I’m really not one for Hallmark holidays. Thankfully, this past Feb. 14 was a Valentine’s Day less ordinary. Local concert promoters Twee Death invited K Records artist and former Quebec resident Geneviève Castrée (O Paon) up from her home in Washington for a night of lamplight serenades in the quaint St. James church hall.
Local improv comedian Aaron Read opened the night with an eccentric, ugly duckling set of solo songs. Despite long, drawn out guitar tuning and missing beat samples, Read redeemed himself with a sense of humour that kept the docile crowd laughing.
In the world of feminist politics, Valentines Day coincides with V-Day, an annual day to remember and protest violence against women. Aja Rose and Gabriel Soloman (a.k.a. Diadem) dedicated their set of ethereal sound transmogrification to the women who gathered earlier that day to commemorate First Nations women who have gone missing from the Downtown East Side. Crafted from warped vocals, ghostly guitar and a table of electronics, Rose and Soloman’s music was a beautiful meditation that easily reached the hearts of those seated in the church’s hard pews.
Shortly after, the one-woman show that is O Paon took the darkened wooden church stage to end the night. Listening to the soft-spoken Québécois lyrics and articulate guitar loops of opening song “La Cible,” it seemed that Castrée would end the night quietly. However, she brought the crowd to life with a remarkable vocal range, majestic compositions and cultural observations gathered from her stateside life. Managing two microphones and a guitar sitting firmly on her hip, Castrée worked her way through a set of personal songs, including “L’Aeroport,” a seething indictment of Condoleezza Rice’s role in the Bush administration’s atrocities. Ending with an improvised cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” Castrée thanked the crowd of kids cozied up on one another’s shoulders, obviously content with the hush and beauty of a night that subverted the most romantic day of the year as much as it embraced it.