December 11, 2015 - @ The Fox Cabaret

By Chloe Sjuberg

The first of many things to love about the third annual Lovecoast + Friends Christmas Benefit concert is that “benefit” part. The event raised funds for the Music Heals Charitable Foundation, a BC-born organization that works to support and increase access to music therapy across Canada. Executive director Chris Brandt was there to share incredibly moving stories about the work we were supporting. Music Heals’ programs reach everyone from autistic children who are otherwise unresponsive to social interaction to stroke victims who have lost their speech, but find they can still sing. Recordings of music sessions with children in palliative care brighten the kids’ days and leave families with a lasting memory of the sound of their child’s voice.

The Fox Cabaret had decked its red “halls” with Christmas decor, from tinsel around the microphones to fairy lights adorning the drum kit. The dreamily swirling snowflake light show on the floor reminded me and my lovely sidekick Erica of an old-timey high school Christmas dance.

With five bands performing, short four- or five-song sets kept the momentum going and the energy fresh. Awesome prizes were raffled off from sponsors like Long & McQuade, the Sea to Sky Gondola, and Craft Beer Market. (…oh, and some of the musician’s kitchens. Homemade cookies!)

Emceed by Lovecoast’s Danielle Sweeney, a big theme of the night was girl power, with four out of five bands featuring ladies singing lead. After the dude-dominated (though nevertheless awesome) lineup of this year’s Peak Performance Project, I loved hearing more from Vancouver’s talented women!


This classy girl group kicked off the evening with sexy beats, smooth vocals and creative melodies. Lead singer Kate Kurdyak has a beautiful, powerful voice, and Lauren Kurdyak and Kaitlyn Hansen-Boucher join in to create sweet, strong three-part harmony. Support from Mike and Jeff on bass, guitar, and drum loops brought the polished, soulful sound together.

The Katherines performed two original songs – Cherry Lips and Primitive – as well as a dreamy, swinging rendition of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, and a cover of Lorde’s Royals with even more haunting reverb and harmony than the original. The trio has a sweet shyness while also working the stage with fun jazz songstress-y moves.

We would have been excited to hear more upbeat, high-energy songs from these ladies – taking a few extra pages from the book of another of our favourite girl groups, HAIM. However, even when The Katherines are slow and sultry, they’re sure catchy and have a fierce energy!


Kristie McCracken has a personal connection to the concert’s mandate, as she is studying music therapy herself. (The end of her exams was another worthy cause to pay tribute to!)

Kristie has a sweet, lilting voice that can’t help but lift your spirits. Her contagious smile shines through as she draws on a mix of jazz, reggae and soul influences, reminiscent of Joss Stone or Norah Jones. Her band all played memorable roles too; Emily Best’s high dreamy keyboard, including a kick-ass solo, was a standout.

Kristie’s music was easy to groove along to, and maintained the same chill, feel-good vibe even when she gets a little edgier and more upbeat. I especially liked her moody Retrograde, with its jazzy drums and keys.

Kristie also performed my favourite holiday offering of the night: This Christmas, originally by the jazzy Donny Hathaway and covered by everyone from Christina Aguilera to Chris Brown. Its a fresh choice that channels the best feelings of the holidays – sharing good times, like carolling and fireside lounging, with loved ones. It fit the show perfectly, with our community coming together to share our love of music.


Next up was Chersea, a top 12 contender in this year’s Peak Performance Project, with another jazz- and soul-influenced set. Far from letting a voice under attack from sickness stop her, she poured her heart into her raw, powerful vocals and showed off great range. A double-header of R&B Christmas favourites featured Mariah Carey’s upbeat All I Want For Christmas Is You and Destiny’s Child’s snappy 8 Days of Christmas. Chersea also performed originals Heartbreaker, where she played passionate bluesy keys, and the soulful I Could Lose It All.

Backed up by Danielle Sweeney and the boys from Lovecoast with an awesome vintage-rock sound, Chersea and friends cranked the energy up to twelve, and the crowd enthusiastically followed suit. Chersea has a huge, wildly fun personality, and what’s more, I absolutely love how she shares her own experience with and commitment to mental health issues along with music therapy.


Our lovely hosts, Lovecoast, continued the common thread of fun through all of the night’s acts. Lovecoast has an – appropriately – “coast”-y, beachy feel: loose and uplifting. The Floor in particular was an infectious, upbeat singalong that got the crowd dancing. Lovecoast garnished a suite of feel-good originals with a ska/reggae version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

You can feel a close connection between the band members as they bring their talents together. Danielle Sweeney’s vocals are strong, sweet and bright, and Mike Clement has serious guitar chops, spinning impressive solos in both this and his performance with Chersea. Andrew Fraser provides the sick bass lines that any danceable band needs, and Jesse McNeill lets loose with crazy energy on the drums. Fittingly for a group that organizes events for great causes like this one, Lovecoast plays with a ton of heart. Thank you to the band for making this night happen and putting on a great performance themselves!


When a band is setting up and you hear calls of “Can you do me a favour and grab the other conga?” and lose count of how many saxes you see moving around the stage, you know you’re in for something wild.

The eight Bazooka Picnic-ers kind of look like they all come from bands of totally different genres, which adds to the crazy cacophony of their performance. How often do you see one sax player sporting a shiny suit, shinier shoes and coiffed hair straight from a ‘50s boy band while the other rocks sneakers and an epic curly ponytail beside him? Whatever their style, if my school jazz band had sounded more like them, I might have stuck with the saxophone a little longer.

From dirty guitar solos and sax licks to trippy keys and a full-on percussion section with layers of congas and timbales, Bazooka Picnic went a million miles an hour to birth a wild mishmash of ska, reggae, funk and jazz stylings. These fun, goofy guys conjured a welcome bit of grimy summer on a rainy winter night and got the crowd shakin’ it like nobody’s business.

This was such a fun, friendly and laid-back night. It got us in the holiday spirit, igniting the community vibe in Vancouver’s music scene and exemplifying the ways music can touch us, all in support of a wonderful cause. What’s more festive than that?

Even if you missed out on the show, you can support Music Heals’ latest initiative, the 12 Days of Music, from December 13 - 24. 100% of your $50 donation will buy an hour of music therapy for someone in need, you will receive a full charitable tax receipt AND you’ll be entered in awesome daily prize draws. Participate at!