Monday, 24 June 2013

bandstand day 2

Heirloom + The Justin Saladino Band + Daniel Isaiah  |  Cabaret Lion d'Or

                                         PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

The Lion d’Or’s fuschia aesthetic and creeping candlelight make for a brilliantly convoluted mise-en-scene for Hot Soupe’s Bandstand. Here we find the young and rock-attired chatting idly with the older, pricier-clad. Pints chink amicably against wine glasses. Eardrums purr with the vibrations of small speech, soon to be beaten beautifully and rattled by rock.

Heirloom is announced, first to a thick swell of applause and then an expectant, electric silence. There’s something about being in the room with a seven-piece string band (which could be confusing to soundcheck, according to lead singer Lisa Malachowski) that almost forces you to verify your surroundings for proof of reality, or maybe slap yourself to rule out dreaming. We have: guitar, double bass, mandolin (whose master also brandishes a clarinet), banjo, violin, cello and (you guessed it) an autoharp! With this bizarre array of instruments and the band members’ hawk like sense of dynamic, Heirloom takes us out of our asphalt-stained minds and into enchanted forests and vast plains with castles towering plethorically in all corners of the horizon. They know when to offer us a few bars of solo play before letting the accompanying instruments softly crescendo into a vast orchestration. Lisa Malachowski’s voice is hauntingly clear, and the words she sings could be printed and published as a fine poem. One bent on categorization would call this simple, traditional folk music, but there is a sense of progression and warranted change of flow within these songs that is seldom found in folk music and deeply appreciated when it is.

The 444’s climb up and their lead guy hisses a big, postmodern Shh into the mic. (It works; the idle chatter ends). The band members each look near their forties, and they perform with the control and dexterity you’d expect from a band who’s been as far ‘round as they have. The musicianship is tight on all ends, the set’s tempo varying from thumping and low to clashing and loud. Every song would suit long bus rides into the south. The music is maybe a little pop-rock for my palate but the passion and sincerity on stage is a joy to witness.

Next we are met with the youthful vigour and virtuosic rockosity of Justin Saladino and his band. These young adults (Justin is eighteen, the drummer and bassist are both nineteen) slam up a ouija board of sounds resurrecting Mr. Hendrix and all the shreddy bluesers that came after him. Saladino plays his solos as though they keep him from dying - the guitar screaming like it was on fire, frets smoking a little. Each solo is explosive, autistically tight and thankfully different from the last. Hans’ thick, throbbing bass keeps Justin’s notes on the ground so they could hitch onto the railroad rhythm and speed of Khayman’s drums (whose kick seems to be going at machine gun speeds without him even using a double pedal). Together the three bring the harder sounds of the 60’s and 70’s back in a sweeping, distorted whirl, and one imagines the skull in Hendrix’ grave smiling coyly in the direction of Montreal and the Justin Saladino Band as they play.

A calm, pensive Daniel Isaiah comes to us now, barefoot. A lone wolf of sorts (evidenced by his lack of company on stage and whimsical, Dylanian sense of mourning in his lyrics), his eyes scan the crowd, seeming to look past the darkness and into our souls for something to anchor on to. He found it in most of us and lost it in others; an annoying percentage of the crowd chats rudely throughout his silence-demanding performance. It’s their loss, and Mr. Isaiah seems not to notice or care, singing like he was the only resident of a star about to go nova. His lyrics are reflective and poetic, his playing sirenically alluring. Whether it’s bringing muted guitar plucks up to thunderous strums, or using his harmonica to soothe us after an especially poignant lyrical break, Isaiah values our presence here and says Thank You by giving us what we came for: entertainment, escape, beauty.

River Jones, their playing style a sort of serendipitous union of the four bands who came before them, closed the night. All I’ll say is they were really quite good! For something a little more in-depth, you can check out Antoine Leclerc’s review of their (and the 444's) performance here (LINK COMING SOON). Aside from that, I found this to be the loveliest of ways one can spend a Wednesday evening. Five bands, booze, candles, tables, chairs, walls, ceilings, floors, consciousness … what more can anyone ask for?

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