Mount Pleasant fire not enough to put damper on Olio Festival

Olio Festival at the Biltmore Cabaret on Friday, September 21

You could have followed your nose to the Biltmore Cabaret Friday night for an Olio Festival showcase featuring Twin River, Julie Doiron, Hume, and Gang Signs, that almost didn’t happen. Due to a massive fire that was blazing in a Vietnamese restaurant and supermarket only a few streets away, festival-goers were greeted by smoky fumes and flashing fire engines as they made their way to the club.

A half hour later than scheduled, on account of the ensuing power outage that hit most of Mount Pleasant (including the Biltmore) BC Hydro saved the day and the show finally went on.

Despite the incendiary circumstances surrounding it, the gig was surprisingly seamless and chilled out. If there was one connective thread tying the four sets together, it was probably each act’s mastery of the art of playing like you were there with them in their bedroom. That resulted in a lot of daydreamy shoegazing with minor bouts of passionate abandon.

Having gotten a bit lost in the haze of confusion over the power outage, I caught only the tail end of Twin River’s opening set. Still, the rootsy folk-pop quintet, featuring members of White Ash Falls, Capitol 6, and Mode Moderne, among other respected local projects, was in top form.

Garnering a crowd that seemed spellbound by its somber, silvery melodies and galloping alt-country rhythms, Twin River set a cool and collected mood and laid-back vibe for the night. And at least one couple was moved enough by singer Courtney Ewan’s honeyed, melancholy voice to make out right in front of the stage.

The most well-received act was Acadian singer-songwriter Julie Doiron from Moncton, New Brunswick, who is set to release her ninth studio album So Many Days in October. The number of excited fans who filled out the room was proof of the indie pop-rocker’s staying power as a national treasure. And the moon-eyed look so many of them had as she sung in her husky, Cat Power–esque croon and riffed effortlessly on her six-string was pretty endearing.

Equally charming was Doiron’s unfailing modesty and ease with her position in the spotlight. She thanked the audience profusely, laughed at herself and her bandmates, who looked “Wow, so cool and purple” in the stage lighting, and sung so earnestly and emotionally it was as if the microphone was her diary.

Going solo for her last three songs, she took requests from the crowd and closed with “The Songwriter”, “Will You Still Love Me In December?”, and “Glad To Be Alive”, the twee cutesiness of her music and demeanor never getting too syrupy.

Crawling into the wee hours of the morning, experimental noise-pop quartet Hume took the stage as approximately half of the audience was vacating—presumably to go home and sleep like normally functioning human beings. Those who stayed proceeded to invent some of the most hilarious dance moves to ever grace the Biltmore, and Hume soon lost itself in a sonic trance, its two drummers keeping impressively in sync while the guitarist fiddled endlessly with a treasure trove of effects pedals.

Unfortunately for Hume, whose music tends to get stuck in a repetitive pattern, the band was overshadowed by one hilarious dancer in the crowd. The dude in question did his best to one-up Michael Jackson by posing mid-mad shuffle, popping an imaginary collar and pointing excessively.

Dark electro mopers Gang Signs closed the show, and although its ethereal, beat-heavy sound was perfectly suited to the end-of-night dance floor, the band members themselves might as well have been sleepwalking as they went through the motions on stage. They might have an excuse, as it was 3 a.m. by the time they went up, but that certainly didn’t stop the dwindling audience from dancing like crazy. And I mean crazy. They made sure this chapter of the Olio Festival went out with a bang.