Kingston’s up-and-coming artists hit downtown

By Nick Pearce

If there’s one thing to remember about Kingston, it’s live music.

It’s the kind of town where nearly everyone can tell you their first encounter with an up-and-coming artist who turned into a cross-country headliner. For one, a city that produces The Tragically Hip never forgets its local bands.

Kingston Live Music

Here’s a list of next year’s award nominees and best of list contenders — and when a city of music fans picks a winner, the rest of Canada takes note.

Julia Finnegan

While singer-songwriters abound, Julia Finnegan is different.

She writes richly composed folk songs, filled with nods to her influences — icons like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.

Her 2015 EP, Thoughts Collide enjoyed significant play on CBC Radio on its release and Kingston music fans have been keen to support her ever since.

They’re evocative tunes that only a young artist is capable of pulling off.  The melodies balance earnest, confessional lyrics with playful melodies strummed out on an acoustic guitar and backed by the occasional band.

It’s the kind of talent that quiets the room and leaves you asking when the second EP comes out.

Julia Finnegan
Photo via Julia Finnegan Facebook

Paper Ladies

The first chords of “Promises” tell you everything you need to know. 

Low-fi guitars reverberate over a droning bass riff and it still manages to be the catchiest thing you’ve heard in the last few months.

Paper Ladies write danceable grooves behind a wall of sound. The band oozes festival-ready jams, perfect for a hazy summer day on a smaller stage before music nerds snatch their tunes up for a “best-of” playlist.

Track to check out: Promises

Paper Ladies Band
Photo via Paper Ladies Facebook


Behind the driving blues licks, jam band experimentation and guitar hero solos, JIMBO is a gateway drug into hard rock.

Formed as a campus band, they’ve spent every week playing gigs in Kingston. They alternate between The Brooklyn, The Toucan and The Mansion and friends’ backyards — on top of playing every other venue they can find.

Their shows are unpredictable: the bandmates constantly improvise riffs and solos, bouncing off each other and the audience to make a unique live experience.

The band tends to balance their noise-filled, hard-driving sound with on-stage banter. They’ll ask for tips so they can go out for ice cream or launch into long but quirky anecdotes describing the band’s sound.

JIMBO’s a throwback, thriving off an open-minded music scene and their classic rock heroes.

Photo via JIMBO Facebook

The Meringues

If anyone’s on their phone at a Meringues gig, they won’t be for long.

The tension and release as the band’s two lead singers, Ted Evans and Amanda MacLean, trade-off vocal duties can almost seem like a fight. Their performance demands attention from their audience, almost off pure energy.

Luckily, the band’s punk attitude blends with tightly written hooks to make for a wild live show.

With their debut album to be released this Fall, it’s the perfect time to catch the Meringues in their hometown, at least to remind everyone you heard them first.

The Meringues
Photo via The Meringues Facebook