January 15, 2016
By Chloe Sjuberg
Once again, this night put the kids first, as we were treated to great, bright sounds from the SJMA classical orchestra. Throughout the shows, I began to recognize kids from across the various performances (shoutout to the girl with the “Your Swag Has Been Denied” t-shirt). It’s great to see their individual personalities shine, and it’s awesome they get to do such multidisciplinary work, experimenting with genres, instruments and vocals.
The Pack AD kicked the night into gear with their huge sound. Girl punk rock is just the best and these two ladies, Becky Black and Maya Miller, play music that’s straightforward but offbeat and engaging, with just the right amount of bright melody beneath the rough edges. Love it.
Chin Injeti has a big, impressively versatile sound. Soul/bluesy pop crooning? Arena rock guitar breakdowns? Groovy reggae beats with fierce bass and howling distortion? Beatboxing, yowling, deep voice, high voice? Chin showed us he can do it all and seamlessly switched between these styles, never letting up on the fun. With the support of his guitarist and drummer, he radiated so much energy, belted out positive messages like “make music, spread love,” and got everybody clapping and singing.
The impossibly adorable SJMA junior violin class played a classic Bach number with style, giving Said the Whale a tough act to follow. Said the Whale played a mellow, stripped-down set – just Ben Worcester, Tyler Bancroft and Jaycelyn Brown on keys and guitars, with clear and lovely harmonies between the three of them. They played O Alexandra; Oh K, Okay; and the incredibly sad and touching Helpless Son, a meditation on losing a loved one to illness.
Top Less (short for Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party) took the stage with mops of curly hair and embroidered bomber jackets, like some insanely cool family or high school clique that you can’t help but want to be part of. With orchestral keys and strings, candy-coloured lights, and a troupe of dancing kiddos, they brought us dreamy upbeat electro-pop numbers including Polar Bears and Danger Love. After that, the SJMA senior choir sang the majestic, very Canadian Frozen in Frobisher Bay.
Calgary’s Jocelyn Alice treated us to her sweet, strong voice, accompanied by Lisa Jacobs, who provided gorgeous bass playing and vocal harmony. Her captivating numbers included the sassy Little Devil, the sadder, jazzier Miss You, and the dynamite Jackpot, which knocked the crowd out with its cool, tension-laden bass and sultry soul-blues vibes. This was one of the night’s standout performances for me.
Electro-pop duo Humans played a performance that was short and sweet, but definitely not small. With looping beats and raw vocals, they put a super cool, electro-funk spin on David Bowie’s Modern Love that shapeshifted, like Bowie himself, into a wild jam featuring laser noises and a riot of balloons bounced into the audience by the SJMA kids.
We heard from the inspiring SJMA founder Kathryn Walker before crowd favourites Mother Mother took the stage. The whole band had a great sound, from killer bass to smooth vocals, and frontman Ryan Guldemond definitely didn’t disappoint, punctuating all-star performances of Simply Simple, Bit By Bit and I Go Hungry with bizarre poetic banter in line with his eccentric personality and songwriting talent.
It was fitting that David Vertesi’s band Hey Ocean! should wrap up the last night of the last year of the project he’s worked so hard on. I loved seeing how infectiously happy Vertesi looked on stage. The group put on an incredibly uplifting performance, including their triumphant, flute-filled classic I Am a Heart, and a series of seriously amazing covers: Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, which featured Jocelyn Alice and, haunting and huge and gorgeously layered, gave the original a major run for its money; a lovely slow acoustic take on Arcade Fire’s Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains); and – along with Chin Injeti and even guests like Kanye West and Nicki Minaj (totally not Said the Whale with cardboard masks on, what are you talking about?) – the joyful You Get What You Give by The New Radicals, whose lyrics couldn’t be more fitting to sum up these two nights: “Don’t let go, you’ve got the music in you.”
#SingItFwd’s slogan, “Music changes lives. Pass it on,” definitely resonates with Geyser. We’re constantly wowed by the impact music has in our lives and others’, and we’re so happy to support events like this and keep sharing the passion.
The last few months have been a big time for finales, with the Peak Performance Project triumphantly wrapping up back in November. Let’s honour the “Pass It On” part of #SingItFwd’s mission and continue supporting all the community music initiatives still to come. With all these talented and caring folks on the scene, I know we won’t have to wait long.