Iskwé Downtown Sudbury Playground, Sudbury ON, August 13

Iskwé Downtown Sudbury Playground, Sudbury ON, August 13
Photo: Eric Noble-Marks
The rain was just beginning to come down in little spurts when Iskwé took to the stage at Up Here fest, but a decent crowd hung around for her solid, if unspectacular set.

Flanked by a violinist and cellist, Iskwé's powerful vocals were free to mesh with orchestral flourishes to mixed results, creating kind of an improvisational and loose feel throughout the set. Too often though, the string arrangements were one-note and predictable, and overall their potential was somewhat wasted on ho-hum electro-R&B tracks like "Healers" and "The Storm."
The exception was the Hamilton singer-songwriter's cover of Björk
 "Army of Me," which finally unleashed the strings with a torrent of dissonant tones as Iskwé's howling vocals ebbed and flowed. The other obvious highlight was set closer "Nobody Knows," an enraged indictment of the disappearance and murder of indigenous women. It raised the stakes in a set that too often felt professional but flat.