You go “sledding” at church when you purchase a ticket to experience ethereal sounds from an obscure festival within a cathedral styled place of worship. A revitalized music scene has emerged from the sombreness of the pandemic. Musicians saddled in loneliness from their basements have powered up their skills and are now showcasing. It’s a stopover on Calgary for musicians looking for more of the lime light needing to build a fan base away from the clutter of social media.
On the eve of June 23rd, three acts took to the stage at Calgary’s downtown United Church. Opening was Laura Hickli. The sound man prepared for Laura alone but she brought five compatriots along thereby a delay ensued off the mark. Then it happened. The emotive Laura Hickli jolted us to attention with her intriguing physicality behind her keyboard. There was as much joy in consuming her translation from song to body as there was in interpreting the contrasting melodies. A pointed ballad completed a set filled with dreamy pop soundscapes colored with samples of shoegaze and slide guitar. It was delightfully different in theme with sledding at Sled Island.
Next up was Magella. This powerful singer from Montreal enraptured from the outset with her powerful voice. She introduced herself alone on stage and opened with the accompaniment of a loop. A drummer and guitarist settled in and took their place afterward to pay fill. Literally, these two musicians played accompaniment cognizant of the varying spectral of sound alone emanating from this singer who characterizes her sound as “diasporic blues”. Guitar solos were precise and laden with the charm of some jazz. The songs flowed pleasantly and the finale ensued with the drummer getting his chance to shine with an up tempo song fitting of high energy grunge. During her audience repartee, she made reference to “the project” as if this trio is temporary. Well….evident from last night, this outfit has synergy.
Closing out the night was “Spelling”. Again….the focal point of the ensemble was the singer. At only 32, Chrystia Cabral has her own Wikipedia page so let’s get that out of the way. Her album “Mazy Fly” released in 2019 was well received universally by music critics and her rise has been unorthodox. She has an unwavering voice complemented by a high energy band. The drummer is so tasteful with dynamics and the chordal sounds oftentimes circulate in the major scale thereby defying alternative trends.
The crowd was delightfully appreciative and the setting was surreal especially in lieu of one particular track in which Laura Hickli represented her departure from religion. This all in context of if being three months to the day since her and her band mates had rolled their touring van down an embankment having struck black ice while on tour. I cast a blessing for all in house atop the highest of pews (photo) and departed the gathering with a warm reconnection with old clients just outside the church door.