Royal Canoe keeps it eclectic and electric at the Fox Cabaret

Royal Canoe with Begonia at the Fox Cabaret 9/18/18

Royal Canoe. Photo by Céline Pinget

“Everyone who’s from Winnipeg is going to be here tonight,” said one concert-goer as she entered the Fox Cabaret last Tuesday night.

Prairie expats weren’t the only ones in the room to support Manitoba success stories Begonia and Royal Canoe. You know you’re at the right show when the crowd is dotted with a who’s who of the local music scene.

They call it Friendly Manitoba for a reason. The audience was involved and happy to be there, and that energy made for a fun show for everyone.

Begonia opened the night with a ten-song set. After an instrumental interlude from her band, Alexa Dirks walked onstage rocking white platform boots like a Spice Girl, with a generous swath of blue glitter over her eyes.

Begonia. Photo by Céline Pinget

Begonia is self-deprecating, quirky, and has a good sense of humour. Between songs she shared stories about the trials and tribulations of single life, finding inspiration in a hotdog, and what playing a show in Canada feels like after a U.S. tour.

From the beat poetry-esque “Lady in Mind,” to the cathartic, clappy “Fear,” to the crowd pleasing “Juniper,” everyone was having a good time. And Begonia was feeling the love. Musically, the band is solid, with Cody Iwasiuk delivering on drums, bouncy bass from Jason Pankratz, and Jamie Taronno doing some heavy lifting on keys. The vocal performances are impeccable, with Dirks’ strong belt and resonant lower-range complemented by Pankratz and Taronno on background vocals. Begonia is the new favourite artist you haven’t discovered yet, and her music should be witnessed live and as frequently as possible.

Begonia. Photo by Céline Pinget

Headliners Royal Canoe followed with a set that mixed new yet-to-be-released songs with old favourites. Royal Canoe does things differently, and their sound is a fusion of sounds and influences.

The Manitoban sextet played a high energy set for the crowd of superfans at the Fox. There was some friendly – “where’s the new album?” – heckling from the audience members, who crowded the stage and knew the words to every song.

Sometimes folky, sometimes funky, sometimes experimental, Royal Canoe’s songs aren’t all straight forward. And that’s not a bad thing. While some of their songs aren’t the most accessible, they’re invested in adding as many textures of sound as they can, and they’re having fun doing it.

Their synth and keyboard game is next level with an endless supply of unique sounds and rhythms. Lead singer Matt Peters is an engaging presence onstage. There’s a lot going on here. Their live performance brought to mind a melange of ELO, Beck, and Radiohead. All of the band members are expert multitaskers, but lead vocalist Matt Peters is a sight to behold. He opened the show double fisting with one mic for vocals and another for octave effects.    

Royal Canoe. Photo by Céline Pinget

Highlights of the night were new single “RAYZ,” “Button Fumbla” and “Exodus of the Year” off of the Today We’re Believers LP, and “Spin Cycle” off their third studio album Waver which is due for release in January 2019.

For one last dance, the band called Begonia was back up on stage to perform their collaborative 2017 track, “Fussin.” It was the perfect way to end the night – bringing two bands together to transform something old into something new.