As I made my way to Casa del Popolo last Thursday evening, feeling the beginning of a buzz and the excitement in anticipation of seeing a local Soul Rock band (as well as discovering something new), I noticed the temperature had climbed since the day before – and it was just the beginning of a very good night. Casa del Popolo is a sweet venue; the first room is a comfy bar where you can hang out and enjoy some company, while the second room is dedicated to live music. The rooms are separated by a short hallway to keep the noise in the second, which lets people converse in the first if preferred.
I had read the name The Empty Yellers when Ms. Imperiale (our CEO here at Bucketlist) had forwarded the invite to review the show, but I hadn’t heard or seen anything of the band, which made it even more of a treat to see an all-female group hit the stage to open the show. Right from the start, Celina Wolfe grabbed everyone’s attention with a commanding voice greeting us for a hearty rock ‘n’ roll show. Well dressed (obviously), looking like a mix of the New York Dolls and Guns n’ Roses, these ladies began the night’s events with a solid song that was well played and performed (to me there’s a difference between playing a song and performing it, the latter being a more theatrical affair). Reviewing my notes today, I can sum up my initial judgement by describing their sound as a funky blues garage rock that gets heads bobbing with its catchy melodies and ear-hugging bass. The crowd seemed to like it too, as they were very supportive and into it from the start.
“I’m Your Little Pill” started off with harmonized guitar riffs which lead to powerful vocals coming in from high above. The tune then adopted a descending riff pattern while Ms. Wolfe sang her heart out. The two combined was like hearing The Beatles play with Adele. We also got to hear Ms. Camille Beaudoin’s prowess on her black Les Paul beauty. As a guitar player myself, I can’t help but suggest a little reverberation on the guitar solos, either through the board or in the guitar signal chain. At the end of the day (and this review), though, it’s more a question of personal preference.
They played one of my favourites: “Man’s World” by James Brown. James Brown has been my favorite entertainer since I first heard his greatest hits CD at around four years old (family dance parties galore). The man can make you break a sweat with his infectious grooves and can get your spine tingling with his voice. The Empty Yellers did the man justice while spicing up the original ballad with some bluesy swagger.
The song that followed, “Still Drunk” demonstrated the strength of this band’s rhythm sexton. Celina put her Stratocaster guitar down, becoming more of an entertainer as the crowd got into the music, moving to the beat as time became a distant concept not worthy of my worry, while the music roared onwards. Some songs were dedicated to audience members, more specifically, to a “good looking, coffee drinking Ryan”. Ryan, whoever you are, please know that I’m jealous (but I have coffee too, so it’s all good).
“Birds Fly”, showcased Ms. Esme Cavanaugh’s bass licks and vocal harmonizing. The already powerful vocals were rendered huge by this and left me wide-eyed and slack-jawed. The first part of this EP release party ended with a song that channeled Led Zeppelin, the frontwoman acting as a sort of rock conductor, using fists instead of batons. A latin segment followed bringing everyone into full dance mode before saying goodnight. What a great band, and they’re all great human beings too, so check them out – they’re definitely worth your time.
SoulStreet. Synonym for a good time? I’ve seen these guys twice, and on both occasions they’ve left me wanting more. From the first note they played, I knew this band would be a lot of fun. The crowd seemed to know before-hand, buzzing as the band got on stage. Their set started off with an upbeat dance-rock song that was so well arranged that I was instantly reminded why I had jumped at the opportunity to review their live set. First thought? Funk soul. The people that gathered at the venue let loose as these guys played their first song, dancing, jumping and drinking together to this collective of skilled musicians who know how to put on a great show. The songwriting also kept things interesting, as the songs took unexpected musical turns, stepping out of the formulaic bounds that occasionally boxes in certain genres – in this case: funk. Their first song showcased how in sync this band is; the bass and guitar playing a rock riff in unison to create a powerful groove for Ryan Setton to lay his soulful lyrics on. A powerful, emotional and skilled voice fronts this band and tells the stories straight from the heart.
The tones these guys got from their gear and their musical phrasings complimented each other perfectly: I could totally see SoulStreet performing as a wedding band or opening for someone like Serena Ryder or Joe Bonamassa. Their second song,”Hold You Tight” began with a sweet sounding tremolo-ed (tremolo is an effect used to modulate volume, either in gradual swells or as an on-off effect – the foundation of dubstep) guitar riff which was promptly joined by the band, creating what my notes read as a “perfect summer song”. This is the soundtrack to a disco ball dropping, a car window rolling down, the smell of freshly cut grass at 8pm, and probably someone’s birthday bash. The bassist, Mr. Galamba, was basking in an aura of pure joy – grinning ear to ear the whole way through. These guys love what they do and the music they play too.
I had met Justin Wiley a few years ago when I visited RAC to check out their recording program. It was a nice surprise to meet up again, and to hear him play the drums. He started the next song with a solid groove that led to a cover of “Very Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder. By this point, the whole room was moving: the crowd became a series of waves as people dug into the music, I myself forgetting to take notes as I was so into this rendition. The crowd clearly loved SoulStreet, making their support loudly known at the end of this cover. Sadly, their next song, “Sunrise” was to be their last. It was perhaps the first of many sets they played that night, but as my associate photographer and I had to leave, we didn’t get to hear any more from this terrific band. If you know Jimi Hendrix, you know “Red House“. I had a Hendrix phase in my early teens and boy, was I excited to hear those opening notes. Eric Hein, the guitarist, is a smooth criminal. He knows he’s good, and doesn’t need to prove it. His solos were always well structured, musical and soulful. Mr. Setton confirmed my suspicions by announcing to the crowd that a Hendrix cover was about to happen and the band launched what was to be one of the best covers I’ve heard of this song.
Though an incredibly short set, SoulStreet delivered good times in spades, and as my friend Guillaume mentioned, this proves that blues is alive. I’ve also listened to the EP Stone Groove that was released that night and I know it will be on my phone for a while (I’ll leave that review for a later date). I had the chance of meeting all the guys from the band and they’re all class acts. I hope to see them live again sometime soon, but please, please, please give me a little more next time!
Written by Dave Tone
Photography by Stacy Basque