The Prairies are where it’s at — musically speaking, that is. More and more bands seem to be sprouting from the wheat fields and garnering nods from mainstream Canadian music heavyweights. Take JP Hoe, for instance, whose two-month-long cross-Canada tour (with stops in New York and L.A.) wrapped up in Kensington Market last night.
The folksy, alternative pop singer-songwriter from Winnipeg — think Andrew Bird meets John Mayer — made his final stop at Supermarket Tuesday night. The set drew heavily from his fifth full-length, Mannequin, which is a good thing: it’s an album that digs deep, with Hoe embracing his edgy side.
Don’t let the catchy hooks and pop-driven melodies fool you: Hoe’s lyrics are weighted with the morose reflection of a self-proclaimed loser. When asked about the latest effort, Hoe says, “I don’t care about being cool,” (which is about the coolest thing he could have said). Instead, the 11 tracks are “stolen minutes and moments from other people’s lives around me.”
Fittingly, Mannequin is about trying on different clothes, so to speak. Hoe puts himself in the shoes of those around him and — with the few exceptions — sings accessible and relatable songs. “Conversations” is a nugget co-written with Luke Doucet, with whom Hoe says he has nothing in common with. Doucet, he explains, runs marathons, while Hoe usually makes a point to stop on tour to eat at the restaurants featured in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The two found common ground after having a conversation that they would one day love to be talked about the way they talk about their influences: Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
If you’re only as good as your last performance, then Hoe can die happy after Tuesday night’s gig. For someone who seems to have adopted a laissez-faire mantra, Hoe is extremely confident both when performing live and on the record. So much so that if you only heard him sing, you’d never know that he has a (rather endearing) lisp. He’s likely not used to sharing the stage with such a large band, which inlcuded a drummer, a cellist and a violinist. Luckily for those of us in attendance, that meant that the set sounded just about as close to the actual record as it could get. Despite its sweeping orchestration, Hoe held his own and dominated the stage, proving that yes, the Prairies can foster and inspire the musically-inclined.