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Bent By Elephants @ Green Room, May 10

Posted by Margot / May 11, 2009

20090511-elephantsgiviner.jpgIf you were at home watching The Amazing Race last night, you can start kicking yourself now, because the musical stampede that went through Green Room on Sunday was at least eighteen elephant-weights better. Montreal band Bent By Elephants played with guests Miesha Louis and Michelle Tompkins to a full house, and it was basically impossible to leave without a smile on your face and some good tunes ringing in your ears. Of course, you're excused if you were hanging out with your mom - but that's your only get-out-of-jail-free card.

Those who got to the show early enough (a.k.a. on time - go figure) were met with a pleasant surprise: the musical stylings of Michelle Tompkins. A one-woman act originally from Nova Scotia, Tompkins' voice is smooth, full, and completely devoid of the uncertainty that sometimes accompanies the singer-songwriter subset. And there's a brain behind the raw musicality of her performance; after introducing a song she wrote inspired by Mohammed Ali, Ted Bundy, Martin Luther King Jr.'s mom, and Phillipe Petit, one audience member whispered, "I think she thinks a lot." It's a good thing, too: Tompkins is definitely an artist that should be on your radar.

20090511-bentbyelephants1.jpgSecond to play was Miesha Louis, first by herself and then with a rowdy crowd of boys backing her up. They had some energy and got the place going for la pièce de résistance: without even introducing themselves (they're so humble), Bent By Elephants faded onto the stage, played an awesome hour of music, and left me smiling.

The band got started about a year ago when guitarist and vocalist front-woman Chesley Walsh and guitar-man extraordinaire Luke Fowlie joined forces with other musicians from the McGill conservatory; fellow students Alex Whyte, Ryan Frizzell, Paul Van Dyk, Sophie Gibbons, and Avrum Hollinger rounded out the gang that became Bent By Elephants, featuring an array of instruments from guitars, a violin, and double bass to trombone and trumpet. And though their drummer couldn't make it last night, they were accompanied by Charlotte Cornfield - whose new EP comes out this Thursday at Green Room, too - at the rhythmic helm .

20090511-elephantsclapping.jpgBent By Elephant's proof is in the classically-trained pudding: their collective formal training shows in the complexity of the music and the band's versatility, but doesn't hinder their relaxed presentation and informal style. In "Wrecker in the Dark," the whole band sang a catchy tune while clapping some thorny rhythms (cue bad memories from Grade 2 theory class). Later, while Fowlie was changing a broken string, the rest of the band played a rousing impromptu cover of MJ's "Billy Jean." And when providing a second voice to Walsh's confident first, Whyte goes beyond the third-above technique so popular with back-up singers, and adds depth to the melody.

You won't be bored by any I-IV-V-I routines with these guys, either. Inspired by African tunings, Fowlie brings a lot of fresh and unique (not to mention fascinating to watch) guitar work to the band. But it's really an ensemble piece - Bent By Elephants songs range from a single violin line to a cacophonous mash-up of strings, horns, and voice. Not only are they good at what they do, they clearly love making music. Make sure to check them out at Centre St-Ambroise when they're back in town on June 26.

Photos by Chase Moser

Discussion

8 Comments

april legend / May 13, 2009 at 02:11 pm
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BBE is the best band ever i'm really excited they are booking more shows lately!! they rule in a serious way im not even kidding
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