It is a Saturday night and I am on my way to the Café Republique on Peel. I am about to see a Montreal band called Vice Versatile, a self-proclaimed "experimental" band that fuse jazz, hip-hop and numerous other musical styles to make up their unique sound. The venue, a café, is not exactly the location of preference for most bands, but then again, Vice Versatile is definitely not like the rest.
I am seated in one of the over-stuffed red velvet booths in this cabaret style café. The atmosphere is whimsical but it's still not what I would expect for a show. There is no stage in sight, just a bunch of instruments in a corner of the room and six overly tranquil musicians sipping on cocktails. I decide to take my opportunity to sit in with the band before they start to play. I ask Jason (bass, guitar), Matt (rhymes), Nadine (vocals, rhymes), Natalie (vocals), Nic (guitar, drums) and Pablo (drums, guitar) questions about the band, and end up completely losing my train of thought and heavily immersed in their conversation.
We sit and talk about the band, the members, and the music…and suddenly I realize something. I am not about to see a show; I am about to be invited to a tantalizing jam session, one where anything goes and anyone can join in. They tell me how this all started…it was never to be a structured band, with practices and everyone taking on a particular instrument. It was, and still is, about expressing themselves, letting go, and of course, making good music. It now makes sense to me why they chose to have a "show" in an intimate, romantic café among their closest friends, family, lovers and strangers…
The show is completely relaxed and shapeless. There is no set list, no stage, and no rules. The songs are chosen depending on the mood of the crowd and the band. Each song varies in musical style, but the formula is always the same; the band plays while the girls sing overtop, pausing occasionally to make room for a rhyme or two.
With Matt doing a damn good job at rhyming, it comes as a complete shock when suddenly this unassuming chick (a.k.a Nadine) steps up to the mic and lays a sick rhyme on the crowd. Judging by the expressions on their faces and the occasional "woo hoos", I can safely say that they are as blown away by her as I am.
Nadine and Natalie share vocal responsibilities. Nadine has the more powerful voice of the two, but it's Nat's eerie choruses that really capture the mood of the songs. Together, the two have an undeniable chemistry that comes across in their sound.
Occasionally the girls take a break and the guys step in to hypnotize the crowd with their extensive jams. They play in an almost improvisational way, with one chilling riff after another.
The mood of the show is constantly changing, and the crowd responded with every shift. It was hard to tell who was setting the tone, the band, or the audience. Either way, it worked. You couldn't help but feel the energy between the band members and the love in the room. I suddenly feel privileged to be sitting here.
If you want to catch a Vice Versatile show, visit their website.
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