by Michael Thomas
Just two days into Wavelength’s pop-up gallery at Huntclub, the idea already looks like it’s going to be a big success. After the riotous opening with Zoo Owl and Petra Glynt on Thursday, Friday night got a little more subdued—but no less compelling.
Opening the night was L CON, the other project featuring the uber-talented Lisa Conway of Del Bel. Her set, as it would turn out, was composed of entirely new songs, but even after admitting she was nervous, Conway and her two bandmates still made quite an impact.
The centrepiece of L CON is Conway’s pronounced vocals and enigmatic songwriting. How that manifests seems to change from song to song. Some go an eerie route, all low guitar notes and “ahhs,” while others place more emphasis on electronics to get the audience moving. The opening song had Conway and Mary Margaret Wood showing off some great group vocals, and the three band members were constantly shifting instruments and places.
Conway’s deadpan stage banter also made her quite endearing—after saying that music is “all about being afraid,” she said “This next song is about the birth of the world. Pretty heavy.”
It was a particularly special night for James Irwin; it was his CD release show and it seemed like a ton of his family and friends were there for it. His music is almost indescribable, embracing electronic sounds and poppy rhythms but with lyrics that could also accompany the wail of pedal steel.
His set, naturally, leaned on his new album UNREAL, which is already an early contender for one of the year’s best albums. Coupled with some hilarious stage banter, it made for quite the excellent show. Songs like “Did You Hear Who Shot Sam?” (which was inspired by Sam Cooke and Otis Redding) showed off the softer, slower side, with just a sprinkling of keys and gentle guitars. Meanwhile songs like “Michigan Miami” showed the band could almost be a rock band if they wanted.
Irwin hit a home run with the final three songs of the set, the first two which involved him moving away from his guitar and moving around with his microphone. The smooth sounds of “Everything Passed Me By” got the whole crowd moving, and “Walls Around Nothing” kept the energy up. He effectively drew his set to a close with the lullaby-ish “Sahra.”
Irwin and L CON were a match made in heaven.