On a chilly Thursday night, a small crowd of student musicians and their supportive fans filed into the basement of The Yellow Door. With enough Tim Hortons’ hot chocolate to fuel a small army and a “shoes off at the front door” policy, Jam for Justice and McGill radio station CKUT’s Thursday’s (a) Live offered students both a cozy reprieve from the biting January cold and a chance to support up-and-coming talent.
Considering McGill’s history of notable musical alumni, CKUT’s monthly showcase is intended to provide a platform for emerging student musicians to perform for a live audience. Mariam Salaymeh, the outreach and events coordinator for CKUT, explained why live events such as Thursdays (a) Live are an important resource for the musicians at McGill.
“[At CKUT we] have the resources to support and promote student artists. I wish we were a not-for-profit record label personally, because back in the day we would have had Arcade Fire, we would have had Grimes, so many people that we could have given [a] voice to,” Salaymeh said. “[Students] have so much with academics to juggle, [CKUT] can support them with a venue and the tec [they need].”
Opening what would prove to be an acoustic guitar-heavy evening were the musical stylings of Johnathon Webb, U3 Arts. Somewhat timid but undoubtedly friendly, Webb was a crowd-pleaser, turning to the audience for requests. Featuring acoustic covers of classics from David Bowie to Bob Marley, Webb delivered a charming performance punctuated by adventurous vocals such as a brief moment of falsetto during Space Oddity. Wrapping up his set, Webb performed an original, jokingly titled “Long March of the Red Army.” While his emotional ode to a nameless lover lacked the communist overtones one might expect of such a title, it was nonetheless entertaining.
Up next was the duo Moosehowl, made up of U3 Science student Jacob Sanz-Robinson and U2 Engineering student Anthony Porporino, two talented guitarists with a mutual love for classic rock. While the duo performed only Pink Floyd covers with a Grateful Dead song thrown in for variety, they played well together, providing some much-appreciated 1960s hits to a night dominated by folksy love songs.
As Katie Harbour, U2 Science, took the stage the already crowded basement began to get uncomfortably full. Having recently released her first E.P., titled ‘EP,’ on Jan. 26, Harbour’s performance drew a crowd. With nothing but a guitar to accompany her, she put on a captivating performance of several of her recently released songs. While her music, which focuses mainly on the turbulent world of young love is unquestionably catchy, Harbour’s rich and clear vocals truly set her apart from the previous performers. In particular, her original song “Useless,” a Rex Orange County-inspired tune, sounded just as polished in person as it does on her album.
On fourth was Maria Graham, U3 Science. Unlike the other performers that evening she lacked instrumental accompaniment instead relying solely on her powerful vocals to carry her performance. Though Graham initially gave off a subdued impression, the strength of her voice was put on display during a cover of Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine.”
Closing the show was U3 Arts student Sarah Krier, a self-described bedroom pop artist who already has three albums under her belt. With just her guitar, Krier was unable to deliver the full experience of her synth-heavy repertoire, yet her acoustic performance felt like a comforting conversation with a good friend. Her short and often gentle songs feel much like a diary entry made privy to an audience. When combined with Krier’s laid-back stage presence, listeners could not help but feel at ease. Though Krier’s performance differed from the signature neo-psychedelic style of her online discography, her acoustic renditions were a perfect end to the night.
By 8:45 p.m., the show had wound to a close and the acoustic guitars were shut away. The crowd emerged out from the basement of The Yellow door with the peaceful feeling that only a night of dreamy music and good company can provide.
Recordings of Thursdays (a) Live are broadcasted on CKUT 90.3 FM.