Updated: May 1, 2020
On Saturday, April 18, Corn Puff Records put on a livestream music festival for charity featuring several of their signees (Corn Puffians, McKinnon, A Good Band, and Amelia Ear Heart’s Sonic Aviary), local Toronto producer Pyari, Toronto-based pop punk band Glass Cactus, Jay McCarrol from the television series Nirvanna the Band the Show, Feurd and Frankie of the Elwins, and Luke Lalonde of the Born Ruffians.
The festival follows a long line of other live performances that have populated Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook during the current COVID-19 pandemic. With concerts postponed across the world and large gatherings banned in most countries, livestreams have become a means by which performers can still interact with their fans. Many of these online concerts have charitable aims and Corn Puff Records was no different, using the April 18 festival to raise money for Food Banks Canada. The livestream began at 6:00pm with folk artist McKinnon and continued until 10:30pm with the conclusion of the headlining post-coverband, Corn Puffians.
Overall, the festival was a success with over 200 people tuning in over the course of the night and many artists performing new or unreleased material and charming covers. Naturally, the hosts (Corn Puffians members Joey Litvak, Noa Bonen, and Maia Harris) encountered technical difficulties with the sound and video. Attempting to organize a festival of this size in person is hard enough, let alone attempting to coordinate artists all located in separate dwellings in Toronto and Montreal. The hosts made the best of these issues and often spoke with the performers while the audience members commented with song requests, hand claps, and “wooos” in support of the artists. To see musicians in their homes with no stage, no flashy props or lighting, and simply them and their instruments was quite humanizing. It felt almost as if everyone watching was at their own private show, removing the performer from the pedestal of the stage.
During the festival, Litvak and Bonen
held up a card with the name and link to Food Banks Canada to introduce each performer and Harris was in the background on acomputer, having to “Zoom” into the show from her home in London, Ontario. McKinnon started the show with a handful of Dylan-esque country-folk guitar tracks tinged with a bluesy twang. Due to video trouble, McKinnon could only perform three songs, “Corrina Corona” about the current stay-at-home life we’re living, a soothing instrumental piece, and a final tune telling the story of finding an apartment in Toronto, borrowing the country tradition of spinning yarns through song.
Toronto producer Pyari was next and performed a non-traditional set, creating original beats live on his computer. To start, he explained that while at home, he’s felt the urge to shave his head, which is a feeling it seems many people have likewise shared. So, he decided to make a track using the sound of a hair trimmer. He recorded the trimmer live and then used a keyboard to manipulate the sound and layer several other beats into an impressive assortment of loops.
Next, Pyari performed a cover of a James Blake song combined with aspects from “Three Nights” by Domnic Fike and “Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean. He then concluded the set with a live performance of an original track entitled “Coach Bus” produced by @vampiriclord. Pyari’s performance offered a unique insider’s-view of the recording studio and showed how beats are made while also demonstrating his considerable improvisational production skills.
Amelia Ear Heart’s Sonic Aviary was next, consisting of Adam Borohov and Alana O’Reilly. Borohov looked as if Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips had just stepped out of an open roof airplane with wild curly hair. The four songs the duo performed, “Love Us”, “Sweet Dreams, Felix”, “Mother Cellophane”, and “Amelia Ear Heart”, could each be used as a lullaby, melding Borohov’s guitar and soft folk vocals with O’Reilly’s impressive theatre range.
They performed a handful of released and yet-to-be-released songs covering a multitude of subject matters from pants with crotch holes, to pizza, and surfing on the beach. A Good Band brought a pleasant, lighthearted energy to the livestream similar to sitting around a campfire. They provided indie tracks that poked fun at the mundane things in life, meant to bring a smile to your face during these troubling times. Personal highlights were “Hi, Hello” and “Tinder is My Girlfriend”, two guitar tunes with catchy lyrics and a funny tongue-in-cheek vibe.
After A Good Band, the venue changed from Instagram to Facebook, and Glass Cactus took over. Rather than performing a set of their original indie rock songs, members David Zimmer, Ezra Sherman, Aidan Fine, and Kai DeDonato (drummer Kabir Malik was absent) put on a variety show. Kai drew names from a hat to choose the next performer and each band member put on their own skit.
These included an auto-tune-heavy version of “Hotline Bling” with some changed lyrics, a cover of “Friday Night” from Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave Netflix series, two Frank Sinatra covers, a cover of “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book, and a Rock, Paper, Scissors game. The show then ended with Kai serenading the audience with 1985’s “We Are The World” charity single for African famine relief.
The stage shifted back to Instagram Live with a collection of three covers from Jay McCarrol of Nirvanna the Band the Show. McCarrol sang a charming version of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and two lesser known but equally enjoyable indie covers, “Swing Lo Magellan” by Dirty Projectors and “End of an Age” by the late Richard Swift.
The final two acts of the night before the headliner were Feurd and Frankie of the Elwins and Luke Lalonde of the Born Ruffians.
Feurd and Frankie performed an acoustic version of the 2000s dance hit “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!” by the Venga Boys, changing the frenetic pace of the Eurodance track into a soulful rendition. The next two songs were a cut track from their new album and an accepted track called “Rocking Horse”. In between these songs they bantered back and forth with the hosts, floating the idea for a post-cover band called Tears for Deers with Tears for Fears songs reworked to be about Bambi.
A post-coverband, according to Litvak, is a band that reinvents other bands’ songs to make them original pieces of art.
The headlining act, Corn Puffians, is a Born Ruffians post-coverband.
Moving onto Luke Lalonde, the lead singer of Born Ruffians performed several acoustic tracks from the latest Ruffians album Juice (“Breathe” and “Wavy Haze”) and his recent solo release The Perpetual Optimist (“Dusty Lime” and “Winners and Losers”).
Unfortunately, the feed ended before Lalonde could finish his last song, “This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life” from the Born Ruffians’ 2006 EP. This track was adamantly requested by Litvak as it is also the song the Corn Puffians covered for their first single. After Lalonde’s feed cut out, Litvak chose not to wait for the singer to return and instead proceeded to the Corn Puffians headlining performance. I won’t go into too much detail about the Puffians set as I elaborate on their performance in my viral BuzzFeed write-up, Toronto Band Breaks Up After Explosive Argument Caught on Camera.
In general terms, the set ended in a disaster. First, since the set was being recorded with a phone, some of the sound unfortunately cut in and out and it was difficult to hear the Puffians first two songs, a cover of “This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life” and “Popcorn” by (what Litvak referred to as "cover artist"), Crazy Frog.
The last song was a messy cover of the Ruffians’ “I Fall in Love Every Night.” Despite not having practiced it, Litvak insisted they perform the song and muddled his way through the lyrics and chords.
The performance ended with Bonen storming off-camera in frustration. Once the festival was over, the camera continued to secretly record an argument between Litvak and Bonen in which Bonen called Joey an “asshole” and shoved him aside to leave their apartment. Throughout the livestream, Litvak had become increasingly agitated with tech issues and arrogantly dominated conversations with the performers by constantly mentioning his ‘revolutionary’ idea of the post-cover band. Later that night, Litvak announced the “indefinite hiatus” of Corn Puffians and the removal of Bonen from the band. Corn Puffians was the first band to sign with Corn Puff Records, the label that organized the festival.
I reached out to Joe Alexander, one of Corn Puff Records’ co-founders, about the success of the festival and the future of Corn Puffians. To begin, he said they have received positive feedback from the festival audience and that Corn Puff was able to raise over $500 for Food Banks Canada. Putting on a music festival has always been a goal for the label and the festival was originally meant to revive “venue-centric” events similar to NXNE circa 2014. Due to the pandemic and the ban on social gatherings, Alexander and his co-founder Rachel Schwarz decided to move the festival to the digital realm and contribute to “Canada’s much-needed relief efforts” during these difficult times.
Regarding Corn Puffians, Litvak was the talent scout for the label and worked as the Corn Puff social media manager. Alexander clarified that Joey Litvak has been removed from these positions and is no longer running the label’s various social media accounts. The Corn Puff exec is “deeply disappointed” with Litvak’s actions at the end of the festival and said, “what would have otherwise been an outstanding event was instead plagued by personal problems and a big ego.” The label respects and understands Corn Puffians’ decision to go on hiatus; but Alexander also said “it would be a huge loss to see'' Corn Puffians formally depart from the label. Only time will tell what the future of Corn Puffians holds, but for now, Corn Puff Records will move on and take the festival as a success, despite some minor hiccups.