First and foremost Saturday night’s show at the Paperhaus was phenomenal. Even though I was too late to see the first two acts, the remaining two were an interesting change of pace for the venue and the vibe that I was feeling throughout the night was completely different than I was accustomed to from previous Paperhaus shows; it was safe. That is not to say that being safe is necessarily a bad thing but the kind of lawlessness one would expect from a house show; the police could bust in at any moment, that anyone could walk through the door, the blatant disregard for personal space; it was missing on Saturday. Paperhaus has been around for some time now so perhaps folks have found different ways to spend their nights. Perhaps it isn’t the venue it once was, and perhaps it’s too well known that the lawlessness is no longer something that it can provide. If it sounds like I am criticizing Paperhaus, that isn’t my intention; they do an exceptional thing, putting on these shows for the community and each show is an experience, but tonight it felt different.
One of the reasons I was so late for Saturday’s show was, I have found from experience that they tend to start on the late side; the door may open at 8pm but it usually takes time for the show to really begin.
Promise Keeper had already started by the time I was able to make it to the back door but luckily I was able to catch the majority of the set. The house was certainly packed and that strange smell that seems to accompany these types of shows was wafting through the space. The music that poured through the house was as one person put it, “something that should be playing in the background of Miami Vice while discussions were made over a large table of cocaine”. So yeah, a real 80s vibe so far. Promise Keeper played the part as well, looking like a cross between Boy George and Mike Score from A Flock of Seagulls; long, fully teased blond hair and what appeared to be a red silk shirt. The backing tracks were unmistakable in regards to their decade of choice but occasionally more modern flashes peak through. A guitar even made an appearance and instead of some overwrought 80s solo, the instrument provided a much slower, deliberate accent to the personal compositions. Vocally I was reminded of Depeche Mode, so much so that I questioned why I hadn’t listed to them recently. So if anything, thank you Promise Keeper for reminding me, that yes, Depeche Mode does exist. The bands at Paperhaus usually aren’t as quiet as this; I have come to expect crowds swimming in movement but tonight, shoe gazing. The crowd is clearly captivated.
As the last act begins to set up, it is clear that the house had thinned out considerably which is absolutely crazy to me; I have been here when chaos seemed to be the only constant but now am comfortably sitting on a couch.
Sean Nicholas Savage is a prolific Montreal artist releasing something like ten albums in the past five years. Like Promise Keeper before him, Savage has an interesting setup; two keyboardists and what appears to be a drum machine. The first thing I notice, Savage, like Bowie, is a performer in every sense of the word. He leaves it all on the floor. There is something genuine about the music, more truthful, a sense that he doesn’t give a fuck what you think, that this music has to come out. Vocally I hear lisps and stutters, strange noises emanating from the speakers. Those choices don’t impede the music on any level, quite the opposite; they add to the genuineness I spoke of early. And this realness that I am feeling is exponential; there is passion and an intimacy to the performance that is rarely seen. Savage is not scared to make extended eye contact with his audience or get close and dance with them. There is even something sensual too, like a cross between Maxwell and this 80s jazz adult contemporary thing going on; completely unexpected. Savage could play in front of thousands but somehow it would always feel as if it was you he was talking to you directly. This is intimate in the best way.