We started the night with a little bluegrass at Cafe Campus with The Vaudevillian, aka Brendan James Stephens, from Kitchener Ontario. Stephens put on a good show, providing some old school sound with his banjo and kazoo. He has a voice with a lot of character, a voice that reminds you of southern Ontario and someone sitting on their stoop in front of their field of corn. He hit some colourful low notes that had some buzz to it, but sometimes his voice would squeak a little when going to the higher notes, like a drunkard’s hiccup, which might of been intentional but was also a little distracting due to its harsh tone.
Stephens put a good energy into his show, playfully hitting the crash cymbal like he was jokingly hitting an old friend, or playing hard on his beat up guitar to the point of breaking one of the strings. We were all surprised to find out he was 20 years old as he showed an old soul, but I guess that’s what bluegrass blues can do to anybody.
The first performance at the Sala Rosa, a fine venue that was a large space but still small enough to keep things intimate, was Xania, or as I like to call her Rapper Tapper. When Xania came on stage you wouldn’t expect the kind of performance that she gave, but once she started, you could tell she was being herself and just having a good time.
You have to say that she was being herself because she really doesn’t emulate anyone else. Her music style involves rapping over electronic beats, with some tap dancing thrown in there. The term “rapping” must be taken somewhat loosely- her style is very much like that of 1990s era Will Smith rapping, or the raps of Flight of the Conchords. That is to say it is fairly simple stuff. She creates some intricate lines but it all had the same rhythm and flow to it, so it would of been nice to hear some more variety in how she delivered her lines.
The electronic aspect to her music was actually pretty good, it provided an energetic background to her rapping that kept the momentum going and gave you something you could get into. The tap dancing certainly made for a unique show. I can’t really say it added much to the sound but it did accomplish adding a twist to the performance to make it memorable. Xania had other twists as well, such as bubble guns shooting bubbles at the audience, balloons, or two short haired girls slowly dressing up as boys while dancing around and her singing “two jealous boys” over and over again. Unique stuff indeed.
The final performance of the night was by Rich Aucoin from Halifax. A couple of people had mentioned Aucoin to me before the show with whispered rumours of a parachute coming into play, so needless to say I was intrigued.
Things began a little rocky for Aucoin with what appeared to be technical difficulties, although it was hard to tell if they were actual technical difficulties or just a part of the show. He was frantically playing around behind a curtain so it seemed like not everything was going to plan, also given that he had one of his friends try to entertain the waiting audience.
Once things got started though, it was a whirlwind. Aucoin really did his best to engage the audience and make everything a fun dance party. This included performing in the middle of the crowd while holding a lightbulb, throwing balloons, streamers, and confetti into the crowd, and a finale where a colourful parachute finally did make an appearance, although I won’t ruin the surprise completely for you.
The songs themselves had a lot of energy to them and some catchy beats. However, one thing that was extremely disappointing was Aucoin’s voice. I don’t know if he was having an off night, but I didn’t find his voice to be very appealing or to have much depth. It was flat and more like shouting a lot of the time, so it was a good thing most of the songs only involved short bits of singing and more of him jumping around to get the audience excited. If Aucoin had a more enjoyable voice, his performance would have been absolutely golden, as it had a fun energy and got everyone involved.