One of the perks of being considered useful in one’s local music industry is having talented artists on speed dial, and vice versa – and when Kyle Ivanich messages you with a complimentary ticket to the Ottawa stop of his tour, playing alongside Charlie The Kid and featuring The Ramblin’ Valley Band, one feels very useful indeed.
It’s 8pm as I walk through the doors of the friendly Pressed Café on Gladstone Avenue, after getting here straight from class. Kyle immediately sees me through the crowd (the venue is so full that about twenty people are left standing), and brushes past our good friend and the night’s emcee Jessica Pearson. He’s wearing his signature white t-shirt and dark suspenders, and is a living example of the importance of branding. “You made it right on time! Charlie’s just about to start!” he exclaims over the sound of the applause.
Now, I’d never actually seen Charlie The Kid perform, but it’s clear that many of the audience members have. They are cheering, laughing and singing along at all the right times. Standouts from his set are the interactive ones with the crowd, such as “Song About A Cup (cup! cup! cup!)” and “Love Days,” the latter of which involves Charlie inviting an audience member onstage to play the harmonica he swears he cleaned. It isn’t all comedy from Charlie, though. The second last song on his list is a guitar ballad about youth mental health, and the venue goes so silent that anyone could hear a pick drop. The artist then launches into “California,” which samples a line from B Richmond’s “Out For A Rip” – never has an entire bar been heard yelling “ohhhhh fuck yeah, bud!” with as much enthusiasm as at a Charlie The Kid show.
During the brief intermission, the lovely host and artist in her own right Jessica Pearson (whom I’ve interviewed before) takes the microphone and reiterates the concept of the tour, which I had missed at the beginning, by being almost late. The “Buy Us A Beer” part is quite literally a competition at each venue as to how many drinks the audience will buy each performer – and how many each chosen performer will finish.
Kyle Ivanich, with only an acoustic guitar and his voice, is ready to start quickly, and takes command of the crowd’s emotions with ease. My favourite moment is easily when he invites the audience to sit on the floor of Pressed Café with him, and sings softly, without a mic, a beautiful rendition of Passenger’s “Travelling Alone,” complete with a storytelling set-up during which I can hear crying from multiple sources in the audience. Kyle’s final song of the night, “101 Roehampton,” named after the street address where a wild college party he once hosted had taken place. The audience is roaring of laughter as he improvises a new verse in front of a live crowd, based off a shouted story from an audience member – he even rhymed their name. For those of us who didn’t know the lyrics to the chorus, we were lucky to have them written on Kyle Ivanich merch t-shirts: “ya ya ya ya ya ya…” Going to see Kyle Ivanich perform is like a magic show. This man manipulates the atmosphere of a crowded bar to laugh and cheer, but also to silence and full attention to what mood he’ll bring next with his acoustic guitar and voice.
Sometimes, we see concert posters and wonder how two completely different acts get on the same bill. This has never been further from the case for Charlie The Kid and Kyle Ivanich. Both are superb songwriters, but they’re more than musicians; they are performers. These two artists know how to make a crowd go on a roller coaster of feelings just by listening. The local guest act, The Ramblin’ Valley Band, starts playing and the crowd is dancing and clapping to classic folk songs – the last one I remember is “New River Train,” as it’s all a glowing blur of happiness from there.
Oh, and in case you were wondering about the final beer tally:
Charlie The Kid : 5
Band: shots for everyone + pitcher (winner)