Upon my approach to the Blue Chair on Friday, I must admit I was under-whelmed. Maybe even a little disheartened. From the outside, the venue didn’t scream “I Heart Live Music.” It barely whispered it. My cynical side questioned how a strip mall could possibly cushion and cradle Edmonton’s art and music scene. Who would trek this far off Whyte to support local talent? It is impossible!
To my surprise, I was wrong.
Inside the Blue Chair I felt like I walked into an artist’s eclectic personal studio. Fascinating musical ornaments, sentimental collections, and colourful visual flourishes streamed seemingly haphazardly across the room. I was immediately comforted. Having an actual stage and soundboard set up in a restaurant…bonus. After a short discussion of The Mondrian Shift’s sound with CJSR’s lovely Fourre Tout host, we waited impatiently for the show to begin. Their introduction was dynamite. “Ben” was clever, witty, and dynamic. I still do not know who he is, or why he introduced them, but he immediately charmed and disarmed the house.
On The Mondrian Shifts’ twitter page they claim to be a “pop-rock-folk-baroque band.” If they added country, metal, and rap, I think they would have covered all the basics. With such a vague defining statement, I was concerned that literally anything could come out of this quirky quintet. And let us not forget the viola. Thinking about their arrangement of the keys, drums, bass, guitar and viola threw me for a loop.
Starting with Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by Nina Simone was gutsy for this young group. Hers are some soulful shoes to fill. The arrangement was creative and well suited to their instrumentation, but it didn’t feel like home. More so, it didn’t sound like home. As soon as they started playing it was very clear that all of the members were skilled, no question. But even in their own, unique arrangement, this song didn’t feel like their sound. I believe (perhaps wrongfully so) that the first song should be unequivocally you. The first song is not the one to “experiment” or to “try a different approach” with, unless you can be so centered in who you are as an artist or group that you make it your own and everyone believes it. It is a statement and a point of transitioning from ‘covering’ to ‘embodying’. It is very subtle, but the feeling is different and the sound changes.
As the set progressed, the audience was treated to some magical moments when The Mondrian Shift’s musical essence was captured beautifully. A captivating repetitive viola melody, particularly emphatic and expressive piano phrase, or a soft, gentle vocal quality, all shone when a song or section most suited the group’s sound. It was these times that made me feel like this group has something special. I have the utmost faith that if they continue to develop it, they can bring something incredibly rich and unique to Edmonton’s’ music scene. In a city where we for the most part stay artistically near – if not in – the box and colour in the lines, the thought of this musical diversity is really exciting and necessary.
With their closing Au Revoir, we were shown a starting point that seemed to embody the jovial nature of the band and highlight the talent and promise this young group has yet to discover and develop. It is this talent and sound that I look forward to hearing again soon in the near future.
For more info, concert dates, and music:
The Mondrian Shift on myspace
The Mondrian Shift on Facebook
- Allison Sokil