by Claire Miglionico
Braids has come a long way since its earlier days as The Neighbourhood Council – the original band the members formed in their last year of high school. In the beginning, they played Broken City frequently, eventually made the move to Montreal, and came back to their hometown of Calgary as bold and strong as ever, playing the show local fans have been waiting on for some time.
Braids is composed of four 20-something multi-talented musicians: Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Katie Lee, Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith. All are vocalists and use their harmonious voices to back up lead vocalist/guitarist Standell-Preston while playing their instruments of choice: the keyboards for Lee, the guitar, bass and drums for Smith and the drums for Tufts. Standell-Preston’s voice has been dubbed “angelic” by many music critics and her performance at The Grand theatre March 30 revealed it as such.
Kris Ellestad and Memory Screen opened up the show to a half-empty theatre, but a flock of people invaded the Grand just in time to catch Braids. The all-ages, sold-out show lived up to its status when the empty seats at the very top of the theatre filled in a matter of seconds. For their part, the members of Braids were sitting in the audience attentively listening to the openers.
The crowd was not a foreign one. It was filled with the band’s old friends from Western Canada High School – where all four members of Braids attended – and profoundly happy and proud family members cheering for their children, siblings, granddaughters or grandsons.
Braids took the stage around 10 p.m. and Standell-Preston announced in a hoarse, timid voice she had caught a seemingly severe case of bronchitis just the day before. The crowd was saddened by the news but was not let down by the vocal performance she pulled off despite the sickness. The positive attitude and good-hearted humour she kept throughout the night were inspiring.
Braids played a set that closely mimicked the order of their debut album Native Speaker. They started off with their free-flowing signature track “Lemonade,” which slowly faded into “Plath Heart.” Their style of music is out there and definitely of experimental nature with frequent synthesizers, fast-spaced guitar staccatos, and dream-state vocals. They bring various musical influences to the table and have been compared to Animal Collective, Bjork and the Cocteau Twins.
Their friendship comes to life onstage through their fantastic musical connection. Deep glances, and full-toothed grins were exchanged on numerous occasions between all four members.
Braids pulled off a great show but it would be a lie to say that it was fully entrancing. At times the band came short of captivating the audience by being lost in their own little musical worlds for too long. The band also seemed exhausted, quite frankly. Bronchitis could have definitely been at fault for this one. Perhaps this show was not one of the better ones for Braids. However, musical virtue is fully present within the band, which is only setting them up for many more successful performances to come.