Upon walking into the underground bar, I was met by the pleasant vocal stylings of Gillian Moranz. In addition to her own guitar playing, Moranz was joined onstage by Petunia & the Vipers’ guitarist — and righteous musician in his own right — Stephen Nikleva. Moranz, with her stinging lyrics and smooth, velvety voice, sang through several folk and country songs supplemented by Nikleva’s slide guitar. This, along with the overpowering bar smells of days gone past, provided an eerie mood in the bar and made it feel as though it were an old-timey tavern amongst bandits and thieves.
Fittingly, next up was Milk Crate Bandits. By this time the crowd had swelled and there was no longer room to sit, let alone stand. Fronted by Australian singer and banjoist Jack Ray, the amazing band was rounded out by performers on the trombone, clarinet and stand up bass. With a modern take on New Orleans jazz, the solos from the clarinet and trombone players set off some swing dancing in the crowd. Despite riling up the room, the background chatter began to drown out the music. But the Bandits soldiered on with their swingin’ sound and won the crowd back with more epic trombone and clarinet solos and Ray’s jazzy vocals.
After much anticipation, Blue Moon Marquee hit the stage. Recently returned from an exhausting European tour, Jasmine Colette and A.W. Cardinal hit the stage all smiles and ready to roll! Right away, I could overhear the crowd marvel at the fancy foot and hand work of Colette, who played the bass and snare drums with her left foot, the hi-hat with her right, all while holding the stand up bass with her right hand and intermittently hitting a cymbal with her left. Got all that?
Despite the complicated yet crafty setup, you could tell both Colette and Cardinal loved every second of it as they played with their eyes closed, laughing and smiling throughout the whole show. Cardinal’s clean jazz and blues guitar playing, honed in clubs and bars throughout Montreal and New York, coupled with his gritty and grizzled vocals rounded out the soulful sound to this jazz, swing and blues band.
Blue Moon Marquee had the full attention of the crowd, blowing us all away with their carefully crafted, foot–stompin’ performance. With tunes such as “Double Barrel Blues,” “Trickster Coyote” and “Pour Me One,” I got the sense of their tough, Alberta roots, and their experience playing everywhere from dives to festivals showed. The performance was cut short due to strict noise bylaws, but I have the feeling they would have gladly played us into the night.