The Ruffled Feathers w/ Julia and Her Piano, Katie Schaan & Thomas Kolb @ Media Club -- 01/06/11

One good way to kick off the year, music-wise, is three nights of great local(ish) talent in a row. Night two had some acts who were all friends with each other, which always adds a nice touch to shows.

First up was Thom Kolb of 41st & Home playing a solo set. He mentioned it was his first time doing so, and only seemed a little nervous at first, getting more relaxed as he went. Playing all original material, except for one 41st & Home song, he had a bit more of a country twang to them, even breaking out the banjo for a song. I was somewhat surprised by the tone of the songs, but they ended up being quite good. The other difference between 41stThom and soloThom was he was quite a bit more chatty, telling stories behind the songs, or sometimes just completely random, but usually amusing.
The set also included his first time use of a looping pedal, which he successfully pulled off, and ended by getting a good number of the musicians playing later to come on stage with him to help on backing vocals for a song about Steveston*
*fun (and absolutely true) fact: Steveston was once known as Salmonopolis. Why they changed it, I can't say.

Katie Schaan was up next, starting with a really cool song that consisted solely of her singing over looped clapping and "ooh"s, no instruments. It definitely highlighted her incredible voice, that just seemed to effortlessly flow out of her.
Starting on keys, she gradually moved to guitar and ukulele, her set included a cover of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes", with Thom backing her up, a version of her "Last Night" song from the Peak Performance Project bootcamp (she was there as part of Steph Macpherson's band), and then ended when she called all of her friends in the crowd to come right to the front so she could serenade them with her final song.
There was also one point where she called out a certain blog for writing that all her songs were written about boys & crushes -- which, to be fair, she pretty much admitted at the time -- and went on to play a song that was decidedly NOT about any of that. (I think I got, as they say, "served")
Perhaps it was due to a bit better of a venue, but I enjoyed her set even more than the last time I saw her, so here's hoping she is back from the island soon enough.

Much like Schaan, last time I saw Julia & Her Piano it was at a chatty café (in fact, the same café, just different times), and I mentioned wanting to see her in a better setting, so her being third up was nice. It was just, as the name implies, Julia McDougall on stage behind a piano, with her smooth voice and catchy folk-pop songs grabbing the attention of the [strangely] seated crowd. She was also incredibly vivacious, with a kind of dorky charm (which I say in an absolutely positive way), joking around between songs and being just generally full of energy. Even when she messed up a song a little, she rolled with it, joked about it, instead of letting it get to her.
The set ended with a song that usually included a trumpet solo from Ruffled Feather's Andrew Lee, but he was not on stage, so she improvised something... which mostly consisted of mocking and embarrassing Lee, who was sitting right by the stage.

Finally, closing out the night was Ruffled Feathers, which included the aforementioned Andrew Lee, formerly of the aforementioned 41st & Home. They had a very upbeat and poppy sound, incorporating instruments like the trumpet and mandolin (how can you not love a mandolin?). The set was also pretty fun to watch, with members using a megaphone, a couple coming through the crowd, and a few small bubble wands being handed out to people in the front. Aside from a couple giveaways -- a draw for t-shirts and throwing paper airplanes with a download code for their EP -- there wasn't too much banter/talking between songs, but they had enthusiasm to spare while playing.
Most of the set consisted of the more high energy songs, but there were a few slower, more relaxed ones as well, as well as the requisite dance-with-that-special-someone song (introduced as such, even). They seemed to imply that were written by various members, and while there wasn't a vast difference between songs, there were definitely a few that stood out more than others, and that could be the reason.

In all, it was another fun night in local(ish) music, and while all four acts of the night put on good sets, I think ultimately, Julia and Her Piano kind of stole the show.