Walking into a show, and being offered a free beer by the event organiser, Justin Wiley, was a very positive way for my evening at Recording Arts Canada’s 11th concert showcase at Montreal’s Sala Rossa to begin. This gesture definitely encapsulates RAC’s community theme; the events are always free, the sound is always mixed by the school’s students, and they’re always looking for bands to come and help them learn and hone their craft. I sat down to enjoy my free beverage while hip hop duo, YGT, were simultaneously killing a smooth beat and finishing off their sound check. I knew that I was in for an evening of quality music put together by people who really care about the local scene.
Count them; during their twenty-five minute opening set, Melt It Up managed to squeeze in covers of the “Inspector Gadget theme,” “Cry Me a River,” “Thrift Shop,” “Still DRE,” “Superstition,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Panic Station,” “Uptown Funk,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and “Billy Jean.” All of the renditions were funky as hell and well blended. In particular, their drummer possessed a particular knack for punchy grooves, and the man who was doubling as both sax player and third vocal made solid use of his strong set of pipes. Though, these young lads seemed nervous, their skill in song arrangement stood out and spoke for itself.
In between the sets, YGT busted out self-produced hip hop gems. The two dudes were looking sharp in black and red satin, and, though, they had a couple of minor miscommunications with the DJ as to where to start and stop their tracks, their rhymes were smooth enough that it kept the happy crowd dancing during the switch overs.
It took a second to adjust to the massive change in style between Melt It Up’s heavy, funk jams, and Heaventide’s drumless, blend of gospel, Latin groove, soul, hip-hop, and jazz. All four members provided vocal percussion, and the rhythmic backbone was provided by bass and djembe. In addition to beatboxing, the four youths onstage also contributed to some very haunting harmonies as well as alternating solo verses, and a saxophone made sure the accompaniment was never boring. They managed to get the crowd standing and clapping during “Black Sunshine,” which featured some incredible acapella harmonies with a few very Half Moon Run reminiscent moments.
Once again, AUB provided a complete musical 180-degree turn to what had come before. Their music was quiet, introspective, and layered. Think The Doors being covered by a 90s psychedelia band, the kind you might catch playing at ‘The Bronze’ during an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seemed like the type of music that would take a few listens to be able to discover all the textures provided. It also seemed like the type of music would have benefited from more of a light show, and a crowd that was a little more willing to quiet down. Still, the members of AUB are all skilful, with Raphaël Aubry, in particular, providing some very smooth bass licks.
Local folk hero, Bud Rice, knows how to take command of a stage. From his band’s opening cacophony of noise, to the count in for that first funky as hell intro riff, Rice led his band like a general leads an army. He was fun as hell to watch, and his awkward crowd banter about weather and Christmas helped to make the crowd feel comfortable. Likewise, he’s an honest songwriter, and all of his material felt earnest and organic. While musically diverse, his set, which borrowed heavily from his latest release Belfast, kept of bass of country rock and blues. His backup band are all also particularly skilled, providing the icing on the cake and capping off a wonderful evening with a bang.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy