Photo: Glenn Nuotio
The intimate ambiance of Pressed on Friday, July 25th couldn’t be more welcoming to the evening’s concert, celebrating the release of Newfoundland-native Jon Hynes’ debut album, Watchful Creatures. A lone flickering strobe light, candles in the windows, and the warm glow of many familiar faces in reunion made for a sentimental night for Hynes and his Ottawa fans.
Opening the night was Jonathan Pearce of indie-folk band Winchester Warm, in a solo performance of the band’s newly released album, Belle Attente. Pearce seems to embrace the nostalgia that colours his voice, confessing to carry “the sound of faded cheer”. Balmy confessions would be peppered with the occasional variation in tempo, keeping the audience aware of Pearce’s nuanced intersection of genre and scene.
Pearce’s vocals carried a distinctive tone that was easy to associate with happy gatherings, but shaded with an anticipation for remembering before nostalgia has been given a fair chance to set in. Filled with longing, hope, and cherished memory, Pearce radiated with his heartfelt performance. As he progressed through the Belle Attente set, new arrivals joined the audience and drew closer to the stage, charmed by the genuine friendship of a community that could unite over a fellow artist’s completed work.
In a snappy transition from Pearce’s introspective set, Callum Runciman and Jimi Vanwassenhoven performed a spirited set as one half of Ottawa’s Grime Kings. Runciman and Vanwassenhoven channeled the infectious energy of garage rather than the cosmos promised by an introduction of the band as space pop. The band’s latest abum, Honeymooning, reveals the full extent of Grime Kings as a versatile group with a tendency towards noir neo-psych, comfortably fitting in with the likes of Tame Impala or Temples. And while the instrumental accompaniment of the Kings’ second half was missing, there was no lack of aggressively layered percussion and cleverly disguised, sensual rhythms of funk to indicate that the Grime Kings are without a doubt a local band to pay close attention to.
In the focal conclusion to the night, multi-instrumentalist Jon Hynes (Evening Hymns, The Hidden Cameras) took the stage in the accompaniment of some of Ottawa’s most familiar musicians: Pat Johnson and Rolf Klausener of The Acorn and Silkken Laumann, Sarah Bradley of Fevers, and David Banoub of Yuma County. There was an undeniable note of celebration in the riling anthems passionately delivered by Hynes, as the collective performed the entirety of Watchful Creatures.
A new addition to Ottawa, Hynes endeared himself to the crowd with simple, honest lyrics. “Paid to act like a trickster while being a traitor,” sang Hynes in “Sea Diver”, restless between punk disillusionment and soulful confession. Throwing in a tribute to Ottawa’s most excellent reputation for heckling, Hynes was well matched with the harmonies of Klausener and Bradley. Keyboardist Bradley herself was captivating with her attentive, clearly emotional performance.
A communal attempt at singing along to “Opinion Piece” succumbed to the soothing tone of Hynes’ mounting melodies. The sparse percussion of “One More, Californa” built back the energy of an entranced audience. Called back to the stage for one last song, Hynes performed an ambient and airy solo that united two dancers between the stage and audience.
While he has been attributed with a “shimmering” quality to his sound, approached most closely in the brief prelude of “Forever, Kathleen,” John Hynes remains within the moody grasp of indie rock. Hynes fused elements of both Pearce and Grime Kings for a balanced and promising conclusion to his album release party.The visible passion for performance, the sheer physicality of delivering song after song, and the diversity of each artist’s individual projects united everyone on stage and in the audience in celebration of Hynes’ achievement.