Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Live Blogging Olympic Music : Jenn Grant & Kathleen Edwards

Since I'm writing this a day late, I can also add-- first female gold medal for Maelle Ricker of North Vancouver in snowboard cross! My mom and I were watching--no, wincing-- throughout the preliminary rounds because of the choppy snow and heavy fog that lingered, necessitating a second qualifying round. And it was in this second round that Ricker came in third, sending her to the race which saw her beat her competitors by a mile and garner the third medal on the troubled Cypress Mountains. Very well done, Maelle, and what a big, contagious grin she bared to the TV cameras!

In a lot of ways, Ricker echoed a lot of the energy that dedication that Jenn Grant and Kathleen Edwards (and bands) demonstrated the night before in their shows at the Richmond O Zone on February 15th. Although the weather had been nice or overcast the entire day, the rain trickled in and came to a downpour once Grant's set began at 8:30. It wasn't just the rain; winds pelted sideways, bringing piles of accumulated rain down from the tarps above the outdoor stage onto the heads of front row listeners. Throughout the sets, especially Edwards', the band had to warm up their hands in between songs, and occasionally in between striking chords. Jim Bryson of Kathleen Edwards' band seemed to wince because some of his riffs simply couldn't happen because of his rigid fingers. But, needless to say, both bands stuck it through the set, and so did the soaked and shivering audience. So whether you were the ski officials up in Cypress or the fans down in the Cultural Olympiad, weather was the foremost thing on your minds.

Jenn Grant opened the night with her quirky voice and light pop. The show in Richmond was the second last of her 14 date Cultural Olympiad tour. Hailing from Prince Edward Island, I previously knew of Grant superficially from a few singles and the glowing recommendations from artists such as Hey Rosetta!. Unfortunately, the weather did not work in her favour, and the intricate and pretty pop orchestrations were largely distracted by the elements and the sheer size of the O Zone compared to the relatively small crowd. I wouldn't write off the show however; the crowd was still very pleased with her music, as well as her jovial banter. I would love to see her again in a smaller, more intimate venue-- indoors.

Kathleen Edwards and band stepped onto the stage amidst roars and applause, which was somewhat more muted than expected due to frozen hands. Edwards was warmly dressed in a poncho-- Peruvian and from her mother, as we were informed in between songs. Guitarist/keyboardist Jim Bryson (and established singer-songwriter in his own right) sported a toque and according to my friend, somewhat resembled Seth Rogen. It's fair to say that no layers were shed in this show. What was frequently shed were guitars; Edwards must've had no less than 5-6 guitar changes. She and band amped up the energy for the show, proving  to be better suited for the venue than their opening act.

Edwards kicked off her hour-plus set with the hockey-inspired "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory." The show was filled with hits spanning from Failer in 2003 up to her latest, and the few times she went slower tempo, it worked in her favour. "Asking For Flowers," the title track off her latest 2008 Polaris short-listed album, was dedicated to the tireless Olympic volunteers. "Goodnight California" showcased Edwards' formidable fiddle skills, which was demonstrated in this one song in the whole set. That's not to say the band didn't pull their weight comparatively; both Jim Bryson and Edwards' husband and lead guitarist Colin Cripps switched between killer guitar solos and riffs and rhythm guitar alternately. Bassist Kevin McCarragher and drummer Joel Anderson kept the rhythm strong and thumping, and bodies in the crowd if not dancing, then at least shuffling enthusiastically.

It's perhaps apt that Kathleen Edwards played the day after Valentine's Day, as her songs are often filled with anguished love stories and fun kiss-offs. It's safe to say that it's always satisfying to listen to Edwards, whether on your iPod or in concert. And I'm very glad to have caught her live in one of her few, sporadic shows.

And of course, it's always nice to get a customized thank-you tweet from the band. Come back anytime, y'all.

And here is the set list for Kathleen Edwards' show. As you can tell, there are 2 new songs, "Mint" and "Empty Threat."

For some free tracks off her older records Failer and Back To Me (2005), check out Edwards' website under the Music section.

For more photos of the sets, check out my Flickr!