FOONYAP with Honeybear, The Marquee Room, Calgary, Alberta, Canada / 16 July 2010
This review should start with some full self-disclosure: both Foon Yap (aka FOONYAP) and Honeybear (Aaron Meyer to his Mom) have both played a part in my own musical project Woodpigeon. Foon provides the lovely string arrangements, while Aaron came along to help out on a UK / Ireland tour last year, even opening a couple of shows in Belfast and London. But this is no mere friend-based sycophancy as both are, without doubt, two of my favourite solo performers.
The stage of Calgary’s The Marquee Room glistens with tin spangles, giving this raised corner of the room a sense of Andy Warhol’s famed Factory. The lighting is soft and golden, and reflects off the shimmering backdrop. It’s hard to look bad when playing at The Marquee Room. When the performances are disappointing, at least there’s that. (I know this first-hand, having played my absolute worst here — at least the photographs looked beautiful the following day).
There is true joy to watching your friends and collaborators growing and stretching out on their own. FOONYAP’s earliest shows last year were shaky, her hands shivering on her violin (occasionally dropped on the floor in response) and mandobird. Yet already she’s developed into one of our most hypnotic performers, playing her epic layered loop-pedal driven songs on table tops in local shops and violin hymns to the Moon in city parks after dark.
‘The Blue Lagoon’ spirals out into a swell of howling strings enveloping the room; Foon smiles slyly as she sings it, and ‘Fun Machine’ is built on a two-note mandobird riff nearly obliterated by distorted violin and heavenly shouts. While she’s only two EPs in to what is sure to be a packed discography (the lovely baby steps of The Darling EP, the dark vampire sex metal of her “other band” FOONYAP and The Roar’s The Mes The Mys & The Swimming Pool EP), the new songs played tonight give proof of just how amazing she’s soon to become.
Equally adept at building overwhelming soundscapes, Honeybear’s music is directly tied to an old time history of song, yet simultaneously new and unique. (This is the same fellow who introduced me to both Here We Go Magic and John Jacob Niles somewhere in the middle of the Irish countryside on the same lengthy bus ride). The ear-catching originals are mixed in with the harrowing covers — ‘In The Pines’ (I wouldn’t be surprised if Honeybear hadn’t yet heard Kurt Cobain’s famed MTV Unplugged version) and Tanya Tucker’s ‘Blood Red and Going Down’ — both sounding at least 100 years old but fresh and exciting. Joined on cello by Clea Foofat (her own early solo recordings a heartwarming soundtrack for a rainy night), Honeybear’s gorgeous voice and gently strummed ukulele enraptured the room.
I’ve been happy and proud to work with both of these fine individuals, my mind blown while sitting at Foon’s feet in Reykjavik this past May for her first solo show outside of Canada, or doing the same with Honeybear at the Art Workers’ Guild in London last year for his. That they put just as much heart into playing my own songs as theirs is a genuine gift I’m deeply grateful for. I may be both a friend and collaborator, but above all else I am a true fan.