HPX: Tuesday at Reflections
The only bad thing about HPX is that there’s too much choice. You go to one venue, not sure if the line-up will disappoint or blow you away. Thankfully, I made the right choice Tuesday night by going with Reflections Cabaret. The night began intimately with a few eager music-lovers and ended with a big bang – and quite the turnout.
As folks started to trickle into Reflections early in the night, Weinwurm’s trio kicked things off with a serene set. Weinwurm and her band mates eased people into the Pop Explosion with smooth melodies and intimate lyrics. I couldn’t always make out the words, but the stuff I did hear, I liked very much. Weinwurm is a shy performer. She looks a bit timid on stage, a bit unwilling to completely let you into her world. But it suits her, and it suits her songs.
There were a few moments throughout the set when she would forget about the crowd and crack a smile – but only for an instant. It wasn’t until the last song, when Weinwurm took to the drums, that she graced us with a big grin and just let loose. Weinwurm’s humble performance was a welcome way to start the night.
I won’t lie. I was skeptical of this indie-techno-pop trio from LA… at first. They don’t look like much. I had them pinned as one of those just-out-of-high-school bands. The kind who take themselves too seriously and who sound like a dozen other bands. Their super-long sound check made them come off a little obsessive – a possible sign that they would be too much in their own heads and not really in the moment. Oh, how wrong I was!
The band has some serious energy. Their fine-tuned songs are ghostly, but explosive. The lead vocalist – who I would describe as the techno love-child of Jeff Tweedy and Daniel Johnston – sings with conviction and urgency. The words themselves are mellow and at times depressing. But they’re toned with such intensity that they’re really quite uplifting. Songs about heartbreak and loneliness were never so fun to dance to. This was a crowd that needed a wake-up call. And Pepper Rabbit delivered that with a hard hitting fusion of keyboard and bass.
Ohbijou was altogether enchanting. The crowd watched with excitement, listening carefully to ballads and cheering with vigour at the first intonation of favourite hits. At first the sextet sway like trees in the breeze. The next thing you know, you’re pounded with a thrashing guitar solo accompanied by melodic strings and a solid beat. When Casey sings, she is intimate, but not at all vulnerable. Words are conveyed with a sense of curiosity. She’s like a lover who motions with her finger for you to come over, as if to tell you a secret, only to smile as she punches you in the face.
She’s a tease – but in a charming kind of way. She gazes into the crowd and draws you in, only to turn her back at the last moment, dancing to herself and she strums away. You can’t help but sense Casey’s playful manner as swaps one Fender instrument for the next. She trades her Telecaster for a Stratocaster, strokes it for a moment, and pauses. No, this doesn’t feel right. May I borrow your Precision bass, Heather?
I always appreciate musicians for whom the audience is just a bunch of people along for the ride. Most of my favourite artists (musical and otherwise) create for themselves first. After all, you can’t expect an audience to get into a song if you’re not into it yourself. Ohbijou definitely got into it tonight. They played in the moment, and the crowd seemed happy to coast along with them.
Rather than try in vain to describe the feel of this fantastic group, I will simply leave you with my best take on their ‘genre’: underwater-moon-sparkle-dream-sequence-explosion-rock. Enough said.