Arts & Culture City In Focus

IDOW: Thursday

Hey all! Hope the first couple weeks of 2018 have been treating you kindly. I’m back again with some concert reviews, this time covering the In the Dead of Winter Music Festival (IDOW). This festival is in its 13th year and going strong with some incredible acts. Their mandate is to highlight songwriters from across the Atlantic provinces, Canada and the United States. The goal is to give performers access to wider audiences and the chance to meet and collaborate with other artists. If you have the chance to catch some shows this weekend, do it!
Thursday (The Carleton)
If you have attended Halifax Pop Explosion, or read mine and Hannah’s reviews, you will know the venues are spread out all over the city. IDOW is set up similarly, with concerts going on all weekend at The Carleton, Marquee, Seahorse Tavern and Good Robot. Since this festival is very appropriately named, I decided to beat the cold and just stick to one venue per night.
The Carleton is one of the best spots to catch live music in Halifax. They are currently under renovation, with a completion date of mid-February, but that isn’t stopping them from hosting performers during the festival. I can tell you that that the inside is looking great, and you could barely tell there was more work to be done (besides the red solo cups they were using to serve beer).

(Photo: Jessica MacIsaac)
Brooklyn Doran performing at the Carleton (Photo: Jessica MacIsaac)

Brooklyn Doran
Doran’s twitter bio states “sad girl folk”, and that’s pretty much exactly what she delivered. Her first song “Single Malt Boy” was a perfect introduction to her style. She sweetly delivers musical tales about her hometown, heartbreak and other situations she draws inspiration from. Her quiet folky tunes have large swells that allow her to show off her powerful voice, and all of her songs had little catchy hooks that drew the audience in. Though her and her partner on stage, Nick Posthumus, repeatedly mentioned their nerves about the performance, they had a natural ease on stage. A great way to start off the show.

(Photo: Jessica MacIsaac)
Lydia Persaud performing at the Carleton (Photo: Jessica MacIsaac)

Lydia Persaud
Persaud was my favourite act of the night. Her style is influenced by country and gospel, but she melds them in a way that goes beyond a simple genre description. Her voice is clear and so masterfully controlled, and her songwriting comes from the heart. She mostly performs in a trio called The O’Pears, and also a band called Dwayne Gretzky. There, of course, was a funny anecdote she told about Dwayne Gretzky playing for Wayne Gretzky’s vineyard opening. The combination of her audience involvement, her beautiful Bill Wither’s covers and her natural grace and talent shone through beautifully on stage. “I’m so thankful that y’all came here to watch me tune,” she joked when tuning between songs, but honestly I would have stuck around for that.

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(Photo: Jessica MacIsaac)

Stewart Legere
The first thing I notice with Legere’s music is the contrast between his lyrics and his accompaniment. His guitar and Kim Harris’s piano accompaniments hint at hope and light, where a lot of his lyrics seemed tinged with melancholy. His music has a pop/folk sound, and his vocals show off his skill and ease with his voice. He has a natural charisma on stage, not surprising given his acting background (if you haven’t heard of Zuppa Theatre, check them out). He and Harris worked so beautifully in harmony together. The performance of “When I Was the King” was ethereal. While he prefaced his set by saying he’s trying to talk less in between songs, his storytelling was excellent and very welcomed by the audience. It was a lovely set, and I appreciated hearing some local talent.

Fiver performing during night one of IDOW (Photo: Jessica MacIsaac)
Fiver performing during night one of IDOW (Photo: Jessica MacIsaac)

The word that pops to mind when I think of this set is intense. Simone Schmidt (Fiver) walked on stage, took off her boots and socks and delivered her first song without any instrument backup, staring intently into the audience the whole time. While she has worked under many different names and genres previously, I would say the music of Fiver has qualities of early country and folk. Even that can’t fully describe her highly individual sound. Her voice has a powerful quaver that delivers her low-register tales. Her most recent album centres around the Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane, and in between her songs she would give the audience more information on her deep research into the institution’s history. She also requested the stage lights be dimmed the entire time, creating a dark ambiance for the heavy topics she shares (also accounting for my questionable-quality photo). It was a great set to have in The Carleton, as it was very intimate and special.
That’s it for Thursday night. For Friday’s show, I will be at The Marquee and the Seahorse tavern all night. If you haven’t grabbed tickets yet, you definitely should. Waxahatchee, Reeny Smith and Owen Meany’s Batting Stance are just some of the great acts to be heard.

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