Brekky Boy Made It Well Worth the Trip

Ottawa Jazz Festival, June 29

Photo: Kamara Morozuk

BY Luke PearsonPublished Jun 30, 2023

Definitely in the running for band who travelled farthest to get here, Sydney, Australia trio Brekky Boy righteously had one of the most well-attended sets at the OLG stage so far. Starting just a tiny bit late (acts have been on schedule almost to the minute so far), they quickly won the crowd over in their skater-dudes who are kinda into NASCAR outfits, synth-player and spokesperson Taylor Davis adding rainy-season beach-bum accents on the left. His rich, cascading arpeggios are a central part of the group's sound, and they were a real highlight here, boasting broad, pop-crossover appeal sometimes in the vein of the Piano Guys, although cooler, scruffier and a thousand times less likely to be on your hip grandma's 'active' playlist. 

Like that group however, Brekky Boy are drawn to the big melodies of certain millennial piano belters, and their viral cover of Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" was indeed dutifully trotted out (to admittedly much joy), although in a deconstructed version full of performative flourishes and cute call-and-response antics from Davis and bassist Ryan Hurst. It felt like the right move mixing it up like this, reminiscent of how Feist sidestepped the inevitability of having to play "1234" a few days earlier. Most definitely not the right move was omitting their other excellent cover, a sublime rendition of Aphex Twin's "Film," which is a masterclass in the adaptability of jazz. It was a missed opportunity, at the very least — at the most? Well, it might've been a sin. 

At least drummer Alex Hirlian conjured the spirit of Squarepusher from time to time, crossing the jazz/IDM divide over the fragile bridge of drum & bass. He kept things rock-solid through all sorts of signature changes, and anyone at the Mark Guiliana show the previous night would have been primed to notice his skills. Like his counterpart in Little Animal!, he had one of his cymbals mangled in a way that obviously brought special powers of some kind.

It was a pity that, although the crowd was huge, a large portion of it siphoned off halfway through, presumably to get good spots for Snarky Puppy starting up across the street — one exodus roughly two-thirds through was a bit wince-inducing and didn't help the vibe. But there were no hard feelings from Brekky Boy, who were clearly happy to be there ("frothing," as it were), finishing the set with "Setsuko," the title track from their latest EP. Like the rest of their set, it was awesome (once you got over the fact that it wasn't "Film"). Certainly those that stuck around were unlikely to regret it, and the Boys were allowed to run over to make up for lost time. As the tent emptied for real, an enthusiastic throng stayed behind to chat with a grinning Davis as he packed up his gear, the froth contagious. 

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