Part three of Soft Cedar, an ‘unconventional’ series of concerts organized by The Cultch, was Holy Hum and Hello Blue Roses at the historic York Theatre.
The show started with a special solo set of Hello Blue Roses, performed by Sydney Hermant. While I loved their new release, Trade Winds, the show did not do the album — or Hermant — justice. Crushed forward on the stage by a red velvet curtain, Hermant’s voice warbled, and it gave the impression she was nervous about her new songs. During the few moments that Hermant seemed comfortable, it was breathtaking. Hermant’s nerves cleared when she played her flute, an instrument that, from an audience perspective, felt like an extension of her body. Unfortunately, looping it was an issue — the rhythms never lined up, melding together into unintentional dissonance. Hermant didn’t have the support she seemingly needed.
Holy Hum was in stark contrast. Full bodied and precise in their sound, the six-piece band headed by Andrew Lee took the stage with a quiet determination. The show started with a pinpoint of aqua marine on the giant screen at the back of the stage. Slowly it expanded, growing into waves, casting the band as silhouettes. This projected art, which transformed into cities and forests, kept the set moving. He only spoke once during the set to say that the album, All Of My Bodies, was a personal project for him — reconciling the loss of father— and that it was weird and wonderful that it brought in a full house.
His music was made up of multi-layered strings, driving rhythms, myriad synths, piercing guitars and earnest vocals. Each element would’ve been enjoyable on their own, but the sound of them all melding together made a true piece of art. My favourite part was the looped background vocals that made a beat for one of the songs. At first it looked like Tegan Wahlgren was listening to a metronome, but then they moved off, following her own sung sounds, creating a naturalistic base for the rest of the song.
Hello Blue Roses and Holy Hum both performed from the heart, in each their own ways. Yet both sets were played with love to the people in the red plush chairs in the theatre before them.