And aside from the show itself, each year the musicians playing will go to the SJMA, hang out with the kids, teach them things, and record some videos performing with the kids.
The evening was hosted by Tamara Stanners (of The Peak) and Cory Ashworth (formerly of the Peak) and featured some video interstitials -- including a great mockumentary about Jordan Klassen with the kids done by by Johnny Jansen. Each band got about 15 minutes, three songs a piece, and the evening went along at a nice clip; rarely did it drag or did people have to wait too long between sets. Some bands chose go to acoustic, or more stripped down sets, and others had a full band setup.
Bend Sinister kicked off the night with the SJMA kids joining them for "Fancy Pants", a super fun and upbeat songs from their new album, which included a few of the kids forming a horn section. The prog-pop band were an energetic opening for the show, and anthemic songs like "Things Will Get Better" filled the theatre.
Jordan Klassen and his band took the stage next. Jordan was, as usual, a barely contained ball of energy, opening with his newest song "Firing Squad". He went backwards from there, with "Go To Me" and a great version of an older song, "Call and Answer", exploding into an intense ending that was a little more raw & aggressive than I had seen from him in the past, which I liked.
Dear Rouge did a bit of a stripped down set, Danielle and Drew were joined only by their drummer on a drum pad, and the Four on the Floor string quartet. Their fun, dancey pop got the room moving, and they invited Jordan Klassen back on stage for a song they wrote together called "Your Ghost" before finishing off with their big single, "I Heard I Had".
Between bands, a very small girl from the SJMA came out to sing "Reflections" from Mulan, melting a lot of hearts in the venue.
The surprise guest of the night Hannah Georgas closed out the first half of the show, joined only by Rob Tornroos on guitar. She played a couple songs, which felt all-too-short, her gorgeous voice soaring for "Enemies", followed by a cover of Rihanna's "Stay" that had many of the younger kids in the all-ages crowd singing along.
After an intermission, a few of the kids from the SJMA were back out for a little bit of bluegrass, and The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer blew up the energy for the second half of the show. The duo was joined by Jody "Miss Quincy" Peck, and proved that in a sold out, 1,200+ person venue, two guys sitting on stools can bring down the house. They played songs from their new album A Real Fine Mess, including "Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To" and the raucous "Act Your Age"
After a bit of a lull with everyone setting up his gear, k-os was out for some acoustic hip hop, with a band that included his old guitar teacher playing alongside him. Perched on a stool at the front of the stage, k-os focused on some older songs, the first three tracks from his sophomore album Joyful Rebellion. He was also the most interactive with the crowd, making sure everyone was warmed up before starting, and getting everyone to sing along to the "Man I Used To Be". At one point, he even stopping the band short just so the crowd could sing the chorus alone.
Hey Ocean!, as usual, wrapped things up. Joking that they were running out of old songs to play at the event, they promised a few newer songs, not even recorded yet. Starting off with "Loud Talker", a song that Vertesi recently released as a solo song, they then brought the SJMA kids out for their collaboration from last year, "Smile Like The Sun" before ending with another new song, "Sleepwalker".
But that wasn't quite it. They still had one more tradition, and that was to bring everyone back out on stage -- all the kids, all the musicians, everyone -- for one last cover song. This year was Queen's "Somebody To Love", and while everyone had their turns singing, they were smart in giving Dan Moxon most of the vocals as he just channelled the spirit of Freddie Mercury. I even saw other musicians on stage react with astonished awe when he nailed that impossibly high note at the end.
Like previous years, everyone from the musicians to the venue donated their time and effort, so all the proceeds could go towards the SJMA. And each year, there is something just a little bit special in the air. Maybe it's the community spirit, or all the talent under one roof, but it is one of the most unique nights in Vancouver. And this year was no different.
If you missed it (first of all, what's wrong with you?!) they were streaming the entire thing and have it archived to view by donation over at Circlework.tv. Or you can find recordings from previous years up on their Bandcamp, where I can only assume you'll be able to find this year's soon enough.