CMW Review: Jessica Bundy, The Alter Kakers, Rory Taillon & The Old Souls, Fanette, Lisa Marie Kruchak22 May 2014 / by Sara Cristiano (author)
Performing a show at one in the afternoon may not be anyone's first choice, but the group of talented artists that performed at The Central on May 10 for Canadian Music Week proved that attracting a crowd before nightfall isn't so hard when you're able to put on a great show for your audience.
Taking the stage first was singer-songwriter Jessica Bundy. Bundy played a few of tracks off of her new EP Careless Smile as well as some songs that she had written more recently, each one performed with an equal amount of warmth and sentiment. She was accompanied on the guitar by the producer of her EP, Dusty Chesterfield, which allowed her to focus on giving every one of her songs an appropriate amount of care without neglecting the technical aspect of her performance. Bundy has clearly embraced the folk genre with great success, as her lilting voice often evokes a comfortable, cozy image. She also has an impressive range, though she is strongest during the rare moments when she isn't afraid to show off her lower register, such as in her heart-wrenching, haunting tune "My Body Instead."
[Related: Sara's interview with Jessica Bundy]
Next up was Toronto music group The Alter Kakers, a very different act from Bundy but with just as commanding of a stage presence. Throughout their set, lead singer Steve Bronstein was able to effectively display his unique, slightly gravelly voice and guitarist Cary Corvair impressed with his numerous precise, often technically demanding solos. The band wasn't afraid to embrace a more old-school rock sound in several of their songs and was successfully able to keep their audience engaged and energized throughout their entire set. Though The Alter Kakers thrived when playing tunes with infectious rhythms and unexpected musical experimentation (cowbell, anyone?), the group's weaknesses became evident when playing songs that were more slow-paced. The inability to rely on their undoubtedly incredible instrumental skills forced the audience to pay more attention to their sometimes unimaginative, often repetitive lyrics and Bronstein's vocal shortcomings. Despite these few flaws, the band's chemistry will likely take them far.
Rory Taillon & The Old Souls followed with a fascinating demonstration of how alternative music can be taken in creative, innovative directions. Their performance of "Dance Monkey Dance" had a notably mysterious, sinister tone, with Taillon's repeated three-note guitar pattern creating an atmosphere of suspense. Taillon also displayed his incredible vocal range during the performance, never hesitating to shift from a low bass to a high falsetto and back again within the span of just a few seconds and eliciting shocked cheers from his audience when he hit the earth-shaking last note of his song "Drinking Until Sober." With their laid back, relaxed stage presence, everything that Rory Taillon & The Old Souls did seemed utterly raw and effortless.
The tone shifted when folk singer Fanette and her group of accompanying performers – featuring an upright bassist, violinist, and Cajon player – walked on stage. Fanette, who originally hails from France, silenced the room with her haunting, breathy vocal style. Fanette's guitar as well as the violin often provided the melody to her songs while the bass and Cajon gave the tunes a nice low tone, making them sound more balanced and appealing to the ear. Though Fanette's violinist had only been added to the group relatively recently, it was clear that she as well as the other members of the group were already able to communicate with each other incredibly effectively, as they executed various tempo, time signature, and dynamic changes without a hitch.
[Related: Sara's interview with Fanette]
Finally, singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Kruchak closed the afternoon show with bluesy, laid-back renditions of songs from her two EPs as well as some more recently written tunes. Kruchak's songs often sounded solemn and retrospective, but in a very soulful and inspiring way. I can definitely see myself going back to listen to her music as a sort of comfort food.