Thursday night I walked through in rain, towards the Biltmore Cabaret. I felt a sense of urgency as the droplets bombarding me, seemed to be getting larger by the second. I soon found the front doors, and proceeded inside. By the looks of things, it was a full house. I was really unable to move all that much. The crowd and I were standing shoulder to shoulder. The faint smell of Pabst Blue Ribbon lingered in the air. This scent is embedded in the annals of my mind, it pulls up the folder marked – good times and great music.
I worked through the audience, and planted myself right next to the stage. Soon it would be time for musical intake.
The velvet curtain, surrounding the stage, was pulled open. There stood the three-piece from King City, Toronto known as The Coppertone. Amanda Zelina, the lead singer and star attraction, strolled up to the mic. Theatrical smoke formed a dramatic haze around the platform. As the lyrics crawled through the venue, I became mesmerized. The bluesy rasp of Ms. Zelina seemed to resurrect something historical. She belted out a passionate prose, with a certain gut driven growl, embodying a new age Joplin. Like I said I could not take my eyes of her. She was the centerpiece to the band, she was intoxicating.
After The Coppertone has finished their set, it was time for the crowd to recharge. I worked my way over to the merchandise table, which was now being run by Amanda and her band mates. I perused the goodies, and gave a nod to the band. I quickly returned to my post, to wait on the main act.
Looking around the room, I noticed that the regular Biltmore crew was not in attendance. The thick rimmed glasses were scarce. None the less it was a packed house, and the party was about to get started. The mob slowly began to move on the stage. Squeezing into place. The anticipation was growing.
Once again, those dramatic curtains slid apart. The four piece band from Winnipeg were all grinning ear to ear. Marti Sarbit stood front and center, ready to rock the house. They leaped into their set, and it was high energy from the word go. Sarbit’s vocals were playful and yet very powerful. Her stage personae is way bigger than life. Rusty Matyas, on guitar, was intense to watch. His face contorting as if it was controlling the movement of his hands across the frets.
The audience bought into the set almost immediately, and so the symbiotic relationship began. The two entities feeding off one another’s energy, back and forth as the level grew and grew. Looking out across the crowd, it seemed like every song in the set was a sing-a-long. The majority of those attending, new every single word, to every single song. It was magical to watch.
The band worked the stage, making use of what little space they had. Marti seemed to have a signature move, which I will call the Marti Hair Flip from now on. It looked to have been inspired by the side to side head movements mode popular in the eighties. This side to side hair flip added to the playfulness of her presentation, which really tied into the band’s indie pop bop sound.
By the end of the night I was sold. This band was great. They also get a few bonus points for originating from Winnipeg, which is where a bunch of my family is from. On top of that, they get a few extra points because Rusty used to be in The Waking Eyes. I saw The Waking Eyes play at the Biltmore Cabaret about 3 years ago and they blew my mind.
Overall I was amazed by the band. They pulled off a great show. Looking back on the night though, I felt that The Coppertone just had a bit more. Amanda Zelina is truly amazing. With her Joplin’esque blues and her punk stage swagger, she has my vote. Don’t get me wrong, both bands were on top of their respective games but I will take true blues rock over indie-pop any day. Plus who can resist a redhead with a guitar, she was fucking sexy as hell. Kudos to both bands for granting us all such an inspiring evening.