Northcote Wunderbar, Edmonton AB, May 31

Northcote Wunderbar, Edmonton AB, May 31
Photo: Drew Penner
Wunderbar, Northcote's favourite Edmonton performance space, seemed more like a coffee shop confessional on this night than a typical concert venue. With red walls and a stage set less than a foot from the ground, it was the perfect place for the 84-person capacity crowd to soak up some songs.

Openers the Matinee blasted into their set with "Time Don't Wait," launching crystal-clear harmonies that would become a potent musical force throughout the night. The banjo and electric stand-up bass were key elements in an alt-country set that was more pop than backwoods. Matt Layzell, lead vocalist and songwriter for the Matinee, danced around stage with energy suited to a smoky Mississippi bar room. It was more than the beards and flowing hair that made the group evoke the era of the Band and CCR, but every track was instilled with a modern essence that made everything sound fresh. In one instance, the band even channeled the lyrics of Cat Stevens, adding their own rambling flow that seemed to intensify the original meaning. Closing with their song "The Road," they shifted from inspirational melodies to a segment during which each bandmate grabbed drumsticks and played a complex percussion line in unison. Moments later the Matinee were back in the throes of folksy bliss for their finale.

Matt Goud, the lead vocalist and guitarist for Northcote, told the utterly engrossed crowd the simplicity of his latest album's title is about fresh beginnings. "It's just called Northcote," the Saskatchewan-born singer said. "It's a good time to start again." Playing folk-rock that draws influences from the canon of post-punk and hardcore, a number of songs were reminiscent of Cursive, like a smoothed-out Against Me! or a more gruff City and Colour. To hear Goud belt out the words to "Wild Card" was like listening to a diary entry as he asked, "I wanna know, is a wild card still worth something?" The audience couldn't get enough, singing along to parts of almost every song. The words of "Wheels" wafted through the venue from the crowd. While rapid strumming set the pace for many a "whoa-whoa" backing chant, Northcote balanced the set with refrains that dipped into slow-dance territory with public displays of affection not an uncommon sight amongst the intimate crowd members. "I gotta say, I feel really at home in Edmonton," Goud noted. "I've got a little hillbilly and a little Whyte Avenue in me."