Two years ago, we thought we were seeing the last ever SingItFwd with a two-night extravaganza. The show was an annual event, running since 2011, to benefit the children of the St. James Music Academy, and was always a highlight of the year. But now it's back for a very special Juno edition, as the music awards touch down in Vancouver this weekend.
This year's the show featured a host of local bands, many of which had played the event before, and some even nominated for a Juno this weekend. They all played a few songs each, sometimes stripped down, sometimes brand new stuff, and sometimes even joined by the kids from the St James Music Academy.
Starting off the night was the indie pop of Peach Pit, and their song "Drop The Guillotine". They were a great way to kick off the show with energy, especially when lead singer Neil Smith had portions of the crowd screaming with nothing but a hair flip.
(They also managed to make a few people feel old when they said they "grew up" on these SingItFwd shows, as well as some of the other bands performing that night).
Louise Burns was out next, alone of stage for a couple stripped down songs. Her haunting voice rang through the theatre with a couple songs that may be appropriate for the weekend, "Strange Weather" and "Storms", as well as a brand new song.
Khari Wendell McClelland followed, first with his own song, and then and after a cover of Bowie's "Five Years", we saw the first emergence of the kids from the SJMA, as they were out to sing choir on the song "Roll On".
A group of St James kids on strings were out ahead of a couple of The Zolas. Zach said how happy he was to be there as they played a couple songs off their recent album, before giving a shout out to a band that wasn't there, launching into a cover of one of their songs, "Keep On Dancing" by We Are The City, one of my favourites of the night.
Closing out the first half of the evening was Said the Whale, Tyler & Ben trading off lead vocals on, respectively, "Confidence" and "Lilac and Willow". They debuted a new song, called "Broken Man", which was Tyler admitted was being played for the second time ever (the first being downstairs in the green room 5 minutes beforehand).
After a brief intermission, a St James Jazz band was up, followed by the amazingly powerful voice of Dawn Pemberton. Anyone that hadn't heard of her before was immediately won over with her cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and one of her own songs, "Deeper". She then invited the kids back onstage to sing Stevie Wonder's "Love In Need Of Love" with her.
Leif Vollebekk was next, with perhaps the most emotion-stirring set of the night, his voice cutting through the near-silence of the venue as he poured his heart out with songs like "Vancouver Time". He was also joined by drummer Johnny Andrews for a song, joking that he was jealous since Johnny was drumming for at least half of all bands performing that night.
Ryan Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin were out representing Mother Mother, first playing "Body of Years" then also teasing a brand new song. Ryan joked about being 'afraid' of kids, in his own loquacious way, before being joined for their final song by both Ashleigh Ball and the SJMA choir for "Simply Simple".
And finally, after some great thank yous and videos from the stage for people who couldn't be there (including co-creator Ambrosia Humphrey) Hey Ocean! closed out the night. They teased their upcoming album The Hurt of Happiness with the title track, and the kids were out once more to sing with David Vertesi on a song written for Ambrosia, while it was .
Usually, the shows will end with a big, giant singalong cover, with the kids and all other musicians up on stage, and this one was no different, as they paid their respects with a great cover of "Ahead by a Century" by The Hip, Vertesi and Ben the Whale taking lead vocals, the latter absolutely channelling Downie.
On the blog post for the very first edition of SingItFwd, I said something like: "It would be cliché to call it a magical night, but there is hardly any better description." and I feel like that's been apt every year, but especially this one. It was a nice to see them come back for one last dance, and nice to see the celebration of local music ahead of the Junos.