"It doesn't always work that well," Josh Arnoudse, lead singer of indie folk band You Won't, remarked to me as I was chatting with him at the merch table after his band's show on Thursday night at the Beachland Tavern.
We were speaking of the portion of the band's set in which he and Raky Sastri, the other member of the duo, had stepped off of the stage and performed a pair of songs unplugged, on the tavern floor, in the middle of the audience. Apparently, sometimes when they did this, a noisy audience ruined the experience. I thought once more of how lucky I was to have such a great place to see concerts. I've also seen bands like Megafaun and The Rural Alberta Advantage perform songs out on the Beachland floor, and it's always something magical. You Won't took it to another level by actually bringing a harmonium out to the floor with them. The first song saw Arnoudse playing the harmonium and Sastri playing the saw; for the second song, Sastri took over harmonium duties while Arnoudse climbed up onto a chair to sing. And then, partway through the song, he went down to the floor, opened up a bag, and very dramatically (by which I mean, he almost hit a nearby audience member) pulled out a wind chime, of all things. I'm sure that if a picture of me had been taken at that moment, it would have captured a wide grin on my face. It's moments like that that make live music such a wonderful thing to experience.
The unplugged section was the top highlight, but You Won't's whole set was great. I picked up their album Skeptic Goodbye after the show, and I'd highly recommend it (the whole thing is streamable on Bandcamp). It's a catchy little folk/blues-rock album that, to me, really stands out from the crowd of modern indie folk. Maybe it has something to do with being performed by just two guys, two guys who are clearly really passionate about their music. It's an album with an intimate feel, even as there is at times a lot going on (check out the music credits - "Josh Arnoudse: vocals, guitar, piano, bass, mandolin, accordion, FX pedals, stomping feet and clapping hands! Raky Sastri: drums, harmonium, accordion, singing saw, bowed mandolin and mountain dulcimer, modified coffee can, cardboard boxes, washbasin, cellular phone, stolen road sign, stomping feet and clapping hands!"). Arnoudse's lyrics, his somewhat Dylan-esque vocals and the often fuzzy sound lend a nicely nostalgic air to the music. Their live sound was heavier than the album's, and suited the concert setting well.
It was a great show - but You Won't were just the opening band! This was a show that I kind of just went to on a whim because I thought the bands sounded interesting and it would probably be a good time. And I was very right.
Headliners Lucius are starting to attract some buzz. This is a band that catches your attention before you hear a single note of the five-piece's music.
Lead singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig both have gorgeous voices, especially when they harmonize together, and the drumming, guitar playing, and backing vocals from the three male members of Lucius rounded out the band's sound nicely. This was really infectious stuff; the audience was clearly eating up every note. "Turn It Around," which closed out the main part of Lucius's set, is a truly fantastic pop song.
And when I say "the main part" of the set, that's because Lucius, too, stepped out into the audience to perform a couple of songs unplugged. It's really something that more bands should do when they have the opportunity, which the Beachland often provides. It brings such a great sense of connection between audience and performers. One of the two lead singers of Lucius spoke some clearly heartfelt words about what a journey it had been for them, and how grateful they were that we were all there to see them. I felt equally grateful to be able to see such great performances in such a great setting.
Lucius and You Won't are both bands that I could envision becoming quite popular. If you have the opportunity to see either live, don't pass it up!