Published Jan 31, 2011Something felt different at the Seahorse Tavern. As openers Dance Movie began warming up and eyes drifted to the stage, the change suddenly became clear -- you could actually see which band was playing. Frosted fluorescents lit the room from behind in a series of reds, blues and greens -- a total contrast to the bar's usual dark, dungeon-esque atmosphere. It was like being in a cute technicolour forest, an apt enough setting for the sweet music of Julie Doiron.
When music journalists turn to songwriting, the results can be mixed (see Lester Bangs and the Delinquents), but in the case of Tara Thorne's orchestral pop ensemble Dance Movie, the transition has been seamless. The longtime arts reporter and editor has had a busy year since the release of her Amelia Curran-produced debut It's in the And, opening for Hannah Georgas, Bahamas, Jenn Grant and now Doiron. While Dance Movie sets are often characterized by Thorne's between-song banter, tonight the band played a focused set that reached its apex at "Coco Plays the Bass," a soaring parable pulled high by Thorne's pure and wondering vocals.
Baby Eagle, the solo project of Constantines guitarist Steve Lambke, was rounded out by his backing band the Proud Mothers this time round, featuring fellow Sackville, NS musicians Will Kidman on guitar, Matt Charlton on bass and Attack in Black's Ian Kehoe on drums. The pleasantly grungy instrumentals filled the gaps that Lambke's vocal warbling couldn't, while his guitar histrionics were impressive enough to lure a gaggle of dancers to the front of the room, shuffling and nodding in unison.
Kidman remained on stage to accompany Doiron on drums. The pair seemed happy to be playing together, barrelling through a cluster of favourites from her upbeat 2009 album, I Can Wonder What You Did with Your Day. She then passed the guitar to Kidman and grabbed the microphone, singing and swooping her arms over the audience like a one-woman Greek chorus. Later, she sat in on the drums and insisted on playing them later during the show's closer, a cover of Neil Young's "Helpless." During another cover, "Love Hurts," the drums were abandoned altogether, and she and Kidman smiled ruefully at each other over the microphone.
While some have argued that the happy Doiron songs lack depth, her onstage presence remains captivating -- funny, goofy, a little distracted and occasionally overwhelmed by the delight of performance. And by the end, it felt as if the amplified lighting had smoothed out any indications of weariness or age, and instead, she and Kidman were presented to the world in a new way -- unmarred and gleeful as children.