ANDY STOCHANSKY with DANNY MICHEL, MIA SHEARD, GRAHAM POWELL and MAURY LAFOY at Ted's Wrecking Yard, January 8. Tickets: $7. Attendance: 150. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
there was no mistaking the look of astonishment on Andy Stochansky's face when the singer/songwriter -- along with guest performers Mia Sheard, Graham Powell, Danny Michel and Maury LaFoy, who was sitting in for the out-with-the-flu Lorraine Segato -- walked onto Ted's stage and was greeted by a full house on its way to standing room only.Launching a Monday-night residency in frigid January is a daring move, so it was easy to understand why the tremendous turnout was an unexpected source of joy to the players, guitarists and singers all, who promptly arranged themselves on chairs and dived into what was one of the best songwriters-sitting-around gigs ever.
All are gifted writers, each able to crisply and succinctly render life's littlest moments in neon. As they took turns presenting their material -- with the exception of Powell's and maybe LaFoy's most of it either haunting or haunted -- it was fascinating to zone in on their idiosyncrasies. How did Stochansky know to end a song like that? How does Sheard present a song so new that she has to read the lyrics from a notebook and still manage to conjure world-weariness?
The show also soared on chemistry. Michel plays with LaFoy in Starling; Powell plays with LaFoy in the Supers; Michel and Stochansky are mates who've toured together; and Sheard, as she wryly informed us, took improv classes. The zingers came early and often and they almost never missed their mark. But in the end the music was the thing.
Michel, the wittiest and most vocal between songs, raised gooseflesh with a defiantly plaintive Christmas song he'd scratched out in the last few weeks. Watching the class clown morph into the storyteller in the space of 30 seconds was a powerful thing. Michel -- who, like the others, absent-mindedly added backing vocals and guitar to the other's pieces -- ever so quietly brought down the house.
Next Monday's lineup includes Ron Sexsmith and Jian Ghomeshi. Expect the queue to start Sunday.