Calvin Johnson & The Hive Dwellers + The Cloud Splitters

Date and Venue September 8, 2010 | The Cultch

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

Many of us who came to the Cultch on the evening of September 8 were in a dance music mood, having been primed to expect danceable pop from the likes of Calvin Johnson and The Hive Dwellers and nu-tropicalia psychedelic sensations from the advertised Brazilian opening act, Garatos Suecas. Nevertheless, all would not turn out as planned for the choosey few who settled in for the show that night. Turned back at the border, Garatos Suercas (which translates into Swedish Girls) never took the stage.

Instead, two members of the Cloud Splitters, Dave Gowans and Doug Little, proved that an inspired last-minute opening act can almost make you forget the disappointment that comes from not seeing the originally intended opening act. Opening for the openers for starters, these two consummate musicians lifted the audience to a crescendo wave that made it easy for Calvin Johnson and the Hive Dwellers to ride through the rest of the night.

The only dancing that was done during the opening act was by Dave's charming four-year old daughter, who almost stole the show on more than one occasion though she listened well to her mother, and her father's rich lilting vocals are clear, strong and resonant enough to hold an audience from even the most winsome of distractions. The Cloud Splitters has a rustic melodic repertoire that could almost make one forget about the Swedish Girls.

Soon enough Calvin Johnson and The Hive Dwellers took the minimalist stage, with Johnson playing acoustic, Gabriel alternating between bass and lead guitars and Spencer on a four-piece drum kit. Never having had the pleasure of witnessing Calvin's stylized dance movements before, I have to say that his is a motion of emotion, a subtle accompaniment that enhances his richly resonant bass vocals with extraordinary finesse and formal improvisational precision.

Songs like "Lord Gave Me Hell and a Woman Named Judy" and the freestyle dance groove "Aint Nothing Left But the Burying" hypnotized the audience and left them defenceless against the even more revealing "Lucifer Never Fell So Deep". Calvin Johnson and The Hive Dwellers is the tightest of ensembles. Their raw, visceral music washes over you like a loofah dipped in liquid honey.

As disappointing as it may have been not having the Garatos Suercas opening for us, the Cloud Splitters proved to be an exceptionally invigorating alternative, and their upcoming CD release will be all the more eagerly anticipated as a result of their moody and tumultuous September 8 opening at the Cultch. What was more disappointing was the relatively low audience participation in Calvin Johnson's call and response musical number and the overall low attendance, features that were rather obviously not lost on the Indie legend.

We may have come ready to dance, but we left awash in a musical reverie induced by the rhythms of the Cloud Splitters and the entrancing storied sensuality of Calvin Johnson and The Hive Dwellers. We took in more than we had bargained for, and we danced away with a rich medley of memories in a noteworthy season opener at the Cultch.

© 2010 Roger Wayne Eberle