“It’s frustrating sometimes, the geographic boundaries we place upon ourselves.” (Basia Bulat at Slim’s, 10/11)
Saturday night on the Slim’s stage (and off it), Canadians caroused. There were shirts, flags, and apologies spent as the floor became stickier and stickier from spilled drinks. There was Basia Bulat and Bahamas. And for them, there was also a full house.
She was a one-woman multi-talent, after which he was a debonair diva. Bulat played solo, whereas Bahamas (Afie Jurvanen) was backed by an all-Canuck crew composed of vocalist Felicity Williams, guitarist/lap steel player Christine Bougie, and percussionist Jason Tait. Among the five musicians, a good range of instruments were used, including Bulat’s autoharp, Jurvanen’s pink strat (after which his sophomore record was named), and a bowed vibraphone.
It was a mellow night, considering The Weeknd festivities (pun intended) occurring down the road at Bill Graham Civic Center, and Jurvanen issued a mid-set disclaimer: “Saturday night,” he chuckled, “could get crazy. Probably won’t though.” Then added, “we’re not that kind of band.” Regardless, Bahamas received an overwhelmingly warm and immediate crowd response. It didn’t hurt that Bulat had already sweetened the crowd.
Through sheer vocal strength and musical talent, Bulat captivated the audience early with her very first song. By “Gold Rush” and “Promise Not to Think About Love,” she had generated a buzz without concert-goers even knowing her name. Like Jurvanen, she was quite taken with the city, asking the audience before a “slow jam” version of “Tall Tall Shadow” what she should name her new little guitar. (We hope she went with “Slim,” but she was considering “Mission,” too.)
Bulat’s set was made particularly interesting by her instrumental experimentation, as she switched from guitar to autoharp, to a little electronic box, to ukulele; she looped “Promise Not to Think About Love” (Kimbra-style) and got Owl City-esque later in the set with electronics and live vocal modulations. We’re afraid the latter didn’t do much for her musically, but it was an applaudable effort nonetheless.
She ended softly, sweeter than she’d started, having come down from the aggressive mountain that was “Tall Tall Shadow,” with “It Can’t Be You,” and the crowd was content.
Bahamas’, on the other hand, seemed far more abrasive of a performance. We hold onto the idea that it was an enjoyable one — aurally, but not visually. Jurvanen himself appeared suave and clean shaven in a suit jacket, but on his feet, he wore tennis shoes. He and his band seemed tense, despite Jurvanen sweet-talking the crowd with his rich baritone voice; for someone primarily guitar-focused, he’s got lovely pipes.
Still, the crowd didn’t seem to notice the strange dynamic between band members, the sideways glances, and the little fits. Whatever had transpired earlier in the day (or not — it’s been a long tour and they may have simply been feeling fatigued), the band kept it professional. Tait, in particular, was unfaltering on “Waves;” Bougie on “This Must Be It;” and Williams on “Half Mine.”
Jurvanen himself was unexpectedly stoic in his movements and expression, perhaps lost in the music and performance. He made jokes, but with a straight face, and little mannerisms such as a victory kick upon his return to perform an encore were reminiscent of a ‘70s British rock diva. He also got political on us, chirping bottled water (“drink tap”) before launching into “Bitter Memories,” “Montreal,” and “All The Time.”
If anything, we felt a bit of relief as they closed the set similar to Bulat, on a strong note, but without setting off any fireworks. Another day done, before their tour turned north, homebound.
Article by Joanna Jiang