Sitting on a wooden church pew is not generally regarded as being comfortable. However on a bleak and rainy evening there are fewer places more appealing than being ensconced in a pew in the warm St James’ Hall. Add to this scene the laidback tones of Jon and Roy and you have yourself one fine Friday evening. The Victorian duo is currently touring their recently released album Let It Go. St James’ Hall in Kitsilano was the perfect place to experience them. Superior acoustics are a given in church buildings. The community hall atmosphere and all-ages crowd was unpretentious and inviting.
The night started off with indie-folk band The Archers, then Ryan Guldemond from Mother Mother. One of the most delightful treats of the night came when Hannah Georgas joined Guldemond for a few songs. With church candles flickering behind them, the skinny white-clad Guldemond and heavenly voiced Georgas were like two rogue choir members. Their voices melded perfectly together whether sweetly harmonized or emitting guttural yelps. The Mother Mother song Ghosting was particularly effective in this hushed performance space. Guldemond’s clangy guitar riffs and wry lyrics resonated above in the church rafters and the audience listened with a religious fervour. Alright I promise that all the religious references are out of my system now.
Jon and Roy appeared on stage with a bass player in tow. I have never seen Jon and Roy live before and was expecting a low- energy set. However after only a couple of songs singer and guitarist Jon Middleton urged the crowd to dance and dancing immediately ensued. New song Vibrant Scene particularly got the audience moving. They rocked out pretty hard for a folk band and by the end of the show most of the crowd were on their feet. Of course Jon and Roy are not just a folk band. Reggae, Flamenco and Blues are just some of the influences you can hear in their music. The way they embrace different genres but still sound distinctly West Coast is very appealing. For the entire performance I forgot about the cold and rain outside and let myself be spirited away to a happier place. Freedom seems to be a common theme in their new album. Listening to the reggae beat and harmonica riffs I pictured myself in a pick-up truck cruising along towards an undetermined beach. It might sound dismissive to label Jon and Roy as summertime music but their chilled out folk does make for the perfect summer soundtrack.
The crowd was very appreciative and duly demanded an encore. Jon and Roy did not disappoint and reflected their blues influence with a cracking cover of Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night? The crowd clapped their hands and stamped their feet with the passion of Southern revival meeting. (I guess I had one more religious connection left in me!) The crowd’s enthusiasm suggests that loyal fans would not revolt if Jon and Roy decided to move in a slightly more raucous direction.
Jon and Roy have a timeless quality about them and St James Hall served only to enhance it. It is a unique music venue in Vancouver and I am eager to attend a show here again. The Rogue Folk Club regularly hosts folk concerts here. At its heart folk music is about the common people so what better venue to experience it in than a 99 year old community hall.
Photo by: Jessica O’Brien