Sing It Forward, an evening benefiting the kids of the St James Music Academy. It was such a huge success that they decided to do it again this year, with a lineup no less impressive.
Trimmed to eight from last year's eleven -- which made the pacing of the show much nicer -- each act played a short acoustic or stripped down set, with quick turnovers. There were also a few videos playing between sets, usually showing the bands either interacting or playing songs with the kids from the academy, showing their effort to support the kids went deeper than just playing at the show.
Starting off the night was Andy Huculiak and Cayne McKenzie, two thirds of We Are The City. They played a couple new songs, teasing their upcoming album, which were amazing. Dark and moody, but quite catchy; definitely had me excited to hear the full thing. They ended with "That's All" from their most recent EP, High School.
Victoria's Aidan Knight was up next with part of his band, Julia Wakal & Olivier Clements (jokingly dubbing themselves "The Aidan Knight Chamber Trio Orchestra"). They played mostly newer songs, from last year's Small Reveal, starting with "A Mirror" and then the contemplative "Master's Call", and then getting everyone to hum along to the end of "Magic Cupboards".
Next up was the combined forces of Hannah Georgas and Mother Mother's Ryan Guldemond. Starting with Hannah's "Enemies" and then Ryan's "I Go Hungry", they traded off songs, backing each other up. They also brought out some help, first Hannah bringing out Shad to sing backup on "Waiting Game" and they wrapped up their portion with all the kids from the St James Music Academy coming out to join in on (a slightly cleaned up version of) Mother Mother's "Bit By Bit"
The first half of the night ended with a secret surprise guest, none other than Dan Mangan. He played a couple songs, first flanked by Vertesi and Knight for a cover of David Bazan's "Strange Negotiations" and then the SJMA kids joining him for "Oh Fortune", the line "nice to have the kids around" being especially poignant and heartwarming.
After an intermission, the SJMA kids came back for a song of their own, and then slam poet C.R. Avery took the stage. First showing off his unique harmonica beat boxing, then taking a seat at the keyboard for a song. For his last song, he was joined by Hey Ocean's Andrew Rasmussen on the keys for more of a spoken word number.
Shad was up next with one of the best moments of the night; he was joined by Vertesi and Andy & Cayne as his backing band for a great remix of We Are The City's "Happy New Year". They stayed to back him up for his own song, "Exile", and then he ended his set alone, with the spoken word soliloquy from the end of "Live Forever"
An acoustic Yukon Blonde was up next, joined by Matt Kelly on keys. Their usually high energy set was calmed down, but no less impressive, especially their stellar harmonies. They played some of their mellower songs, "Loyal Man" and one they said they don't get to play too often, "Guns".
And finally, wrapping up the night was Hey Ocean! After starting with "Big Blue Wave", they kept the collaborative spirit of the night going, with Shad and Avery joining them for "Vagabond", then as they went into a cover of Arcade Fire's "Sprawl II", The Aidan Knight Chamber Trio Orchestra jumped on stage to join them joined them. Finally, they invited not only the kids, but all the musicians of the night back on stage for a cover of Annie Lennox's "Walking On Broken Glass" for a huge, heartwarming ending.
I said on my blog post for the last one "It would be cliché to call it a magical night, but there is hardly any better description", and that rings true to this year as well. It was an amazing night, with everyone from the musicians to the venue donating their time and effort, so all the proceeds could go towards the SJMA, and I can only imagine what it must have been like for the kids themselves who were involved.