Sunday, 3 November 2013

pop krief

Krief  |  POP MTL

              PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

A last minute decision to take on another Pop Montreal show led me in front of O Patro Vys…an hour late. It was raining, I felt dehydrated and so I opened my mouth and felt the rain drops splash on my tongue. It was rejuvenating. I looked to my left and spotted a group of girls watching me. I closed my mouth. Upon entering the venue, they slapped an entry stamp on my wrist that consisted of big blue letters that I could not make sense of at the time. Tonight’s line-up included 6 different bands headlined by Krief who's lead man, Patrick Krief, was also known for being the guitarist for The Dears. It appeared that the show was running late and the first band had just started playing as I took a seat.

They were called “Sunfields” and had a very distinctly generic sound, if I may. Think “jock-rock at the bar” where the band unenthusiastically played heartbroken rock songs. Despite them not being musically interesting for my tastes, they all played their instruments quite adequately and everything was on cue and sounded great. They definitely put in the work; it was just too bad that the songs all sounded like lesser radio-reruns. I took a moment and looked down at my wrist to see what those big blue letters read: “I’M GAY” in capital letters. “Well then,” I thought “let’s see where tonight takes us.” Later that night, whilst vigorously exfoliating my wrist, the words in blue seemed to look back at me defiantly. I burst into laughter thinking “touché.” Sunfields finished playing and the next band made their way on stage to set up.

The soft sound of piano keys began their performance and was accompanied intimately by a woman’s voice. The bass line and drums kicked in and I turned my attention to the stage. Confused, I searched to see from whom the voice I was hearing originated. All I could see was a young man sitting front and center behind a keyboard and microphone: a ginger with the voice of an angel. I listened to him sing. What I could hear sounded like it came from somewhere sincere but at the same time not. Almost as if he was trying hard to mimic sincerity but it just came off like an unsure-of-itself parody. Based on Tyler Kealey's lyrics and the way he presented each song, he seemed like a very nice guy, but again, too nice. The kind of “nice” you feel when you enter a store and a worker immediately approaches to ask if you need help with anything and you politely smile and say “no, thank you!” which is then followed by an immediate interjection “we close in 5 minutes.” After one of his songs, the crowd let out something similar to applause and then went absolutely silent. It started to feel awkward. Kealey responded with “wow, I’ve never performed in front an audience so polite!” He was a nice guy.

I was not. At some point I closed my eyes and all I could picture was early 90’s talk shows. What I was hearing was something like Oprah’s original theme song. I do need to mention, though, that their harmonies were on point. And like Sunfields, the performance was very tight and the sound was very polished. It was just not my preferred cup of warm beverage and at this point, I was starting to question what was. That was until Language Arts took the stage. When you looked at them, all you saw was a group of friends that were ready to share their songs. After traveling for ten-plus hours, they made their way directly to the venue, set up their gear and played. I’m not too sure what it was. Maybe the look on all their faces as the excitement to finally play washed over them, the way the drummer seemed to keep the rhythm with his whole body as he got into every percussive hit, the way the bass player shut his eyes as he got lost in the music, or maybe it was the confidence behind Kristen Cudmore, the founder of the band, classical guitarist and vocalist who could instantly set a tone of magic and wonder, but I couldn’t, wouldn’t, look away. With her horn-rimmed glasses and quirky personality, she made us laugh and she made us listen. For the first time that night, people got out of their seats and stood in front to enjoy the performance. Kristen’s voice had an almost Celtic story-telling tone and the slightly echoed guitar picking melodies created an imaginative ambience. It was incredibly refreshing and uplifting. Thank you, Language Arts. Their new album will be released February 11th 2014 titled “Wonderkind”. If the idea of an enchanted field filled with pegasus-unicorns grazing wisp filled foliage appeals to you, check them out.

It was starting to get late and two more acts were in line before Krief took the stage. My mood took a spin for the better and the next act “Pathological Lovers” took the stage. Frontman Jody Richardson had an energy on stage that made me think of a freak-child between Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger. They were a hyper-zealous rock band that grabbed you by the collar and screamed in your face. Jody’s voice was perfect for the act: loud and clear, passionate and personal. I was enjoying most of it although some of the points of climax didn’t seem to reach the peak that they set out to climb. But all-together, I definitely enjoyed the live performance and would see them again. As they were finishing their set, another group of artists were loading their gear into the venue. These guys looked rather tangled, mentally. And that wasn’t based on their choice of attire which was a mix of futurism as portrayed in the 80s and Amish folk.

These guys were Joseph & The Mercurials. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them as the frontman, Joseph I’m assuming, seemed flustered and cranky. This was a muscly-big guy wearing dark jeggings and a Michael Jackson’s Thriller-esque leather jacket but in white. “Turn up the reverb,” he asked the sound technician “turn it up as much as you can.” I was both amused by the caricature that stood in front of me but also felt slightly uneasy. They brought smoke machines, extra lights, had a DJ set-up and curiously, a guy on the fiddle. Needless to say, I was eager to see what would come of this. A synth-string ambience along with a kick drum and a swaying fiddle begins as the smoke makers activate. The frontman open strums his semi-distorted guitar and his reverb-heavy vocals resonate within the room. He looks upset. A few more verses in and the song feels like it will pick up in pace when no, it fades out. He quietly steps back. “Can I get some water?” he asks. When the bartender finally brings him a bottle of water, he drinks it and immediately throws the bottle to the ground. The crowd is in silence. He begins the next song that virtually sounds exactly the same. The best part of the band was the fiddler, not just because he looked equally as unimpressed with the frontman as the audience did, but because musically he was the most stimulating. By now it was around 1am and I saw Krief make his way inside the venue along with a friend, singer-songwriter Jay Malinowski from Bedouin Soundclash!

From the moment that they took the stage, a different calibre of quality and professionalism was apparent. I completely forgot about Joe & the Merc’s off-putting performance and was completely ready for the headlining act. Jay brought a 3-piece string ensemble dubbed “The Deadcoast” in addition to Krief’s full band. They started with a mix between Krief and Jay’s songs where they would play complimentary to one another. Jay’s songs were more sensible with catchy up-strummed acoustic verses where Krief’s had more grit and reach in terms of alternative rock. The Deadcoast added another dimension to their songs that lifted each one to a grander scale. 

Malinowski and his string trio left after a handful of songs and music veteran Krief took the rest of the night into his hands. His voice could simultaneously grab your attention and let you dream. His hard hitting rock riffs and classic guitarist-solo expressions would build up and culminate in maximum overdrive. His charisma took you along with each song and, despite how it was almost 3am, you were with him for the whole ride. The most heart-warming part of the performance was the fact that his mother was at the front of the crowd smiling as she watched him. I could see her looking at the audience as we were in full admiration of him on stage and then looking back at her son, gleaming. It was a rollercoaster ride from start to finish that night, but Krief elegantly brought it all together. Make sure to check out his album “Hundred Thousand Pieces” where he produced and performed almost every part of it on his own while giving himself to the listener, entirely. What a night.

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