The Mountains & The Trees @ St James and Jess Hill @ Joe's Apartment -- 03/24/11

It was a busy Thursday (really? Thursday?) in Vancouver with no less than four shows worth checking out. Aaide from a fundraiser for Said The Whale at Wise Hall and The Golden Dogs at the Biltmore, there were two acts I wanted to see. Luckily, the two people I wanted to see were staggered enough that I was able to venue hop and see both.

The first? Jon Janes, aka The Mountains & The Trees from Newfoundland. He was on first for an early show at St. James Hall, just him and his guitar (and, his kickdrum suitcase for a song). He played an all-too-short set of about half an hour of his folk-y, singer-songwriter songs. 
Starting the set with a new song that he wrote last time he was in Vancouver -- that I didn't catch the name of -- he alternated between old and new songs, with the highlights being a new song, "Oh Heart", that was incredibly heart wrenching, and the closing song, "Up & Down", a song that is really cool to see live, with his excellent use of looping and a bow to play guitar.
There were a few times in the set where you could tell he was battling an illness, but it wasn't so much during the songs, mostly in his banter -- which was no less charming and amusing. 

[new song], Little Town, Oh Heart, More & More & More, Winter Blues, Up & Down.

I had some time before the next show, so I was able to catch the next act, The Phonemes. Or, simply just Magali Meagher. She had a pretty nice voice, and a good folky sound, with some catchy tunes. She, too, played for about half an hour, and mid way through traded her guitar for the grand piano that was on stage for a song, bringing out Laura and Mark to help out. She went back to the guitar and Jon joined the three of them for a some with nifty crowd participation; everyone was given pieces of newspaper before the set and everyone clapped along with crumpled newsprint. They staryed out for her last song, which was a more energetic number and probably the best of the set.

Though I was a little sad to miss Laura Barrett and Woodpigeon, it was then time to head over to Joe's Apartment (yes, an actual venue, not the dwelling of Joseph). This was the first time I had been there for a live performance, and it was a pretty decent venue.
The show was the CD release of Orchard, the new album from Vancouver's Jess Hill. She went all out with a full band, which even included some strings and a foley guy for random sound effects. The set consisted of most of her new album, which the band did a fantastic job of recreating;  Her powerful voice blended excellently with the great string arrangements.
Highlights were the song that first hooked me on Jess Hill, "Orchard", the building intensity of "Stagger" and the eerily haunting (pun fully intended) "Give Me Your Ghost", with included a saw for added atmosphere.
She ended the set with a pair of songs I have seen a few times, but never seem to catch the name of (so for the sake of why not, I'll call it "Digging A Hole") the first just her singing, and getting the crowd to scream at a couple points, then launching into a fast paced closer.
Jess also had great charisma on stage, with some charmingly-nervous banter and story telling, giving the night a real intimate feel. None of the venues I've seen Jess in have been all that big, but I have a feeling she would be able to make a room of any size feel as intimate as a coffee house.

I've seen Jess Hill a few times since finding out about her through the Peak Performance Project last year, and I would definitely say it was the best show I've seen her play. Combined with The Mountains & The Trees earlier, it was a a great night of country-spanning music.

A Common Bird, Of A Shadow, Apple Tree, Orchard, Give me Your Ghost, An Open Letter To My Heart, In The Evening, Stagger, Don't Cry, Grow.