Oh, what a night indeed! Not knowing what to expect, I walked into The Media Club on Friday night and found myself suddenly plunged into a room so replete with the easy-going air of Vancouver’s West Coast music scene that all of my stresses instantly melted away. The venue was dimly lit and had a very cozy atmosphere with banquettes and coffee tables along the walls and a large dance floor facing a theatrical stage with rich red velvet curtains. An intimate and appreciative audience largely composed of music aficionados, friends and fans anxiously awaited the evening’s musical line-up with enthusiasm just as most Vancouverites anticipate the summer sun.
As if on cue to remind us all of this, Ian House took to the stage. It was just House and his guitar – hearkening back to memories of fireside sing-a-longs at the beach. House’s set was largely comprised of covers, which were later accompanied, by female friend and vocalist Katy Dunn-Roy who harmonized alongside him. There was an up-tempo cover of Ben Harper’s well-known “Steal My Kisses” and a heartfelt rendition of a Sam Cooke song for the ladies. He capped off his set with some acoustics backing his west-coast hip-hop lyrics and even skillfully added a little ‘improv’.
Next came the impressively talented and beautiful singer/songwriter Alysha Brillinger. The half Tanzanian, half Canadian hails from Kitchener, Ontario where she just put the finishing touches on her new album set to be released in April (…and from what I heard on stage that night I would recommend checking it out).
Brillinger exudes an effortlessly sexy, breathy tone with a sugary rasp thrown in for good measure. All this while strumming and plucking her guitar so nimbly it looks like she was born knowing how to play.
She’s a one-woman show so enticing it was hard to take my eyes off of her. Her love of blues, jazz, roots and world music is apparent in her musical stylings. I was super-impressed with her soulful rendition of (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.
These first two acts definitely loosened the crowd up (as did the beer and wine) for the locally lauded duo Redgy Blackout. A fortuitous meeting brought Scott Perrie and Jeremy Breaks, two artists from very different musical backgrounds, together five years ago.
Fresh off the success of their new album released last year, they will soon be playing their first gig in Toronto this week and their excited anticipation of this milestone for them was gleefully contagious. Frankly, I was blown away by their ‘mad skills’. They each have formidable talent as versatile musicians, Perrie adeptly playing various instruments such as the guitar, trumpet, harmonica and kazoo and Breaks who also plays the guitar, has crackerjack proficiency on the notoriously difficult banjo.
Their vocals feature intricate harmonies on top of brilliantly enticing melodies. Perrie’s voice has a superb clarity and tone to it that is rarely heard. His ease of melodic expression is natural and a sheer pleasure to listen to.
Playing an all-acoustic set, it was suprising that Redgy Blackout had one of the first songs of the evening that got people on the dance-floor. The delightfully cabaret ‘Who am I’ featuring some New Orleans style trumpeting was a highlight for me as was the upbeat ‘Like Penguins Do’ and the catchy ‘Bottom of the Sea’ which I found myself repeatedly listening to days after. I will actively be following their musical careers and rooting for them to become more widely appreciated as not just a B.C band, but a Canadian one as well.
Watasun had a good many fans there that night and it was no surprise to me by the end of their set as to why. The duo capped off the night with such a lively and fun performance that I was sad when it came to an end. They really got the audience going with their upbeat tempo and with the long and dreary winter nearly behind us, their Caribbean flavor and beats were welcomed with giant smiles and open arms as if they were the water and the sun incarnate! Not a soul in the room was unaffected by their sunny presence, lively rhythms and joyful vibes.
Watasun is comprised of multi-talented percussionist Reid Hendry who masterfully plays the steel drum and cajon along with guitarist and singer Ronii Wata who’s fast-paced Jamaican/Rasta/Creole Patois are highlighted and skillfully executed through his lyrics and melodies. They have genuineness about them that is endearing and allows them to really connect with their audience. ‘It’s You’ off their most recent album was the most anticipated song of the evening. Highly recommended for sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, Watasun could turn a senior’s home into a spring break destination!