Tavis E. Triance & the Natural Way + Birds of Paradise @ Divan Orange

Tavis E. Triance & the Natural Way + Birds of Paradise @ Divan Orange - August 17, 2016 - Presented by Greenland Productions

When I left Le Divan Orange last night I was torn between feelings of elation and guilt. The elation came from knowing that I was one of only a handful of people who witnessed such a special night of music by two incredible bands, and the guilt came from that very same source. I always feel a little guilty when I get excited knowing that have I witnessed something special, but that it comes at the detriment of the artists playing to a nearly empty room. That said, from where I was standing, right up in front of the stage, you wouldn't have known that there was only a smattering of people behind me, because both bands, Birds of Paradise and Tavis E. Triance & the Natural Way, performed as if the crowd was spilling out onto Saint Laurent Blvd.

Birds of Paradise, a duo comprised of Roy Vucino and Hannah Lewis, who also make up the core of the punk band Red Mass, opened the night with an incredible performance in which they presented their new sound. The last time I saw Birds of Paradise was about a year and a half ago when they played Salon Sweet Williams' inaugural live music show, but back then they were more of a murder-ballad psych-folk outfit playing with a live drummer and saxophone player. Since then they have pared down to a two-piece and have gone in a much more electronic direction with drum machines and samplers, but that is not to say that the old elements of country, folk and blues are gone, more like they are enhanced and manipulated. The first song saw Vucino playing slide on a well amped acoustic guitar, conjuring up the spirits of the Mississippi delta with its haunting sound that would have made Elmore James proud.

Even with both members using different beat makers, it was the live elements that were still the main ingredients. Vucino played acoustic and electric guitars and Lewis picked up an electric bass for a few numbers, but maybe the two most important elements were the songwriting and Lewis' coming into her own as a singer. While Vucino has always been great at writing songs for other singers, it seems with Lewis finding her voice he has found his perfect collaborator. Her voice is a blend of golden age country and new wave. Think Deborah Harry cutting her teeth in Nashville instead of the Lower East Side.

Speaking to them outside before the show it was obvious that they are both excited about this new direction the band has taken and the freedom it allows them in both creating and touring the music. With their debut full length album in the middle of being recorded, settling on the sound and identity of BOP has not only allowed them to separate it from Red Mass, but create something that is truly unique and hard to categorize. As for the recording, the more pop songs on the album were done at Breakglass Studios in Montreal back in June and they will be heading to New York City next week to work with famed producer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Swans) at his legendary BC Studio on the more experimental songs. The album will be comprised of new material as well as reworkings of classic Red Mass songs like "Saturn" and "Male Models". While neither of those songs made it into the set list for last night, they closed their set with an obscure Red Mass single "Let the Gold Flow", which was previously available only through the Distroboto machines in bars around Montreal, and if it and the rest of the show are an indication of what to expect on the album, you'll want to set some money aside for the October release. However I would strongly suggest that you make sure to catch them live before these two chameleons decide to reinvent themselves again.

When Tavis E. Triance & the Natural Way hit the stage it was more like an all-star collective than a band. It is a musical project that Triance recorded last summer that will be released on Tonic Records as "A Brief Respite from the Terror of Dying", but the project has more of a 'ships passing in the night' kind of feel and not one meant for the long term. Reaching out to some old friends from his days in Montreal when he fronted the debaucherous Royal Mountain Band, the whole thing has a Rolling Thunder Revue or Delaney & Bonnie & Friends vibe, loose yet tight, free yet driven. Leading the way Triance alternated between organ and guitar, joined by Brad Barr (The Barr Brothers) and Jason Kent (Sunfields) on guitars, Seamus Cowan (Bullmoose, Spoon River) on bass, George Donoso III (The Dears, The High Dials) on drums, and Jeff Louch (Royal Mountain Band, Dear Denizen) on keyboards. Stepping to the mic, Triance told everyone they could move closer to the stage, and then kicked off a night of music that would prove that he and this band were not interested in taking any prisoners.

Even though they were playing songs from an album that has yet to be released (there are three unmastered songs available to listen to on SoundCloud) it never felt unknown. Anyone who is a fan of the Royal Mountain Band or Spoon River knows that Triance has a special skill in writing songs that are so full of hooks and boogie worthy that they feel like old favorites upon first listen. Add that to this killer band and there was no way this night was going to be anything less than magical. Personally some of the highlights included Donoso's thunderous attack of the drums and Barr channelling his inner guitar god, pulling off face warping solos like I have never witnessed any of the times I've seen The Barr Brothers live over the years. The only thing that I felt was missing was a horn section to tie it all together in the background, and having listened to those three available tracks repeatedly as I write this, hearing the horn arrangements on "Bye Bye to the Wicked One" and "All You've Got Is People" it appears that is exactly how these songs are meant to be heard. Now if we are lucky this will not be the only time that Tavis E. Triance & the Natural Way grace a stage in Montreal and hopefully next time more people will be wise enough to see them and there will be a horn section in tow.


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