Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jess Hill, Steph Macpherson & Katie Schaan @ Cafe Deuz Soleil -- 11/17/10

Three acts involved in this years Peak Performance Project (two directly, one as a band member) came together at Cafe Deux Soleil for a really great bill. Each of the lovely ladies singing had similar sounds -- a bit folk-alt-country-ish -- but all were distinct enough to not be repetitive. They did a round, each playing two sets, but I will lump both sets together for the purpose of me being lazy.

First (and fourth) up was Katie Schaan, who had her own handmade goods for sale in the appropriately named Knitted Goods Tour. She came out alone, and I was immediately impressed with how powerful her voice was, especially for a small person. She moved from ukulele to keyboard in her first set, then was on guitar in the second, and had a great energy on stage. Though there was one moment where she was trying to tune, and the show slowed to a crawl... but she managed to hold peoples attention with a story about touring with (or without) pyjamas.
Most of her songs were, as she fully admitted, about the same thing (boys, and the emotions they stir up), and while it didn't detract from the set, I would be interested to hear her take on more. The one that impressed me the most, was about wanting to have a little more with a close friend. I didn't catch the name of, but it was a very powerful song, full of emotion, and definitely attention-grabbing.

Steph Macpherson was out next, and I was surprised to see Matt Kelly of Treelines up with her, on acoustic guitar. It seemed like it was their first time playing together, and if it was, Kelly picked up on Macpherson's songs quickly and it was barely noticeable. Aside from the pair, Schaan joined them for a few songs doing backup vocals, or leading the stomp/snap for one song. Which managed to get a good number of people participating. Both her sound and voice reminds me a little of a Kathleen Edwards, and she was very natural on stage, with an effortless air about her and pretty smooth banter.
The first time I saw her was with a full band, at her Peak Performance showcase, and it could be because I am more familiar with her music now, but I was almost more impressed with her quasi-solo act. I will definitely be interested in seeing her again with a band, though, to see how it compares.

It's not quite right to say she was closing, so the "last chapter" -- as she put it -- of the night was Jess Hill. This was the first time I has seen her solo as well, and she was no less impressive with no backup. I am continually amazed by her commanding voice; like the other times I've seen her, when she started her first set with an a capella number, the room hushed (well, as much as would be expected from a cafe). There were also a few times where she stepped off the mic and let loose. And she has the talent to back up her voice, as well. It would be easy for a single person with a guitar to be boring on stage, but her storytelling, both in and between songs, was captivating -- she prefaced one song with a story about moths and the moon that, while a little lengthy, was an interesting setup for the song (and I say this having heard it before).
She ended the set with a song I have loved each time I've seen it performed, yet still have not gotten the name of. She starts a capella again, with some crowd-screaming participation, before crashing in with a pretty intense song. Judging by the lyrics, I would wager a guess that it is called "Digging a Hole".

I have gone on about the Vancouver music scene before, and this is another example of both the talent here (and on the Island), and the sense of community. Not only did these three acts come together, but a number of other local musicians were also there to support their friends, and no doubt enjoy the great music of the evening.

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