On top of aBabe’s weekly Tuesday showcases at The Painted Lady in Toronto, are their Double Trouble Saturdays at The Press Club. The last two nights – on March 29 and April 5 – featured a wide range of music and the upcoming showcase on April 12 will continue that tradition.
The definite standout of the last couple of aBabe Saturdays was The Short Films on March 29, consisting of vocalist Tessa Jennison, Russel Jennison, and Ryan Dugard. Most of their set sounded more jazzy, but there was some pop mixed in with alternative rock. It’s really hard to sum up the bands sound; to put it more accurately, as stated on their website, they are known to “impress audiences quite unexpectedly due to their unassuming attitudes and appearances” and their music is “multifarious” – in other words, they have many different sounds and layers and meanings. Through it all, Tessa sings with sultriness and swag and passion, breaking out in some timely scatting in the more jazzy tracks, like ‘Breathe My Name’. Watching The Short Films is definitely what you would call an experience.
On April 5, there was The Vaudevillians, consisting of Brendan Stephens on guitar and vocals, and Willow Walker on washboard. They are a young duo with surprisingly old souls, performing some 1920s, footstomping bluegrass – a testament to the wide range of music that can be seen at these aBabe showcases. The set did feel a bit repetitive at times, but energetic songs such as ‘What My Babies Like’, ‘The Willow Walker Special’, and ‘The Panic Is On’ moved the hour along quickly and entertainingly, powered by Stephen’s soulful vocals.
There was some country on both nights. On March 29, a new Toronto-based band called The Northern States, whose set showcased different layers to the band’s sound, transitioned from country pop to more guitar-heavy country rock. Vocalist MJ showed off her versatility as an instrumentalist, playing harmonica in the slow and easy-going track ‘Oceans’, and then the ukulele in ‘Near Midnight’, featuring an awesome ukulele breakdown, and then to the tambourine in the more upbeat and catchy self-eponymous track, ‘Northern States’. The band is newly formed, but they consist of seasoned musicians and that experience was surely felt in their sound and their performance.
Country was brought to the stage in the second week by Kristen Bussandri featuring Darcy Windover. There is a certain maturity about Bussandri and Windover that stands out in terms of their lyrics, how they deliver those lyrics, and their mere stage presence. Before performing, Bussandri and Windover would often talk about the meaning of some of their songs, uncommon among most of the young and/or newly formed bands in these showcases who just simply perform track by track. Describing their lyrics evoked a sense of attachment and meaning to their music, felt even more in Bussandri’s clear and emotional vocals in songs like the new single ‘Five and Done’, or even more so in ‘How Could You’, expressing the ache of heartbreak. Equally poignant is ‘Caught Fire’, written by Windover, which most especially showed off a chemistry between the two singer-songwriters that can simply be described as magical. Both Bussandri and Windover have LPs coming out in the summer, so watch out for those!
Tonight’s show will generally be a folk rock, country night with Windover returning to the The Press Club, along with Vancouver-based folk singer-songwriter Tereza Tomek and Samantha Scott from Dawson Creek. There also will be some funk blues in the Chris Harper Band.
The show is at 9:30 pm at The Press Club in Toronto.
For more on the artists performing, visit www.ababemusic.com.