November 2017 Musical Musings

This Month in Music: November Twentyseventeen

November 2
Patrick Watson with the Edmonton Symphony at the Winspear Centre.
I honestly don’t know how to put this experience into words that are restricted to human vocabulary or even worse, restricted to written words where you can’t even read my expressions. This was a one-off show that was like no other show that I have ever seen or heard. I had listened to Patrick Watson’s music and I attend the Edmonton Symphony frequently so I was familiar with the sound of both of them but this show was not like either, it was unique. Yes! There is a word to describe it, unique. The emotional outpouring from the lyrics that floated with the music to the very heights of the Winspear and then floated back down dance in our ears. Delightful, another good word for this show. And one note: it all ended too quickly. I was enthralled by the immensity of the sound and transfixed by the nuances. From the swell of the double bass to the tinkling of the triangle, it was a truly amazing experience. Patrick Watson also writes music that speaks to our hearts, to our humanness. He writes songs about his mother that touch gentle places in our souls. William Eddins conducts masterfully as always and the orchestra came to play and play they did. I would be greatly amiss if I didn’t mention Patrick Watson’s backing musicians. They are talented and seamlessly blended in with the orchestra and often accompanied Patrick on quieter passages. Amazing, unique, delightful.

November 29
Sudden Love, Lutra Lutra and Poor Little Tin Man
A triple-header at the Brixx, a new venue for me although I have been upstairs at the same address many times for shows at the Starlight. Tonight featured all local talent and showcased some really good musicians at the album release party for Sudden Loves new album Life and Death.

The opener was Poor Little Tinman, a straight-ahead metal trio that actually probably had less volume than the house music before they started playing. I think it says something when a full-on metal band is quieter.
The Tinman in the Wizard of Oz went on a journey with a couple of other characters to find a brain for himself. These Tinmen are apparently on a journey of discovery as well, not to find their brains, but perhaps for the elusive lost chord or a secret rhythm that seemed to elude them through much of their set. The bass player was the one bright spot as he seemed more than capable of keeping time and playing around on the fretboard with some tasty chops. He was adept at stage banter as well, a rather personable young man. The drummer is another story, he was a bit sloppy at keeping a groove going and fitted the stereotype of more than one drummer joke. The lead guitar player/lead singer was on a journey too, but I am not sure it was the same one the other two members of the Poor Little Tinmen were on. He often seemed to be on another road altogether, although there were a few moments where he soloed and sounded half decent. I think he needs to focus more on being on the same road as the band. They were an energetic opener and I hope they keep searching for whatever it is that will make them a better band because the seed is there, it just needs more nurturing.

Lutra Lutra were the second band of the evening and by this time the crowd had swelled to nearly filling this rather small venue. As I listened to Lutra Lutra I kept trying to pin a label on them. I kept trying to associate their sound with other acts or musicians. And the more I listened to them, the more names I kept adding to that list. They had elements of Savoy Brown with a blues-rock tinge. They had echoes of Uriah Heep in some of the straight-ahead rock numbers that they played. There were shades of Deep Purple with growling guitars. The vocals of Kate Bush dropped in occasionally; and the list kept going on and on. Now don’t read this wrong please, they are not a cover band and they do not emulate or copy other bands. They are just so damn good that they sound like many other really good bands, and that is not a bad thing. They are strong players and work well together supporting each other, melodic, in control of the set and well paced. A bit of a glitch on the soundboard as the keyboard vocals cut in and out and uneven volume on her microphone but still excellent sound mixing overall. A really good show without being showy. I would go see them again. Bonus fact, they engaged with the audience after their set and are really nice people.

The Lutra Lutra set ended and suddenly half the room emptied out, no doubt a good part of them heading for the bathroom or the parking lot for a little something extra, and suddenly Sudden Love was on stage. An 8 string guitar, electric bass and soft drums set a slow melodic start that built into grooves, and, as the crowd trickled back in the ambiance grew into something new and interesting. The leader of the band and the lead vocalist is a technical guitar player that made my fingers hurt just to watch, but a pleasure to hear. I can’t compare them to any other band, they sound like Sudden Love and that is ok with me. And suddenly Sudden Love did a cover of the Jimi Hendrix standard Are You Experienced and I suddenly knew that they were indeed experienced. It takes talent and experience to pull off a cover of a classic song such as this but Sudden Love did it. I had to leave before their set ended but I liked what I heard and I think the whole band was solid. I will spin their CD later today. Done, still solid.

I think this photo captures some of the energy of Sudden Love:IMG_6064

November 30
Yukon Blonde and Rural Alberta Advantage at Union Hall
This was a last minute decision. We weren’t going to bother with this show because we had seen both of these bands many times, four times this year for RAA alone, but we are such huge fans that we just couldn’t miss one more show so we jumped on Stub Hub and I am glad we went.
Yukon Blonde are a really competent quintet that make the most of the various skills that they all bring to the band. Duelling lead guitars, or lead and rhythm or lead and vocals or …
They have a big soundstage and they fill the room with it. At times reminiscent of late 70’s pop rock in the vein of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, they both appreciate a good Rickenbacker.
Pulsating, swirling, dynamic synth is another hallmark of Yukon Blond with up to 3 or 4 synths wailing away at times but it sounded really, really good. I was mesmerized at times by the sheer beauty of the music they created. The sound mix was good with a good volume of the mix for the venue and crowd, as well as some nice lighting effects.

Rural Alberta Advantage, what can I say? We see them every time they come to Edmonton, I lost count but they recognize us now and are one of the nicest, friendliest bands that I have ever met. They are patient and try to greet and meet every last person in the venue and smile for every single photo. Amazing. They sound pretty damn good too. No other band sounds like they do. They are a trio consisting of Paul on percussion, so much energy and love go into his set it is a joy to behold. I love how he uses various non-drumstick articles to pound the skins and cymbals.
Nils on guitar, vocals and synth/keys is amazing. He brings passion to every single song and every single show. Pushing acoustic guitars to places they seldom venture outside of the Rural Alberta Advantage. Intelligent lyrics add to his resume by writing about places and events that we are familiar with such as Death Bridge in Lethbridge, Tornado ’87, and The Frank Slide. Nils is one of the nicest people post-show as well, asking patiently for our names, how can he remember out of the thousands of them he meets every month?

Robin Hatch is the newest member of the trio, replacing Amy Cole on keyboards, synths, foot trigger bass, tambourine, kettle drum, and vocals. How she can play three instruments and sing at the same time is beyond my comprehension. I have to admit that I was cautiously optimistic about someone stepping into Amy’s socks on stage, not an easy resume to fill, but Robin has pulled it off and after hearing her play with Nils and Paul a few times now I can hear her settling in and being a part of the trio and not the newbie any longer.
As always RAA put on an amazing show full of energy and dialing in the audience full on. At the customary pause for an encore, the audience began a sing-along of the last song and the band came back on to resume the song without missing a beat and took that right into another and then another and then an amazing closer. I was exhilarated after that double show. What an amazing month it has been.


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