There is a bit of Murphy’s Law happening when it comes to reviewing live acts.
Last weekend I was ready to let off some steam, when ole Murphy gave me a sharp poke in the back and declared, “You shall miss two big shows”.
All right, it wasn’t that dramatic but I did miss Fishead Stew and the return of Kim Beggs both at The Boiler Room. Inexcusable, yes, so, I’m looking for a gig to see and my old friend, the flapping poster downtown, grabs my attention. The evening was billed as Ivan Zenovitch and Cory Chouinard at The Backwater Lounge.
I found my favourite seat, right by the front door (the one that bangs when it closes), order a much-needed libation and looked up to see an unusual combo setting up.
The first thing I saw was a djembe. Last time I saw one of these African drums in action was in a circle of hippie types that had invaded The Red Onion in Skagway, Alaska. A story for another day...
No kidding, a djembe, next to a Dobro slide guitar. This evening was starting to hold promise. Chouinard sits behind his drum and begins to slowly stretch his arms and hands as Ivan Zenovitch checks his guitars. Each man it seems in tuning mode.
They quickly confer and head strait into a bluesy tune. I’m pulled into the music of these two men. They do a version of The Youngbloods’ Get Together that they could call their own.
Zenovitch and Chouinard create some of the most listenable music I’ve heard in a while. Their versions of the blues, folk and rock classics they choose are all treated to a jam in the middle. This allows Zenovitch to show off his tremendous talent on the guitar.
He confesses, “I’ve been playing these songs since I was 10, I like to take the old classics and
mix them up a bit.” And mix them up they do. While playing a version of Bo Diddley’s, Who Do You Love?, a rock standard that in its raw form clocks in around three minutes, they break into an extended workout that becomes a gigantic fireworks spectacular that includes fuzz tone, echo, compression and expansion with a tease of The Beatles’s Within You, Without You added for good measure.
“Ivan’s the kite and I’m the string,” Choinard answers when I ask about how he plays around the pyrotechnics. “I use an older, stretched head on the drum and tune it down.” This cuts through the sound of the guitar and, “then I can play blues all night long.”
A graduating class of Japanese students was here tonight at The Backwater, dancing and laughing, spending a last night in Whitehorse before heading home. I have to wonder if they realize what a unique Yukon performance theywitnessed.