Published Oct 21, 2015Lining up venues and bands at a festival like HPX is always tough, especially given the limited options available. Opening nights are tricky crowds, too: the kinds of fans who head out on Tuesday nights tend to be HPX keeners, as eager to catch up with old friends as they are to see bands.
All of which is to say that Un Blonde wasn't particularly well served by the environment at Reflections last night. Whenever the R&B-tinged grooves of Montreal-via-Calgary guitarist Jean-Sebastien Audet and his bandmates hit a pronounced, steady rhythm, the crowd's attention was drawn towards the stage, but the silence between the grooves, and Audet's dizzying falsetto runs that danced over them, struggled to connect.
I don't know whether the band's members sensed this vibe, or whether it was just their natural performance style (it was my first time seeing Un Blonde), but you could feel them turning inwards, more focused on each other than the crowd. Audet often turned the mic sideways, singing towards the wings rather than the front of the stage. His jittery, jumpy guitar solos were matched by an impassioned performance style, but one that often kept his eyes closed or his loose hand on his face. His voice, soft as a whisper, was sometimes a challenge to pick up on.
But there was something compelling going on, regardless. Moving closer to the speakers to avoid the crowd's din, I found myself lost in the band's guitar tone: the combined sound had a deeply physical resonance, like a low hum that just hung there in the mix. I picked up the intricacies of the two-guitar interplay that was taking place, and fell into the moments when the lines spiralled into place. The circumstances may not have been ideal, but the content was worth the attention.