I knew this October 3rd gig was going to be a good one as those organised by Gathered in Song promoter Steve Honeywill always are. A man with a penchant for all things Americana, his musical ear and band choices are second to none, but this gig exceeded even my sky-reaching expectations.
The two bands hail from Toronto, Canada, so I jumped at the opportunity to see them live in Cardiff, particularly in the intimate venue that is Buffalo Bar. First on stage, The Wooden Sky played most of their set from the newest record of a three album and two EP discography; Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun. The all male five-piece are fronted by possibly the tallest man in alternative country, Gavin Gardiner, whose voice is both gravelly and heart-string-pulling, ideal qualities to underpin an Americana band. (If I don’t feel like crying at least once during a set of this genre then I don’t want to know). Their performance entranced the small crowd in attendance, with tracks moving between folky dance inducing, and breathy beautiful.
Evening Hymns delivered a set no less gorgeous. Huge, heavenly harmonies, mixed with skin tingling string bursts is their signature, which became amplified with instrumental backing from The Wooden Sky on this night, creating a sound more multi-layered than the recorded version. Softly spoken lead singer Jonas Bonetta regaled the audience with stories of album recordings by a lake-side cabin in Ontario, revealing that if listened to closely, the sound of ice cubes clinking against a whiskey filled glass is audible on one of their tracks – I’m not sure how a record can get more authentically country than that.
As if the night hadn’t provided us with enough beautiful sigh-making moments, the two bands joined together for an unplugged gig finale, the musicians moving off stage within literal reach of the gig goers. The lovely vocals of both groups joined to sound truly astonishing, particularly in this pared down acoustic style.
It felt a real shame not many people turned up to watch as it was the sort of experience I hope for each and every time I see a band, truly magical and life affirming, confirmation that mid-week gigs are the well worth the effort to attend. Then again, on a selfish note, perhaps there wouldn’t have been space for such a climax with extra people in attendance. Either way, the crowd might have been lightweight in size but our spending on the merch stand was certainly heavy.
As my friends and I departed with arms full of CDs, t-shirts and vinyl, I hoped these bands would return to Wales, and as always, I look forward to the next Gathered in Song gig.
This review will also appear in Plugged In Magazine.