Eden Hertzog @ Drake Underground

. : : July 27th, 2011 : : .

You know, I’ve been pretty lucky with opening acts.

A lot of people I know — and I’m sure a lot of people you know, perhaps yourself included? — incessantly skip opening bands. “Oh, I’ve never heard of them before. Who cares?” is a prevalent mentality. Me? I’m the other way around. I’m intrigued by the unknown opening band. No expectations means a far greater chance of leaving surprised, and with a new favourite band you’re teeming with excitement to check out. The headliners? Well, maybe they didn’t play that song from their first album you really liked, or the performance was off a little bit. No one’s fault, and nothing completely unexpected, but you almost certainly leave a little deflated. Why? Expectations.

The unknown opening act has a truly blank slate. Old songs, new songs, unreleased songs — they’re all the same to you. Performance a bit off? You won’t even notice, as you have no basis for comparison. The opening band still sucks? Oh, well. They’re the opening band. You didn’t expect anything anyway.

That’s what I love about live music. You never know just what’s going to happen. Listen to the album, and the songs will be performed the same way, in the same order ad infinitum. But live…? Anything can happen.

The opening act for Emm Gryner at The Drake Underground is well-known around these parts — but not for her music. Unlike most people you can say that about, it’s not her acting, either. In fact, I don’t think she acts at all. Rather, Eden Hertzog is known as an all-too-rare entrepreneurial success story, as the General Manager of New Moon Kitchen, an all-organic, vegan bakery.

If I’d remembered reading her profile on Torontoist.com, I might have had lower than no expectations going into her set, a stripped down affair that saw her on acoustic guitar and accompanied by her husband, Brian MacMillan, providing subtle electric leads and backing vocals. What immediately struck me about her set was less the songs, and more her charisma and back-and-forth banter with her husband that carried the set to a room full of people who, presumably, were generally unfamiliar with her material. Topics ranged from her nervous banter being because, as a new mother, this was the first time she had a conversation with an adult in months, to memories of the amusement park rides at Toronto’s Exhibition Place her mom would take her on while getting high.

What struck me a bit later is that the songs, that didn’t seem to stand out while being performed, stuck with me. I was humming them on the subway ride home. I was singing them in the shower the next morning. Listening back to them while preparing the recordings for the blog, I relented. I really like these songs a lot. Particularly catchy was the picture-perfect set closer, Island Of Me, which found the audience spontaneously snapping along in defiance of Brian (who wouldn’t let Eden play shakers on the song due to her admitted lack of coordination), but the set is actually full of highlights for listeners looking for loose, laid back, unpretentious folk songs.

Eden could be a really special folk singer, winning the world over with her warm voice and great melodies. Instead, she continues to win the world over with an exploding baking business (that has seen her cookies become available to purchase from bakeries and specialty shops across North America), leaving her music as a hobby — almost an after thought between her business day job, and full-time role as new mother. I have to admit, there’s something refreshing, and yes, even surprising, about someone performing for the love of music, and not in pursuit of the rock’n’roll holy grail of a career that is so predominant in live music today.

Fans of this blog are encouraged to give this tape a shot. Recorded at way too low a level, the only flaw is a slight hiss due to the heavy-handed increase in volume. Otherwise, a great recording of a great set that is sure to win over fans of the genre.

  1. Love Is On My Side
  2. [banter]
  3. Lights Go Down
  4. [banter]
  5. 27
  6. [banter]
  7. Arizona
  8. Joshua
  9. [banter]
  10. My My My
  11. [banter]
  12. Island Of Me

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Island of Me (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

A huge thank you to Eden Hertzog, Brian MacMillan and the magnificent Drake Underground.

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