After the A.A. Bondy show, I walked around downtown Vancouver with a few friends, drinking coffee and discussing the show. All four of us were impressed by what we had seen and heard, but I found myself asking questions about Bondy’s demeanor. We agreed that although the folk singer had not spoken more than a few words between songs or attempted eye contact with a spectator, he did not seem bored. His facial expressions changed with the intensity of the words and songs, but they seemed to go from a stagnant stare to a pained expression. I realized that my perplexed reminisces stemmed from the awareness that Auguste Arthur Bondy did not smile. Not once.
Bondy sound checked his own gear a few minutes before the band started playing. He came on stage to little response from the dense crowd, and I was surprised that I had not noticed him when he first stepped in to the dim stage lights. Bondy snuck on to stage chewing on a wooden toothpick, wearing a baseball cap pulled low, a collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, jeans, and worn-in brown leather boots. He looked like he had stumbled in to a bar after a long, hot day spent working on a construction site. With no introduction, Bondy started singing. Eyes closed and mouth close to the microphone, he poured himself in to each song. A raspy sound seeped in to the first few songs but cleared quickly. His band watched him closely, but at first, they only subtly lifted and supported his strong sound. I marveled at the way he captivated his audience without trying to hold their attention. Further in to the set, there were long instrumental breaks that bled between the songs off of Bondy’s latest release, ‘Believers.’ These build-ups were reminiscent of a God Speed You! Black Emperor track, and though the contrast may sound jarring, they flowed beautifully between the heart ache of Bondy’s lyrics and melodies.
After playing through a majority of his new songs and a few off of ‘When The Devil’s Loose,’ A.A. Bondy left the stage and returned quickly, by himself, to play ‘Rapture.’ The song had almost every person in The Media Club singing along in a pent up drawl. I couldn’t help but think about what my friend had said to me earlier in the evening after noticing the almost entirely male audience: “Someone should write a novel about the phenomenon of the bearded, disenchanted thirty year-old male and his attraction to folk music.” I chuckled to myself, and then thought about the significance of this. There is a growing nostalgia and yearning that many young people are feeling. It is a craving for a simpler time, for the things and moments that can be appreciated for their raw purpose or emotion. I think many people feel connected Bondy’s calm and simple delivery of ideas about times and experiences that can often feel overwhelming.
A.A. Bondy left the stage to applause and perhaps a little disappointment that the show had ended. People turned to their cohorts and nodded or smiled, and I thought that they may have been acknowledging that they had just seen something that had effected them in a way they couldn’t talk about just yet. Maybe they did as I did and bought coffee, and walked through the busy downtown crowds discussing something that had seemed to happen very far away from where we were.