Literary allusions and mechanical metaphors were the order of the evening at the second concert on the Northern Lights Folk Club 2016–17 series with West My Friend and Union Duke. Having been caught on the west (appropriately enough) side of Jasper by a rockslide, West My Friend arrived 45 minutes before the show was begin and proceeded to rip through a quick soundcheck. Even in a rush West My Friend was so spot on that audience members were wondering whether or not it was appropriate to applaud for a soundcheck.
West My Friend kicked their set off with ‘No Good Monster‘ off Quiet Hum their latest release. The song, as Eden Oliver told us, is about the little voice in our head that tries to stop us from doing great things — no one will like it anyway right? Luckily West My Friend has decided to face that no good monster head on and create a little bit of magic with their music. Oliver then led us through some of the literary references that punctuated their set including Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Christina Rossetti’s “A Birthday”. West My Friend’s sound is highly melodic and although at times it is gentle it is incredibly intense. When the end of the set was reached the audience just wasn’t ready for our time with West My Friend to be over. An encore called them back to the stage and they had the crowd sing ‘All Day Long‘ a song by Zachary Gough that ends rather abruptly, and caught a few of us crowd-singers out.
Following the break Union Duke took to the stage. A high-octane folk/country quintet based out of Toronto, Union Duke had the audience clapping their hands, stomping their feet and even sharing their best vampire dance moves (on cue in ‘The Heartbreak Kid‘).
Union Duke is unrelentingly rhythmic with a touch of twang, and their lyrics have the occasional car reference, like carburetors in ‘Chasing Headlights’ from their most recent album Golden Days. Matt Warry-Smith kept the forward momentum of the show with his tambourine/cymbal combination beating out the rhythm of many of the songs. As Union Duke splits the responsibility of lead vocals Rob McLaren (electric guitar, fiddle) shared his Alberta roots with ‘Quit This Town‘ and then Ethan Smith his frugal tendencies with ‘Dime-Store Shirt‘ both off the Cash & Carry album from 2014. Northern Lights Folk Club usually doesn’t book a band without having experienced a live show by them, so Union Duke was a wild card for them having been booked based on YouTube and recordings. In this case the gamble paid huge dividends and Union Duke was called back to the stage for an encore which caused continued hand-clapping and feet stomping in the audience.
If you missed last night’s concert, both Union Duke & West My Friend be heard in the greater Edmonton area over the next few months:
West My Friend
Monday Oct 10 in Sherwood Park (House Concert)
and throughout the prairies in Alberta: Lloydminster, Cochrane, Canmore; Saskatchewan: Maple Creek, Regina & Saskatoon; Manitoba: Flin Flon & Winnipeg.
Thursday Oct 13 in Athabasca (Nancy Appleby Theatre)
Friday April 28, 2017 in Spruce Grove (Horizon Stage)
and further afield in Saskatoon, Drayton Valley & Forestburg this coming year.
The Northern Lights Folk Club continues their season on October 22nd with Chloe Albert opening for Jez Lowe.