Once again, I found myself trudging down Whyte Ave to the little cellar of sound that is Sewing Machine Factory. I’d heard good things about the band Baby Jey from friends and had seen them play a couple songs at Rockin’ 4 Dollars, a weekly event at The Buckingham.
I showed up just in time to catch the first set, a fellow named Bradley J Sime.
He sat calmly behind a full keyboard with a harmonica strapped to his neck. His eyes were hidden in the shadow of the brim of his raddy old Bart Simpson cap. His scraggly hair poked out from the sides of the hat. His beige tie hung sideways, the loons embroidered onto the front only partially visible. From the pocket of his white dress shirt hung a big red bandanna, lazily folded up like a pocket square. His SK acoustic guitar sounded twangy and almost plastic, but suited his songs perfectly. His guitar strap hung from the neck, draped down to the ground.
His somewhat hesitant but still articulate voice belted out Blitzen Trapper-like melodies in little folk tunes that had the audience smiling and relaxed. He sipped a small glass of what looked to be whiskey every now and then and the tempos of his songs seemed to sway with the mood of each lyric.
For the majority of the set, Sime had a strange tendency to sing almost entirely in falsetto while playing guitar, but in a normal register whenever he switched over to his keyboard. His songwriting was substantially more developed than his musicianship, but I feel like a lot of the little imperfections in the set were almost deliberate additions to add to the quirky mood he emanated.
After a song about what he called an “evil swamp monster”, he dove into a brief spoken word segment about a man being willfully crushed under the wheels of a train. This led into a song that seemed to follow the story of the poem before it.
I’m not sure if he was doing it on purpose, but, during this song, Sime managed to make his voice sound like someone sobbing as they’ve come to the decision to let a train run them over. It was one of the most powerful vocal performances I’ve seen in a while.
Next up was Baby Jey, an ambient, reverb flooded country band that started back in 2012.
Their current rhythm section includes Connor and Dean from infamous band-hopping jazz trio N3k. Jeremy Witten, their vocalist, played a small, white 12-string guitar for the first half of the set, then switched to a keyboard far to stage right.
Their set was filled with banter about toboggans, GT Racers, seasonal colour analysis, and the fact that Witten’s beer slowly inched away from him, vibrating on the stage moniter at his feet.
The heavy vocal effects and long melodies of the first few songs reminded me of old Righteous Brothers tunes.
Eventually the songs got a bit faster and poppier as they went into what Witten described as a “cover of an unreleased Yeah Yeah Yeahs song.”
Throughout the set, Dean’s bass lines stood out the most. I’ve always been a fan of his playing, and every band he’s in gets better with his riffs.
Baby Jey’s set finished with a solo ditty sung by Witten while he played the keyboard under calming purple lights.
Lastly, Max Uhlich and his band took the stage. I recognized Roy, the drummer from local party punkers Quasar, and knew it would be a good set with him on the kit. I noticed he had tucked his huge dreadlocks into the neck of his hoodie, something I’m definitely going to try next time I play drums.
Like old punk legends JSBX, Uhlich’s band consisted of only two guitars and a drummer – no bass. One of the guitars did, however, have an Alberta flag draped over his amplifier, presumably to soften the sound. I barely noticed the absence of a bass throughout the set though. The intertwining melodies of the two guitars more than made up for it.
Before they started, they got the stage lights turned almost entirely off, leaving only one yellow bulb shining from the back of the stage, somewhere above the drums.
Uhlich’s songs had an almost Pixies vibe to them – slow and heavy, steeped in clean guitar chords and pounding rock drums.
Roy used brushes for the entire set instead of sticks, though often hit hard enough that the brushes seemed like an odd choice. His snare was noticeably thin, producing a higher tone which helped the ghost notes he played in lighter parts of their songs ring through. His drums carried a ton of reverb, produced by a small round microphone that hung directly over top of the kit.
Uhlich’s guitar ran through a large effects device. He made heavy use of a pitch-splitter, creating harmonies out of single notes plucked on his guitar.
Near the end of their set, a couple of the songs had riffs that were surprisingly Sabbath-esque. This riffage produced a strong conclusion to the whole evening.
My favourite part of the whole show was that song that Sime sang about the train. I strongly recommend you find out when he Bradley J Sime plays next and buy tickets.
Until next time, remember: if you leave a pint glass on an amp long enough, it WILL shimmy its way to the floor.