Lucie Idlout of Über Hussy
Having in my mind appointed myself a kind of secret internal auditor of The Scope’s Hot Ticket features, I’ve begun making a point of attending at least one “Hot Ticketted” show a week, partly out of a skeptic’s interest in the trustworthiness of our paper’s recommendations, and partly out of embarrassment for how much of a recluse I’ve allowed myself to become in these last few weeks. So, in this spirit, I sauntered out this past Saturday night (August 12) to the Ontario supergroup Über Hussy’s third and final St. John’s show at The Basement.
When we showed up a little after midnight, the band was playing to an almost completely empty bar. It’s kind of disgraceful how often this happens to visiting bands from outside of the province. Having said that, though, I can only hope their first two shows were better-attended. My good friend and drinking companion Abraham O’Connor, who accompanied me, wanted to go someplace with more people. As much as I love him, Abraham lacks that faith in the infinite possibilities of an empty bar lacking which you simply cannot call yourself a proper alcoholic.
I bought the first round to cheer him up, and we sat back, a couple of drinking untermensches waiting to be, um, aurally mounted, I guess, by the Über Huss. The band, as it turned out, was every bit as drunk and flirtatious and ill-tempered as you could have hoped from its name it would be.
In fact, Über Hussy is really four bands for the price of one. That is, there are four distinctive and equally accomplished songwriters, and, correspondingly, four distinct singers and four distinct musical styles. What’s remarkable is how seamlessly these styles blend into one another over the course of the show. Lucie Idlout sings a kind of laid-back, voluptuous pop/rock/jazz/soul (wow! music criticism is fun!), and occasionally puts down her guitar to rock out on the glockenspiel. Nancy Dutra plays bluegrass that’s nostalgic and melancholy and self-pitying, exactly the way bluegrass should be. Cassandra Rutherford, the band’s keyboardist, sings delicate ballads, which are nevertheless sometimes filled with invective against such objects of scorn as bass players who have spit on her, for example. Her sister, Willow, who plays accordion, sings some weird and wonderful rhapsodies to frantic emotional states (recalling Tom Waits as much as anything else), in addition to a medley of covers, completely turning on their ear such familiar pop songs as “Twist and Shout,” “Like a Prayer,” and James’s "Laid." She also does a remarkable impression of a trumpet with her mouth that has to be seen to be truly appreciated.
Towards the end of the band’s second set, enough latecomers had trickled in and gotten hooked that requests for an encore did not sound as feeble as they might have. For a second encore, Willow came off the stage and played several more familiar covers for a private audience of the six or seven of us who continued to enjoy each minute of it. Even Abraham was smiling! Abraham, who never smiles except when small children fall face-first on concrete and newborn puppies are drowned in shallow streams! Okay, so Abraham is a fictional character I made up to enliven this review a little. I hope the general sense of an outpouring of long-pent-up emotion still comes across.
In short: this was the most fun I’ve had at a show in a long time; I am probably ruined now for every other show I might go to this year; Über Hussy is better than The Beatles, better than Elvis, better than sex; hyperbole is better than mild exaggeration. If you know what’s good for you, you will hop on a plane to wherever it is these girls are playing next, and see them for yourself! Or at least go out and see them the next time they come here.
– jonathan adams