Shay Lia hypnotizes L’Astral with her effortless allure

Before Shay Lia mounted the platform to perform her full EP Dangerous, Jon Vinyl warmed up the crowd with his smooth vocals and song instrumentals.

The weather’s been exceedingly cold for this Montreal en Lumiere, but Vinyl managed to shelter the people from the storm through the smooth abilities of his voice. One of the tracks that he sang was “Addicted,” which spoke about a night locked in a love interest’s gaze. The Toronto-native also sang “Work” and first single “Nostalgia,” and by the time the stage was in the presence of Lia, the room had already been dancing.

Lia strode with certain gravity in her thin pumps and bell-bottom jeans, her hair poured over her cheeks like a misty waterfall. The room began to applaud as her striking beauty glistened from the darkness.

The crowd was already caught in Kaytranada’s song “Leave Me Alone,” in which she featured. The motion of her hips and oscillation of her voice pierced through the artificial fog and beams of colourful lighting on stage. The punchy rhythms of the production accompanied by the agency of her vocal range distracted from the storm already ensuing along the Ste-Catherine strip.

“Blue” was also a collaboration with Kaytranada that paints the world in the titular colour. The blue lighting loomed over Lia’s sole figure as she echoed to a missing lover, “A world of constant fear // I want to tell you everything I’ve been holding, for so long // Oh my love, I’ve been strong.” The sound of chimes and guitar riffs trickled throughout the dreamy state of the track, the crowd moving back and forth to the sadness of her tone.

Photo by Ian Alfonso

Soon after, Lia gracefully placed her cat-winged sunglasses when she was about to sing “The Cycle.” “Don’t hit my line when you’re feeling lonely,” she sang in the hook until she cruelly remarked, “you got it bad.” She threw more shade at an ex with a flow of instrumentals that seethes a grim atmosphere and synthetic beat.

Like a pendulum, Lia controlled the movement of the crowd with her musical mastery through her whole set. She also surpasses the genre through her versatility and creativity as a performer.

The crowd danced along to what the singer had to offer, but Lia was probably not so far from the others in the room. Despite her remarkable talent as a singer-songwriter, she humbly introduced herself as someone who settled in Montreal to finish her university studies.

Lia is totally underrated and holds as much talent as American contemporaries like Alex Mali, Sabrina Claudio, or SZA. As an independent artist discovered later for releasing covers online, she was long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize right after Dangerous’ release last year.

She will be performing at Osheaga this summer and will weather Canada’s freezing climate until her upcoming spring show on April 3 in Ottawa. Luckily for her fans, she seems to be here to stay––for now.

Feature photo by Ian Alfonso


A Swift Friendship

Damien Jurado and Nick Thune are Sad Music, Sad Comedy

Singer-songwriter Damien Jurado and comedian Nick Thune are both prominent artists from greater Seattle, but they never met until their mutual friend and collaborator, Richard Swift, died of complications from alcoholism in May, 2018.

Swift was a producer and multi-instrumentalist that worked with groups like the Shins and the Black Keys. Thune and Jurado came together to eulogize Swift at his memorial show, and became friends.

“I had never met him before, my oldest son and I were both big fans of Nick,” said Jurado. The show went so well that the two have decided to tour the east coast together, bringing music, comedy and sadness to L’Astral on Jan. 24. The show has Thune doing new jokes and stories, and Jurado playing cuts off of his newest album, In the Shape of a Storm. 

Thune is a veteran comedian and actor whose Comedy Central half-hour debuted in 2008. He’s known for his laid-back and dry style, as well as his sharp wit. He seems like the friend who’s the funniest in the group and is always getting away with something. Thune came up playing acoustic guitar as a bed for his jokes and has always been attracted to music, having originally wanted to become a musician. On stage, he would often open with a line to warm up the crowd: “Can I get more laughter in the monitors.”

“Comedians want to be musicians and musicians want to be comedians,” said Thune. “This tour kind of feeds into that idea.” His last full-length special, Good Guy, premiered in 2016 on Seeso (RIP) and focuses on the birth of his son. Since then, his son has turned five, he and his wife have separated, and he has gotten sober after the culmination of a serious battle with alcoholism in 2018. After the news of Swift’s death, Thune checked himself into rehab, and has since been feeling more creatively focused.

The romance of intoxication and drugs producing good art is false,” said Thune. “I don’t go running down these paths of a funny idea that I think I have when I’m drunk, then I hear about it when I’m not as drunk and I’m like ‘what was I thinking there?’”

While tired tropes of drugs and creativity populate all art forms, Thune noted that for him, sobriety was the clear path forward for not only his life, but his livelihood. When he was drunk, his thinking was clouded. “You’re really missing a lot more than you’re hitting. Right now with clarity and sobriety I’m hitting way more,” said Thune.

“Putting that show together, it felt like something that Richard would have loved to watch,” said Thune. Jurado and Swift were longtime collaborators. He produced songs on In The Shape of a Storm, which Jurado says makes up most of his setlist. The record is stripped down to just Jurado and his guitar. The songs are written intimately with themes of love––they are as vulnerable as they are powerful. This is sure to be a unique contrast with Thune’s brand of humour. “It’s fun because the audience feels like they’re getting different drugs,” said Thune.

“It’s a sense of laughter and sadness,” said Jurado. “I don’t have any expectations. Each individual person’s going to get their own experience out of this.”

The two cite influences in musical comedy, but the formula of a musician and a separate comedian on stage is rarely done. The duo share a bond that transcends art in their friendship with Swift.

“I was on stage and I was thinking to myself this is so crazy that Richard’s not here, to witness Nick and I not just being friends now but also going on tour,” said Jurado. “It’s a very strange missing part of the puzzle here.”

The show is sure to be a night of laughter and tragedy, and a common thread of two friends from the Pacific Northwest who shared a close friend. “Damien goes on first and makes you think about life, then I come on and make you want to end your life,” said Thune.

Speaking to them from their hotel in Pennsylvania, the two clearly share a sense of humour. I asked what Jurado and Thune want people to take away from this tour. “A ton of merch,” Thune said.

Sad Music, Sad Comedy plays at L’Astral on Jan. 24, at 8:00 p.m.



GoldLink live at L’Astral

Washington MC’s laid-back attitude counterbalanced his fast-paced flow

For those who do not know him, Goldlink, also known as D’anthony Carlos, is a rapper out of DMV, a district located in Washington, D.C. He made waves with his debut mixtape God Complex and has since been one of the freshest voices in music right now. Ecstatic, funky and charismatic, Goldlink is part of futuristic bounce, a genre that intertwines soul fusion, R&B and hip hop viscerally through the infectious energy of its fans.

April + Vista playing songs from their EP Note to self. Photo by Kirubel Mehari

The show started off with a performance by music duo, April and Vista, who delivered a soulful performance that resonated through the crowd. Defined as pioneers of the stresswave genre, they brought a sound that is both soothing and raw. April’s voice has a powerful and invigorating tone, and used this to her advantage. Before performing her last song, she asked the crowd an important question that sounded more like an affirmation:

“Do y’all know that you can do anything the fuck y’all want? If you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” she said.

April’s passionate persona shined through her performance that night, alongside Vista on the keyboards. Songs such as “Beasts” and “Daggers” were perfect for setting a chill and vibrant vibe for the night ahead.

Masego swaying the crowd with his smooth jazz house trap style. Photo by Kirubel Mehari

Masego made an appearance with his trusted saxophone named Sacha. Known for his unique blend of styles such as jazz, house and trap music, he performed his new singles, “Tadow” and “Navajo.” The crowd was pleased beyond measure, as he played songs from his own tracklist as well as classics such as “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. During his “Billie Jean” performance, as an hommage, Masego showed up with a similar red leather jacket from the late pop star. Spontaneous and versatile, Masego then created his own freestyle with a MIDI controller at the request of the crowd. The freestyle track garnered a positive reaction from the audience, as they sang along to Masego’s passionate refrain. Enthusiasm filled the room throughout his performance, leaving the crowd ready to welcome GoldLink.

GoldLink performing his hit track, “Crew” to his fans. Photo by Kirubel Mehari

The crowd’s energy peaked at it’s highest level as GoldLink took center stage. His laid-back and cool attitude provided a nice counterbalance to his rhythmic and fast-paced flow. The hip hop artist opened up his act with his track, “Some Girl,” which caught the undivided attention of all the ladies at the show. Fast-forwarding to GoldLink’s “Kakamoe Freestyle,” his performance made it obvious why the 24 year-old artist is becoming an imminent figure within the culture of hip hop. He had the audience in the palm of his hands, as they chanted his lyrics word by word. Afterwards, much to the crowd’s pleasure, Masego returned to the stage with GoldLink to perform a duet called “Late Night.”

Towards the end of the show, the experience became a thrilling one, with everyone in the room shouting for an encore and constantly making noise to show their love and support to the young rapper. GoldLink returned the appreciation by thanking his fans once again and performing his hit song, “Crew,” twice in a row.

Photos by Kirubel Mehari


Belgian band serves up its ‘best burger’ yet

Belgium is often associated with praline chocolates, waffles, beer and the unassuming cartoon hero recently rejuvenated in 3D, Tintin, closely followed by the Smurfs. Crazy experimental jazz musicians don’t usually come anywhere near the top of the “Best of Belgium” list.
But that’s all about to change when The Experimental Tropic Blues Band, born in Liège about a decade ago, bring their “best burger” attitude to L’Astral during Montréal en Lumière on Feb. 18.
“We just want people to have fun, express themselves, party with us,” explained guitarist and lead vocalist J.J. Thomsin, who goes by the stage name “Boogie Snake.”
Their most recent album, Liquid Love, is somewhere between a dance party, a mosh pit and a jam session and, while it’s sometimes physically confusing—you won’t know whether to dance, jump or just shake erratically—its high energy, hard rocking, experimental sounds will eradicate those doubts and fears as quickly as they came.
The album, which was largely influenced by the band’s time in the United States during 2010-2011, packs punch after punch of loud, homage-paying bluesy goodness into a mere 34 and a half minutes. Songs like “T.E.T.B.B. Eat Sushi,” written about the first time they ate sushi in New York City, and “The Best Burger” aren’t just about the differences in cuisine the band members experienced during their travels, they’re also about an attitude.
“We wrote [“The Best Burger”] after SXSW [Festival] in Austin, Texas,” said Thomsin, laughing. “It was funny. Everywhere we went people had this energy like, ‘we have the best bugers!’ They’ve got the mojo!”
Jon Spencer, who lives in New York City where he produced and mixed the band’s latest LP at NY Hed studio, helped to incorporate that attitude into Liquid Love, adding “cool instruments and ideas,” like the double bass featured on the album.
“It was the best experience we’ve had in a recording studio,” Thomsin added.
But our neighbours to the south aren’t the only ones with mojo. The gusto of Thomsin and his bandmates, Jeremy Alonzi (Dirty Coq, guitar/vocals) and David Dinverno (Devil D’Inferno, drums), comes through in their music and their nicknames.
“When we were kids—when we were 20—we came up with these stage names when we would play because our real names were not very fun, they were too serious,” said Thomsin. “Plus, in blues everyone has a nickname.”
Despite their leaning toward the “experimental” part of their name, T.E.T.B.B. carry the traditions of classic blues throughout their album. With sharp guitar licks, gruff vocals and hilarious anecdotal voice-overs about boners and partying, there’s more mojo in this album than you ever thought was possible.
And it’s that same mojo that’s fuelling their touring fire. They’re spending the majority of this year headlining dates all over Europe, Canada and parts of the U.S. Between jet-setting across the globe, the trio are writing new music for an upcoming self-produced EP along with creating acoustic sets too.
“People want acoustic songs for showcases, but our songs aren’t really made to be acoustic, so we really have to reinvent them,” Thomsin said, adding that touring is when they have the most fun.
“We just want to have fun and maybe the people who were there last year will come back and we’ll make more friends,” Thomsin said. “We want to meet new people, new bands and make new fans so we can come back. We just want to have fun, that’s all.”

The Experimental Tropic Blues Band play during Montréal en Lumière at L’Astral (305 Ste-Catherine St. W.) on Feb. 18.

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