A week or so ago I had the pleasure of seeing a lovely band from New York here in Bloomington: Laura Stevenson and the Cans. They played in a drafty, snug, unfinished basement, known as The Fort, with Bloomington faves Eric Ayotte (also from New York), and Good Luck, and man was it a great show all around. Classy and punctual as Bloomington shows are, I decided to arrive fashionably late at 9:45, but Eric Ayotte had me beat, getting there around 10:15, and starting the show around 10:30 (I’m just never going to get this time thing right.)
Anyway the show was excellent, with a solid lineup. It was my first time seeing Laura Stevenson and the Cans; my first introduction to Stevenson was via the Pink Couch Session she did with Dave Davison on If You Make It, and then her other solo sessions on the site, so I was pretty excited to meet her and hear her music live with a full band, it was definitely worth the wait.
Laura Stevenson and the Cans is a surprising band on many levels. There are a lot of people, a lot of instruments, and a lot of musical surpises. I think one of their most attractive musical qualities is suspense. See, Laura Stevenson has this beautiful, soft voice, one that gives you the impression she could just go at it alone, coffee-house tour style, singersongwriter and guitar. But Laura Stevenson and the Cans is so much more than that. A song may start out with just Stevenson lovely voice and the guitar, but soon the full band comes in and the pretty little tunes rock out with more power and attitude than one could have expected. The songs make a statement in so many ways. On some songs, the full band plays most of the time, on some songs they don’t. But it’s the tracks with the even mix between the two that are most surprising. In these songs the full band may pick up in the chorus and bridge sections, leaving the verses mostly up to Stevenson, her guitar, and/or maybe the violin, and just when you think the band is going to come in, they may just play one or two down beats, allowing Stevenson to finish up with a few more lines of verse. It always keeps you actively listening and trying to figure out just where a song will go next.
The make up of the band is also an interesting sight. While Stevenson generally rocks out the acoustic guitar, she’s backed by the more typical drums and bass, and then add in a violin, some keyboards, and the occasional bells, then the less typical saxophone, accordion, and sometimes even the trumpet. It’s a varied mix of instruments that come together to make a truly great sound, really bringing the songs to life.
The set started out with a welcoming tune called “Halloween” and was filled with charming tunes old and new like “Beets Untitled” and “Nervous Rex”, and some new tunes from the recent 7″ release Holy Ghost!. Each song was just this refreshing blend of folk and rock, heralded by the wide range of sounds and Stevenson’s voice. And each break between songs was filled with endless joking and charming banter. It’s fun seeing a band of friends having a great time, and makes the experience that much more enjoyable. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and hope to hear more from and see more of Laura Stevenson and the Cans.
Here’s a few videos of other Laura Stevenson and the Cans performances so you can further understand how wonderful this band is.