HPX: Ohbijou and BRAIDS at Reflections

By Cam McGeough, Arts Contributor
On October 21, 2011 At 2:52 pm

Category : Arts & Culture, Halifax Pop Explosion!, Music
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Reflections is a great venue. However, their seemingly large capacity is so rarely close to the limit. I have seen some empty Saturday’s at that bar and it’s a shame to see such an inviting venue go to waste. This could not have been further from the truth Tuesday night.

Thanks to the combined efforts of The Halifax Pop Explosion, Klarka Weinwurm, Pepper Rabbit, Ohbijou, BRAIDS, Reflections staff and the large crowd, the first night of HPX was a colossal success. I have never seen more people packed into Reflections, which is doubly impressive considering it was a measly Tuesday night, and triply impressive due to competition from the Palace. It’s nice to see the dub-step craze hasn’t claimed all souls, leaving enough to fill a club full of smiling, appreciative indie fans.

I was stumbling around the far corners of Halifax before I made it to Reflections and was, regrettably, too late for Pepper Rabbit. This level of disappointment faded quickly when I saw the eclectic faces of Toronto’s Ohbijou take the stage. This methodically paced six-person band did not waste time getting the crowd’s attention. As the applause faded, soft orchestral harmonies crept through the thick of the crowd. After an emotional intro, Ohbijou proceeded to tour the audience through their three-album discography, hitting all the classics, while also providing glimpses of Metal Meets, their LP they released only a few weeks ago.

Their womanly influence demands an emotive reaction and such a big sound came from such a small package. I cannot deny that the vocals were drowned out by the rest of the instruments, but when you watch Casey Mecija belt out lyrics while maintaining the most adorable indie bob, one could not help but smile.

Other than some minor sound check oversights, the performance was simply incredible. Ohbijou’s ability to combine traditionally orchestral instruments with synths and other new school musical practices was a complete honour to witness. The juxtaposed musical elements and thoughtful crescendos made it easy to place Ohbijou’s performance at the top of my list. They were so in sync and together that even the solos were a team effort. Looking past their musical domination, Ohbijou also succeeded in energetically engaging the crowd. By this point I had entirely forgotten Zeds Dead existed.

Next up, it was time for BRAIDS.

I knew well ahead of time BRAIDS’ performance was going to be something special. I parked myself in a prime spot under the disco ball and eagerly awaited them to finish their line check. I could feel Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s intensity before she started. BRAIDS are one committed band, who play music because they love what they play. This fact was made perfectly clear and the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude present was exciting. Every note they played was so intentional and each member gave 100 per cent of themselves to the music. This level of inert passion resonated through the crowd and we all waited on their every move. They swayed; we swayed. It was like being hypnotized. As BRAIDS’ performance progressed it became evident they were using shoe-gaze to lead us somewhere. Each song’s crescendo was a miniature climax in an overtly encompassing storyline that felt never-ending.

BRAIDS is insanely talented. The level of each member’s involvement over the whole process was such a treat to watch. Raphaelle led the vocals, but, with the aid of some creatively placed synthesized microphones, each band member contributed to an ominous choir that elevated the other song elements perfectly.

Even the drummer was involved in setting vocal introductions and outros for much of the performance. Austin Tufts absolutely killed it. His ambidexterity and inspired use of mainly rim-shots was way too fun to watch. I found myself focusing on the drummer’s uniqueness throughout the performance.

But, as a whole, the band is inhuman. Their musical timbre kept melting into animalistic jungle noises and back into the human. The vocal layering played such an enthralling role in each song. When vocals combined with Tufts’ alien drum style, it was so foreign yet so comfortable. The organic animalistic tone would interlude into sounds only made possible with a computer chip, then would marry the natural with the unnatural during an emotional crescendo that nearly made me cry. Truly beautiful. Then, as timeless as their performance seemed, BRAIDS was finished.

The only thing I cannot wrap my head around is that there is another four days worth of live performances. Thank you, HPX.

This article will also be appearing in The New Halifax.

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