Olenka and the Autumn Lovers @ Great Hall

. : : July 29th, 2011 : : .

I must admit, I was tempted to flee The Great Hall after The Rest‘s set at the Out of the Box Festival. I was expecting greatness out of the Rest, and wasn’t disappointed. I was largely impressed with Polynesian Bride. What are the chances lightning would strike thrice in a single evening?

Couple that with arriving after a full work day behind me, the promise of another one ahead of me, and the bands already being some twenty minutes behind schedule, the idea of abandoning ship in favour of much-needed sleep weighed heavily on my mind. Knowing that the next act was Olenka and the Autumn Lovers sort of forced my hand, though. I hadn’t given the band a fair shake of things when I saw them open for Rae Spoon and Jenn Grant back in February at the Horseshoe Tavern.

The truth of the matter was, I arrived a bit late then, and didn’t have time to set up my taping gear before the band started performing, so I didn’t pay as much attention as I otherwise would have. I felt I owed the band another chance to win me over — especially after reading so many nice things about the band over at Chromewaves.net. So, I somewhat reluctantly staid.

The opening song, No Coin, failed to grab my attention the way I’d hoped, and I was just about to turn off the recorder and head home when the band broke into East End. Listening solely to the instruments, ignoring the vocal melody, the song sounds like it was ripped straight from a Jim Cuddy album. Suddenly, I was sucked back in. The vocal medley was decidedly unCuddy, but damn catchy!

What really sealed the deal for me was the band’s third cut, the heavily Eastern European-influenced Odessa, which allowed the accompanying violinist, Sara Froese, and cellist Kelly Wallraff to shine beautifully — both with their instruments and gorgeous backing vocals, which really showed me what this band is all about and just why they’re so special.

From there, Olenka led the band through a string of soaring alt-folk, including a blistering guitar solo by the band’s resident multi-instrumentalist Simon Larochette during Go, the minimalist Lark, and fan favourite Flash In The Pan. Penultimate song, Sparrow, returned to the heavily European influences, inspiring a handful of women up front to hop, skip and twirl along to the frantically-paced and altogether too short cut from the band’s latest disc, And Now We Sing.

Don’t let the lapse in time between the recording of this set and posting of the blog post stand as a marker of interest. I’ve actually been trying to find the time to sit down and put together this review and recording for over a month. In those weeks, I’ve spent some time with And Now We Sing, and can’t recommend the disc enough to fans of this blog. Beautiful instrumentation, great lyrics and melodies, it’s well-worth checking out.

Let this recording be a (free!) introduction, or grab the album and come back to listen to how your favourites stack up live, but don’t make the same mistake I did last February. Olenka and the Autumn Lovers are more than deserving of your attention.

01. [banter]
02. No Coins
03. East End
04. [banter]
05. Odessa
06. [banter]
07. Go
08. [banter]
09. Lark
10. [banter]
11. Flash In The Pan
12. [banter]
13. Sparrow
14. Louise of Littleville

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Odessa (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, The Rest, The Out of the Box Festival and The Great Hall for a wonderful evening.

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