Date of show: August 20, 2010
Shot of choice: tequila
The El Mocambo was packed for hometown band Great Bloomers. It was well deserved, especially considering they haven’t played a headline show in Toronto since their CD release for Speak of Trouble. The 5 gentlemen that make up Great Bloomers are Lowell Sostomi (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Shawn Dell (keys, vocals), Anthony McKnight (bass), Tim Moxam (guitar, vocals) and Kyle Watt (drums). This 5-piece alt-country piano-heavy rock band is guaranteed to bring a passionate set every single time. Lowell’s vocals and the energy with which he plays are sure to stand out and their blends of piano, guitar and lyricism make for an exceptional show.
The guys played 14 songs (including encore) to a completely ignited crowd. They played songs from their debut EP and Speak of Trouble, but they also unveiled newer material, to be released on a 7” this fall. This was their fall tour kick off and they really did kick it off right. To step back and observe the crowd meant seeing a room full of people singing along, the particular highlight being “Speak of Trouble.” Great Bloomers played a hearty, memorable set.
However, it wasn’t the smoothest set. There were numerous technical difficulties. Lowell was getting feedback from his monitor early in the set, but it was really Tim who was plagued for most of the set by his power chord cutting in and out. After playing their cover of The Band‘s “Look Out Cleveland,” a song that was a particular struggle for Tim, Lowell said, “Despite all the technical difficulties, when that riff came in, my heart skipped a beat.” I think it did for everyone, as the crowd all cheered at that very perfect moment. The technical difficulties did not hold the guys back, though, as they powered through an energetic set.
For the record, a Great Bloomers show is best experienced right up front, which is where all their friends are sure to be. The highlight, though, has to be standing next to Andrew Kekewich, former member of Great Bloomers and current drummer with The Wooden Sky. I dare you to find anyone more excited to see his friends play tunes he was a part of writing. Go see a Great Bloomers show and be sure to buy them a shot. Seriously… I mean it.
Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, led by Olenka Krakus (vocals, classical guitar), is a 6-piece (sometimes 7-piece) folk-rock band from London, Ontario. The Autumn Lovers are Sara Froese (violin, vocals), Simon Larochette (trumpet), Daniel Mancini (drums), Kelly Wallraff (cello, vocals), Blair Whatmore (electric guitar, lap steel, mandolin, accordion), and occasionally Shawn Clarke (saxophone, glockenspiel, guitar, vocals). They were second to perform and they filled out the whole stage. To be honest, our first thought when seeing them fill out the stage was “wow, glad we’re not buying shots for this band.”
Olenka has a beautiful voice to complement the personal and moving lyrics, but she’s got a great personality on stage as well. There is something about the way she commands the stage that is captivating. As the band frequently made eye contact with one other and smiled, it is apparent how well these musicians work together and how much they enjoy playing with one another. As it seemed to be a theme of the night, there were some technical difficulties, so it was not quite a smooth set, but they were able to display some beautiful rich, textured harmonies. Olenka and the Autumn Lovers manage to use an array of instruments alongside poignant lyrics to bring Olenka’s storytelling to life.
On their MySpace, it states that they sound like “a Polish waltz, a vodka glass, a melancholy playground, a night of carnivalesque revelry” and if that doesn’t convince you to listen to Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, you are truly missing out.
Kalle Mattson is a 4-piece that hails from Sault Ste. Marie and is comprised of Kalle Waino (vocals, guitar), Rory Lewis (guitar, synth), Théan Slabbert (bass, vocals) and Jimmie Chiverelli (drums). They had the earliest set time, so the crowd did not start to fill out until later in their set. When stating that the band is from Sault Ste. Marie, Kalle said, “You probably don’t know where that is. It’s a long ways away.” Far it is, but they were a good fit with Olenka and the Autumn Lovers and Great Bloomers. They set the stage for the night and their breed of folk-rock is sure to put a smile on your face.
The guys in Kalle Mattson bring a fresh, young mix of The Weakerthans and Wilco and a maturity that offsets their obvious youth. Kalle’s voice is breezy and full of charm and he also brings some awkwardly adorable stage banter. The boys dabble a little in some distortion while staying true to a more folk-based sound. Kalle Mattson played a solid set, but towards the end of the set is when I truly saw fire in the frontman, as he belted his heart out. With that passion and youth on their side, Kalle Mattson has the potential for a very bright future.