Ohbijou @ Drake Underground

. : : February 8th, 2012 : : .

Every time a Kathleen Edwards concert is around the bend, I seem to have an influx of gear problem. In fact, I recently haven’t had much luck with Colleen Brown shows, either. So, when my left-channel microphone started to go at a recent Colleen Brown show, weeks before the next Kathleen Edwards show, I should have seen it coming.

So, shortly after the Colleen Brown date at the Dakota Tavern (available elsewhere on the site), I ordered some new mics. I’d been using Core Sound Binaurals for the last good while, but this was the second, exact same problem I’ve had with their mics in only three years or so. I decided to check out the competition and go with The Sound Professionals’ Deluxe Audio Technica Cardioid Stereo Microphones — partially because they offer an additional two-year warranty, and mics are too expensive to buy every fourteen months.

I was a bit anxious and out of my comfort zone, but what better way to put the mics through their paces than a Ohbijou show at The Drake Underground for The Drake’s eighth birthday/anniversary? The room is quiet enough to see how levels behave, and the band varied in instrumentation and volume to test the new mics’ dynamics.

Technically, Ohbijou wasn’t the FIRST band the mics were tested on — they had two exceptional openers in Folly and the Hunter, and Donlands and Mortimer, both of whom will be featured on the blog shortly. But, as the headlining act for the mic’s maiden voyage, they will be the first featured online.

I have seen Ohbijou twice before. The first time was opening for Bright Eyes at The Opera House, one of my least favourite venues in the city. Despite the uniformly bad sound mix and poor sight lines the venue is known for, Ohbijou put on a riveting performance that caught my interest. If I recall correctly, I didn’t tape their setlist. These were the days of battery-guzzling Mini Disc recorders and unemployment: I didn’t have the funds to tape multiple sets of music very frequently. Too bad.

The second time was recently, at The Great Hall, opening for Sloan. This set was pretty sedate, and although better than The Opera House, The Great Hall isn’t the best sight/sound venue either. I was a bit hesitant to make the trek out to see the band again seven weeks after last seeing them — I’m not THAT big a fan — but the addition of Folly and The Hunter as an opener sealed the deal.

I’m glad, too. This was the first time I experienced the band as headliners, and their performance is a bit more animated and with lots more personality. Mixed with the crystal-clear Drake Underground acoustics, and you have yourself a recipe for a fine time.

The setlist, understandably, leaned heavily on material from their latest release, Metal Meets, but the band didn’t hesitate to throw out a couple of older favourites from Swift Feet For Troubling Times and their sophomore release, Beacons.

New listeners might have some trouble differentiating the older tracks from the new and pinpointing the development of the band, but those with even a prior passing interest in the band will be quick to point out that, although still thoughtfully crafted and methodically paced orchestration is still the name of the game, there has been a marked shift in dynamics and energy.

Seeing the band headline is the best place to experience this. Opening slots seem to tether the band to a stationary pose, but the headlining spot coaxes a confidence that allows the band to move and feed off the music and energy in the room. And the Drake Underground? Definitely the best sounding room to appreciate the minute intricacies of the songs and performance.

The recording sounds great to my ears, dear listener — aside from a faulty cable on stage that occasionally sent bursts of static through the speakers (the worst culprit is evidenced on the sample below). Hopefully this new gear will perform as admirably in more challenging rooms. Time will tell.

01. [introduction]
02. The Dreaming
03. New Years
04. Niagara
05. Iron and Ore
06. [banter]
07. Mossy Lungs
08. Scalpel Blade
09. The Otherside
10. [banter]
11. Sligo
12. [unknown]
13. [banter]
14. Balikbayan
15. [banter]
16. Metal Meets
17. [banter]
18. Happy Birthday [traditional]
19. Black Ice
20. Anser
21. [encore]
22. Turquoise Lake

[info.txt // flac fingerprint ]
[ Request FLAC or MP3 Download ]

The Otherside (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Much love to Ohbijou and especially the wonderful Drake Underground on their 8th anniversary. Many happy returns!

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