This past Friday night, the city was abuzz in celebration of International Women’s Day. There were no fewer than 4 events taking place around the city: Garrison was celebrating the launch of their all-female-developed brew Susannah with a performance from Like a Motorcycle; the Seahorse was hosting Hillsburn, Kim Harris and SAMM; upstairs in the Marquee Ria Mae was playing her first of two sold-out nights; and over at Reflections, The Sorority was making the trek from Toronto to showcase some of the best Hip-Hop the country has to offer. It was one of those magical nights where, no matter where you landed, you were in for one hell of a show.
My initial plan was to catch The Sorority, and then head to The Seahorse Tavern to catch Hillsburn’s set, but as things normally do, schedules changed and The Sorority and Hillsburn were both slated to hit their respective stages at the same time. An audible was called, and I sent out an email and gained entry to see Ria Mae, who was on before either of the two aforementioned acts.
As it turned out, it was one of the best called audibles I can recall, as this two-night home stand marked the end of an extensive tour for Ria Mae, and we were treated to some new material from her new EP Stars, alongside well-known fan favourites “Clothes Off”, “Ooh Love” and “Gold”. It has been well over a year since Ria last graced a Halifax stage, and it was evident that during that absence she became a more experienced and seasoned performer. The packed house on Friday night was no coincidence, as there were more than a few hardcore Ria Mae fans in attendance who were more than happy to sing along. Had I not had prior commitments, I would have happily hung around to see the rest of the set. As I worked my way through the crowd en route to the back of the room, Adrian and Frank of Neon Dreams were welcomed on-stage to perform. While I only caught roughly half of Mae’s set, it was a magical time.
It was an interesting trek across the downtown core, due to a combination of snowbank encroachment and harried snow removal crews (of which I only encountered one). I took a chance of parking on the street alongside a narrow corridor that left little room for two cars and some imposing snowbanks, but fortunately all was well upon my return. I made my way along some dicey, crowded sidewalks and was soon entering a bumpin’ Reflections Cabaret in time to catch The Woods (Atlantic Canada’s first professional hip-hop dance company) clear the dance floor and showcase their moves. The crew was wildly talented, and wowed those in attendance before it was time for the evening’s headliners.
The Sorority blew up the Marquee Stage back in October during Halifax Pop Explosion, and when I saw they were slated to return on International Women’s Day, it was a date quickly circled on the calendar. Lex Leosis, Haviah Mighty and Keysha Fresh are 3 talented emcees in their own right (Haviah Mighty was a Juno Master Class winner, alongside local favourites Port Cities and CBC Searchlight winner Aquakulture). When Lex, Haviah and Keysha hit the Reflections stage (backed by DJ KDZ, aka Dub Kartel’s Kyle McCracken), the room was ready to party.
An hour-long hip-hop whirlwind whipped by in what seemed like 10 minutes, but Friday night’s set was every bit as sharp and energetic as the band’s set back in October. The band treated the receptive Halifax crowd to the majority of Pledge (The Sorority’s debut album) and we were also treated to a 1-year anniversary performance of the International Women’s Day cypher from which The Sorority was forged. Cuts such as “Blacklist”, “On Me” and “OTW” sounded fantastic and had the room bouncing, but when it was time for that one last track, the room was on fire. “SRTY” is an anthem that the entire room embraced and sang along with as the three emcees traded vocal duties. Hearing that breakthrough single was a great way to wrap up a set that was every-bit as fiery and potent as their initial visit to Halifax. You know that when the band books its return trip to the city, that date will be circled on the calendar as well.
Being able to see both Ria Mae and The Sorority perform during International Women’s Day strikes me as being a great way to celebrate the occasion.
Ria Mae (w/ Matthew V)