Written by Kier Junos.
It was a sunny day on the eighth of March.
After spending the afternoon sauntering around Vancouver with my best friend Zack, we cruised back to Abbotsford because he had a show to play that night with his band, Little Wild. By the time dusk’s bronze face was painted across the sky, we had rented a tube amp from Long and McQuade, caused mischief in the neighbouring knick-knack stores, and had several slices of golden pizza.
Seven o’clock in the evening.
We’re loading some gear into the venue, which is a little like a big concrete box. Aside from the lampshades on the stage in the corner of the room and the lights by the admission tables, it’s pretty dim in here. Chairs are stacked and lined up against the left wall. Some adults are sitting in the right-hand corner of the room. There are some college-aged kids standing around. High school kids are riddled about the room as well. I have to say, this was an impressive congregation; everyone’s actually on time for the opening band. Smirking at this quasi-miracle, I put down Zack’s amplifier and dig into my jacket pockets for my notepad and pen. I turn my attention to the band onstage, Oh Village, who have just finished their sound check.
I’ve seen Oh Village a couple of times, and played some shows with them in the past. I was excited to see them in this grungier venue setting because I’ve been accustomed to consuming their material either on their album, or in a venue that paired beautifully with the band. With their dense vocal harmonies, intricate song structures, profound lyrical content, and mastery at creating pensive ambience, Oh Village is a band you absolutely have to see playing in a church or any other comparatively and acoustically beautiful structure conceived by an architect (although they were quite impressive at Jam In Jubilee music festival, which is an outdoor event). Scott Currie, the lead vocalist and pianist for Oh Village, actually recorded a solo album called Übergänge in the church he grew up worshiping in. He’s no stranger to creating that cathartic, introspective atmosphere when writing and performing music.
So you can see why I was curious to see them perform in a venue that many a time has hosted bands like GSTS or other awesome and abrasive bands that leave your ears ringing for the rest of the week. I knew that, from the blatant concrete composition of the room and from past experience, all the bands would be subject to some reverb, resulting in some overly washy cymbals and maybe some other shitty sound stagnations. Obviously, the reverb complimented Oh Village (I honestly expected the reverb to be much more severe for the other bands – I was wrong). As I had expected, the mix was very unique in respect to what I was used to hearing. The low and mid ends of their sound were particularly amplified but not to the degree where it was a bone-shaking, ear-fogging, bass attack. Their vocal harmonies were thick and were very prominent throughout the room.
In addition to the new songs they played (the set closer called “Yet Again” and a new version of “St. Helen”), they played a new opening song for this set. The song was completely instrumental, and a pleasantly distinct off-shoot from what they would usually play. The song was very upbeat and, as usual, deliberately intricate in rhythmic structure, though, I somehow didn’t expect it. However, don’t take my elaboration on this song as if it was epoch-changing; in an interview I conducted after their set, Currie said that during a band practice, “Jake [our guitarist] was being a tool and trying to distract us and just started to randomly hit notes just to be funny, and Steve just started playing drums. . . . It kind of just turned into that.” This was probably the most remarkable and curious time I’ve seen Oh Village. Check out some tracks below.
Old Mare played second. This particular version of Old Mare is actually its second installment, meaning that they’ve recycled themselves once. With four years of experience with each other, Old Mare yields a mature kind of sound that might not appeal to younger audiences right away (the crowd of young’uns became slightly thinned out). Old Mare plays songs that are saturated with timeless charm, featuring beautiful melodies in both instrumentation and vocals. I should also mention that the five members of this band play like very accomplished musicians. Dominic “Domo” Perry, an eleventh grader from Yale Secondary who helps organize shows at The Center, told me that Old Mare drummer Eran Vooys is actually his drum teacher. According to their Facebook group, Old Mare is an alternative country band from Abbotsford.
My first impressions were certainly not of alt-country, but in hindsight, there is certainly truth to that. After their set, I spoke to Chris Janzen, who is the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Old Mare. Janzen told me that Old Mare has referenced such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams (Janzen: “Not Bryan Adams, but Ryan Adams!”) and a UK band called the Manic Street Preachers. Janzen also mentions that the band has some substantial jazz influences, which I thought might explain their application of a trumpet (and it probably could have been louder in the mix). But the trumpet application was actually due to a line in their song called “Pistols at Dawn”: “Here I lay waiting for Gabriel’s trumpet to call”. Mark Lanchbury plays trumpet for Old Mare and Lanchbury’s affinity for pioneering jazz musicians like Miles Davis is what he brings forward to the band. It was quite an enjoyable set and I’m looking forward to the release of their new album which is currently in the works.