How does a touring band with a small fanbase deal with an administrative screw up involving a bad link which directed fans who wanted to buy a ticket to an empty webpage? Some thought the show had sold out but it really hadn’t even started to sell at all. As a result Ivan & Alyosha’s show at the Casa del Popolo last night had a woeful attendance (especially by Montreal’s standards). Thankfully for those who did attend, rather than shrug it off, get bored, drunk, and play a rehearsal show, the quintet played a solid show and tried their best to win over the hearts of those who did attend.
The band are touring with fellow Seattleite Kris Orlowski. Normally a rock act with a full band, he played a solo show on the acoustic guitar. Low key confessional music, it set a very intimate mood for the small crowd. At one point, he stepped off the stage to play a completely unplugged piece which both showcased his strong voice and vulnerability. It happened to be his birthday too and the camaraderie between the tourists was evident the moment he stepped on stage as Ivan & Alyosha’s members hooted birthday wishes (including one for him to take off his shirt). I have to say, seeing the band members as part of the crowd was nice to see.
The banter continued during Ivan & Alyosha’s turn on stage. There definitely was a bit of tongue in cheek when lead singer Tim Wilson greeted the twenty-some crowd with a “Hey Montreal” after opener ‘Something Is Wrong’. The show really reinforced their turn towards a bigger pop sound. With three guitars, a bassist, and a drummer, the setlist was always going to be loud rather than folk whispery. While it was not particularly biased towards their latest album’s songs (It’s All Just Pretend), the older songs including crowd-pleasers ‘Fathers Be Kind’ and ‘Easy To Love’ were just as heavily electrified.
According to Orlowski, the band has been getting better and better with each show. Of course, we can’t judge the progression but the chemistry was apparent. In line with their image as an optimistic act (regardless of the things they may sing about—death, for instance, on ‘Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’), the band was chirpy and good-humoured. At one point, Wilson asked for a Jack Daniel’s only to be rebuffed with a playful ‘order in French please’ (he had been talking about how he couldn’t understand anything in Montreal). He duly complied by asking for a Jacques Danielle and a Jacques Danielle he got.
Small talk aside, Ivan & Alyosha’s progression as a band is remarkably cohesive. Tim Kim on rhythm/lead guitar got into some sharp solos with a slide and drummer Cole Mauro played a stirring pop racket. Bassist Pete Wilson went on keys duties for bluesy banger ‘Let Me Go East’ as his brother happily took over the bass (“this is the only song that let me play bass on”). After finishing with ‘Be Your Man’, a quick-to-charm infectious song, the band said their thanks and stepped off the stage to mingle with the crowd again.
Ivan and Alyosha played Casa del Popolo on May 22.