Friday, November 10, 2006

Having Fun Again

concert review: Oakley Hall, Micah P. Hinson, Bry Webb @ Lee's Palace(Toronto, Ontario), November 7, 2006

Oakley Hall @ Lee's Palace: photo by Michael Ligon

For a what was a disappointing turnout this past Tuesday at Lee's Palace, it didn't seem to phase the artists one bit. It was a nicely matched bill from the acoustic Bob Dylan-esque troudbadorian stylings of Bry Webb(of The Constantines), the brashy country-folk of Texan, Micah P. Hinson, and the piece de resistance, the psychedelic, folk-rock[ok, I stole that description from their MySpace page] of Brooklyn's Oakley Hall. It's a shame there were barely thirty people in the audience and that's including the artists themselves who I saw at various times floating around. Regardless of the turnout, the artists performed as if they were oblivious to this fact.

I'd first seen Bry Webb perform solo last year at the Tranzac club in Toronto[for whatever reason, I forgot to write up Bry's set for that post] during the 5th anniversary/farewell show celebrations of indie label Three Gut Records. Comparing that show to this most recent one, it seems that there's more nuance in the rumble of Bry's vocals. I remember his Tranzac performance being vocally subtle as if he was trying to distinguish his solo effort from his more sweat-inducing role as The Constantines frontman. At the show, this past Tuesday he seemed more vocally confident and showed a little more dynamic range which balanced nicely with his meaty, mostly finger-picked guitar arrangements. A few of his Constantines pals and their friends were in the audience to lend their support. Bry performed a great solo rendition of The Constantines song "Young Lions" but what I wouldn't have given for the band to have jumped in on this.

Next up was young Texan Micah P. Hinson. Along with him was another young gentleman who provided additional instrumentation such as drums and additional guitar, although at the music's core was Micah's troubadour with a guitar setup. I had a chance to listen to Micah's album "The Baby and The Satellite" recently and I was struck by the simplicity of it's dark country melodies and stark barebones instrumentation combined with Micah's world-weary vocals. To see his youthfulness in person, dressed in a baseball cap, wearing eyeglasses, an argyle sweater, jeans, with a set of keys hanging from a belt loophole, it's almost hard to picture this music coming from him. During his set, there was much more of a dynamic range in Micah's vocals, and well as the music in general compared to the hushed atmosphere of his album "The Baby and The Satellite". It seemed that during his set there was more of an affectation in Micah's vocals like he was conjuring up the ghost of some long-gone Texan troubadour. Things got noisier as Micah's companion joined on drums and Micah's vocals on one song reached a blood-curdling screech. It was a little out of left field considering that there was barely twenty of us in the audience to get excited about it. As a point of reference for Torontonians/Canadians, his music reminded a little of Jon Rae Fletcher so if that's a selling point, I suggest you check Micah out. Being There has an interview with Micah.

Six-piece Brooklyn outfit Oakley Hall finally took the stage. There were a little more signs of life from the audience thankfully, to the point that people came on to the lower floor of Lee's Palace to watch Oakley Hall. Coincidentally, I'd seen a couple of Oakley Hall members performing as a duo live at the Three Gut Records celebrations at the Tranzac last year, the same one I'd seen Bry Webb live for the first time. However, rounded out as a six-piece, they're spectacular. The music was full of meaty guitar, bass guitar and drumming, with added shots of violin, keyboards and lap steel, combined with the two-pronged male/female vocals. The music is a mixture of all things rock n' roll in it's academic sense, with hints of psychedelia, folk rock, country and just maybe a little soul. Blonde female vocalist Rachel Cox was a joy to watch as she was in constant motion throughout the set dancing to the groove of the music but I also fell in love with her passionate vocals. It was exhilirating to hear all the members join in at times in a chorus of vocals. Really, I must give the band props for performing as enthusiastically as if the place were packed. The band were even encouraged back for an encore by the enthusiastic response we gave them. I encourage you to check them out when they come back to town - I have no doubt they'll come back since they've performed in Toronto this year no less than three times. And thanks to Chromewaves for pointing out that they've just signed to Merge Records - bigger and brighter things to come for them for sure.

MySpace: Oakley Hall
MySpace: Micah P. Hinson
MySpace: The Constantines

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