Amid a sea of red and white balloons, Winnipeg's Human Music opened the evening with an endearing set of slacker jams. Dual guitar riffs and a propelling drumbeat had heads nodding along to instrumental "Chill Ride" and a select few singing along with "Cool Party" and other songs from their debut release, How's It Goin'?. Playing loose (and often out of tune), the latest project from Cannon Bros' Cole Woods nonetheless engaged the modest crowd with self-deprecating stage banter and some dang fine pop songs.
After a short break for fresh air, Jay Arner got up to play a tight, fun set of songs both new and pulled from his full length and seven-inch releases.
"Bet you didn't know you were coming to a prog show," joked keyboard and sometime guitar player Jessica Delisle to the crowd after opening with two brand new tunes with decidedly different vibes from the retro-pop of Arner's self-titled LP. One of them was about aliens.
"We've literally played these songs, like, over 100 times," Arner added, before launching into some of the older material, which, despite the limitations of the PA, sounded great.
At the midway point of their set, Arner swapped spots with his drummer for a couple of tunes, including a sha-la-la-la-filled cover of Soho Jets' "Denim Goddess." The crowd, at this point warming up from their steady diet of tight jams and cigarettes, got as rowdy as they'd get, kicking about the balloons that covered the floor and stumble-dancing around the small space set aside for such hedonistic pleasures.
The fun continued through a few more songs after Arner again took the mic, and by the end of the evening, everyone was smiling, toe tapping and (occasionally) singing along. Even with a last-minute change in venue from the perpetually "open next week" Handsome Daughter to the residential HMS Arlington, the evening went off without a hitch. The intimate atmosphere, complete with reading lamps, colourful ribbons and some homemade cherry moonshine floating around, may even have been a better fit for the dreamy indie-pop double bill.
Jay Arner certainly proved that he and his band have the chops to go far in the game, and it's anyone's guess as to what they'll do next as they wrap up their lengthy Canadian summer tour.