Team GDW returned to London, ON recently to attend the third annual “EcoFolk” benefit concert held at The Aeolian Hall (one of our favorite music venues). Partnering with the Thames Talbot Land Trust to promote and support local environmental concerns in the London area, this matinee show was the perfect escape for the first weekend of spring. Featuring a stellar lineup of musical talent, this two hour concert proved incredibly entertaining, while all proceeds were generously donated to a great cause.
While the Thames Talbot Land Trust were able to focus on promoting conservation and sustainability, local musician Brent Jones was entrusted with putting together a line-up of local talent that included accomplished cellist Christine Newland, rising stars The Cedar Sisters, and at the top of the bill, Emm Gryner. Brent would naturally spend time accompanying several of the bands behind the amazing grand piano that graced the stage. Assisting with the smooth running of the show, Ryan Spence did a wonderful job as the master of ceremonies, and kept the audience engaged as bands entered and exited the stage throughout the afternoon.
The festivities were opened by Supernatural Buffalo (the trio of Chris MacGillivary, Lee Seburn and Curtis Doherty), and accompanied on piano by Brent Jones. Hailing from the beaches of Lake Erie, and raised on the road across Canada, the band certainly looked and dressed the part of modern day eco-activists. With a four-song set, that included new tracks “The Gypsy” and “Come On Inside,” their peaceful and relaxed demeanor quickly engaged us, and we found ourselves enjoying their soothing rock tones and ‘Woodstock’ style vibes. MC Ryan Spence saluted the band at the close of their set by stating that there was more ‘hair’ on stage right now than anywhere else in London; followed by references to how he felt transported back to 1973. Both the band and audience appreciated the light-hearted humor, but Spence was correct; Supernatural Buffalo were an amazing throwback act to the times of free love and peace, and the perfect choice to open this show.
It was a Facebook post by The Cedar Sisters that first brought this show to our attention. Having waited patiently for the opportunity to see the duo of Jane Carmichael and Elle Hermansen perform live, their well timed announcement led to our ticket purchases immediately. Accompanied on stage by guitarist Kevin Kennedy and percussionist Matt Weston, The Cedar Sisters treated everybody to their unique, atmospheric brand of “electro-folk-pop.” Performing four tracks, Jane would take the lead on their brand new release “Long Road” while Elle would reciprocate with their CBC Searchlight entry, “Forgive My Heart.” Lead duties would be shared between both vocalists during “New Life;” along with both ladies on acoustic guitar and Kevin adding some discreet, yet haunting slide guitar. Opting to close with their debut hit “Wait,” The Cedar Sisters wrapped up their set to a well-deserved ovation.
Fulfilling the musical duties prior to an intermission were Black Heart Machine, comprised of singer-songwriter Robert Thompson and Brent Jones, along with guest cellist Christine Newland. Opening with “Bought and Sold” and “Judas Had His Reasons,” both Robert and Brent would step aside temporarily to give Christine the spotlight for an amazing solo cello rendition of Bach’s “G Major Suite.” With a thunderous ovation, Robert and Brent delayed their return due to the cries for another cello piece from the crowd; to which Christine assented with another incredible performance of Bach’s “Allemande.” Closing their set with a bang, Brent would announce that they wanted to perform a song to celebrate the arrival of Spring. Inviting The Cedar Sisters back onstage to add harmonies (along with Kevin once again on guitar), Robert, Brent and Christine blessed us all with their beautiful rendition of “Sky Light.”
With the arrival of local band Psalm Trees to the Aeolian stage, the second half of the show was ready to commence. Featuring brothers Shawn and Derek Durant, along with bassist Joseph Flynn, we quickly became aware of how talented these young musicians were during their four track performance. With a strong emphasis on soothing keyboard sounds and the plucking of an acoustic guitar, Psalm Trees offered a melodic and lyrical journey with tracks such as “Past is Pure” and “Gave it Away.” I was immediately drawn to Shawn’s vocals, and detected similarities with both the sounds of early Neil Young and Matthews Southern Comfort in his voice. Just like Supernatural Buffalo, the musical sound and style of this band was a perfect fit for an eco-awareness benefit, and we hope to encounter both bands again at some point to experience much more of their material.
As the headlining act for this third EcoFolk benefit concert at The Aeolian Hall, Emm Gryner would be joined on stage by her friend and bassist (and former driving instructor) Steve Clark for the finale. Taking her place at the grand piano, Emm would commence with “Imagination,” the first single from her soon-to-be-released “Only Of Earth: Days of Games” album. Remaining at the piano, she and Steve would follow up immediately with “The Wild Weight of Earth,” as found on her “21st Century Ballads” album. With a brief pause for some closing ceremonies from Ryan and representatives from the Thames Talbot Land Trust, the spotlight was handed back to Emm Gryner for her grand finale. Taking center stage between Steve Clark and guest guitarist Paul Aitken, the trio of musicians would opt to cover the Joni Mitchell hit “Coyote.” We particularly loved how Emm took her leave once the vocal portion was wrapped up, yet Steve and Paul played their outro to a close, and all earned their well-deserved ovation.
EcoFolk 2018 was a fantastic experience for us, and offered a winning formula; great bands, great music, and support of an important cause. Congratulations once again to Brent Jones for his vision, and for the ensemble of musicians that made this show a success. EcoFolk at The Aeolian Hall is already on our radar for next spring, and we look forward to visiting London, ON again very soon.