Hailing from Victoria, B.C. are core members Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer of Jon & Roy, a duo that has established itself as a definitive Canadian ensemble that resonate a West Coast sound. The free‐spirited folk feel of their sunshine‐tinged songs has undoubtedly begun infecting the independent music scene. Their new album, Homes, which introduces additional members Ryan Tonelli on bass guitar and violinist Dougal McLean, is able to paint a portrait of life away from the bustling city, and takes us into a setting that soothes all strains and worries. Similar to the positive energy coursing through their studio albums, Jon & Roy’s live show is able to whisk you to a place where life can actually pause long enough for you to enjoy it. Without disappointment, Jon & Roy’s participation in the Live Sessions series (broadcasted live on CBC Radio 2’s Canada Live), presented by the Chan Centre of Performing Arts at UBC, faithfully reflected the emotions and sounds that flow through their body of work, including their previous two albums: Another Noon (2008) and Sittin’ Back (2005).
Middleton stepped on stage first. Followed soon after by Vizer, and then Tonelli (who is eerily reminiscent of a leaner, bohemian version of Canadian animated hero Yvon of the Yukon, who donned a similar toque). Symbols of the group’s nationalism, whether intentional or coincidental, were expressed in both apparent and subtle ways. One of the most obvious was the Oilers sticker casually branding the bass amp. A less conspicuous example was Vizer’s lack of shoes. I noted, with private amusement, that the band was able to make me feel part of a culture that is forged by easygoing attitudes and positive outlooks. Although hard to pinpoint why this faint detail left such an impression on how I regarded this band, I know that only Granville Street teeming with people belting the national anthem could have made me feel more Canadian than this shoeless drummer.
Aside from the down‐to‐earth demeanor of this group, their musicality and stage presence is definitely something worth mentioning. Middleton’s vocal mastery over quick, syncopated lyrics often surprised the crowd with its diverse range of choral ability when switching from reggae‐like songs such as “The Right Groove” to slower, more melodic ballads like “To the Beach.” McLean also provided a refreshing dynamic to the composition of the band. Complimenting the full‐bodied sounds from the guitar, bass and drums, McLean’s violin (and sometimes mandolin) created an offbeat harmony to the performance. Also, Middleton frequently snuck in jokes about his long‐overdue haircut, or pointed to familiar faces in the crowd which further accentuated the intimacy of the show. Tonelli, on the other hand, exuded a shy presence, with his attention focused on the centre of the stage. But aside from the concentration of the performance, the electrifying dedication and passion emitted by the band was obvious and appreciated.
Jon & Roy are not simply a musical act providing listeners with great music (although they do so remarkably), but rather they are a reminder to us that life is about taking the moment from a day of work, study and deadlines to enjoy what we normally do not.