White Poppy, Sister Blanche, Old Girl, Kye Plant @ Centennial Square (Victoria, BC) 8/4/2016

A gorgeous Victoria summer evening drew in its fair share of curious tourists as well a big contingent of local music enthusiasts. All were rewarded with an excellent show that featured confessional folk, a lot of experimentation and some dreampop.

First up was Kye Plant, who proved to be a one person powerhouse. Their smooth baritone voice contrasted nicely with the strains of electric guitar that often rang sharply around the City Hall courtyard. The songs dealt with very personal issues involving abuse, suicide and despair, but Plant has such an easy-going persona on-stage that the crowd felt quite comfortable sharing in their stories.

Next, Old Girl (Nasstasia Ellefsen) made the air crackle with electricity (quite literally, I think) as she wowed the audience with her experimental wizardry. Armed with only a laptop and a leopard, Ellefsen made it sounds as though her wild crooning was accompanied by a full band. Her set weighed heavily towards her latest album of weird and mystical tunes, ‘Objet a’. Even when she was unexpectedly called upon to play one one more song she masterfully delivered a strong performance of the beautiful “Broken Church”.

If Old Girl made the crowd sit up then Sister Blanche made them jump out of their seats in alarm. Sister Blanche is known to lean towards the avant-garde, but it usually (not always) fairly ambient. Colour us surprised then when she launched into an out-and-out screamo fest, accompanied by Fountain’s Laura Jeffrey on drums and Psychosomatic Itch’s Jason Lei on guitar. After the shock wore off it was damned exciting as Sister Blanche screeched and dredged feedback from her amp. Jeffrey managed to maintain some order, but Lei was obviously digging into the craziness with glee.

As if to bring it all back down to earth the evening ended off with the gentler sounds of White Poppy (Crystal Dorval). However, by “gentle” I am by no means implying conventional or anything less weird than the previous two acts. Dorval struck a very unimposing figure as she sat huddled over her guitar but the sound that emanated from her was nothing less than startling. In her first number she overlaid guitar loops in a progression that became increasingly strident and distorted. The crowd sat transfixed as the music swirled out into the gathering dusk. Was the song 2 minutes long or 20 minutes? We were all so mesmerized we had no idea. Dorval’s set list was short, although the songs tended to run long. As the evening wound down she eased into more dreampop territory, finally treating us to her wonderful voice.

As an evening of music goes that one is gonna be hard to beat. It’s all the more impressive when one considers that all of the talent was local (even Vancouver’s Dorval has lived on the Island). Way to go Victoria!