Tag Archives: Theatre Fairmount

Concert Review: Hanna Benn, Sinkane & Son Lux @ Theatre Fairmount

Paradoxically, one of the best ways to characterize the music of Son Lux is that it’s difficult to do so. The genre-resistant group was originally the solo project of Ryan Lott until 2015, and his proclivity for out-of-the-box musical exploration has drawn comparison to (and a collaborative project with) Sufjan Stevens. Personally, his unique vocal timbre is reminiscent of James Blake. This affinity for the unusual also apparently extends to Son Lux’s choice of touring partners, as openers Sinkane and Hanna Benn blended their own selection of sounds to give audience members a taste of what was to come. As I entered the Fairmount this past Monday to catch the end of Hanna Benn, the already substantial crowd was a clear indicator of the magnetic power and intrigue of ambiguity.

Benn’s crystalline vocals, which also made an appearance on Son Lux’s 2016 EP Stranger Forms, floated over compositions influenced by her eclectic classical and gospel training. Sinkane, up next, mixed the music of his Sudanese roots with jazz and funk elements for an energizing set that showcased the talents of the group’s members. The guitarist got a few improvisational solos in, and the harmonies of keyboardist/vocalist Elenna Canlas backing up frontman Ahmed Gallab’s soothing tenor transformed to lead vocals for the majority of the band’s final two songs.

Before long, Lott’s faux-hawk appeared under the dim stage lights. He was joined by guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, and the trio introduced themselves with the first few chilling verses of “Forty Screams,” then the opening song from their latest album Brighter Wounds. The project is the second to include Bhatia and Chang as official band members after 2015’s Bones, though the group has been performing together since 2013. Though the most recent album is sonically more accessible than the last, Lott hasn’t lightened his hand lyrically. It’s an intimate reflection on his alternating hope and uncertainty for the future spurred by the recent birth of his son. His trembling falsetto, sounding always as if he might be moments away from tears, lends itself to expressing the raw content of the music. Varyingly passed through filters and paired with his eclectic production, full of instrumental samples and effects with a distorted yet organic feel, it can be hard to be sure he’s emitting the sounds you’re hearing or if they originate from some otherworldly source.

Though Son Lux is Lott’s brainchild, the group’s writing process is reportedly highly collaborative. Accordingly, the musicianship of the of the other members was given ample time to shine, with the band adapting their recordings for the stage to highlight their skill. Bhatia had a few solos and covered string parts by adjusting his tone, and for “Stolen,” Chang broke into an extended drum break to finish off the song. Building off this energy, Lott later showcased his usually restrained voice by belting out the resplendent chorus of “Dream State.” Digging into the keyboard unconventionally angled away from him, it seemed like he was holding on against a musical fervor that would otherwise sweep him away.

As he approached the end of the set, Lott joked with the audience, playing on the traditional faux exit and encore by telling the audience, “the song after this is our last…but not really. Just pretend it is.” The crowd happily obeyed, keeping energy levels high. When the band got to their “last song,” they requested that the people in the venue participate, instructing the crowd and cueing them in to sing a melody adapted from one of the string parts in the song. The tune in question, “All Directions,” was befitting of the impromptu choir, since a similar effect is applied in the final refrain of the recording. The lyrics, “And weren’t we the beautiful ones/I promise we were,” also stir up a collective impression of loss and redemption that was easy to feel part of.

As promised, Son Lux exited the stage before re-entering and delivering a smoldering performance of “Aquatic.” To spark things up again for their (actual) last song, they treated everyone to their most popular tune, “Lost it to Trying,” getting the audience to join in once again – this time without any request needed.

~ review by Dylan Lai

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Concert Review: Perfume Genius + serpentwithteeth @ Theatre Fairmount

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The room was already nearly full when I arrived 15 minutes early, wandering over to the merch booth to look at the t-shirts and gold ‘No Shape’ necklaces. The stage was dimly lit and bristling with palm fronds which looked fake, but must have been real because the tips were starting to brown. I managed to get up close just in time.

serpentwithteeth took the stage and it all began, Josiah Wise’s flawless voice winding and fluttering as string and horn samples unfolded over watery kick drums. The combination was effective and arresting: minimal looped gospel-tinged meditations centered around desire, attraction, and queer intimacy. He seemed to glower, basking in the ominous energy of the music and then slipping easily into quick-witted banter between songs, trading barbs with some rowdy audience members and working his lyrical content into an ongoing conversation. While the slippery sounds and his sometimes menacing presentation seemed at first designed to be off-putting, his gorgeous vocal delivery and fearless vulnerability soon won the room over, and he was gone from the stage much too soon.

After a short wait, a bass-boosted-beyond-all-recognition version of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” gave way to an instrumental rendition of “Choir” from this year’s thrilling No Shape LP, and then Perfume Genius strode into view. About a minute in, set and album opener “Otherside” proved itself to be the ideal kickoff track as the delicate piano arpeggios and Mike Hadreas’s cracked falsetto dropped suddenly into a sparkling chorus of soaring pads and tooth-rattling bass. This dynamic played out easily into the rest of the set as the band pivoted smoothly between hushed, beautiful moments and ponderous, locked grooves. The whole vibe of the performance was cohesive, right down to the sartorial choices: Mike wore a scandalous bare-shouldered classy outfit, and it only served to emphasize the way he slunk across the stage mid-song.

Highlight tracks included the stuttering “Go Ahead,” the trip-hop-drenched “Die 4 You” and the absolutely ecstatic yodel of “Wreath.” While at times the mood reflected all sorts of melancholic and introspective shades, the overarching thread was one of triumph, of security, of winking self-awareness. Mike’s strange and authentic sense of humor was on display throughout, along with the obvious affection between all sharing the stage. Quieting down for the encore, we were treated to a couple solo piano numbers, culminating in the rest of the band returning for a dazzling rendition of “Hood” off his 2012 LP Put Your Back N 2 It. The show closed perfectly with the towering snarl of queer anthem “Queen” and then it was over, and I followed the flushed audience out onto Parc, surrounded by straight dudes proclaiming loudly to all within earshot that “that was actually really sick.”

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Concert Review: The Paper Kites at Théâtre Fairmount

IMG_0469I arrived late to The Paper Kites’ concert this past Wednesday, having endured a four-hour study session for an upcoming final exam. In a panic, I rushed up the stairs of the Fairmount Theatre and stuttered my name to the woman behind the counter, praying that there had been no confusion about the guest list. The next few minutes were a blur: hand stamped, coat and bag checked, and when I finally registered my surroundings, I noticed that no artist was on the stage. It was 10:11 pm. “Late,” I thought, but was glad because it meant that I could see the whole performance, despite missing the opener Old Man Canyon. Within the next few minutes, The Paper Kites had ascended the stage to raucous cheering and clapping from the packed theater.

The venue itself is intimate, located on the corner of Fairmount and Parc in the Mile End. It was the perfect place to reflect the atmosphere and sound of The Paper Kites, especially their newest release twelvefour (see my review of the album here). The band is a five-piece from Melbourne, led by frontman Sam Bentley. They came onto the small stage with quiet professionalism, and launched into “Renegade” without introduction. The crowd swayed amicably, at times imperceptibly, save a handful of fangirls in the fringes of the crowd chatting excitedly in rapid-fire French and grabbing at each other.

The Paper Kites have toured in North America only once before, and are still labeled as an “up-and-coming” band by many. However, they played with a polished air, as seasoned musicians completely at home with their instruments and with each other. David Powys slipped up on a guitar solo but recovered quickly with a smile, and Christina Lacy’s microphone was initially too low to make out her harmonies in a number of songs. Other than these small mishaps the concert went off without a hitch, and it was refreshing to be reminded that often, live music can be complicated.

Bentley spoke after playing two or three songs, speaking in halted and rehearsed French, before switching to English. The audience applauded his attempts and gave encouraging yells before he introduced “Bleed Confusion,” stating that “it’s got a little story to it, which I’ll sing now.” This was clearly not the end of his goal for audience participation; after performing “Bloom,” an older track that had the audience giddy with excitement, he challenged us to remain completely silent for the next song. In many concerts I’ve gone to, this tactic has been used by artists mostly in desperation; Bentley, however, had an expression akin to a mad scientist, admitting that “I’ve never tried this before, let’s see if it’ll work.” It did – this is Canada, after all – and the room fell silent almost immediately, with plenty of shushing reverberating through the venue. Bentley, accompanied only by Lacy, then started “Neon Crimson,” pausing initially to tune his guitar. This song was a beautiful solo, and the silence in the audience only magnified this. All ears and eyes were on Bentley.

He also took the silence as an opportunity to make a long intro to the next song, also a solo. Dedicating the song, “Paint,” to long-distance relationships everywhere, he sang a deeply intimate and emotional song that had the audience rapt. This signaled the end of the solo work, however. The next few tracks were again with the full band, and they really came to life in the last twenty minutes of performing. A fantastic rendition of “Turns Within Me, Turns Without Me” bled straight into “Relevator Eyes,” and the band exploded to life for “I’m Lying To You Cause I’m Lost.”

The Paper Kites finished the hour-long set with the slow-burning final track “Too Late,” hammering home the intimate, late-night feel of twelvefour. Bentley announced that there would be no encore, which was refreshingly honest. Thankfully, no audience members acted out or complained; we were all adults here, coming together for some good music in an intimate, amicable setting. The Paper Kites did not disappoint with their new album, and seeing them perform it live was just as good a musical experience as listening to it in the station. I can only hope that these Aussies come to Montreal again soon; they will most certainly be welcomed back with open arms.

Review by Juliana Van Amsterdam