October 26, 2009
Initially, my first concert experience at El Mocambo seemed bleak. The place was empty apart from a few music junkies taking position for the night by the bar. As the opening band Michou quietly set up their gear, frontman Michael Hargreaves informed the audience that only two of the band’s four members were present for their set. Skeptical regarding the abilities of only half a band, I mulled over the idea of returning my opened beer for a refund (always a question of etiquette) and finding another show, but decided to stick it out as a point of journalistic integrity. I meandered my way over to a table in front of the stage as Michou launched into their first song.
It was nice to see the venue start to fill for these guys, because they quickly dismantled my groundless skepticism with tight, poppy folk rock. Hargreaves’ simplistic guitar work complimented his soulful falsetto vocals well, and it became clear as to why the tables in my vicinity were almost all occupied by women. They guy’s voice is a chick-magnate; engineered to melt hearts. Compliments to Stefan Cvetkovic for tasteful, minimalist drumming that also managed to grab your attention. It was unfortunate Michou was short two members, because their performance began to get tiresome around its halfway point. Without the added spice of other instruments, their folk songs became a blur of similarity that probably doesn’t reflect what the band can do as a complete unit. A good set, but not one that left the audience wanting more.
For more information on Michou check out: www.myspace.com/itsnicetomichou
Newfoundland’s Gramercy Riffs came out with a smooth blend of urban indie rock and east coast folk, providing a flavourful soundscape for listeners with a full five-piece performance. Psychedelic keyboard and guitar ditties subtly worked their magic beneath delicate male/female vocal duets. Heartbeat drums and bass did their part to serve the songs. Not exactly the most energetic music in the world, but it’s not supposed to be. Gramercy Riffs did their best to put us all in a relaxed trance for the entirety of their performance, and for the most part they succeeded. If you’re the type of music lover who prefers closed-eyed headphone listening over dance floor rock-out sessions, go check this group out. They are tight, tasteful, and refreshingly modern.
For more information on Gramercy Riffs check out: www.myspace.com/gramercyriffsmusic
Headlining the show, Rah Rah hit the stage with a more upbeat and energetic performance than their predecessors, but it was still very much in line with the nu-folk theme of the night. With traditional acoustic rhythms and vocal harmonies bolstered by colourful, shimmering guitar and keyboard riffs, listening to Rah Rah was kind of like going to a rural barn dance hosted by someone from the distant future. Having the depth of seven members gave their set a complexity and fullness that is always a treat to hear in folk rock, and all the musicians played with confidence and passion. While their sound doesn’t break any new ground – they’re clearly influenced by Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene – Rah Rah put on a great show that easily makes them worthy of additional listening.
For more information on Rah Rah, check out www.myspace.com/rahrahband