Andrew Whiteman and Ariel Engle made the best of a crappy situation. A day before the scheduled AroarA show at the Electric Owl, the promoter (Sealed With A Kiss) pulled the rug out from under them and "cancelled in a very uncool way. last minute, rude, no style or guts."
But they wouldn't just leave it at that. The couple scrambled to get a house show together, playing in the back yard of people they had never even met before that day. The show was open for all; the only thing they asked was for donations to go towards the PA rental (and the couple dozen people in attendance were more than happy to contribute).
Which meant it ended up being a lot more intimate and memorable than a "normal" show would have been. The gorgeous back yard was flanked with tall trees and torches to give off some light, while the stage was lined with candles at the front, and house lights back-lit the duo. And as Andrew and Ariel are opposite handed, their mirrored silhouettes created a cool visual for the show.
As for the music itself, AroarA's album In The Pines is based on the works of poet Alice Notley, and her book of the same name. The poems "relates the spiritual and visionary experiences of a woman undergoing a cure for Hepatitis C, while being racked by Depression-era visions." With just the two of them and a sampler to fill out the sound, Whiteman and Engle built amazing and intricate music around the poems of Notley, which make up the lyrics.
All of the poems are simply numbered, so the song titles follow suit -- which Whiteman kind of poked fun at, introducing "#10" by joking "When I think of the number ten, I think of..." as he immediately went into the opening. Highlights of the set included #14 and #4, both fantastic songs showcasing Ariel's incredible and powerful voice, and #8 which was the best interplay of their two voices. The songs were rich and funky and dark and soulful; sometimes all at once.
Both are fantastic musicians -- Whiteman previously recorded under Apostle of Hustle, and they both contributed to Broken Social Scene and Feist's live band -- and even in the worst of circumstances, they put on one of the most unique shows I've seen this year. While it was a terrible thing that happened to the band, in a selfish way I am a little glad it did; the backyard AroarA show is not something soon to be forgotten.