The street was deserted as I walked up to a plain, two-storey office building in Railtown. A sheet of paper was taped to the door with, “Rob Butterfield: Go around back” scrawled in Sharpie. Around back, I pulled open a heavy, unmarked door and went inside. The room was sparsely decorated with acoustic baffling, save the carpeted, homely and exquisitely lit stage set up in one corner. The rest of the space was populated by groups of amicably conversing, well-dressed young people, sipping slowly at their complimentary beers. I had found the right place.
I was there for the second instalment of Light Organ Records’ Railtown Sessions, a four-part live-streamed concert series featuring some of B.C.’s most talented folk and roots artists.
After a brief introduction by Light Organ’s Andy Bishop, mastermind behind the Railtown Sessions, Rob Butterfield and his band — bassist Colin Cowan, keyboardist Chris Kelly, and singers Debra-Jean Creelman and Jenn Bojm — emerged from the crowd, and settled into their places on stage. They plunged into the first song, “Good People.”
Butterfield’s twangy and intricate guitar parts seemed effortless, as he sang in harmony with Creelman and Bojm. Despite playing on an electric bass, Cowan’s bass lines resounded with the depth of a double bass. And Kelly’s keyboard turned into a B-3 organ as he added soulful fills throughout the arrangement. The song, with its blend of country, bluegrass and rock, would have easily fit in on The Band’s 1968 Music From Big Pink.
As the song finished, the crowd kept quiet, unsure about the applause protocol during a recorded performance. At Butterfield’s tentative “thank you,” the room’s tentative claps rose. “This next song’s abo — am I supposed to talk for this?” asked Butterfield. “I’ve never done one of these live-streaming things before.”
Deciding to go on talking, Butterfield continued to question the logistics of the session’s format. “How do we know if the people watching the stream are enjoying this?” Butterfield asked, before arriving at the answer himself: “Oh, the tweets.”
As they drifted through the rest of their rootsy set, the crowd gradually sunk to the ground. Squatting on haunches, sitting cross-legged, or even lying on the studio floor, the music influenced every person in attendance to find a little extra comfort.
Just as the audience had settled in, Butterfield announced that the session was over. After only five songs, the house lights came up, and like a nap cut short, I squinted against the sudden brightness to watch the band begin to tear down.