Haley Hates the Cold, Andy’s Favourite Colour is Red

Photo: Arielle de Pagter

On February 7, Andy Shauf brought his month long North American tour to Montreal’s Rialto Theatre. That Thursday night saw a brief respite from the bitter winter, with temperatures creeping above zero for what felt like the first time in ages.

However, the magnitude of this event was lost on opener Hayley Heynderickx, who was confused how anyone could stand living in such a polar climate. The Portland based Filipino-American folk singer concluded that the only way Montrealers could possibly cope with the long winter months is if they all found someone to hibernate with. This is of course before breaking their hearts when the sun finally returns. Although at first she appeared shy and soft spoken, standing alone on stage, Haley’s wit and warmth soon drew admiration from the crowd, who were charmed by the relatively unknown out of towner.

Described as “tenacious” by Pitchfork and “open-hearted” by Rolling Stone, Heyndrickx has drawn critical acclaim in recent years, with her track “The Bug Collector” reaching into NPR’s 2018 top 100 songs.  In the Rialto, her frenetic finger picking style and playful melodies allowed her lyrics to seamlessly connect quirky life events to the pains of stress, strife and heartbreak. Arguably, the pinnacle of the set was during “Oom Sha La La” where the song’s highly infectious chant began to permeate throughout the crowd until most of the audience was singing it back to her. Heyndrickx finished her set with the same unguardedness and vulnerability that she began it with. The song “Fish eyes” is an ode to her parents strange first date. In short, Haley Heyndrickx was a gift for all those who made the effort to show up early.

Support over, the crowd swelled and coalesced around the stage, before breaking out into applause when Andy Shauf appeared. Unlike Heyndrickx, the Saskatchewan headliner was joined by a full complement of guitars, percussion, piano and a clarinet. These combined to give his lavish orchestrations a thick and silky sound. Though he did not play anything from his most recent Foxwarren project, Shauf’s devoted fan base were not left disappointed. The first role of the drums on “Quite Like You” was met with an immediate cheer as the crowd danced and swayed – a rare moment of playful joy in his otherwise melancholic and brooding repertoire. Tracks from earlier albums such as “Darker Days” were also absent, with Shauf having said an interview that he no longer had any personal connection to the experiences those songs described. Instead, Shauf interspersed tracks from an unnamed forthcoming album in between old favourites. Highlights included the grand strings and clarinet arrangement of “The Magician” and the long fog horn sounding drones of “I’m not Falling asleep” that reverberated around the Rialto.

Andy Shauf stayed true to his “outsider looking in” perspective that characterised The Party, his 2016 Polaris Prize nominated album. Quiet and reserved, he prefers the audience ask him questions, explaining he has no stories about himself to tell. The crowd eagerly obliged, filling the downtime between songs with questions ranging from Andy’s favourite fruit (cantaloupe) to his favourite song (“The Boys Are Back in town”).

For me, “Martha Sways” stole the show. The stripped down and bittersweet ballad brought the crowd to their knees, mesmerized by every excruciatingly sad and beautiful syllable that escaped Shauf’s lips. Hardly anyone made a sound until the last note had completely faded, breaking the hypnotic spell that the entirety of Theatre Rialto had been put under.

His encore was short and sudden, consisting of another new track and leaving the audience yearning for one more familiar sing along. I was also slightly disappointed that Haley Heyndrickx did not return on stage for a collaboration. Nonetheless, the outstanding display of love, loss and vulnerability that both artists portrayed during their performances more than made up for the slightly abrupt ending.