Real Live Action

Stefana Fratila1

Stefana Fratila

w/ Lief Hall, Aileen Bryant

Words + Photography
Frances Shroff

The usually sparse atmosphere of Selectors’ Records was filled up by throngs of people, packed in tight. Mostly sitting cross-legged on the hard concrete floor, the crowd filled every available space in the room, from the shelves of records pushed up against the back wall, to the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the bustling corner of Pender and Carrall Streets.

Lief Hall1
Lief Hall||Photography by Frances Shroff for Discorder Magazine

Vancouver artist and vocal improvisor Aileen Bryant started the night. At the sound of her first few hummed notes, the bustling room quieted, with all eyes and ears paying close attention. Looping and layering her voice into lush pads of sound, then manipulating and distorting them, Bryant drew attention to both the creation and the destruction of the music she was creating. The effect was entrancing as her sampled voice warped alongside her live utterances in one continuous piece. She ended her performance after about 25 minutes, the perfect amount of time to leave the audience satisfied but ready to hear more.

Lief Hall2
Lief Hall||Photography by Frances Shroff for Discorder Magazine

The crowd sprung up from the floor and stretched their weary knees as Bryant moved her gear from centre stage to make room for Lief Hall, formerly of electronic duo MYTHS. After a brief break, Hall summoned the crowd back to their seated position and began. Markedly more upbeat than Bryant, Hall’s performance largely consisted of sparse and moody electro-pop backing tracks with Hall singing overtop. Between her first and second song, she said, “I have a smoke machine that I got for a music video, but I can never remember to use it when I’m playing,” before asking the crowd if anyone would like to control its remote control. A hand quickly shot up, and she handed the remote to someone sitting up front. After a quick puff of fog, she jumped back into the music. With steady bursts of haze throughout, Hall’s set was just short of getting people up and dancing. Instead, feet tapped along, shoulders swayed and heads bobbed among the seated crowd until Hall’s set concluded

Stefana Fratila, seated on stage beside a mixer and laptop, among other equipment, started by playing some quiet field recordings amidst the buzz of the room. Slowly, the crowd’s attention began to veer away from their intermission conversations towards the next performance.

Stefana Fratila2
Stefana Fratila||Photography by Frances Shroff for Discorder Magazine

“You might want to sit down again for this. It’s not going to be the most lively set,” Fratila spoke into the microphone. The crowd dutifully lowered themselves back down to the floor. After a brief explanation on the sounds she was to use during her set, Fratila began. She mixed various samples and soundscapes, from rushing water in Jasper National Park to lively bebop jazz, before quieting it down and softly singing overtop in Romanian.

As her music slowly transformed, eventually becoming a slow, almost deep house groove, the lights from buildings and cars outside the venue created an immersive experience. Knowing the evening was almost over, I settled in a little deeper and let the dim mix of light and sound wash over me.

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Sarah Jane Scouten

w/ Bill Jr. Jr.

author
Lucas Lund
Image Courtesy of
Sarah Jane Scouten

Even though the show had yet to begin, the Fox Cabaret was packed from the door to the stage, with groups of all ages casually conversing away. While I often attend concerts alone — and am generally quite comfortable doing so — the hum of the room made me feel like I was the only one flying solo for this one: Sarah Jane Scouten’s release show for her latest LP When The Bloom Falls From The Rose.

Squeezing through tight gaps in the crowd, I worked my way up towards the stage, planting myself against the wall of the venue. Bill Jr. Jr., a five-piece alt-country band, walked onstage and the room quieted slightly. Without a word, the Vancouver band began to play their brand of dreamy folk songs, ornamented with soft harmonies and very tasteful trumpet, courtesy of Caton Diab. About half of the audience had their attention on the band, while the other half continued to socialize amidst the music.

Without pause, Bill Jr. Jr. moved into their second song, which was cut short by the crackling and cutting-out of guitarist / vocalist Russell Gendron’s guitar. Bill Jr. Jr. picked up right where they left off after the problem was — only temporarily — fixed. Near the end of their set, during the single off their latest EP, “In Time,” Gendron’s guitar cut out again, bringing the band to a halt. “I swear these songs have endings,” Gendron joked, as he fiddled with his cables.

Despite the technical difficulties, the band left to warm applause. I moved toward the bar, passing by what seemed like clusters of old friends reuniting and new friends being happily made. The atmosphere was overwhelmingly merry, and I was still alone.

With a drink in hand, back at my spot by the wall, Sarah Jane Scouten walked onstage, followed by her sister Anna and a four piece band, all wearing matching tucked in black button-down shirts, embroidered with her album artwork.

What followed was a highlight reel of everything country, roots and folk, from Dolly Parton-esque dancing numbers, to somber ballads evoking Emmylou Harris, to Anders Sisters-style harmonies courtesy of the Scouten sisters, and everything in between. After the first two songs, Sarah addressed the audience for the first time. “In this band, we have two rules. First, no shorts on my stage,” gesturing at the legs of her bandmates. “Second, we start each set with two 2-steps then a waltz. Let’s go!”

As the set progressed, the joyous spectators became even more so, splitting into pairs, and twirling each onto the dance floor. The collective merriment reached a final crescendo during the encore when Sarah invited anyone who would sing to join the band onstage as they played “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. With the distance between performer and audience abolished, the Fox felt more like a family gathering than an album release show. In the company of the buoyant and bright crowd, I felt a lot less alone than I did at the start.