Human Highway / The Magic / Giant Hand / Ennuie Maverick's, Ottawa ON December 14

Human Highway / The Magic / Giant Hand / Ennuie Maverick's, Ottawa ON December 14
Crippled by a citywide transit strike and an intense exam-eve snowstorm, Toronto's Human Highway's debut performance saw Nicolas Thorburn and Jim Guthrie revisiting their salad days of playing undersized clubs to paltry turnouts.

Welcoming the few snowblind attendees, Ottawa kitsch-en sink duo Ennuie fervently pressed out an unfocused if not absorbing performance. Accompanied by a television displaying workout videos and Christmas specials, Ennuie's live show suffered from too much visual with not enough aural.

Next was Ottawa's Giant Hand, whose markedly eccentric and magnetic songs rechristened Maverick's stage as sort of a Northern Roswell, aping the alien visage of Daniel Johnston with the pointed beauty of Jandek. Giant Hand's songs pierced the audience with innocence, clarity and a vulnerability that lesser artists often fake.

The line between proletarian and professional was curtly drawn when Toronto-cum-Guelph's the Magic entered the stage. Arguably Canada's best unsigned band of the now, the six-piece oozed poise, blending James Chance-style boogie and Arcade Fire's Marxist melodies into something completely captivating. Co-vocalists Geordie Gordon and Sylvie Smith exist marvelously, building affinity despite the fact that each has enough charisma to front their own separate groups.

Accompanied by a three-piece backing band, Human Highway kicked off their live music career to 21 fans watching from 20 feet away, Guthrie's high spirits played off of Thorburn's ennui, demonstrated by the way songs like "Sleep Talking' and "The Sound" volleyed between delight and melancholy. Complete with Guthrie's re-invention of Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone" and a performance of his "You Are Far (Do You Exist)" from Now, More Than Ever, Human Highway delivered an intimate live show by proxy.

For those in attendance, it was a night worth remembering... For the members of Human Highway, let's just say that the next evening's New York show was billed as their "debut performance."