On a night where the weather had the Halifax Jazz Festival huddled under tarps, a large bank of fog and cloud enveloped the concert grounds with a heavy mist, occasionally reaching shower status. Needless to say, it was not an evening conducive to photography. However, it was an evening that almost saw this photog hit the eject button and head for home. To the rescue was Hafilax’s own Jeff “MacGyver” MacEachern, who arrived with a roll of Saran Wrap to save the evening. We hit the tent with our fellow photogs, wrapped up our lenses like last night’s leftovers, and hit the pit for the evening’s opening act Whitehorse.
As Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland (aka Whitehorse) hit the stage on Saturday evening, the mist and precipitation gradually abated and the Halifax crowd slowly took their places at the foot of the stage. For the next 45 minutes, Whitehorse warmed up the crowd with their dusty folk-infused rock stylings. It was a set that at times was relaxed and easy going, but the husband and wife duo also used their podium to call out the reprehensible behavior of folks such as Harvey Weinstein and those other gents who abused their positions of power, with the pointed track “Boys Like You”. The set also included a pairing of the band’s best-known hits “Downtown” and “Devil’s Got a Gun”. The harmonies crafted from the vocals are nothing short of pure ear-candy. The entire set was a pleasure to experience, but then the Toronto-based outfit broke out the Neil Young classic “Ohio” to put a cherry on top of their set.
It was then time for Matt Andersen and his pals in the (much-beloved) Mellotones to hit the stage. For a festival that had already played host to The War on Drugs, Chaka Khan, Matisyahu, the Soul Rebels, and Molly Johnson, one would think that the crowds may have been waning to a degree. Instead, it was the exact opposite, as once again the concert grounds were jam-packed for one of the most anticipated shows on the bill. Matt Andersen may hail from one province over, but he is definitely an adopted son of Halifax as he is frequently found on stage around town; and on this, the 2nd to last night of the Jazz Festival, he was certainly one of the hotly-anticipated acts. Interest would have been high had it only been Matt Andersen and his usual backing band The Bonafide, but tonight would be one of those special evenings where the Mellotones took over backing duties.
The pairing of Andersen and the Mellotones is as natural as Peanut Butter and Jelly, where both forces naturally elevate the other. Matt Andersen has played many of the stages around town, having spent time on stage at Bearly’s, the Carleton, the Cohn and now the Halifax Jazz Fest mainstage. He wound through a laundry list of Andersen staples, including “Alberta Gold”, “Coal Mining Blues” and the massive “Devil’s Bride”. It was a night loaded with bluesy rock n’ roll from Stubby Fingers himself, and it was a fantastic venue to listen to the swampy build of “Devil’s Bride” as it simmers and bubbles along until we reach the crescendo (thanks in large part to a healthy dose of greasy trombone), where the levies finally break and the impassioned howl of Andersen comes crashing in, and we coast along to the outro. It’s one of the treats you know awaits you during a Matt Andersen set. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve been lucky enough to see Matt play (2nd with the Mellotones). And each and every time, I walk out of the venue with a soul full of music, and I look forward to the next time I get to see him play again.