Imaginary Cities, Rah Rah & Federal Lights @The Waldorf – Live Review

Imaginary Cities
Photo by: Angel Ceballos

Thursday night at the Waldorf hotel was the setting for this adventure which featured a trio of up and coming bands from the heart of the prairies. Federal Lights opened the night with a rousing first set, with frontman Jean-Guy Roy, entranced us with his thick, rugged indie-rock voice that soared over epic guitar riffs. Roy enlisted the support of Robert Mitchell (bass, songwriter), David Pankratz (drummer) and his wife Jodi Roy, who plays a mean glockenspiel and whose back-up vocals compliment his own quite nicely, to round out the sound. This band is still young and developing but play with such passion that they are hard to resist.

Rah Rah was up next and this young band from Regina, Sask, blew me away.  Like most I was really interested in seeing the headlining band, Imaginary Cities, and after listening to their tracks I was very curious to hear Federal Lights live. But Rah Rah is a real treat. Their performance quality was so fun and fresh that the crowd can’t help but have a great time.

The band has been playing together for a few years but the line up of musicians has changed occasionally. However, Erin Passmore (whose has crazy skills on vocals, keys, drums and anything musical she touches apparently) and Marshall Burns have been in it from the start. All of the members in Rah Rah are highly talented musicians that play a multitude of instruments (sometimes switching mid-song between members), have unique vocals and entertain the crowd. Such versatility allows them to create this super high energy, don’t let the party stop, extravaganza!

Their songs are well written and catchy, with delightful lyrics that ask “is it fashionable to be single in a big city but not in a small town?” (Yes by the way.) Kristina Hedlund adds wild violin and accordion talent to the mix and newer member Jeff Romanyk’s exuberance was infectious. The end of their set came to soon but not without a flash of confetti! Really I could go on and on about Rah Rah.

Then it was time for Imaginary Cities, a Winnipeg band, who are on tour to promote their new album “Temporary Resident”. The group was started by Rusty Matyas and Marti Sarbit whom met after Matyas, an amazing well rounded musician who plays everything from guitar to keyboards to trumpet, heard Sarbit singing with a Motown group and wanted to record her extraordinary sound.  It was all for fun at the beginning but they quickly discovered they had a fantastic sound that needed to be shared. Lucky for us, because the crisp melodies, captivating tracks and Sarbit’s star-quality make this a must see, must listen to band. Sarbit’s voice has been likened to Amy Winehouse, Emily Haines, the list goes on but really we should stop comparing and let Marti Sarbit’s own fresh, commanding, inimitable vocals carry us through an amazing album. The group has only been together for a few years but are so tightly-knit, I can only imagine the marvels that are still to come.

Rah Rah’s are the best thing to come out of Saskatchewan since wheat and both Federal Lights and Imaginary Cities are a testament to the strong, collaborative indie scene that goes on in Winnipeg. I was delighted to be able to hear all three bands that played last night. They’re on tour throughout the summer so it might be tricky to catch them live. Fortunately they all have music you can buy online so you can don’t have to miss out on this remarkable prairie indie scene.