It was clear from the moment I walked down the aisle of the Rio Theatre in search of a seat that this night would hold some magic. Toronto’s Jennifer Castle (Castle Music) was onstage, just her and a ukulele, playing hushed pretty songs about wayfaring lovers, knowing each cloud by its first name and bottled ships lost at sea. Her songs brought imaginings of standing on deck of a small boat with the cool breeze of her voice gently caressing the skin and hair as an old wise ocean nymph cradles you and tells of her storied travels through life. It was all so romantically contemplative, it made me want to share every moment with the people I love.
After a short break between sets, Chad VanGaalen and his band made their way to stage, VanGaalen in a long black wig and his drummer in a silver party hat. The band, clearly comfortable with each other and the music they play, gave a performance that felt less like a popular band holding court and more like four really talented people you know who decided to play a show in some movie theatre. VanGaalen played a captivating set, consisting mostly of new material and the odd older favourite, the gems being a goofy cover of Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam” as a birthday request song, and the gorgeously sad “Willow Tree,” played during the encore. The perfect setting made all the difference, too. Not having to vie for a position just to see the band was really nice—it felt like we were all equally sharing this beautiful performance. It was comfortable, unpretentious and definitely one of the best shows I’ve been to in a while.