Rolla Olak w/ Steph Macpherson, Behind Sapphire & Bob Kemmis @ Waves -- 12/04/10

It seems like these acoustic shows are a weekly occurrence for Waves Coffee House on Howe St -- a couple weeks ago I saw Treelines do an acoustic set there -- and if they keep getting acts like these, I will keep going back.

I got there just after Bob Kemmis started. I had seen him a couple years back, liked him... and never really heard anything from him since. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw he was playing the night. It was only a couple songs in that I was reminded why I liked him the first time around. He's a damn good storyteller, both in song and in his joking between songs. And it helped that the songs were pretty damn catchy, too and everything he did seemed completely effortless.
Near the end of his set he broke out the looping pedal and looped both his guitar and then vocals, creating a veritable band and a great song. Hopefully it won't be another couple years til I see him again.

Next up was Behind Sapphire. I was interested to see how they would turn out acoustic, as they had a pretty big stage setup at their Peak Performace showcase, and I wasn't sure how they would translate. They seemed a bit unsure at first, mostly because they were seated & the whole atmosphere of the crowd was more relaxed, and they were used to more ruckus. But the three of them managed to translate their energetic sound down without losing any of their quirkiness or enthusiasm. Though even as they stopped being antsy -- for want of a better term -- as the set went on, that didn't stop them from wandering through the coffee house to the back of the crowd for part of a song. It's always cool to see a band with a "big" sound be able to strip it down, and Behind Sapphire managed to pull it off.

Steph Macpherson was up third, and each time I've seen her live, there have been less people on stage with her. This time she was up alone -- except for a couple of Behind Sapphire to lead the crowd in a stomp/clap for a song, and Rolla Olak helping out on guitar on the last one. Her songs translate perfectly into an intimate setting like a coffee house of quiet, attentive people, and she was as engaging as the crowd was receptive. Though now I've seen her twice in a coffee house or cafe and only once in a concert venue with a full band, so it would be nice to see that again, to compare.
There was also a bit of a surprise after she finished. She sang Happy Birthday a public domain song wishing a joyous anniversary of birth, for a lucky guy whose birthday was that day. Also, there was cake.

And lastly was Rolla Olak, who came out with none other than Colin Cowan on [stand up] bass. I wasn't too familiar with him, but as the random, possibly intoxicated man is the crowd proclaimed, that he was pretty rad. His songs were dark without being bleak, and a little but haunting; with some pretty darn good songwriting, too. I am curious to know if he normally plays with a band, or if the acoustic set is his normal one, but either way, I would be interested in catching him again.