Thursday, July 31, 2008

Woolly Leaves, One Hundred Dollars, and at Divan Orange

These three bands put on an interesting, heartfelt show at the Divan Orange last night. The crowd was so sparse. So sparse that I wondered if the entire audience consisted of me and a room full of performers. However, none of these acts (I missed the big finishers, Quest For Fire who took the stage after midnight) merited such a mediocre turn out. These were solid acts, certainly a good representation of the twangy, alt-country genre of Canada's indie scene. These performers would have been at home at the annual cowboy themed Stampede Breakfast held at the St. Catherine Theatre. Maybe (hopefully) next year.

Kicking things off was Wil Kidman's solo project, the Woolly Leaves. Wil Kidman is the keyboardist in the Constantines, which should draw all kinds of Canadian music fanaticos based on association with a major band alone. Well, having seen him, he should draw all kinds of music fanaticos simply because he's great. Just a man and a guitar. No pyrotechnics. No clowns. No magic tricks or dancing poodles. This particular set-up can suffer from being boring if the music is too similar from song to song, but Kidman managed to cover enough range to hold my rapt attention. He sang, by and large, about broken heartedness and disconnection. Thank God for heartbreak, or all these musicians would be singing about Steven Harper. Anyway, Kidman had good lyrics, a sedate stage presence (he doesn't pander to the audience or explain his songs, which is to his credit!), and a very sweet, shy manner about him. Genre-wise, this was folk-country stuff (emphasis folk over country).

Next up was a far twangier, trippier performance by Deloro, a band featuring Dallas, who is the bassist in the Constantines. Again, where the hell were all these Constantine fans? Anyway, this was borderline jam band music. Not jam music funky, but jam music rootsy. I was thinking... Mississippi All Stars and MOE. This is swamp music. Which is awesome, certainly. But what these artists brought to it was mood. I felt them feeling the music, digging deep into their inner bayous. Hootin' and a-hollerin' is wholly appropriate.

Last, of the three that I saw, was the ensemble country-folk (emphasis country over folk here) One Hundred Dollars ($100). Despite falling in the same genre, this band, headed by Ian Russell and Simone Fornow, complete with a lovely pedal steel, was very different from the two others. The songs were about real folks, real people, a sort of urban downtrodden emphasis to the lyrics. The synergy among the performers was great and sincere. The audience which had assembled over the night from four to a small but mighty crowd was enamored, which always helps feed the energy of the show. Looking like they rolled in Divan Orange having just finished a two week camping trip, this band is proof enough that tight pants have nothing to do with talent and honest performance.

Sadly, I missed the headliners, Quest for Fire, but even more sad, I missed Starving Hungry and Devil Eyes at the Bar St Laurent 2. Well, you can't get to them all... and I have no idea why everyone that interests me plays on the exact same night.

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