David Blair CD Release Party at The Granville Island StagePhotos by Alex Ramon
Vancouver is filled with amazingly talented people, but unfortunately there are not enough decent venues for these wonderful musicians to play in. Either the lighting is horrible or the sound quality doesn’t do the music justice. The bar scene is usually filled with belligerent drunks who comb the downtown strip looking for cheap alcohol, thus filling the room with chatter as hard working artists try to convey their love on the musical stage. Whatever happened to music lovers going out to watch a show just for the sake of it? But that’s exactly what happened when David Blair hit the stage for his CD release party at Granville Island. I’ve never actually been to this venue before, and really didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as I stepped into this sit down theatre, everything just clicked. Whoever came to watch this performance did so because they genuinely love music, and they were in for quite a treat.
The night opened up with an extraordinary performance from an innovative program that brings music to kids like never before. It’s called the School Alliance of Student Songwriters, or better known as SASS, where mentors, who are industry professionals, teach kids from grades 6-12 the basics of song writing, as well as instilling in them a sense of value to the community. Music really has no boundaries and it transcends any age demographic, bringing people together for the same cause. Programs likes these help propel the struggling music industry, helping the younger audience understand and love music for what it really is.
There were six performers out of the SASS program, three were mentors and three were students. To be honest, if I was blindfolded I probably couldn’t tell who was who because each performance was flawless. The format was quite simple; each musician played one song and briefly explained the influence behind each composition.
First up was Audrey Anchangco, who played an acoustic pop punk track about a priest falling in love with a prostitute. I would say she’s about 14, so how this song came in to fruition I have no idea. Needless to say, she has a very interesting concept of love. David Anthony was the first mentor to play, and it was just a taste of what he had in store for his full set later on in the night. While sporting a very fancy pair of red suspenders, he displayed his rich and powerful voice, which resonated throughout the quiet theatre. Jeff Huggins, another prodigy student, performed a nice little piano love song titled “Stay By My Side.” His voice cracked halfway through, but I overlooked that because I understand (puberty is not kind…). Michelle Will (she’s awesome because she has two first names…) followed up with a sweet, heartfelt, melodic song titled “Already Gone.” Bill Kirkpatrick (he’s awesome because he has five first names…) was the last student to play on stage and he reminded me a little bit of a younger Dallas Green. And last but not least, Don Mcleod, co-founder and President of SASS, graced the stage to perform his number. This heartfelt track, titled “Take My Name,” was played a number of years back at a festival where he brought his then girlfriend up on stage and proposed. Don re-enacted the moment and asked his wife to come up and sing-a-long to this passionate melody (I’m not gonna to lie, it tugged at a few of my heart strings).
Special mention goes out to Martin Reisle from Maria in the Shower who came on after the SASS set. He played a solo acoustic guitar accompanied by wind chimes (strange I know…), and wowed the audience with his dark humorous songs. He had one of the most unique and interesting performances I have ever seen, especially his song titled “Blood and Butterflies” where at one point he stated he “wanted to be your blood flowing through your open limbs and into your hearts.” Quite graphic I know, but it caught the attention of the audience no doubt and made people laugh (either because it was funny or because they were disturbed).
Another shout out has to go to The David Anthony Project. They played an amazing set that filled the venue with beautiful melodic and intricate songs. The band is comprised of Tim Hart on guitar and vocals, Dave Benedict on bass, Flavio Cirillo on drums, and Natasha Ratz on violin. Each musician provided a nice flavour to the already soulful Anthony, and I couldn’t help but notice each one of them had a smile on their faces the entire set. It’s amazing how the happiness of a band can radiate throughout the entire crowd, because as I looked around the theatre, everyone in the audience had the exact same expression on their faces. Grinning from ear to ear, David and Tim played off each other’s strong vocals and comprised some memorable melodic harmonies. It was just pure joy to watch them up on stage and I’m not surprised that Mr. Blair invited them out to play.
David is quite the accomplished musician and I’m honestly surprised he isn’t super famous yet. He’s had 12 years of classical piano training, but at the age of 17 he turned his musical attention away from Beethoven and towards what we like to call rock and or roll. He got his first big break by being selected by local radio station CFOX as one of their finalists in their Demolisten contest, which is now known as SEEDS, and he got the opportunity (?) to open up for Nickelback. David then left his rocker days behind him, but continued to compose music. As a singer songwriter he has won several honourable mentions in the Billboard World Songwriting Contest, as well as taking an award for the Great American Song Contest. I can keep going on about his accomplishments, but is that going to make you like him anymore? Probably not, so I recommend you just listen to his music and then decide for yourself if you want to make your own award for him (I like to call it my heart…)
As soon as David ran on stage, the crowd literally went wild. Girls were screaming at the top of their lungs, and it felt like I was back in the 90’s when the Backstreet Boys caused havoc to unsuspecting teens. Ok maybe it wasn’t that bad, but he sure did get a loud ovation from the crowd.
But of course it wasn’t just David on stage. He was accompanied by the talented Winston on guitar and vocals, Rob Driscoll on bass, Chris Gagner on drums, and the wonderful Brian Deans on cello. Winston of course is an artist in his own right, as well as a wonderful music producer for many talented musicians in Vancouver, which includes David Blair.
The set started off with “This Is The Soundtrack,” which sounds like it could be an anthem for any graduating class (mine was Vitamin C’s “Friends Forever”). If the audience wasn’t forced to sit, they would definitely be dancing and jumping around. I’m guilty of tapping my foot furiously on the ground, and I’m sure others were as well.
He’s a natural performer and he plays off the crowd like a seasoned professional. David is eerily comfortable on stage, and it doesn’t seem like anything could faze him when he’s up there. At times, the girls in the audience pleaded with him to take off his clothes. Of course, being the suave he is, he started shaking his derrière. His light hearted personality shined throughout his entire performance, especially during “Never Wanna Live Without” which is a blend of Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz.
The beautiful Hannah Georgas was kind enough to grace us with her presence on stage for one stunning song. They were able to play off each other, stealing glances between their amazing harmonies (just thinking about it makes me want to learn how to sing… but alas my creativity is with my keyboard and not my voice). It was like they have some musical love affair, and Winston was caught in the middle (don’t you just love “love triangles”).
There was also a point when the entire band left the stage, leaving David and his keyboard. He then proceeded to serenade us with a track I think everyone is quite familiar with, “Cry Me A River” by his idol JT (and for those of you who don’t know who JT is, Just Think about it…). He made it his own, and to be honest, I think he even did a better job than Mr. Timberlake.
David also mentioned that he was part Jamaican, what part he wouldn’t tell (get your mind out of the gutter!). He started to play a Jamaican folk song that I grew up with, something everyone probably grew up with, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”. He got the girls in the audience to sing one part, while he somehow got the guys to sing another (you see guys are much more self-conscious when it comes to singing, case in point, moi). It was great to see so many faces in the audience singing a long to a track David didn’t even compose, and that was what made it so much fun. No matter what he does, be it a cover of JT or this banana song, he makes it his own. David Blair is the true definition of an artist.