Remembering Jay Smith with Matt Mays, Dustin Bentall, Adam Baldwin, and Odds @ Imperial -- 04/01/15

It is hard to preface an event like this, so I am just going to quote was the organiser Dustin Bentall said in the facebook post:

"In March of 2013 I lost a great friend, Jay Smith. He took his life while out on the road. In an effort to celebrate his beautiful songs and spirit we're throwing a party at The Imperial Vancouver. All proceeds from this show will benefit Unison Benevolent Fund. 
Unison Benevolent Fund is a non-profit organization that provides counselling, emergency relief, and benefit programs for the Canadian music community who face personal or professional challenges due to hardship, illness, unemployment or economic difficulties."

I was actually in attendance for the Matt Mays show in Vancouver, only days after it happened, and it was the most emotionally intense shows I have ever seen. So this night, with a great lineup, paying tribute to Jay Smith, was something that was easy to support.

Starting off the night was "Vancouver's official house band", Odds. They played a quick set of a half-dozen songs from old favourites like the the deceptively upbeat "It Falls Apart" to newer tunes, "He Thinks He Owns You", which is either about a jealous boyfriend, or a jealous dog owner.
As usual, the band was full of energy, lead singer Craig Northy effortlessly chatting between their ridiculously catchy songs. They wrapped up by inviting the first (of many) special guests on stage, Barney Bentall to join in on "Someone Who Is Cool", as well as Cary Pratt (aka Prairie Cat) on percussion.

Next up was Adam Baldwin, a long time member of Matt Mays band with Jay Smith, to play his own material. He started off on stage alone (joking that he opted to drink rum instead of teaching the band his songs) with a couple heartfelt songs off his EP, "Bonnie Raitt" and the single "Love You With My Eyes Closed". After that, he was joined by what was essentially the "house band" of the night, which included Odds' drummer Pat Stewart (who actually played with every single band that night), Rick James Baker, and Brad Ferguson, and later on both Dustin Bentall and Kendel Carson. The full band setup was quite a bit more rockin', and included a cover of "Tush" by ZZ Top, with vocals from Christine Campbell.

At the end of the set, Baldwin invited up a Vancouver band to play one of his favourite songs with him. Which was The Matinée as they played the eternal 'song of the summer' "Young & Lazy" with Adam.

Not long after, the man who organised the whole night (with a fair amount of help as he was quick to point out) Dustin Bentall, with a bit of a dark roots-rock sound. He played a few songs, mostly songs from his recent album You Are An Island, with highlights being the title track and "Shine", both featuring the incredible fiddle of Kendal Carson -- I mean, how many times have you seen someone absolutely shred on the fiddle in a rock show?

After his own set, he quickly brought out a few more musicians, including Shaun Verreault and Jay's sister Chelle Fraser to for a set of some of Jay Smith's songs. It was a rockin' set with songs like "Romantic Fool" and "Hurts Like Hell", as well as a gorgeous song with just Chelle and Kendal on stage called "LA Postcard"

And finally, after a round of raffle draws, prizes donated by some of the night's sponsors, it was time for Matt Mays. He came out with Adam Baldwin for a song that they decided to play just two minutes before hitting the stage, a cover of "May the Wind Take Your Troubles Away".
They were quickly joined by the rest of the band, including, once again, Pat on the drums, and Kendal Carson on the fiddle, as they launched in to a couple songs off his latest, Coyote, both "Indio" and "Take It On Faith" which had the crowd singing along unprovoked.

Carson's fiddle really added a nice depth to the songs, especially on the softer and heartfelt "Loveless", and one of my favourite songs "On The Hood", which got the whole place jumping during the chorus, and once again singing along to lyrics that just seemed perfect for the moment. It was clearly a night that meant a lot to Mays, to see a packed crowd singing along, and that was channelled into the music and his passion while playing.

But the single most emotional moment of the night came as the band took a break, for Matt Mays & Chelle Fraser to share a microphone for an acoustic version of "Chase the Light". It is a song that was written before Smith passed, but has since turned into a perfect tribute to Mays friend. It was an incredible, tearjerking performance, and I doubt there was a single person in the audience without a tear in their eye.

And that wasn't even the end of it; Mays invited everyone back on stage, every person that had played that night, for Adam Baldwin to take over vocals on a cover of The Boss' "Glory Days", the whole venue joining in for one last song.

I have long been a fan of Matt Mays, but without hyperbole or exaggeration, this was the best show I have seen so far this year. It was an incredible night, full of so many talented individuals on stage, remembering their friend and celebrating a good cause.

And if you want to donate to the Unison Benevolent Fund, you can do that right here.

May the Wind Take Your Troubles Away, Indio, Take It On Faith, Loveless, Tall Trees, On The Hood, Cocaine Cowgirl, Chase the Light, Glory Days [Bruce Springsteen cover].

Matt Mays @ Imperial -- 11/12/13

Relentlessly touring his latest album, 2012's Coyote, Matt Mays wrapped up his solo acoustic tour at a fairly new Vancouver venue, the Imperial. The last time he was here, Mays sold out the Commodore, so seeing him in a room with less than half the capacity was certainly a treat.

Starting the night was Adam Baldwin, a longtime friend and bandmate of Mays. Baldwin played a short set of about half a dozen songs from his newly recorded EP. It was pretty standard singer/songwriter fare, but Baldwin is a great musician, and his funny and charming banter between his heartfelt songs helped sell it.

Soon after that, Matt Mays slowly took the stage, aided by a pair of crutches, with his only explanation a bit later in the show with a succinct "hot tub party".
Taking a seat, he pulled out his acoustic guitar and harmonica and launched into "Plan" from the self titled Matt Mays & El Torpedo album. He played the first couple of songs alone, the heartbreaking "Loveless" and "Season to Leave" from his old band The Guthries, flubbing a bit of the lyrics on the latter. Any other show it would have been detrimental, but the very loose and laid back atmosphere of the show was forgiving. He jokingly blamed his codeine and T3s, and as the set went on, it just got more and more relaxed. Mays joked with both the crowd and with Adam Baldwin, who came out to join him for the rest of the set. The two needled each other like only old friends could, making the show feel less like a sold out venue, and more like a friend's living room.
Baldwin backed up Mays, going between guitar for songs like a nice rendition of the usually dark "The Past" and keys, for the more upbeat "Digital Eyes". Other highlights included "Queen of Portland Street" and the final song of the main set, "Terminal Romance"; usually an intense and passionate song, the acoustic version really emphasised the heartache of the lyrics.
But after a standing ovation, Mays hobbled back on stage for a few more; starting with a very moving performance of "Chase the Light", essentially dedicated to Jay Smith, that ended in a beautiful sing along.  He brought Baldwin back on stage so he could take over vocals on a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm Going Down", and they wrapped up the night with a quintessential campfire song, "On The Hood".

Mays has long been one of my favourite performers; his full band shows are raw and emotional and intense, and while the acoustic show was a lot more toned down, it was much more intimate, and no less emotional.

The Plan, Loveless, Season to Leave [The Guthries], The Past, Indio, Take It On Faith, [unknown song], Digital Eyes, Spoonful of Sugar, Tall Trees, Queen of Portland Street, City of Lakes, Terminal Romance.
(encore) Chase the Light, I'm Going Down [Bruce Springsteen cover], On The Hood.