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Om @ Il Motore


Once upon a time, man was blind. He saw not the walls that threatened to enclose him, and Montréalers were not immune to this malaise. And then, with one swift strike that lifted this veil of mediocrity, OM came to town. Now, foolish mortal as you are, you might ask: who is OM? Or what is OM? OM is a centrality. OM is the omniscient voice. OM is the tangential gem of one of the best stoner metal bands ever.

Al Cisneros first came together with fellow Sleep member Chris Hakius to form OM back in 2003. The project quickly established itself, and in 2009 Emil Amos replaced Hakius on drums and Robert Lowe joined on guitar last year. Focusing on spirituality and religious mysteries, the band has grown better with every album; their fifth, Advaitic Songs, was released last July to great critical success.

Montreal’s show was begun by local duo Maica Mia, a part post-rock, part experimental pop band that I had caught a few times before. The combination of Maica’s strong vocals and Johnny’s unique drum beats resulted in an enjoyable set overall. They were followed by Daniel Higgs, a folk banjoist/ancestral preacher from Baltimore. I’d be lying if I say I knew how many songs he performed, since he kept playing each round as long as he could without having to pause for water or tuning. He was relaxed, improvising and possibly composing songs all night long, occasionally nodding at his brother that he introduced a few times to us. In his own way, he was quite enjoyable  — Higgs Boson joke and all.

Lucky that I was, I was standing right next to the speakers when OM took the stage and as soon as Cisneros struck his bass, I was literally pushed back by the resulting wall of sound. Two minutes into the set and the crowd witnessed him playing in a trance-like state with eyes closed, and we could only stand in awe of the great rhythm he and the rest of the band exhibited. Lowe was another noteworthy performer, moving tirelessly with each song and changing instruments regularly. They played mostly from their most recent album, but also included a few older songs alongside a smattering of unreleased material. The whole set flowed so smoothly that at one point, when the two vocalists were in a duet, everyone’s head went from one side of the stage to another until we were all in a “State of No return”.

All in all, it was a brilliant show and the band members were so immersed in what they were playing that I found myself asking Lowe later how challenging it must be to do this each day on tour. All he did was smile and say, “Well, I sometimes ask myself”. With that in memory, I was returned to the land of petty men, with assignments and tests, to await until next week, when another tangential from Sleep, High on Fire, would be in town.

– Bimo Niraula


The Wooden Sky: show review and Q & A

The Wooden Sky show review (February 28, 2012)

By: Amanda C. Stanhaus

There was a lot to celebrate Monday night at Sala Rossa—a goodbye, an impending record release and a birthday.

Charlotte Cornfield began the night. It was her last show in Montreal before she goes on tour for the next few months. She played heavily from her newest release, Two Horses. There is a reason why I have been randomly breaking into song, singing “Loverman…” much to the annoyance to anyone who overhears me.  Her songs are very catchy. She is one to watch in the upcoming months.

Next up was The Great Bloomers.  Their new album will be released in the coming weeks. They gave an excellent preview of what is to come. And it doesn’t hurt that the lead singer is a dreamboat.

The Wooden Sky was definitely who most of the crowd was there to see. They did not disappoint. There was quite the dancing/singing contingent in the front. It was an energetic show, and you could tell the band was having as much fun as the crowd. Along with the standard rock band set-up, they also used a harmonica and a melodica. The front man played the harmonica and guitar at the same time, impressive multitasking Gavin.

While based in Toronto, they have a special place in their heart for Montreal. Wooden sky records their albums here. And the crowd accepted them as one of their own. When it was announced it was a band-member’s birthday, the crowd broke into an impromptu rousing rendition of Happy Birthday for Edwin.

Gavin, the front man, was nice enough to sit down with me before the show (pictured above). In person, he is calm, friendly, and well-spoken. He is that and more once on stage. He has a commanding stage presence, the kind that is based in the fact that he loves his music. I hope Wooden Sky is around for many, many years to come.


Sharon Van Etten at Il Motore

By Caitlin Manicom

In between songs Sharon Van Etten is a total goofball. While she’s playing her music though, her hypnotizing voice and earnest, almost invariably heartbreaking lyrics evoke anything but a giggling artist eager for comic-attention. Van Etten’s lyrics are colloquial; an inward-looking conversation about vulnerability, love, and anger. Her words are also sincere and while they often read like an aching diary entry, they are words that her fans can relate to and sing along with.

Presumably, most of the audience was there to see Van Etten, but the opening act, Shearwater, did an admirable job of getting the audience revved up. The Austin-based band’s delivery was tight and precise, and lead singer Jonathan Meiburg’s vocals are powerfully versatile.

With the exception of an incredibly moving rendition of “Love More”, Van Etten mainly played songs off her ‘brand-spankin’-new album, Tramp. Her new songs – particularly “Give Out”, “Warsaw”, and “I’m Wrong” came across as psychedelic, folksy, very dark and perfectly textured. The back-up vocals added power and richness to Van Etten’s voice.

Unfourtunately, Van Etten’s act didn’t start well: there was too long a wait between Sharon Van Etten and Shearwater, the sound levels weren’t quite right – with angry reverb that left me wondering whether someone else was going to get electrocuted that night (Shearwater’s keyboardist had been electrocuted while singing into his mic during sound check), and the instruments seemed slightly out of sync. About halfway through the show Van Etten and her fellow vocalist conducted multiple attempts at counting in, and she bantered with the audience and her band-mates in between every song. But you know what? No on seemed to care.  Sharon Van Etten is that goddamn charming, and that talented; the full house at Il Motore was enraptured.