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Montreal’s Half Moon Run Making Rare Appearance at Atmosphere Gathering

Cumberland Village Works and Mt. Eliah are presenting three days of mind-blowing music, dance, and performance magic at the 2017 Atmoshpere Gathering, August 18-20. This year organizers are profoundly enthusiastic to be offering up Montreal-based Half Moon Run as one of the featured performances.

Drawing comparisons to Radiohead, this Indie Rock band, who Rolling Stone Magazine honoured as “one of the bands to watch,” has deep roots in the Comox Valley. In fact, three of the four members – Dylan Phillips, Conner Molander and Isaac Symonds (nephew of Sue Medley) – all lived in Comox. They all started playing music in this community, and rumour has it one of them even took lessons from local pianist Sean Mooney. The band formed in Montreal when Phillips and Molander joined forces with Ottawa native Devon Portielje as the founding members in 2009.

When Half Moon Run was still an unfamiliar trio, back in February of 2011, they played The Waverley Hotel. This event would be the band’s first Cumberland gig. That night they shared the bill with Valley, a local group that featured the writing of Symonds. Symonds later became the fourth member of HMR. In 2012, they released their debut album Dark Eyes to critical acclaim. Symonds joined the band during the early touring days for Dark Eyes that included stops throughout North America and Australia.

With their folksy four-part harmonies and energetic rhythm-based sound, Half Moon Run quickly impressed crowds and critics alike, making a solid name for themselves on the alternative music scene. Their single Turn Your Love became an enormous hit. They also had the opportunity to join the likes of Mumford & Sons on a tour through Europe, and previously opened for Neil Young.

The group’s latest and most accomplished album, Sun Leads Me On, released in 2015, solidified this talented foursome as an up and coming sensation. Sun Leads Me On is a diverse, spacious album, quite unique from their first offering with a strong balance. It reflects a collective voyage of personal self-discovery, piled high with magnetic harmonies and ensemble arrangements.


The members of Half Moon Run never expected to become successful touring musicians playing one sold out show after another. Described by many as an ‘Indie Rock explosion’ people are also taking notice of the band’s un-common stage chemistry. The group’s integrity might offer a key to their incredible rise to notoriety. As they put it, “Honesty is the fabric of all our interpersonal relationships. It’s the leveling light that removes us from concealment and obscurity.”

According to band members, their epic success has been the product of hard work. Long hours of practicing, usually 10-12 hours a day for 18 months prior to the release of their first album, gives Half Moon Run a tight polished sound.

Each multi-instrumentalist member has solid musical training. Molander and Phillips beautifully back up Portielje’s remarkable voice. Phillips plays drums and keys, often simultaneously, while Molander and Portielje shuffle between guitar, keys, samplers, and percussion. Symonds adds his unique voice, guitar, keyboards, and percussion. No doubt this will be a stage show with appeal to a diverse crowd. The musicianship alone is incredible, and hometown audiences tend to be the most appreciative.

Atmosphere Gathering has been making its mark as a not-to-miss intimate festival, with a relaxed laid-back vibe. This summer, for the fourth year in a row, kindred spirits of all ages will descend upon the village of Cumberland to participate in this joyful celebration of creativity, one that is shaping up to be another unforgettable experience. Live bands, electronic acts, light shows, workshops, dancers and performers will once again fill the infamous Italian Big Top, the Cumberland Forest stage, and the Atmosphere stage. Art installations, the woodland Elixir Zone, the chill-zone teepee, and a collection of select vendors will set the mood, all nestled against a stunning backdrop of the Beaufort Mountains and Cumberland Community Forest.

Tickets to see Half Moon Run are coveted, even in large urban centres. They recently filled the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver and the Macpherson Playhouse in Victoria. We are expecting this weekend event to sell out quickly. To get your advance weekend pass go to their website for tickets and other info about Atmosphere Gathering 2017.

What are some of your favorite tracks by Half Moon Run? Who will we be seeing at Atmosphere Gathering this year, and which set are you most looking forward to? Share your thoughts in the comments!