Trudging up the hill from metro St-Laurent to Cafe Campus, I had some time to reflect as I struggled to breathe. If I could get away, where would I go? Other than Cafe Campus to see that What if Elephants Getaway EP Party; maybe somewhere warm, like Mexico.
Cafe Campus is small and cozy, with a stage, wood-panelled dance floor, and plenty of seating at the back for lounging. I spent a lot of time at the back, lounging, except for the time spent taking photographs.
Ben Cardilli opened the evening beautifully with a solo-acoustic performance featuring extraordinary vocal acrobatics, and two obscure covers, both done to full justice and then some. A Montreal veteran, singer-songwriter-producer, Cardilli has played with an ensemble of other musicians in Ben Cardilli Band. That night though, it was just the man himself, and his acoustic guitar. The way he engaged the crowd was delightfully quirky; playfully cracking jokes, and seeming completely at ease on stage. Time passed, songs were sung, and falsettos sustained. Then Grand Splendidtook the stage.
Bouncy. Joyful. “Energy.” So much energy. Julian Buchbinder has the most incredible voice, so soothing and serene, amidst layered guitars, and high-energy organ riffs. It must be difficult to fit that much enthusiasm on a stage, let alone in an hour. But they did it, and we saw it. And it was awesome. There’s something exhilarating about seeing a group of people thoroughly enjoy what they are doing. Mostly, there was a lot of smiles, and some sweet guitar solos. For their finale, Grand Splendid had opted to include two obscure covers as well: the same two obscure covers that Ben Cardilli had played less than an hour before. They laughed, we laughed, and the show went on.
What if Elephants took the stage. What kind of elephants, exactly? The white kind that ruin your life, or the invisible kind in the room that silently destroy your life? But these guys, there’s nothing invisible about ‘em! The entire ensemble is a beam of light emitted from an array of “candles” that evoke only the most positive of dispositions. For real. Frontman, Joey Langlois’ smile could light up a room, and that’s exactly what happened. Everyone moved forward; the dancefloor was filled. People swayed, bobbed, felt the music, felt like it was fun, and it totally, totally was.
The entire performance was riveting. The stage was decorated with instruments: a cello and a mandolin lay dormant, waiting for their respective turns. Drummer, Justin Wiley, has serious rhythm which, when complemented by Eric Létourneau’s bass jams, creates a serious groove. But here’s the thing; What if Elephants is fun and has more substance that the fluff we may affiliate with positivity and lightness.
Towards the end of the set, Alanna Martin took up that cello and was joined by Frédéric-Alexandre Michaud. The addition of the strings was a reminder that “positive” is not necessarily devoid of “profound.” I left that show feeling a sense of relief; someone was willing to address the elephant in the room, and show it a good time.
Getaway EP was released October 9th, 2015. Check it out!
Written and Photographed by D. Niko Holmes
*edited by Danielle Kenedy