Thursday, November 17, 2005
This was a really great show tonight. I wasn't really planning on going anywhere or doing anything tonight, had a nice slow day, and was kind of kicking around the house just waiting to get tired enough to go to bed for the night. It's nights like that when wandering off by yourself to see a show really becomes appealing.
Hunter's is big enough that the place can seem a little empty if it isn't brimming with people. That's how it looked when I got there around 10:30.
I had some good conversations with a couple of dudes from Out From Under, especially the extremely attractive Jeff Cameron. We had to cut my diatribe about the PEI electoral system short because they needed to go set up the sound system, I almost said "Oh, good, it's about time." but I kept my mouth shut.
First up was Andrea playing solo. Normally she's the MC for Baba's Open Mic Night, where she's been steadily and humbly doing her thing for quite a while now, playing a few songs each night before the rest of the performers come on. Normally she'll do a few of her own songs and a few covers, her version of “Basement Apartment” left her voice in my head when I think of that song instead of Sarah Harmer's, and I've only seen her do it once. But tonight was a bit of a coming out event for her, and she did all her own songs. Unfortunately her guitar pickup was causing a bit of a buzzing in the sound system (my little guitar does the same thing, a pain I know all too well.) but as long as she was playing it it wasn't very noticeable.
Andrea's singing is very powerful, her voice reminds me a lot of Dar Williams, one of my favourite folk singers. They both have a voice that projects confidence and seriousness without being at all shrill or too high-pitched. Her playing is standard acoustic pop/folk fair, with steady rhythm and lots of interesting quick little chord changes, and her playing never took a back seat while she was singing, she can balance the two very nicely.
And her lyrics are worth paying attention to as well, mostly little sad songs but the few happy ones she has make you really smile. Even the sad songs have their poignant moments that bring a smile to your face. She writes intelligent lyrics that aren't just about boys. One funny moment came when she had written a new verse to one of her songs but didn't have it memorized, so she wrote it out on her arm and had to roll up her sleeve before playing the song. I hope she gets to play more shows in front of more poeple, she's got something good going on to be sure.
Out From Under came on next. The last couple of times I've seen them they've opened for some other band. In my opinion I'd have put them at the end each time, but maybe they're too humble or generous for that. It's OK, though, they still get their groove on very nicely. OFU's country sound storms out of the gates and dominates their other influences enough that I really don't hesitate to call them a country band anymore.
The singing style is pretty similar to the Corb Lund Band, if you've ever heard them. Beefy but lighthearted lyrics about sometimes bizarre subjects. You can tell that they have a total blast writing and performing music, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be all about having fun.
They're all about the shuffle rhythm, really great for getting people dancing, which a few eventually did even though it was a bit of a slow night at Hunter's. Their new bass player could really hold down the fort with his playing, he fit in perfectly with the rest. And their guitar playing is always superb with extended melodic playing through most of a song that is of the skill of most people's guitar solos.
The drumming was nice and lively as well, with the bass and the guitars there was always a bit of a blur between the rhythm and lead sections, with one melting into the other really nicely the way a good jam band is able to.
Last up was Pat Deighan and the Orb Weavers. I've always enjoyed these guys when I've seen them, which was always to open for some other act, most recently they opened for Mark Bragg and did an excellent job of getting people warmed up.
Now that I've seen them about 3 times or so it's to the point where I know their songs well enough to remember a few snatches of verses and remember how the riffs and solos go. They're rather less adventurous than OFU are, perhaps because of the nature of the makeup of the band and the fact that it's much less of a melee.
The drummer kept kind of quiet most of the set, just keeping time and not really making himself noticed. Then in the second-last song he really let loose and pounded out some pretty rapid-fire sequences. I don't know why he saved himself up like that, he could have really been a lot less pedestrian for the whole show. The last song had some more skilled drumming as well with a few tight time signature changes, not something that the band does very much of right now.
The guitar playing is the strongest part of their sound, very aggressive and tight with good interplay between rhythm and lead. You can tell that the creative force behind the band is nearly all in the guitar playing. That leaves the bass to just take up following the melodic line and not really mark its own territory.
If I was a manager and this band played a tryout in front of me the first thing I would do is match them up with some little guy who's completely off his nut crazy to sing for them. Someone who could really let loose and show some real feeling in his singing. The singer seems like he's concentrating more on his playing and almost doesn't have it in him to really put the same punchiness into his vocals as he so naturally does in the guitar playing.
I think they'd do a great job backing up some unhinged maniac singer. If anything it would grab people's attention and be a real stage presence to be reckoned with. That's not to say that they're not enjoyable to watch now, but right now it's more an exercise in watching a great guitar player show off his stuff with a band and try to sing at the same time than to really watch a group of players flourish to their full potential.
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