Review: We Are The City @ The Vogue Theatre

WE ARE THE CITY

with Hannah Epperson, Jordan Klassen, and the Belle Game

@ the Vogue Theatre

July 4th, 2013

IMG_0353
We Are The City vocalist Cayne McKenzie performs at the Vogue.

We Are The City’s Thursday night show at the Vogue Theatre was a euphoric celebration marking the release of Violent, their second full length album.  The show followed an ice cream cake party, with contest winning invitees scattered across a sad-looking basement, decorated sparsely with balloons that gave off a “no one showed up to my birthday” vibe. Despite the half-hearted decorations, the room was bursting with an energy that set the tone for the night ahead. The show itself featured openers Hannah Epperson, Jordan Klassen, and the Belle Game, a tight-knit group of local acts warming up the audience for headliners We Are The City.  The Vogue was filled with a late-teenage crowd, the type of people you expect to be filming the show on their iPhones while trying to look like they’re not.  However, as the night gained momentum, iPhones were shoved into pockets, completely abandoned in favour of reckless dancing.

Hannah Epperson kicked off the show, a small figure standing in the middle of a stage primarily covered by three other band’s equipment. Taking the floor barefoot (for better manipulation of loop pedal knobs), violin in hand, she gracefully began the evening with the soaring melodies and overlapping arrangements familiar to fans of her music. “I’d like to take a moment to introduce the band,” she joked, gesturing at an empty microphone stand to her right. Epperson, a Top Twenty finalist in this year’s Peak Performance project, needed no accompaniment; she was more than capable of filling the theatre with a truly gorgeous sound all on her own.

Another Peak Performance Project veteran followed, 2012 runner-up Jordan Klassen. Accompanied onstage by a band capable of switching instruments seemingly at random, the folk quintet powered through a short set of catchy pop-rock tinged tunes.  The vocals were stand-out, from gospel-like arrangements to lofty falsettos. Another highlight consisted of Klassen showing off questionable rapping capabilities to introducing his band mates and their respective parasites (a 67 inch roundworm, christened Cedric Jr., was present onstage).  Intestinal matters aside, Jordan Klassen provided an energetic and worthwhile set before passing the torch to the next band.

The Belle Game are at their best in large venues, with plenty of space to make noise.  They proved it on Thursday, taking the stage with a wall of sound before launching straight into a high energy performance of tracks taken from their first full length effort, Ritual. Tradition. Habit..  The dark-pop six-piece overcame technical difficulties to deliver a kick-ass show that quickly captured the hearts and attention of the audience.

As the crew prepared the stage for headliners We Are The City, several figures wove their way through the crowd, distributing small packages and whispered instructions.  As the lights dimmed and the band took to the stage, the crowd donned black eye masks, courtesy of Zachary Gray (of the Zolas), Hannah Epperson, and several others.  The effect was half disturbing and half hilarious as the band fought to keep straight faces, presented with a hoard of badly disguised concert-goers.   The masks soon came off as the audience was swept away by the rushing synths and rhythmic strength of Violent’s first track, “Bottom Of The Lake”.

Effortlessly transitioning between songs from albums old and new, the set list covered every era of We Are The City, a celebration of the work that brought them to Violent. Drummer Andrew Huculiak wore the same shirt he sported at the band’s very first show as a tribute to how far the group had come. The result of this reflection was a show that encompassed every quintessential aspect of the trio’s sound, from In A Quiet World to High School to Violent.  The band’s signature contrast between loud and soft persisted throughout,  present in front man Cayne McKenzie’s trademark vocals, cutting out at random, and guitarist David Menzel’s accented guitar.  The climaxes of the music were euphoric, and the silences were absolute.  As the band left the stage, the audience remained, demanding an encore.  McKenzie, surprised and slightly unprepared for the unexpected support, returned to the stage for an intimate rendition of “Mourning Song” as requested by audience members.  As McKenzie sang, the crowd stood silent, spellbound. As the final chord struck, it became apparent that, over the years this trio had performed, We Are The City had come a long, long way.

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