Welcome Box hosted a benefit concert for Syrian refugees on Wednesday night featuring Goodnight Boy, Andrew Johnstone, Emily Howard and Jesse Dangerously and Young K at Avant-Garde.

The show was a great night for a great cause and just another example of the Ottawa music community rallying together. Although, I must admit there was something a little strange about being surrounded by Russian propaganda (Avant-Garde’s trademark) while raising funds for Syrian refugees.

Goodnight Boy unleashing their powerful vocal harmonies at Avant-Garde in Ottawa.

The most excellent sound of Goodnight Boy was just the right thing to help you get past that. Goodnight Boy, the duo of Connor Mercury and Alex Black, features very powerful vocals and captivating harmonies. They played originals such as “Lindsay Lohan of the Group” and  “School.” They capped off their set with a cover of “Oats in the Water” by Ben Howard which they discovered while “binge watching The Walking Dead.” The beautiful song is proof that  inspiration comes in many shapes and from many different places. Keep your eyes on the lookout for Goodnight Boy as they announced that their new album should be out early 2016.

Andrew Johnstone brightening up the crowd at Avant-Garde in Ottawa.
Andrew Johnstone brightening up the crowd at Avant-Garde in Ottawa.

Andrew Johnstone is quite the character. Appearing on stage with quite the beautifully decorated acoustic guitar, he opened with a cover I had never heard before. The song he chose was called Welcome in my House or Peace in my House and was the perfect song to be played to welcome in the refugees as our brothers and sisters. The remainder of his set featured beat boxing over an acoustic and elements of spoken word with a sprinkling of philosophy.  Johnstone is a very positive and uplifting man. He pays the type of music that smacks a smile right onto your face in the best possible way.

Emily Howard bringing her energy, quirks and covers to the stage at Avant-Garde in Ottawa.
Emily Howard bringing her energy, quirks and covers to the stage at Avant-Garde in Ottawa.

Up next was Emily Howard. She was very excited and quite quirky on stage, but when it came time to play the songs she delivered. Her set was all covers and she had the crowd quite engaged. She covered the likes of Florence and the Machine, Ani Difranco, and Iron and Wine. She then invited her partner on stage, adding a 12 string guitar to the mix to cover Jack White’s “Love Interruption.” While introducing the song she said something that really resonated with me, “we need a lot of love in the world and we need to use love as a transformative political power.” Very true word Emily.

Jesse Dangerously and Young K getting the crowd to stand, dance and sing at Avant-Garde in Ottawa.

The night was capped off by Jesse Dangerously and Young K. They changed things up from the acoustic guitar vibe bring hip-hop and rap to the event, which also drew a crowd to the front of the stage for the first time of the time. But it wasn’t all about the beats. Jesse recently took some ukulele classes which transferred into some new tunes with him on the banjo. One of them was an autobiographical tune where he sang “don’t turn on the Internet tonight no one there is nice.” The duo work flawlessly off each other dropping tracks like “Mayor of Ottawa,” “Gift Rap,” and “fml lol smdh.” They were all great, but nothing was as powerful as Jesse laying down “Coming Out Wrong,” a very personal song about gender identity struggles. And of course they sent us off with “Halifax Rap Legend.”

The event raised some $250,  a great feat considering it was organized a week before and on a Wednesday at the busiest time of the year. A big shout out to the organizer, Holly Rachelle Price, Avant-Garde, and all the bands for dedicating their time to an important cause. If you would like to contribute or learn more about Welcome Box, please visit www.welcomebox.ca.