Even though the show had yet to begin, the Fox Cabaret was packed from the door to the stage, with groups of all ages casually conversing away. While I often attend concerts alone — and am generally quite comfortable doing so — the hum of the room made me feel like I was the only one flying solo for this one: Sarah Jane Scouten’s release show for her latest LP When The Bloom Falls From The Rose.
Squeezing through tight gaps in the crowd, I worked my way up towards the stage, planting myself against the wall of the venue. Bill Jr. Jr., a five-piece alt-country band, walked onstage and the room quieted slightly. Without a word, the Vancouver band began to play their brand of dreamy folk songs, ornamented with soft harmonies and very tasteful trumpet, courtesy of Caton Diab. About half of the audience had their attention on the band, while the other half continued to socialize amidst the music.
Without pause, Bill Jr. Jr. moved into their second song, which was cut short by the crackling and cutting-out of guitarist / vocalist Russell Gendron’s guitar. Bill Jr. Jr. picked up right where they left off after the problem was — only temporarily — fixed. Near the end of their set, during the single off their latest EP, “In Time,” Gendron’s guitar cut out again, bringing the band to a halt. “I swear these songs have endings,” Gendron joked, as he fiddled with his cables.
Despite the technical difficulties, the band left to warm applause. I moved toward the bar, passing by what seemed like clusters of old friends reuniting and new friends being happily made. The atmosphere was overwhelmingly merry, and I was still alone.
With a drink in hand, back at my spot by the wall, Sarah Jane Scouten walked onstage, followed by her sister Anna and a four piece band, all wearing matching tucked in black button-down shirts, embroidered with her album artwork.
What followed was a highlight reel of everything country, roots and folk, from Dolly Parton-esque dancing numbers, to somber ballads evoking Emmylou Harris, to Anders Sisters-style harmonies courtesy of the Scouten sisters, and everything in between. After the first two songs, Sarah addressed the audience for the first time. “In this band, we have two rules. First, no shorts on my stage,” gesturing at the legs of her bandmates. “Second, we start each set with two 2-steps then a waltz. Let’s go!”
As the set progressed, the joyous spectators became even more so, splitting into pairs, and twirling each onto the dance floor. The collective merriment reached a final crescendo during the encore when Sarah invited anyone who would sing to join the band onstage as they played “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. With the distance between performer and audience abolished, the Fox felt more like a family gathering than an album release show. In the company of the buoyant and bright crowd, I felt a lot less alone than I did at the start.