String Fling w/ Four on the Floor String Quartet @ Rio Theatre -- 12/13/12

Even if you don't know them by name, there's a good chance you've seen some members of the Four on the Floor String Quartet playing live. As a group or individually, they've been a part of the Vancouver music scene for a while, playing with local artists like Adaline, The Belle Game, Kyprios, The Matinee, and many others, as well as having members of the quartet taking place in every Peak Performance Project as a part of various backing bands.
But they've decided to step into the spotlight and put on the first (of what I hope is many) String Fling, which saw members Hannah Epperson, Michelle Faehrmann, Tony Kastelic and Dougal McLean inviting some local acts to the Rio Theatre to play some of their own songs, with string accompaniment. And as someone who has always had a soft spot for strings in music, I was definitely interested to see how they came together with some of Vancouver's finest.

The show was broken into two halves, with each the performers playing a few songs and a steady flow of music with Four on the Floor performing between acts, with songs from their members or spoken word poetry over top of some strings arrangements. They opened the show with a songs before being joined by the first performer of the night, Ali Milner. With her gorgeous voice and jazzy piano, the strings blended really well with upbeat songs like the catchy "Waiting" and the dynamic "Fly".

After a spoken word interlude, they showcased a couple of their own solo projects, first Dougal Bain McLean with a could laid back, singer-songwriter-type songs, followed by the looping violin and lovely voice of Hannah Epperson, joined by Ajay Bhattacharyya on a drum machine for the aptly named "We Will Host A Party".

Ajay stayed on stage, joined by his bandmate Amy Kirkpatrick as Data Romance was up next. There was a bit of technical difficulties before they started, but Hannah covered fairly smoothly and they soon launched into their dark and moody, synth-infused electronic vibes. They played a couple new songs, teasing a new album in February, but I think they meshed with the string quartet least well -- which isn't to say it was bad in the slightest, just a clash of styles. That is, until their last song which was a bit more low key with Amy's ethereal voice soaring with the strings to close out the first half of the show.

After a short break, the second half opened with a spoken word piece from the quartet before Dominique Fricot took the stage. He is definitely no stranger to playing with Four on the Floor -- they helped him land third place in this year's Peak Performance Project -- and so he meshed the best with the quartet of all the performers. The acerbically charming Fricot talked and joked with the crowd, taking advantage of their relaxed atmosphere to play a couple slower, quieter songs from his repertoire, including the title track to his recent EP If Baby Could Walk. 

The next interlude, featured another spoken word piece, this time it segueing into the quartet playing the epic Game of Thrones theme, which was as fantastic as it sounds.

Of all the acts of the night, I was most interested to see how Shaun Verreault's bluesy sound mixed with the strings, and he introduced his first song as one least likely to be backed by a string quartet; Wide Mouth Mason's "Love Not Loving You". Originally a raw, distorted blues-rock song, it was turned into an absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking number that ended up being my favourite of the night. His next couple songs were from his own solo albums, both a little more suited for the strings accompaniment, giving his amazing guitar playing and powerful voice an extra kick.

After one last Four on the Floor interlude, The Gay Nineties hit the stage to close out the night with their energetic and infectious rock. The first song had guest vocals from the powerful Colleen Rennison of No Sinner, and their raw energy was enough to get people up and dancing at the front of the stage. They sounded pretty much exactly like themselves, but with the addition of strings, which wasn't a bad thing at all, and they were definitely a good choice in closing out the night.

The pacing of the show was fantastic, with it never dragging on or seeming long, and for the most part everything ran like clockwork. It was a great night of music with a fantastic premise, and at the end of the show, they hinted at already planning a second one, and I already can't wait to see who Four on the Floor will be collaborating with for another.