Yellow Jacket Avenger / Heavy Meadows / Jeff Gay and Special Blends Gus' Pub, Halifax NS June 4
Published Jun 09, 2009You know it's a special night out in Halifax when you can look around tiny Gus's Pub and pick out Joel Plaskett, Mike O'Neill and at least one member of Wintersleep swilling mini pints of draft in the crowd. These local legends, like everyone else in the packed bar, were beckoned by a rare reunion and seven-inch release show from the much-adored trio Yellow Jacket Avenger (pictured), helmed by former Haligonian Geoffrey Pye.
Jeff Gay and Special Blends kicked off the show with an endearingly ramshackle set of good-time bar rock. Gay grinned ruefully at the still-sober crowd as he bashed out tuneful, twang-y solos, shuffling back and forth in a grunged-out version of the electric slide. They kicked up the pace a notch with a couple of Band-style rippers and the kids at the merch table were soon nodding approvingly to the beat.
The second act, Heavy Meadows, drew a sizeable crowd to the front of the room, making the young ladies sway with their good looks and dreamy jam-rock. The music was pretty enough but after Gay's chugging, bouncy set, the atmosphere felt a bit anesthetized. Less ardent fans took the time to duck out for a smoke or grab an Oland's.
Pye, drummer Nathan Elliot-Doucet and bassist Chris Pennell took the stage a little after midnight. In a live setting, Pye is a compelling presence — he stood unobtrusively to the side of the stage for most of the set, but his warm, world-weary tenor bled through the room like an elixir. On record, Yellow Jacket Avenger's songs can sound gently, weirdly sparse, but when the trio gets a hold of numbers like "Seeds" or "Hiding Out," the songs become newly intense and propulsive. Gay joined the group on keyboards and soon the gang sing-alongs began. "I don't want it," the crowd shouted with Pye, but it's clear that this was, in fact, very much what they wanted — a brief and lovely memory of a musician who should hold rank with Plaskett and all the rest in the annals of Halifax legend.