Saying goodbye is, typically, a rather somber affair. Knowing that this might be the last time you see someone, or something, tends to get everyone feeling down. But this wasn’t the atmosphere at Warehouse on January 19.
When the Morning Dwellers, one of St Catharines shining stars of ambient alternative rock, took to the stage for their final performance, it was immediately clear that they weren’t there to lament their own passing. Instead, their show was a celebration of everything they’d achieved, and the people along the way that supported them. Emotions were high amongst the members of the band, but this was a scene of euphoria, not of tragedy, and those emotions became an electric energy that made sure this final performance was one for the ages. Their setlist leaned largely on their 2017 album In Search of Orion, but served as a journey through the almost four years in which the band has been active. At one point, they dropped away and allowed original lead singer Ben Cipryk to take the lead for a song from their first EP, as an intimate duet with the band’s guitarist.
The entire band was in perfect form, and the chemistry between each member of the group was a sight to behold. Particularly notable were Alix Boyd’s sensational lead vocals, and Noah Rastegar’s gut wrenching and heartstopping guitar playing, both of which seemed reach new, impossible heights in these final moments of the band.
As sad as it is to see one of the most fantastic acts in the community come to an end, they certainly made it a night to remember. I would have happily watched their set carry on forever, but all good things must come to an end, and the Morning Dwellers closed their final chapter with a sense of celebration and closure.
For me, there were as many beginnings as endings at this show. One of my favourite acts might be bowing out, but all three of the opening acts were new to me, and are definitely exciting acts to watch. First to the stage were The People That Be, a three-man band (without their bassist for this particular show) from Grimsby who seem to specialize in deceptive simplicity. For their small member count, this group sounded just as huge as bands that are three times their size. The seemingly effortless playing of both guitarist and drummer mask their complex jazz harmonies and intense grooves. The passion, soul, and pristine musicianship of The People That Be can outshine even the greats, and I mean that literally; their final song was a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, and yes, somehow they made even that song more soulful. Keep an eye out for these boys, they’re going places.
Up next was Garrett Lajoie, who offered a break from the evening with a selection of acoustic songs. In an evening filled with out-of-this-world sounds, it might have been easy for such a setlist to get swept under the rug, but this set was a welcome return to Earth, and each song was kept fresh by a surprising amount of variation in the guitar playing. Many similar performers fall into the trap of having maybe one or two strumming patterns, but every song here felt different, and new, and that in itself makes this man one to watch.
Just before Morning Dwellers took to the stage, we were treated to one of the most exciting acts to come out of Toronto; Wooly Mantis. I’d never heard of this group before the night, and experiencing them was a musical epiphany. They’d already roped me in with their energetic and absurdly groovy opening number, but then the bassist and guitarist swapped instruments. Seamlessly. In the middle of the song.
Their showmanship was matched only by their musical talent, both as performers and as songwriters. Their set combined a huge variety of influences; the experimental bizarreness of Frank Zappa, the bluesy funk of Jimi Hendrix, even at times the heaviness of Metallica and The Smashing Pumpkins. Wooly Mantis are a band that truly do not know the meaning of the words ‘filler track’, and their out-of-this-world sonic experimentation is truly something to behold. If you get the chance to see them, go.