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Photos by Mike Ford.
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OHBIJOU at the Great Hall, Saturday, September 7. Rating: NNNNN
Onstage in the beautifully ornate Great Hall, situated just west of Bathurst Street, Casey Mecija softly coos in her signature warbling voice, "I took the bus down Bathurst Street..." It's the opening line of Black Ice, a song that's as much a Toronto tribute as it is a heartbreaking love poem. And in so many ways, it represents what Ohbijou's farewell show meant to their fans and friends.
Their final show before an indefinite hiatus spanned four hours and three sets. Ohbijou played nearly everything from their discography and was joined onstage by friends from their eight-year career including Snowblink, Nils Edenloff of Rural Alberta Advantage, Rolf Klausener from The Acorn and Gavin Gardiner from The Wooden Sky.
The epicentre of one of Toronto's most beloved musical collectives, the band helped launch the careers of so many peers. Jonas Bonnetta of Evening Hymns said, "I would not be playing music if it was not for Ohbijou," and guest performer John O'Regan played some of his first Diamond Rings songs in Ohbijou's Bellwoods Avenue basement.
Between sets, their friends performed covers of their favourite Ohbijou songs, turning blissful indie pop tunes into auto-tuned, effects-drenched ditties (Gentleman Reg) or twangy guitar rock (O'Regan). As their friends played and shared plenty of "How I first met Ohbijou" stories, the band looked over the balcony banister, grinning.
When they took the stage for the last time, Mecija introduced their final song by screaming, "Let's make this feel like a house party!" Their fame has propelled them beyond a basement band, and yet, with Mecija shredding the guitar, surrounded by her friends, it felt like we were at a party back on Bellwoods Avenue.