Dual indie acts perform on heels of HPX

The best shows at Thunder & Lightning are ones in which everyone is seated in the main bar area, only an arm’s reach from the performers. Ideally you can count the number of attendees on your hands and toes, and you are on a first-name basis with at least half of them. Last Monday, Oct. 26, Jon Mckiel and Mark Grundy played an intimate show which perfectly hit this mark.
Mckiel kicked the night off with his brand of chill garage folk. Someone once described Mckiel’s sound to me as similar to the American indie-rock band Pavement. I don’t know what that person was thinking; Mckiel’s sound is far more disgruntled than Pavement’s. Mckiel played around with time and tempo yet still gave off a relaxed vibe, adding a bit of uncertainty and making it hard to predict what was going to come next.
Despite the intimate setting, Mckiel’s vocals were often a bit unclear, and I often couldn’t hear what he was singing. However, this ultimately didn’t damage his performance, as his excellent musicianship made up for it. Mckiel managed to pull off an unsettled sound while still maintaining an air of serenity.
During the show, I felt like some kind of outside observer at a family Thanksgiving dinner: The previous weekend, the two performers and much of the audience had been at the Halifax Pop Explosion music festival. Mckiel even commented on how he had seen various members of the audience there, and that he hoped no one was in the same fragile state he was in after a whole weekend of performing.
Before ushering the next performer, Grundy, onto the stage, Mckiel made some interesting sounds with his guitar which gave the illusion that a UFO had attempted to abduct the crowd. After I was sure everyone was safe and sound in their seats, Mckiel assisted Grundy in delivering some Bowie-esque antics.
Grundy’s set was, for lack of a better word, weird. Similarly to Mckiel, Grundy’s sound was disjointed. He played around with singing off-pitch, which resulted in a handful of disheveled and messy moments. This isn’t a criticism, however; his songs had a choppy, incomplete sound to them which was really unique, and a pleasure to experience.
As with Mckiel, I was stuck hanging onto every note and lyric waiting for what was going to come next. It is enjoyable when an artist can create and play something both unpredictable and entrancing, and Mckiel and Grundy both lived up to this expectation. If you have a chance to see either musician, seize it—pay the $5. I promise you won’t regret it.

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