Local Noise at The Pioneer
WHAT IS ALL THE RACKET | MIKE GERBASI
In my experience, a drive to or from the West Island is just not complete without a significant amount of snow falling whilst you travel. And as if it weren’t enough that the GPS in my smartphone led me to Dorval rather than the Pionneer’s correct location in Pointe-Claire (who knew that civic numbers along the length of Lakeshore drive repeated themselves at least three times each, eh?), now there was snow too, and
therefore traffic. So as we pulled into the parking lot beside the bar, notoriously thirty-five minutes late, I expected to have missed the majority of the first set. To my surprise, it seemed that the internal clocks of the artists present were synced with mine, as no music had yet emanated from the stage. The words, “for once,” briefly passed through my mind as I took my seat to the left of the stage.
Reid Thomas was up first; a one-man act armed with an acoustic 12-string and a level of wit that Rodney Dangerfield would immediately approve of. The use of funny stories and true happenings in his life combined with his solid skill as a country-western/bluegrass guitarist brought life to his set, thoroughly entertaining all present. Thumbs up to Reid for being truly unafraid of whatever content his stories may divulge about him or his experiences, and fully committing to the good-hearted funny spirit of each song. Like my comedy mentor used to say: “If you’re going for laughs, go for all of them.”
Next up, the hosts of Local Noise themselves, Stefanie Parnell and Connor Seidel, took the stage. Connor, producer over at Evermoore Audio manning guitar and Stefanie taking a hold of the mic. I was at first surprised to see the event’s organizers play, but soon thereafter reasoned that if you can’t play a great show, the chances that you can put one on are slim. It seemed that Parnell and Seidel are quite capable of both. The two turned out a smooth blend of creamy rich vocals and warm six-string accompaniment, a definite folk influence about their style of play, with an undeniable link to modern lyrical composition. Their harmony work was quite precise and artistically arranged, and it seemed that a low-key energy, a rumbling passion, rippled across the room throughout the duration of their songs. Their incorporation of surprise guests was also well worked into their set, making great use of hip-hop artist, David Hodges added harmonies, and even a violinist for a selection of songs, all of whom seemed to fit in quite nicely with her individual style. All in all, the duo seemed to take a hold of the audience with well written, love-driven stories, and gentle yet moving musical accompaniment.
Third on the bill, Meg Rose Smith, a talented young lady equipped with a powerful voice, accompanying herself on the acoustic guitar. A talented guitarist, it seemed to me that her true strength, however, was her booming set of vocal chords . Opening with quite the original rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” she demonstrated that taking chances was not something she was particularly worried about onstage. It seemed, in fact, to be quite suitable to her own sound, that of a purebred country/folk singer. Her guitar was the essence of simplicity so as to bring her voice to the absolute forefront and demonstrate her greatest talent, although a personal suggestion would be that Ms. Smith find herself a band; it would provide her various options to mould her works into completely full sounding pieces with a solid foundations every time. Considering, however, the tools at her disposal on this particular evening, a good show indeed put on by Meg Rose Smith!
Concluding the evening’s entertainment was the Justin Saladino Band. I’d like to preface by stating the following: it is said that ending on a strong note is almost always a golden idea. If that holds true, Justin, as well as Stefanie and Connor, are all doing it so right indeed. Here’s the thing about Justin Saladino; he’s a straight up virtuoso, as in a person who, as young as they may be, has achieved an extremely advanced level of expertise in their art. In this particular scenario, Justin has proven that he isn’t just at an advanced level; he is among legends. If the names Healy, Hendrix, Vaughan, or Marino mean anything to you, go right ahead and add Saladino to that list, that should give you an accurate idea of where this 18 year-old ranks in the blues guitar world. If I wasn’t there to experience it myself I wouldn’t have believed anybody having told me it was he who was behind the axe. “Surely,” I would have said, “Stevie Ray has escaped death’s clutches and has been in hiding all these years only to once again emerge in the blues scene.” But no, my eyes were not as interested in lying to my brain as my ears were, and so it was young Justin, not a deceased legend, who melted my goddamn face off that night.
Ripping across the neck and fretting like only a true master could, whilst adding in perfectly fitting blues vocal clichés, Justin was accompanied by Hans Blichert on a running (for walking is simply not enough) bass, keeping the sound heavy and full for the duration of their set. The man behind the skins was Khayman McColgan, an individual who had the fortune of delivering a dynamic drum solo to a very unsuspecting audience, before breaking back into the beat of the unfinished, energetic piece he and the group had started, a move I take to calling, “ballsy.” All in all, the Justin Saladino Band turned my head so suddenly I can still feel the cracking when I look towards the left. As a guitarist myself, who started primarily within blues foundations, I can say, a) Justin has the talent and potential to go as far as he desires, and, b) I only hope that one day my fingers can ever move that fast.