Monday, September 9, 2013

Recording: Ohbijou

Artist: Ohbijou

Songs: Black Ice + Balikbayan + Wildfires + Anser

Recorded at The Great Hall, September 7, 2013.

Ohbijou - Black Ice

Ohbijou - Balikbayan

Ohbijou - Wildfires

Ohbijou - Anser

Full review to follow. Bands are communities, by their very nature. The communities that some bands create are like clans: inward looking, keeping few others close. Some create communities a bit like gangs, with sharply drawn lines of Us and Them that you feel you have to earn your way into.

Besides their considerable musical merits, Ohbijou — who played their final show on Saturday night — will be remembered for the fact that the community they embodied was open-ended and always dedicated to expanding the circle. That's resulted in a long list of musical friends and collaborators, as well as a keen awareness of how their actions can resonate outside of the sometimes-hermetic world that we might call the "music scene". And that the band simultaneously made this feel like a practical means to having more fun as well as a moral mission was expressed in a lot of their work — perhaps most visibly in the two Friends in Bellwoods compilations that have raised, to date, nearly forty thousand dollars for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

It was with that same sense of openness and honesty ("as a band, we are tired and we are broke") — and with that same moral sensibility — that frontwoman Casey Mecija announced the band's dissolution in the face of the economic and social pressures that make nearly any artistic pursuit a quixotic endeavour, refusing to gloss over the "complicated responses... due to my race, gender and sexuality". But while Mecija's closing statement will hopefully continue to inform discussions about art, commerce and power relationships, there was never a doubt that the band's love of fun, friends and community would provide the animating spirit for their final show.

And indeed, a great many of those Bellwoods friends would be on hand, cheering on the band and joining them on stage — and even paying tribute between the band's sets by covering some of their favourite Ohbijou songs. It was a bittersweet night, with a happy-sad spirit as the band gave a final push through material from all three of their albums.

As the night wound down and the band returned to lead off their encore with "Anser", Mecija jumped down from the stage, and at the outset you can hear her moving around, thanking individual fans in the crowd. Sounding increasingly wired and fragile as the song builds in intensity, she called for the crowd to clap increasingly louder, as if trying to send one last beacon into the night — we were here. As if trying to draw all of that energy into her one last time.

Ohbijou was a collection of talented individuals, and we will be hearing from many of them again, both in other projects that are already out there as well as ones we don't even suspect anything about yet. The music will remain, as will the connections between people that have grown over time. And in all these communities, there will always be a band.

Special thanks to Jamie and Noah for helping me to get a really nice capture of this special night's music.


  1. Nice review and I love getting to relive some of the moments with the recordings. Did you record anything else that night besides these four songs and the Evening Hymns and Acorn covers?

    1. Jeff, I do have more. Send me an email (it's listed over on the right-hand column.)