The beginning of Fall can already be felt throughout Montreal, but it surely doesn’t prevent people from enjoying themselves, no, not yet! As I made my way inside Le Ritz PDB, a couple dozen people were already enjoying a couple of beers and patiently waiting for the show to begin. Announced as starting at 7:30pm, I came in a few minutes early and took a seat and a sip, getting ready for Slight to get on stage. Unfortunately, and without any announcement on the Facebook event page, the show only started at 8pm (which will be important later on as you’ll see, I’m not being nitpicking for no reason).
Slight, a self-proclaimed “swirling psychedelic art-pop project”, started off the night. The Montreal band, composed of a simple yet efficient drums/guitar/synthesizer trio, did not disappoint with their performance. Their 30 minutes set was enough to provide me with what felt like an out-of-body experience, due to their soaring vocals and unique sound. They did not look quite there yet in terms of stage presence, but I also believe that their music would be enjoyed best using headphones and closing your eyes as you let them transport you. If you don’t know this local talent yet, I suggest you listen to them on their Bandcamp page or to follow them on Facebook! My personal favourite of the night was “Spirit School” that they released a couple years back.
Next was Carmanah, a Victoria-bred folk-rock band that delighted us with a perfect (and wayyy too short) 30 minutes set. Playing songs from their first album Speak in Rhythms released back in February, Carmanah took the crowd’s breath away in a few seconds only, starting their set with “Long Way From Home”, followed by the addictive “Nightmare”. I especially enjoy the message behind the latter, as it relates to the threat of logging on the growth forests of Vancouver Island. And yes, as you can already guess, the band isn’t afraid to speak their minds, be political, and have a powerful message for the good of the Earth and humanity, which is a major plus in my book! I was also impressed by singer Laura Mina Mitic’s vocal performance and strong harmonies throughout the whole set, which made me understand why the band has been mentioned as a “BC musician to watch out for” for Vancouver’s Daily Hive. Carmanah continued their 8-songs setlist with “Holidays” and “Water Falling”, continuing to show off their skills, between soulful vocals and folk melodies. The band demonstrated flawlessly why their producer Gus Van Go described them as ‘West Coast Soul’ that night, and I believe you have to listen to their work to truly understand what he means by that. Listen to “Roots” if you get the chance, and let them transport you into their world!
Last but not least was Hey Ocean!, a Canadian indie alternative rock and synthpop band from Vancouver. Fun fact, if you feel like you’ve already heard singer Ashleigh Ball’s voice in the past, it might actually be the case as she is also a voice actress for cartoons such as Barbie, Bratz, or My Little Pony (It would also mean that you watch a lot of cartoons for young girls, which I’m not judging you for, unless you don’t have kids). Anyway… I digress. As I previously mentioned, the band started their set 30 minutes late due to the first opening band starting later. However, they had to finish their set at 10:30pm anyway, despite having a longer setlist planned for their tour. As a result, the band had to cut their setlist short and play 12 songs instead of 17 songs originally planned, or at least from what I see from their past setlists for this tour… which definitely disappointed me and I can’t blame the band for having to deal with issues such as this one but I can’t help but feel robbed of 30 minutes of my time. Now that I got this out of my chest, let me tell you about their set!
Sure, it was a short set, but it was sweet, sooo sweet. As addictive as sugar (or other stuff) I might add. Hey Ocean! was here to showcase their latest album, The Hurt of Happiness, released back in April and did it wonderfully. It isn’t the type of music I usually go see live but I was drawn to it from the very first notes of “Sleepwalker”. Singer Ashleigh Ball was radiating with energy and dynamism the entire set and didn’t hesitate to show off her dancing moves. Next was “Mama Said”, a dancy synth-pop treasure, followed by “I am a Heart” from their previous album IS, released back in 2012, that allowed them to be nominated for “Breakthrough Group of the Year” category for the Juno Awards of 2013. They then played the title track of their latest album “Hurt of Happiness”, bringing strong influences from the 70s and harmonic vocals from singer Ashleigh Ball and lead guitarist David Beckingham. The band went on with a lovely The War on Drugs type song “Can’t Let Go” that’s one of my favourite from their latest release. I couldn’t let go and to be honest I didn’t want to. For longtime fans (because for those who don’t know the band has been around since 2004!), Hey Ocean! also played older songs such as “Jolene”, “Islands”, and “If I Were a Ship” from IS. If you need to listen to one of their songs, I would 100% advise you to listen to “Islands”; It is one of the most beautiful songs from that album. It’s relaxing, yet emotional and catchy. The band then moved on to a more energetic song, “Amsterdam” (legalization of cannabis obliged), we could “blame it on the drugs” but what I felt that night was true, a.k.a. their set was entertaining and simply one of the best sets I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. Even so, they made me want to “Make a New Dance Up” right after (smooth transition, am I right fellas?) before finishing up with their 2012’s hit “Big Blue Wave”. Hey Ocean! had the opportunity to do a 1-song Encore despite the time constraints and ended their performance with a cover of Fleetwood Mac 1977’s “The Chain”, which, for the youngest of you reading this article, may know from TV as it was used as theme songs for a few shows. Overall, Hey Ocean!’s performance was delightful, dynamic, and entertaining, perfectly reflecting the sound of their latest opus.
Bonus advice: I discovered Hey Ocean! thanks to an Arcade Fire cover of the song “Sprawl II” back in 2012. Give it a listen and see how they manage to brilliantly appropriate themselves this gem.
Hey Ocean! Setlist
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