as a two piece and sounding every bit as strong as their more expanded group. They used the stripped back opportunity to move into the crowd and perform unplugged (and beautifully). And then there was another NSW group, Letters to Lions, who delivered two rollicking sets across the week, reminding us why there one of Australia’s most underrated bands.

So other than the Aussies, who else impressed during the week? Well we start things off with Poor Nameless Boy, who flew down solo to Australia last year for Australian Music Week (AMW). His music remains as beautiful and enjoyable as it was last year – I recognised a few of the same songs – but here it was more fleshed out and all the more impressive, thanks in part to the three piece band playing behind him.

I thoroughly enjoyed East Vancouver trio I M U R, though they were a lot more chill than I expected. Think Massive Attack, but with with live electric violin. They’ll be down for AMW this year and are definitely worth keeping an eye out for. Also out of BC, //Amistad// impressed at the Industry Awards brunch, with a very British flavour – a bit of The 1975 with some Years and Years thrown in for good measure. A fairly young band, they’re performance was right, and they prove they can write some killer tunes – though the name does feel rather problematic, so we’ll see where that goes.

All the way from the Yukon, Calla Kinglit is reminiscent of a young Laura Marling, while she performed on the guitar with a backing guitarist and drummer. Very impressive stuff. Young trio The Wolfe, meanwhile, showed themselves as a group to keep an eye on, with a strong cover of “Kiss With a Fise” by Florence and the Machine thrown in amongst their own material. It needs a bit of work, but very promising.

Earlier in the week, at the opening night party, Declan O’Donovan from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory left a lasting impression, sitting predominately on the piano, weaving beautiful songs and melodies which herald a vast history of musical influences with a three piece band behind him. Scenic Route to Alaska also provided a wonderful performance at the event (they KNOW how to write a tune…), though it was Said The Whale that the majority of the crowd seemed to be there to see, the Vancouver band having a decade of experience behind them and really sitting in a class of their own across the whole week of performances.

And finally we look at a couple of artists from the East Coast who impressed. Dylan Menzie, with a two piece behind him, reminded me of seeing Jake Bugg for the first time over five years ago. A solid songwriter and performer, he offered some soaring anthemic vocals and proved to be a star in the making. Extra points for doing “Whiter Shade of Pale” solo on the keys – that is not an easy song to play, and he blew it out of the park.

And from Halifax, there was Hillsburn. Led vocally, and on the violin, by Rosanna Burrill, the quintet (playing here as a quartet), delivered powerful, soulful music, with a tonne of harmonies. Their award winning song “Run Down” from the ECMAs was strong and catchy, and “Born Only to Love you” gave us a promising taste off next record. And then there was the incredible violin solo that ended the set, accompanied by a huge band build behind it, proving that this was a band who knew how to impress live – and certainly didn’t squander the opportunity here.

To learn more about the festival, which will move to Kelowna from October 10th to 14th in British Columbia’s Okenagan Valley next year, head to their official website:


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.