Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: Friends In Bellwoods 2 release party @ Lee's Palace, 28 Aug.

On Friday night I went to one of the best shows I've been to all year. At Lee's Palace I and several hundred others were treated to an excellently put together and performed show to celebrate the release of the Friends in Bellwoods 2 compilation. The evening featured Waterloo-based electro dance group Bocce, hometown favourites Ohbijou, the lovely Forest City Lovers, and the expanded band version of Jonas Bonnetta's solo project, Evening Hymns. I have seen all these bands before (though not Evening Hymns as a 7-piece), and went into the show expecting to have a nice time. I did not expect the musical spectacular that it turned out to be. Silly me.

I missed the first song or two of Evening Hymns' set, and when I got there the venue was already pretty busy. A good sign. Jonas was still playing that sparkly silver guitar I saw him use during a solo performance a few months back---good. The addition of Sylvie Smith (The Magic) on backing vocals, James Bunton (Ohbijou) on drums, Gavin Gardiner (The Wooden Sky) on guitar, Andrew Wyatt (The Wooden Sky) on bass, and others made for an impressive lineup. Mid-way through their set, Sylvie Smith took over lead vocals, singing her contribution to the compilation, "On Our Own." On the record, her voice is strong and clear; live, it was even better. A real standout track. Another inspired moment was when most of Jonas' band cleared off, making way for the members of The D'Urbervilles, dressed up to mimic their friend Taylor Kirk (Timber Timbre), whose song "Magic Arrow" they covered for the album. And so they performed it for us. Great stuff.

Jonas recently arranged for Out of This Spark records to release his next album, coming out on 3 November. Promises to be a good one. Listen to "Dead Deer" on his MySpace. Or just watch this live video, taken by Colin Medley at a Wavelength show a while back:

Next up was Forest City Lovers, one of the top local folk-pop acts. This band had fewer tricks up its sleeves, but did bring in extra strings for a few songs (Jenny Mecija and Anissa Hart from Ohbijou). More importantly, the band performed a strong set with their full lineup. It was nice to see them sound so good and seem so confident in their set. Good! I like this band a lot, but the stars never fully align whenever I see them live. Friday night, they did. They played their track off the compilation---"Minneapolis," which also kicks off the preview podcast I did last week---as well as songs from their recordings. Look for a new 7" from the band sometime in the next few months.

The biggest draw of the night was Ohbijou, a band that's had a lot of successes over the past year, building on a longer history of community involvement and strong musicianship. I missed out on their CD release show earlier this summer, so tonight was my chance to get up to speed on how the band's been doing. And, well, they were great. I've sometimes found Ohbijou's recorded output hard to really get into. I am a fan of the folkier indie rock out there, but for a some reason Ohbijou never did it for me as much as it does for so many other people. Friday night was the moment when things clicked between me and the band. Casey Mecija and the rest of her bandmates seemed really excited for the event, and their energy added sparkle to their quiet songs. The didn't play too many of their own songs, calling up guests---Nils Edenloff (The Rural Alberta Advantage); Reg Vermue and Kelly McMichael (Gentleman Reg); Basia Bulat; and others---to sing and play with them, and it all made the set more festive. Consider me now much more firmly in the fan category.

At this point things could have ended, but no: the event's organizers had one more band for us. Bocce took to the stage ready to get the real party started. And my oh my did they ever. The dance floor was hopping and the guys seemed not at all phased to be playing to such a large crowd after such brilliant sets of music. I hung back near the soundboard, but it gave me the perfect sightline to witness the craziness of Casey, Kat Burns (Forest City Lovers), and Greg Santilly (The D'Urbervilles) rapping. During the encore, seemingly everyone who had performed that night, and even some who hadn't, piled on stage, jumping up and down and having a blast. So was everyone in the audience. Take a look for yourself.

What a great night of music. You can purchase a copy of the 40-song double-disk compilation from a variety of actual and virtual stores. All proceeds go to the Toronto Daily Bread Food Bank. Details here.

[Photo credit: staceymccool.]

1 comment:

Shawn William Clarke said...

Sounds like a great show!