Tucked away a block off Broadway is the Woodland House, sitting so inconspicuously among its peers that I walked straight past it on my first approach. Walking up to the house, I was casually greeted from the porch by Robyn Jacob, part of the musical duo, The Giving Shapes. Seeing the pile of shoes near the door, I removed mine and entered the living room where a couple of couches and chairs were arranged to face a mic, a full sized harp, a million electronic pedals, an amp and an upright piano. The “crowd” (maybe 15 people) was sprawled out on the furniture and floor. Despite my knowing no one, everyone was friendly and welcomed me in readily.
The host, Elisa Thorn of the Giving Shapes, eventually stood up, turned off the music, and welcomed Wallgrin to the front. Wallgrin is the solo project of Tegan Wahlgren, who started off by mentioning that they don’t speak much onstage before beginning their set.
Wallgrin created their music using vocals, a violin, and looping and effects pedals. Like the siren they describe in their released single, “Ae’aea,” they drew the listener in with hypnotic music. Building songs layer by layer, they wove violin into vocals, making simple percussive beats on their violin, and harmonizing with past selves. While Wallgrin created magical music with their looping melodies, I found myself wishing that they would sometimes let the loops play without adding lead violin or vocals overtop. The loops that Wallgrin built up were powerful — it would be good to give the audience time to absorb the loops before going on to the next song.
Wallgrin’s music holds a lot of tension, using dissonance to good effect. Most of their songs weren’t soothing — they draw you into an otherworldly realm and sweep you into feeling the emotions with which they are infused. The audience was enthralled until the end of Wallgrin’s performance broke the spell. The lights came back on, Wallgrin turned back into Wahlgren, and the audience took a break to get snacks and drinks from the next room over. Chips, dip, clementines, oh my!
After the intermission, Elisa and Robyn sat down to become The Giving Shapes: Elisa on the harp and vocals, Robyn on the piano and vocals. Their intricate melodies were simply gorgeous. They used odd time signatures to great effect, admitting themselves that their complicated rhythms are far from easy to play. The entire show was very informal, but the quality of the musicianship cannot be understated. The audience, small though it was, was largely made up of by musicians. After commenting on my inability to remember names the first time around, one audience member said, “That’s the nice thing about the Vancouver music scene — you’ll keep seeing the same people around.” The entire experience gave me a great sense of community, from the playful quips the musicians made in between songs to the casual hangouts before and after the concert. If you’re looking for good conversation and great music, I can’t recommend the Woodland House enough. Be on the lookout for the Woodland Patio Series this summer.