by Mark Anthony Brennan

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There is nothing finer than spending time in the funky confines of the Solstice Cafe on a lovely Victoria summer evening. Nothing, that is, unless you add some terrific music by two of Canada’s classier acts.

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First up was Victoria’s own West My Friend, a quirky folk quartet. Their deliberate restraint created an intimacy, allowing for a full appreciation of the various sonic textures that make up their unique sound. Eden Oliver’s crystal-clear vocals centred a delightful mixture of accordion, mandolin, acoustic guitar and upright bass. Not that it was all laid back — on a couple of occasions they frolicked a bit with some foot-stomping (I mean that literally). My only peeve (and I agree this is petty) was that they didn’t play one of my favourites, “When the Ink Dries”. Sadly, their set was over all too soon.

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Next was the amazing Jessica Stuart Few. They delivered a lively set of rock, folk, jazz and blues. Given their material Stuart’s voice is appropriately well-balanced — powerful and yet still sweet. She also proved to be equally adept at playing the electric guitar and the koto. It was a hoot watching her hop and writhe as she played the latter (a multi-stringed Japanese instrument). Being such a small venue the drums were a little overpowering in the mix, but it wasn’t too detrimental, especially on the louder numbers.

Stuart was appreciative that this was a “listening audience”, which should come as no surprise as the patrons here are normally sipping mochas and reading Proust.