There’s something great about Sunday night gigs. When the rest of the world is winding down, facing the inevitability of another work week, those of us assembled at La Vitrola tonight are truly bleeding every last ounce out of the weekend. And what a way to do it tonight!
After Fog Lake opens proceedings, it’s the turn of Austin’s Hovvdy (pronounced ‘Howdy’, in the same way as Alvvays is pronounced ‘Always’; I forgot to ask them who came up with that idea first…). I’m not sure if it’s because I listened to the Old School show on Sirius XMU on my way to the gig, but as soon as they start playing, I feel transported to that era almost right away.
Sounding almost like Sunny Day Real Estate mellowed out into the form of Real Estate, they play a 45-minute set based primarily on their latest record Cranberry, sounding both raw and mellow at the same time. New song Thru is the most old-school moment of them all, sounding almost Jawbreaker-esque in nature. Towards the end of they set, they jokingly apologize for bringing the rain; on the contrary, it fits the vibe quite nicely.
In The Sun
Keep It Up
Brooklyn trio Half Waif round out the show in spectacular fashion. The brainchild of singer-songwriter Nandi Rose Plunkett, they just released their third full-length record Lavender to critical acclaim; don’t take my word for it, check out what Pitchfork and NME had to say! Thanks to NPR, I’ve been able to stream the record the entire week or two leading up to the show (it officially only came out 2 days prior to the show), and it’s truly wonderful, and I absolutely can’t wait to hear how it sounds live. As soon as the set opens with the wonderful Torches, I know I’m not going to be disappointed. The first thing you appreciate is Nandi’s spectacular voice; it sounds exactly like it does on record. Clear, emotive, genuine, powerful…and not the manipulated product of a sound engineer.
After Silt, Nandi announces that they’ll be playing stuff from their new record, and true to her word, the entire album is played, accounting for 12 of the 14 songs that make up the set. The sound is diverse too; on Lilac House, distorted electronic beats thump in the manner of a club anthem, while on Frost Burn, the pounding drums continue in conjunction with a twinkly piano. Even Nandi starts to bust out the dance moves on Severed Logic. By contrast, In The Evening sounds positively funereal in its spookiness, before Lavender Burning somehow manages to mix both extremes, beginning with just Nandi and keys in a somber manner before the bass and drums arrive for an emphatic, swirling “woahhh ohhh” outro.
Nandi precedes Leveler by explaining how the new record is heavily influenced by the recent passing of her grandmother, and her coming to terms with that loss. As a result, the song suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. The opening lines suddenly resonate so much more: “If I’m gonna lose you / There’s nothin to do but lose / It’s a fight we’re not winning / It’s a fate we don’t choose, anyway / If love’s not the answer then what’ll I do / I’ll be happy that I knew you.” It’s a powerful, moving moment, a candid insight into dealing with grief.
Back In Brooklyn sounds a lot like fellow New Yorker Regina Spektor, consisting of just Nandi and keys, and Salt Candy follows along a similar vein until drums and electro beats join in. Ocean Scope provides an expansive conclusion to the set, after 50 wonderful minutes. It’s certainly not the first time Half Waif have played in Montreal, and Nandi assures me after the show that it won’t be the last. If you weren’t among the lucky ones in La Vitrola tonight, be sure to catch their next visit; much bigger stages surely beckon.
Half Waif Setlist
In The Evening
Solid 2 Void
Keep It Out
Back In Brooklyn
Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Jean-Michel Lacombe