As the sun approached the horizon on opening night of the 2021 Vines Art Festival on August 9, audience members, with bannock and other refreshments in hand, gathered around the natural stage at Second Beach for the final performance of the evening.
Singer, actor, songwriter, and mover Janelle Reid commanded attention the second she spoke into the mic, welcoming viewers to the show. “I’m a little nervous, to be honest with you,” she admitted as the members of Mad Riddim, founded by drummer Richard Brown and bassist Matt Reid, set up. Reid’s willingness to be open and vulnerable right away set the tone for the fearless performance that followed.
The opening song had everyone captivated. Mad Riddim settled into a supportive, groovy rhythm and Reid radiated passion as she showcased her vocal prowess and honest lyrics. Reid’s combined training in music and theatre was evident as she fully embodied her words, played well with the audience, and handled the inevitable quirks of live performance with grace and humor.
Nature’s set and lighting design made for a very magical hour, and lights illuminated the musicians halfway through the performance. The stage lights in collaboration with the fading backdrop of pink sky and ocean made it seem as though the band itself was the sun, and people drew closer to the warmth it was giving off.
Reid’s original setlist had a clear through-line: empowerment. The songs were uplifting pieces of beautiful advice. One of the songs included was “Better Days”, which Reid wrote to herself. “Rule Your Mind”, which was written in collaboration with Mad Riddim and Caleb Hart, was an ode to the darkness of COVID isolation. Reid kept the audience engaged with personal anecdotes and inspiring quotes between songs. After inviting viewers to sing along to the lyrics of celebratory “Queens”, Reid told the queens in the audience to “take up space—this world is for you.”
Love and support flowed between Reid and Mad Riddim on stage. Audience members were moved to their feet as elements of soul, funk, and jazz lit up the darkening evening. Reid shared her whole heart with musicality, fun, and humility. At one point in the show, she encouraged viewers to “give the gift of your voice into this beautiful space!” This is exactly what Reid did.