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Open Fields: A Review/Preview Odyssey

Posted by Sisi / April 30, 2008

20080430_openfields.jpgPhoto taken from the band's Myspace. From left to right: Matthew Thomson, Justin Avery, and Danielle Hamel.

When I signed up to cover a band called Open Fields, it occurred to me that the "Montreal indie rock" bracket is pretty oversaturated (to say the least). So, it was with a little trepidation that I met the members of OF for some grub before their 9:30 show at Zoobizarre on Sunday night. We powered down to a quaint East End diner called Au Gourmet; the original plan was to have some poutine, but only one of us stuck to our guns. Despite the sweltering heat and the lack of following through with our cheesy promises, it turned out to be a great dinner.

20080430_matt.jpgOpen Fields is made up of Matthew Thomson, 24 (vocals, guitar), Danielle Hamel, 23 (vocals, keyboards), and Justin Avery, 23 (drums). Natives of Newfoundland and Labrador, they were formerly known as the Corduroys. Why the name change? "There were already lots of bands named The Corduroys," said Thomson. "And [in indie rock], the 'The' doesn't help." 5 years ago, Thomson and Hamel formed the Corduroys as a side project to Thomson's solo playing. They kept at it, and were eventually joined by Avery, Thomson's long-time friend and jam partner. The band is currently short-handed; their former bass player packed his bags for Scotland a while back. So if you're pretty handy with a bass, give 'em a shout.

When asked about the city's crowded indie scene, everyone gave knowing nods. "We recognize that, and it's pretty hard to compete when there are so many indie rock bands in Montreal," said Hamel. "We didn't always think of ourselves in those terms," added Thomson. "We've been playing music for a long time, and one day it just happened to fall under the 'indie' category."


I was curious about the differences between the music scene here and in Newfoundland. "Oh, it's much better here," laughed Hamel. "In St. John's, there are only 2 bars, and you can only play in them so many times in front of people you know before you reach your maximum potential." Said Avery: "[Thomson and Hamel] left St. John's before me. I stayed there for 5 years, so I remember that scene well."

We left Au Gourmet at around 8:50 p.m so that Open Fields could set up at Zoobizarre. By the time we got there, I was dreading the possibility of them really sucking; no one likes to give bad reviews to people they like. Luckily for me, I don't have to.


Granted, Open Fields didn't pack the place. The crowd was modest, and made up mostly of people they knew. (It was so low-key that I ended up manning - womanning? - the ticket table once they got onstage.) To tell the truth, I listened to their latest CD Love What You're Left With only half-heartedly when I was doing prep work for the interview. Now, I know that most bands sound better live, but I felt like I was listening to another act altogether at the show. Even without a bass player, the trio delivered a high-octane performance. A few songs in, Thomson worked some heavy feedback into a crowd-pleasing solo. Avery, normally soft-spoken, gave off a convulsive energy on drums. ("He used to play in a band whose members used to get wasted before every show," recounted Thomson. "It was awful music, but great fun.") Hamel channeled The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan with her high, sweet voice.

But don't take my word for it; check them out for yourself. By normal Midnight Poutine standards, reviews should be in the day after a show. However, I've decided to make it into a review/preview; as luck would have it, Open Fields is playing tonight at Bar Saint Laurent 2 (5550 St-Laurent) at 9 p.m. If you're not watching the game, drop on by and say hi. And if you miss them tonight, catch 'em toward the end of the summer on August 10 at Casa del Popolo - do your duty, Montreal, and support some local talent.

All concert photographs courtesy of Hilary Thomson, maker of CatchFrames, brother to Matthew Thomson, and friend of former MP writer Nika Vee. Small world? I think so.



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