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Billie Eilish has unleashed a brand new remix of her hit Bad Guy featuring the man who once covered her bedroom wall, Justin Bieber.

Bieber lends his voice to a new version of “Bad Guy” and Eilish is clearly excited about it; the cover art is a photo of her several years ago wearing a sparkly dress in front of a bunch of Bieber posters in her bedroom.

Hear the new version below:

Billie Eilish - bad guy (with Justin Bieber) [Audio] - YouTube
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alt-J Concert Review Montreal International Jazz Festival  

At first, I was surprised alt-J was part of the jazz fest but I’ve grown to love how the jazz fest isn’t solely jazz. I’m glad that festivals are expanding their musical tastes to appeal to all sorts of people. Montreal is known as a city that celebrates music and creativity after all.

So, for two hot July nights at the Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, Montreal Jazz fest hosted alt-J and Drama.

DRAMA

The duo from Chicago made up of Na’el Shehade and Via Rosa walked on stage to the quiet anticipating crowd.

I found it a challenge to put my finger on a specific genre (which is getting harder and harder these days). That has to do with Shehade having spent his teen years being influenced by house and electronic music by DJing. Recently he was working on hip-hop, pop, and rap, but wanted to expand more towards dancy, soulful sounds. Rosa had grown up with her parents playing reggae but is interested in slow, jazzy hip-hop sounds. Together, they are able to experiment and branch out of the stereotypes of a specific genre. 

What they have ended up with is Rosa’s smooth voice over beats that make you want to dance along, somewhere between, but not limited to: Dance, R&B, and Soul. 

They played from their 2016 album “Gallows”, 2018 EP entitled “Lies After Love” and several new singles including “Dead and Gone” and “Give No F***s”. 

The crowd enjoyed the duo’s love and breakup songs as they hurried to their seats to enjoy the opening set. 

They played a few songs in a row, blending together seamlessly (thanks to Shehade’s DJ skills). When there was a pause, the crowd excitedly applauded. 

I think we all went home and downloaded their album 

alt-J 

As Drama walked off stage and the crowd awaited alt-J, I thought back to the first time I saw them. 

Going back to the summer of 2015, I arrived before the doors opened to Osheaga and ran straight to the barricade of the stage they were playing at. I stood there all day, about 8 hours (no I didn’t drink water and yes, I know that was a terrible idea). 

Needless to say, it was well worth the wait and dehydration, so I eagerly awaited to see them again. 

I thought Salle Wilfred Pelletier an interesting venue for the show. It would be a sit-down concert which felt a little odd. Most sit down concerts feel like social experiments. Do you want to be the only one standing even if it feels weird to be sitting at a concert? Or do you stand out from the crowd and just enjoy your show? 

Finally, alt-J walked out to “Something Good” followed by “Every Other Freckle” and almost immediately the crowd stood up and cheered. 

Despite having seats, they weren’t used much. Every time an older song was played, or anything the crowd loved, they stood. 

Alt-J, The Ripe & Ruin / Tessellate, Place Des Arts, Montreal, 03 July 2019 - YouTube

A good amount of the songs played were from “An Awesome Wave” and “This Is All Yours”. They played for the crowd the songs that drew us to love them and kept us around with their newest weirdly fascinating album “Relaxer”. 

Alt J comes from Greek letter “delta” which is a mathematical symbol for change. It’s called alt-J because the mac shortcut “alt + J” will show you a triangle. 

I kind of liked how alt-J felt like a change from the classic genres of music, each album felt different and experimental but still had the alt-J sound.

If you look on their website, for their new album alt-J had a game made based off of “LSD: Dream Emulator”. It’s a colorful, pixelated, open-world like a game where you can walk around and interact with different characters, I’d tell you what happens but you can see for yourself. http://www.altjband.com/#game

One of my favorite things from the show was the light show. The guy doing the lights must have had a blast. Larger budget shows mean larger budget props, and for alt-J, the more lights the better! Lazers, flashing lights, and vertical light poles between each member of the band fluttered along with each song. Each light show perfectly reflected how listening to that song felt. 

As many sang along and felt almost hypnotized by the flashing lights, you couldn’t help but feel wrapped up in the moment. 

The consensus by the second half of the show was that everyone was standing. 

The wild applause after songs indicated that everyone was having a good time in the Wilfrid Pelletier theatre that night. 

As an encore, they played “Left Hand Free” “In Cold Blood” and “Breezeblocks.” Afterwards, the theatre rumbled with applause, as everyone was so happy to make it out to see them that night. 

Alt-J, Breezeblocks, Place Des Arts, Montreal, 03 July 2018 - YouTube

Review: Breanna Wark
Photo – Simon Williams

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Two nights ago, on July 1st, the great jazz guitarist George Benson brought his soul and hits to Place des Arts during the 40th anniversary of the Montreal Jazz Festival. Last time he played in the city, from what I was able to see online, was almost 10 years ago during the Festival in 2010, when he revisited Nat King Cole’s and his own music along with a 30 piece orchestra.

It’s well known in this blog that I have had my share of surprises and deceptions with several of the “classic” stars of the past 50 years and given that history with such shows, my expectations for the night were not set too high just in case another disappointment was to happen.

The venue seemed to be completely sold out, with a varied crowd but mostly made up of boomer couples waiting to hear the hits of their youth and (unfortunately) have to dance while sitting down.

The setlist surprised me the most, because even though the pressure and expectations were there for Benson to just play hit after hit, which in itself must be a hard and exhausting experience for any musician that has been playing the same songs for over five decades, George Benson played song from his latest album, celebrating the rock n roll originals Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.

The experience as a whole swung between a beautiful rendition of jazz-pop and a Las Vegas show, and at times it felt grandiose and prefabricated at the same time. That in itself had the desired effect of entertainment and joy on the public but for me, it made it somewhat difficult to fully appreciate the guitar idol.

Now as for the voice and guitar? Well, he didn’t play as much as I thought he would, and most of the famous licks that I heard on the albums were played by his backup guitar player. When he played he did it flawlessly and with the same passion, you hear over the radio. But when he sang he did it in his aged voice and performed on a more baritone range than what I was used to, and when he did try to reach the higher pitched notes he did so in more of a falsetto voice and pulling away the microphone from his mouth, something that could be expected but added to the dissonance of memory vs show.

All in all, I am happy I attended the concert and got to witness such inspiring and romantic guitar playing, and I am very glad he keeps making fresh music that still has the power to move our souls. May he add more Grammys to his impressive collection of ten and more young fans to his millions of followers.

Review – Ricardo D. Flores

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Review of the Montreal International Jazz Festival performance by Bahamas & Emilie Kahn.

When it comes to harps…unless I’m getting a massage or I’m drinking one…I don’t really care for them.  Emilie Kahn would prove me wrong and blow me away as the opening act for Bahamas.

I asked for Bahamas because Ryan of Guster spoke so highly of him during our interview.  

Emilie KahnEmilie Kahn

When Emilie asked to play the harp at school, she was given a recorder and told it would be too hard and she could never learn.  She went out, purchased her own harp and found someone to give her lessons.  She proved them wrong!

When Emilie’s parents told me this story, you could see the pride in their eyes.  Since this was intermission after her performance, I could see why they were so proud.

I went from disappointment, when I saw a harp on stage, to awe, when she took control of the instrument she calls “Ogden.”  

The stage was very dark, with soft lights.  Emilie’s profile just barely visible.  It matches her personality well.  She is reserved, in person, but when she talks about her music, you can see the glow of confidence come from within.

The fact that she changed her band from Emilie and Ogden to Emilie Kahn tells me that she is no longer hiding behind the harp but using the harp to highlight her voice.

A song like “Swimmer” starts with the whimsical harp sound, but it’s Emilie’s voice that quickly fills the auditorium.  It’s soft, but strong, weaving around the harp sounds.

Emilie will use samplers and change tuning on the fly for some songs.  One missed tuning and a song could be ruined.  

Emilie played songs like “Ten Thousand” off her first album 10 000 along with many songs from the latest release Outro, which I purchased on vinyl.  

The band left her solo for songs like “What Happened” and “Aquarium.”   Alone on the stage, she shined…all the while being in the dark.  

The band returned for one of my favorites “Three” which really had a great energy.

“Horse” was another great indie sounding song that was played at the end.

I have to say…Emilie may have changed my mind about the harp, but it’s more about the way she never lets the instrument overpower her voice.

BahamasBahamas

Alfie Jurvanen (Bahamas) took the stage and the crowd’s hearts all at once.  

Bahamas has a great singing voice, catchy songs and a clean guitar sound with no hint of a fuzz pedal.  To be honest, although I could recognize the talent and charisma…I simply wasn’t into it.  But I was probably the only one in the whole theatre to sport that opinion.  Don’t get me wrong…it was a stellar performance and I really enjoyed his in between banter…it was charming.  But this isn’t about me…it’s about the fans that were there and how they enjoyed it.

The fans certainly cheered for “No Wrong” which was a crowd favorite.

For “Can’t Take You With Me”, the talented Christine Bougie brought out the lap steel, giving us that Country vibe.

Alfie reminisced about the last time he played in the big brother venue Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, with Robert Plant for the 2011 Montreal International Jazz Festival.  He enjoys playing these types of rooms as he can pull out the deep cuts, such as the one “about my dad and other things” titled “Bad Boys Need Love Too.”

Alfie is not afraid to bring some high caliber musicians to the table.  During one long jam, you could really hear the talent of the band.  Felicity Williams elicited cheers because of the insane notes she would hit on certain occasions. 

Alfie announced that they would play one more song “Lost In The Light”, then they were contractually obligated to walk off the stage, to where the mops and brooms were…wait 15 seconds…then come back out to outrageous cheering.  Hilarious.

Some couples could be seen dancing in the aisles, lost in the music.  As the song ended…he said: “See you in 10 seconds!” and walked off into the broom filled backstage. 

The crowd gave them a standing ovation. 

When he returned, he told the story of seeing Prince play at MTelus.  Alfie wasn’t sure how much he would be able to see of Prince’s performance, being he arrived about an hour after Prince started.  But alas, Prince played 31 songs, which consisted of 7 encores!  He didn’t stay till the end, being drained from his own performance earlier.  He was however impressed by the stamina and energy of Prince.  He also related how the first encore was about 45 minutes of waiting while people in the audience went nuts.  He didn’t expect the same patience from this audience, but then again…only Prince can command cheering for 45 minutes between sets.  

Bahamas started the encore with “Way With Words.”

He then played a random cord that made him smile.  He explained that this chord which he calls “Misty Morning.”  This intro led to “All The Time.”

He next channeled Freddie Mercury with his half-length mic stand to end with “Any Place.”

I think the last three songs well describes Bahamas. He has a way with words, all the time, in any place.

This venue allowed him to bring out the deeper cuts and take advantage of the acoustics of the room.  The second standing ovation showed that Bahamas delivered a performance worthy of the Jazz Festival stage.  

Review: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube.

Photos: Eric Brisson

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With the Montreal Jazz Festival website describing them as “reminiscent of Television and Talking Heads,” there was no way I was missing tonight’s opener, Montreal’s Pottery.  It’s almost poetic that Television’s See No Evil is playing over the PA as I enter MTelus tonight!  The huge swarm of photographers that gather at the front for their arrival on stage for their biggest show to date suggests that I’m not the only one excited to see what they are all about. 

Pottery

All 5 assemble up along the front of the stage and launch straight into their 40-minute hurricane of a set based primarily on their newest EP No. 1, loaded with deep rumbling bass lines, angular riffs from guitars propped up almost under the armpit, and stop-start beats that frequently speed up and slow down.  The comparisons to Television and Talking Heads are accurate for sure, with smatterings of The Coral or The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster thrown in for good measure.  An incredible introduction to the band for the previously uninitiated like myself; expect to hear a lot more from Pottery over the coming months. 

Courtney Barnett in Montreal

The bar is set good and high for the return of Courtney Barnett.  Entering the stage in the dark, the only light on stage radiates from the backdrop, and she is a silhouette for the slow-burning Hopefulessness, mysteriously patrolling the stage in the dark before final lighting up in bright yellow light for City Looks Pretty, triumphantly busting out a solo at the front to the raucous cheers of the packed floor.  The slow rumble of the classic Avant Gardener leads into the pummeling drums to get the place fully jumping for the first time tonight.  The intro of Small Talk is extended to allow the rest of her long-time backing band to be introduced (namely, Bones Sloane on bass, and Dave Mudie on drums), and whilst the three look fairly small on the giant MTelus stage with their minimal stage setup, they certainly don’t sound small!

A rocking Need A Little Time then leads into the brilliant Nameless, Faceless, with its jaunty verses contrasting markedly with the heavy chorus, and the crowd bounces enthusiastically once more.  Things get even heavier on Small Poppies, culminating in Courtney laying her guitar onto the floor at the front of the stage and thrashing at it, as if administering some kind or violent CPR to it.  For sure, such ferocity in sound is not evident on the records, and shows why her live show really adds an extra dimension to her discography.

Depreston affords everyone the opportunity to catch their breath, consisting of just Courtney and her guitar, and is swiftly greeted with a huge singalong from the very first line.  During the breakdown part of the song, she backs away from the mic completely to let the crowd take over vocal duties, and 2000 voices softly, yet loudly, fill the room with the mantra “If you’ve got a spare half a million / You could knock it down and start rebuilding!”  Right after the song, Courtney is impressed: “that was very beautiful singing from you!!!”

It seems incredible that Courtney only has 2 full-length albums to date and its testament to how good a songwriter she is that the show feels like a Greatest Hits set already.  Elevator Operator still sounds amazing, with its churning beat and bass, as does Charity, which again, comes across much heavier than on record.  The already-heavy Pedestrian At Best is therefore absolutely incendiary in the live setting, and the pit throbs and bounces yet again to close out the main set.

After a brief pause, Courtney returns and explains “I’m having such a nice time, I don’t want this night to end!”  After paying tribute to friend and collaborator Kurt Vile (“I miss him when he’s not around!”) with Let It Go, the band returns for new song Sunday Roast.  Courtney then notices a guy at the front with a hand-written sign with the word “Odetta” scrawled on it, and accepts the challenge: “OK, nobody ever requests that song!”  Ode To Odetta follows, from her debut 2012 EP, I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris, and it sounds absolutely magical.  Courtney strains to reach some of the notes, but it only endears her to the crowd even more, who roar in approval after the last bars ring out.  History Eraser then closes out the show in blazing fashion after an hour and 40 minutes.  A wonderful show from start to finish, and unquestionably a highlight of this year’s Jazz Fest.

Setlist

  • 1.     Hopefulessness
  • 2.     City Looks Pretty
  • 3.     Avant Gardener
  • 4.     Small Talk
  • 5.     Need a Little Time
  • 6.     Nameless, Faceless
  • 7.     I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch
  • 8.     Small Poppies
  • 9.     Depreston
  • 10.  Are You Looking After Yourself?
  • 11.  An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)
  • 12.  Everybody Here Hates You
  • 13.  Elevator Operator
  • 14.  Lance Jr
  • 15.  Charity
  • 16.  Pedestrian at Best

Encore

  • 17.  Let It Go
  • 18.  Sunday Roast
  • 19.  Ode to Odetta
  • 20.  History Eraser

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Eric Brisson

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It was the summer of ’19, I made my way to the Mecca of hockey, the Bell Centre to enjoy a musical performance by none other than Canadian ICON Bryan Adams. He returned to Montreal having already presented one show of the Shine The Light Tour back in January 2019, but this time the show was presented by Montreal International Jazz Festival as an official event of the festival.

The sold-out crowd waited in anticipation for Bryan to hit the stage. While waiting they were presented with a large video screen with the cover of the Shine The Light album with a few fun visuals. Finally, after 8-10 minutes he walked on stage and performed “Ultimate Love” one of his newer songs off the Ultimate compilation album released in 2017.  Fans got into it right away and they would not be disappointed as the show’s setlist featured most songs from that compilation.

Bryan warned us that we are in for a long night and he had 14 albums to choose songs from. Man, they don’t make them like this anymore, most shows are limited to an hour to an hour and a half but not for this guy? He gave us a good 2 hours of material. Playing all the hits from “Summer of ’69” to “Cuts Like a Knife” to “Run to You” and “Straight from the Heart.” 

Simply put the show was amazing, at 59 he’s still rocking with no signs of quitting!  Not one person left that venue without a smile on their face!  One of my favorite moments was when he started playing “Heaven” and let the crowd sing the song, it was magical.  Another moment that had me gushing was when he sang “Everything I do (I do it for you)”, one of my favorite songs by him, just beautiful.  He also practices his French quite a bit even doing a French rendition of  “Here I am / Me Voila” which was fantastic and delighted the crowd.

Finally, one thing that impressed me a lot was the talent he surrounds himself with. The band was spot on, led by guitarist Keith Scott who was Pete Townshend-esque.  He was fantastic and complimented Bryan every step of the way.  Such a joy to watch them feed off each other.

This was a show for the fans. It was hit after hit, a really diverse setlist even giving the chance to fans to request songs around the end of his set.  Multiple sing-alongs, crowd standing ovations… Montreal loved him. One heck of a night!

Review & photos – Eric Brisson

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It’s hard to believe its 15 years since Madeleine Peyroux’s breakthrough Careless Love record was released.  Various records have arrived since, though never to similar acclaim.  Still, that doesn’t stop her from packing out the plush Theatre Maisonneuve tonight!

It’s the standout track Don’t Wait Too Long from that Careless Love record that kicks off proceedings to great applause, with Madeleine extending the breakdown to introduce her band right off the bat while she strums along on her brand new guitar which still sports the price tag (since, apparently, “Delta Airlines broke my other guitar”).  The guitar is traded for a mandolin on Our Lady Of Pigalle, and the rotation continues throughout much of the set.

La Javanaise is then introduced in unique fashion: “this song was from a movie, in a love scene between a woman and a fish!”  (FYI, The Shape Of Water is the movie in question).  Sung entirely in French and culminating in an accordion solo, it’s easy to tell that she spent a good chunk of her life in Paris.  On My Own has a similar vibe.

Down On Me is a much more rocky proposition, complete with full-on wah wah distortion and guitar solos galore, and she sounds a little more like Zooey Deschanel in these moments.  Whiskey then takes us down a much more Bluesy path.

Madeleine soon gets the stage all to herself, and with just her acoustic guitar, she sounds totally Billie Holiday as she delicately runs through Medley and Don’t Cry Baby.  The crowd gets involved clicking their fingers to provide a backing beat and continue their participation at Madeleine’s beckoning once the band returns for the jazz-infused Honey Party, the crowd this time providing the backing vocals to the chorus.  Her popular cover of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love gets the biggest cheer of the night so far before Careless Love rounds out the main set, extended to allow each member of the band to lay down a solo in the outro.  First the Wurlitzer, then the guitar, then bass, and finally drums.  Yes, a drum solo at a Madeleine Peyroux show!  I didn’t see that coming either.

After they leave the stage, an incredible number of people leave the room, evidently unaware of the concept of an encore.  Sure enough, Madeleine and band return and she declares “merci, we love you!”  (Getting Some) Fun Out of Life turns Theatre Maisonneuve into a smoky Blues club one more time before all leave the stage for good after around 85 minutes.  A wonderful return for Madeleine Peyroux and my 2019 Jazz Fest experience is off to a great start!

Setlist

  • 1.       Don’t Wait Too Long
  • 2.       Our Lady of Pigalle
  • 3.       La javanaise (Serge Gainsbourg cover)
  • 4.       On My Own
  • 5.       Down on Me
  • 6.       Whiskey
  • 7.       All My Heroes
  • 8.       Anthem (Leonard Cohen cover)
  • 9.       Medley
  • 10.   Don’t Cry Baby (Bessie Smith cover)
  • 11.   Last Night When We Were Young
  • 12.   Honey Party
  • 13.   Dance Me to the End of Love (Leonard Cohen cover)
  • 14.   Careless Love

Encore

  • 15.   (Getting Some) Fun Out of Life

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Eric Brisson

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AppleMark

On paper, it sounded so good.  Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, RRP to his friends (possibly…), playing a late night set in addition to his regular sets, so I can catch 2 shows in one night!  After a marvellous Madeleine Peyroux show at Theatre Maisonneuve, I head over to S.A.T. and collect my ticket at the door. 

“Ambient Improvisations in a stunning 360” reads the ticket.  I like the sound of the “stunning 360 part,” but alarm bells start ringing at “ambient improvisations.”  Guess I didn’t read the memo properly – this isn’t a regular set.

Still, I decide to give it a shot.  I head up to the “Satosphere,” on the third floor of S.A.T., and enter what can only be described as a Planetarium, a huge dome with a projection of melting ice dripping onto the floor.  Reclined cushion chairs adorn the floor, allowing attendees to stare up at projections.  This could actually be pretty cool!

7 musicians enter the stage area at one side of the dome, including the main man RRP himself, who seats himself at the cello, and the band starts playing.  Vocals are provided from all parts of the stage, though are largely unintelligible.  And the band plays.  The projections seem focused on water and ice, to begin with.

Being improv, there’s no way of knowing when one song ends, and another begins, but it’s a fairly constant drone.  Anyway, I can only really track the show by the time. 

At about 25 minutes, the projections are still hydrophilic (water-loving, for any non-Chemists here), and a few people have dozed off.  I mean, it’s dark, the music is “ambient” and “improvised”, so you can’t really blame them.  One guy to the right of me was out for the count about 10 minutes in, poor guy.  Still, when you gotta sleep, you gotta sleep.

At 40 minutes, the intensity picks up (not enough to wake the guy next to me, mind…), with drums starting to take over and feedback beginning to kick in, before slowing to a cello noodle.  A few more people have fallen asleep.

At 50 minutes, 1 girl takes it upon herself to add some interpretive dance at the front, right in front of the band.  Arms wave, knees bend, she goes from left to right of the stage…but not too many people flinch.  She soon sits back down; no allies for her I guess.  Always a bit awkward when you are the only one on the dancefloor…we’ve all been there.  The projections are still watery.  The guy beside me is still asleep.

At 80 minutes, I wake up, realizing I fell asleep too!  At this point, it’s 12:30 am.  The music still sounds the same though; doesn’t seem like I missed much.  The projections have finally moved on to something different – now we have trees and leaves!  Speaking of leaves, the couple to my left calls it a night and head out, and I’m starting to lean in that direction too. 

At 90 minutes, there’s no sign of the show ending anytime soon, so I decide to call it a night too, careful not to wake the guy to my right who is still out.  I ask the guy at the door how long the show will be going on for, and he informs me that it could go until 2am.  That seals the deal for me, and I’m out. 

It was a great setting and a great concept for a show, but alas, it’s the “ambient improv” that I just don’t connect or engage with.  Oh well, lessons learned.  I’ll be sure to read the Memo next time.

Review – Simon Williams

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My primary worry is that The Strumbellas are a poor man’s Lumineers (who are themselves the stripped-down Mumford & Sons). It’s not that I don’t like their music. It’s just that I worry, after having listened to their new album ahead of the show, that I won’t be able to identify them or their songs in a lineup. 

I also worry that as a JazzFest show, it won’t be full of true fans, but people (like me) who know one song and just love hitting up live shows. It’s also a not-very-jazz show to be featured as part of JazzFest. To my ear, it’s folk rock with deep country roots, though I’ve seen is described as “farm emo” and “gothic”

It’s sort of ironic to say that lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter Simon Ward was inspired to write their most famous song, “Spirits,” the one that comes up every time you click their name on Spotify. In an interview with The Star, he explains, “I was going through an exceptionally hard time and this song and most of the record was just about, ‘I’m not happy’ … I felt like a loser. A lot of doubt, a lot of lack of self-worth. ‘Spirits’ and most of the record is just about, ‘I feel down, I don’t feel like a good person, I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job, but I’m going to try.’”

And yet, the latest album, Salvation, is terribly uplifting when you hear it live. In spite of it’s opening statement: “Well I know it gets harder every single day/And I know my darkness will never go away,” “We Don’t Know” is energizing. Isabel Ritchie tears into her violin with verve. And following that song, keyboardist and vocalist Dave Ritter, wearing a namesake hat and shirt with a banana motif, engages the audience. He’s upbeat, and it’s a nice big crowd, and he reminds us not why we’re gathered here tonight, but that we are, when he says, “we usually listen to music alone, on our headphones, in a dark closet… but not tonight!” It’s also a nod to the type of music it is. It’s not depressing, but it is about depression. Similarly, when, ahead of playing “Salvation,” Dave introduces it as “a really slow song about dying,” someone yells “all your songs are about dying” and he admits it’s true.

When Ward eventually engages the crowd, around song five, he speaks terrible French and it really gets the crowd going, as we all appreciate a good attempt and a ridiculous accent. He takes the opportunity to thank the crowd and remind us that they weren’t so well received in Montreal a few years ago, a nod to, or perhaps a headshake at the success of “Spirits.” I’m understanding why Dave spoke first. And I feel for the singer, who wears his sunglasses throughout the show. I wonder if there’s tension, or something going on behind the scenes. Statistically, it seems probable that some of the bands I see are not as happy-go-lucky behind the scenes as they appear to me onstage. 

I’m playing armchair psychologist, a job better left to Dax Shepard

There were songs about a sheriff or a sailor or a soldier. There was “The Party,” a song for a sad stoner, but “One Hand Up” was the cure – though uncannily reminiscent of K’NAAN’s “Waving Flag.” They broke out the tambourines for  “In This Life,” an Irish jig. My back and knees started to ache during “We Were Young,” (insert obvious joke here) and I had to find a seat, which was easier than it had been when I first tried before The Strumbellas took the stage and literally brought people to their feet (and those feet to the dance floor). Their last few songs were for the fans – they sang along to the anthemic “I’ll Wait,” stomped and clapped all the way up through the balcony to the back row during “Wild Sun” before ending with, yup, you guessed it: “Spirits.”

For the encore, Ward finally removed his sunglasses and hat and did a cover of Blind Melon’s “Soup” with just lead guitarist Jon Hembrey, which feels like a bizarre choice. The rest of the band returns for “Shovels & Dirt.” It’s a bit of a letdown, and I feel like maybe they should have just left on a high note. I’m picking up on the emo/goth influence, especially when they leave you with the reminder that “if we all die young then we don’t get hurt.”

These were songs for rainy days and for road trips. They were songs to sing around a campfire and to make you feel less alone in a crowd. There were some Lumineer-ish sounds, and subjects, but I’d argue that there’s room for The Strumbellas, too. 

SETLIST
1. We Don’t Know
2. Young & Wild
3. In This Life
4. Salvation
5. The Party
7. Running Scared
8. Sailor’s Blues
9. One Hand Up
10. Wars
11. We Were Young
12. The Sheriff
13. I’ll Wait
14. Wild Sun
15. Spirits 

ENCORE
16. Soup (Blind Melon cover)
17. Shovels & Dirt

Review – Carrie-Ann Kloda
Photos – Eric Brisson


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Montreal Rocks by Randal Wark - 2w ago
Review of Thus Owls @ M2 on July 3rd, 2018 for the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal
Erika & Simon Angell – Thus Owls

I’ve only attended a performance at M2 twice…and I got goosebumps both times.  M2 feels like a true Speak Easy, hidden within the larger MTelus, this intimate space brings you back to a time where music was meant to be heard live.    

My initiation to M2 was La Force, where I had goosebumps, which hasn’t happed at a concert in a long time!

Tonight, it would happen multiple times, especially when Erika Angell hit the high notes, while the band crescendoed into a sonic explosion.

This Owls is normally a trio consisting of husband and wife team Simon & Erika Angell along with drummer Samuel Joly.  Tonight, they were sandwiched between two guests on stand up basses.  

In the left corner was Morgan Moore, who recruited Simon into his own band when they were both just young lads.  There was a small tension between the two that had love as its foundation, which made for hilarious banter.  

In the right corner was Marika Galea who played with the band for the first time live.  She seemed like a lifelong member of the band, adding her layer to the songs, but also crushing it at some solo spots.      

When Erika sang, I had a hard time placing her voice vis-à-vis my mental library of singers.  There was a pinch of Chrissie Hynde, a splash of Joni Mitchell and then it hit me…the occasional Siouxsie Sioux.  

Just that description along give you a good idea of what this band sounds like…like nothing you have heard before!  It had moments of Dead Can Dance, to some mellow Tea Party, to poetic readings, to sonic blasts of noise.

Yes, they can be experimental at times, but unlike some artists who seem to lose the crowd when they go into an indulgent experimental tangent, Thus Owls seem to hold a string tying these tangents into the narrative of the songs.  We, as the listeners, are not left behind, but embark on the journey with them.

At one point, a song started as a sprinkle, minimal in its construction.  Layer upon sound layer, they build on the song’s foundation.  The buildup is so natural, you don’t realize the intensity taking you to a higher level, till it hits you:  The sprinkle has turned into a fire hose!   

To respect the space and the vibe, I decided to not take notes on my phone, which would distract.  I did quickly scribble one or two quick notes, I admit, but I opted to be present instead and experience the performance without thinking of the review.

All but one song was taken from their latest release The Mountain That We Live Upon.  

“Take Me Over” was one of the songs that spiraled upwards in intensity.  The following, “Ashore” was one of the goosebumps songs.

The next choice was “Solar Eclipse”, which would be my choice for an elevator pitch song.  This is the song you should hear if you don’t know them yet.

Thus Owls - Solar Eclipse | Sofar Montréal - YouTube

“A Shade of Green” would reveal their soft side while “Vessel”, which followed, was draped in Dead Can Dance vibe.  

Song after song, they took us to a different place, a different vibe, while retaining some sort of narrative throughout.  

Other songs like “Devils in the Dark” has these jazz-like solos that let everyone shine with their distinct talent.   

“Museum” was the one song taken from the Harbours (2012).  This is the song that let Samuel go wild on the drum, a smile on his face the whole time. It was also the chopsticks song, where they used sticks to elicit cool sounds from their respective instruments.

They ended the night with “Future/Past”, a song inspired by dreams a mother has while carrying a child.  The body is trying to make sense of having a body growing inside itself, so it tries projects these dreams to let your brain catch up to your body. 

That is the feeling I had I had tonight.  Before me was this living performance.  Some songs started as embryos and quickly matured to something completely different in form from it’s origins.  

What passed through my eyes, ears and brain was hard to describe, yet felt so natural.  In the end, I felt that the performance I saw would never be repeated.  I’ve only seen Thus Owls once, but I feel like every performance is a new child.

One thing is for sure, I want to be in the audience for the next song birth experience.  The beauty of creating, minus the pain of childbirth.  I’m in.  

Thus Owls

Review: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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