by Elena Gritzan
I have often thought that there must be something in the water over in B.C. I can’t think of any other way to rationalize the large number of bright, talented musicians that have broken out of the province in the past few years. Being able to see two such acts, Victorian folk-inspired Aidan Knight and Vancouver’s exuberant Hey Ocean!, in one night at Lee’s Palace on Friday was a treat.
The night started, however, with charismatic vocal harmonies from Toronto’s Hue. They are a band filled with energy, dancing around enough to inspire everyone else to get moving too. There is so much potential here, and I cannot wait to see where they go next.
It has been almost exactly a year since I last saw Aidan Knight play (last year it was during a free show during Canadian Music Week in the cozy lobby of the Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music – it was definitely a different experience seeing him play to a much larger room and crowd). Knight’s melodic folk-pop songs are complimented by his confidently deep voice. His Friendly Friends band coloured the songs with viola, trumpet, cornet and a lot of percussion.
His signature song is perhaps “Jasper”, the sing-a-long friendly ode to Canadian landscape. But by not playing it last (he closed his set with the crescendo of “Knitting Something Nice for You”) proved that he has a lot more to offer in the form of mature, inspiring and often triumphant songs. He tried to encourage everyone in the room to be perfectly silent and act as a “large ear” for a solo rendition of “Margaret Downe”. Unfortunately a few people at the back of the venue chatted anyway, but that did not diminish the power of Knight’s melancholy song.
Hey Ocean! are a band that have been gaining momentum for a long time now. Their forthcoming album, Is has a May 15 release date, but the band had enough at the show for everyone in the audience to have one for a pay-what-you-can donation (they were also accepting interpretive dances). The album is everything I could have hoped for with the direction they have moved in. Extremely fun, poppy and enthusiastic. This will be the album of the summer for a lot of people; I’ve already spent a lot of time with sunglasses and these songs in this uncharacteristic warm March.
Some bands translate live better than others, and Hey Ocean! definitely falls on the positive end of that spectrum. The combination of Ashleigh Ball’s smoky voice, the varied instrumentation (how many pop bands prominently feature a flute or bongo drums?) and the sheer positivity they exude makes for a compelling live show. They played a lot of new songs, and fans were eating them up just as much as any of the old favourites that came up.
Their recent signing to Universal emphasizes the wide-ranging appeal of a band like Hey Ocean!. The lyrics are fun, the harmonies multi-layered and the songs have a way of running on repeat in your head. Bring on the summer, I cannot wait to spend day after day with their music on loop.