Updated: Dec 19, 2022
By Chris Vasseur
Photos by Tracy Creighton/Copperblue Photography & Design (copperbluedesign.ca)
The place (the legendary Amigos Cantina) is packed before the first band even starts which is always a good sign. There are tons of familiar faces from the music community all around - lots of musicians. Another good sign. Ava Janzen is a respected young artist in this town and it’s gonna be sad (but exciting) to see her go.
First up is a local band called Landfall. The only act on the bill that I’m not familiar with (apparently this is their first show). Instead of digging in beforehand. I left it as a surprise. The lights go down and the sound of a noodling SG comes through the speakers. The bass player (and singer) joins in and introduces the band. His hat does not last the first song. There is hair flapping everywhere on stage. They jump into a tight little groove reminiscent of early Sabbath or something trippy of that era. The guitarist seems like a bit of a mad scientist, kneeling down and messing with his board randomly throughout the opening song - which I’m into. I think this is gonna be a cool night. Then, they crank out a funky Britney Spears cover and I know it is.
I see Ava wandering the venue, saying her goodbyes and keeping an eye on things, making sure everything is going smoothly….you don’t get a ticket to the big show by being unorganised. I’m waiting for a chance to introduce myself. Ava and I started out roughly around the same time, though I’m closer in age to her super supportive mother Sheila than to Ava herself.
Next up is Little Darkness. This is singer-songwriter Aurora Bella’s band project and I’m personally super excited for. Plus, I’ve just heard a secret from the groups bassist/producer Dawson Wayne that they have been doing some recording and we may just get something in the new year. The room is buzzing when they take the stage.
Bella has a great stage presence on their own, then add in the best lead guitar player in the city (Shea Goyer) along with a crazy rhythm section (Dawson Wayne on bass and Anthony Pawluk on drums) and you have an energetic little rockin’ band.
Bella brings heavy Debbie Harry vibes as the band grooves through the first bit of the opening song. Goyer then does what he does and shreds away. Another tornado of hair and Wayne politely compliments the sound with his groovy bass stylings. They rock out together, having way too much fun as they settle into the set. They are dialled right in, perfecting the sound they are looking for.
Bella is having a headbanger contest with Goyer by the end of the song and it’s amazing. The band is very into it and it shows.
They crank out a very fun version of the cranberries “Zombie”. It sounds a bit punkier and a bit happier even. Seeing this side of Aurora Bella is a fun contrast to their beautiful coffee house acoustic sets. They seem a bit more free, a bit more untamed and wild but it fits. They are another huge gem of Saskatoon and a worthy successor to the velvety crown.
This band is young, fun, talented and has a radiant buzz about them. I’m very eager to hear some recordings!
Now the main event. Ava is pumped. I run into her and I introduce myself and wish her a good show. I jokingly suggest she come on my radio show on her big return tour after she conquers Toronto. She agrees. She is such a gracious young person and is deserved of great things. She’s represented the scene here well and has great morals to boot, impressing this writer with her fierce compassion and dedication to what is right and she definitely wears the cape well.
Ava puts the proverbial cape on and disappears. Velours takes the stage. My buddy Graham Tilsley is playing guitar for Velours tonight and he’s nervous (he’s an amazing session musician in town, but even he knows this is a big show). There’s nothing to worry about though (I knew that already) as he, along with the drummer Zakk Strelioff do an exquisite job of backing up the force that is Velours plus my partner really digs his “floofy” hair.
Velours steps to the microphone and takes over the room. She has an energy I’m not sure Toronto is ready for. The band settles right in and Velours takes command of the stage. She falls into the music and shows us immediately why she’s off to the big city.
The room seems to get fuller. More and more people start to move to the front.
She writes songs about “how awesome girls are” (she announces the next song this way) which is another indication of her good heart and pushing need for fair representation.
The stage is hers and she takes control.
They play a cover of the re-popularised summer 80's hit "Running Up That Hill" which is a single Velours released earlier this year. The band gets more and more comfortable as the night goes on with the audience being the true benefactors. Velours has a great voice, a great presence and a vibe that arguably no longer fits in Saskatoon. She’s ready for Toronto and it shows.
Look out Ontario. Heck, look out to all of Canada and perhaps even the world. Here comes Velours and she’s hungry for more.