During a weekend visit to Montreal, I happened to catch fellow Concordia University Alumni Spencer Krug, a.k.a. Moonface, playing live at La Sala Rossa. Having recently fallen hard for his 2013 album Julia With Blue Jeans On, there was no way I would miss the chance to see him play in the city that I called home for two years. Krug’s began recording as Moonface nearly four years ago, after stints in Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown, and Swan Lake. His solo records tend to revolve around a singular musical motif, often given away by his record titles; 2011’s Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped is exactly what it sounds like, also serving as a footnote to his process as sole songwriter, while 2012’s With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery gives a titular nod to the Helsinki-based outfit that performed on the record. Cryptically titled by comparison, Julia With Blue Jeans On is composed entirely of his voice and his piano, but it’s far from minimal – not only are the songs lyrically vivid and his signature vocal style arresting, the piano lines are intricate, emotive, and dynamic. As Moonface, Krug brings it all together with such ease and undeniable raw talent it’s almost ridiculous.
The venue, La Sala Rossa, is a Spanish restaurant and bar that hosts a variety of events (including Flamenco performances), right in the heart of Montreal’s infamous Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Equipped with charming chandeliers and a small center stage, the venue sets a perfect atmosphere for artists to play a more intimate set. Sea Oleena, a fellow Canadian musician also based out of Montreal, opened the show. She played a quiet, short set with only her guitar, the audience sitting at her feet in awe. Her voice can only be described as wispy and enchanting, and she was so charming that I wasn’t even bothered by the fact that there were several French Canadians practically sitting on top of me (heads up: if you’re in Brooklyn, you can catch her when she plays Silent Barn on July 11th).
It was nearly 10pm when Moonface took the stage to an audience was bursting with anticipation, considering the show had started at eight o’clock. Opening with “Black is Back in Style,” Krug played feverishly with his eyes closed, as if there was no one else in the room with him, his left hand dancing out a slow and steady melody while his right pounded out a desperately fast rhythm as though attached to a mad genius. Moonface wields the kind of talent that you can sit and watch for hours on end without noticing that time is passing by. Watching him play was kind of an entrancing experience for me, one that can be compared to going to a church service and being captivated by a sermon. Then again, I have a bit of a flair for the dramatic. What followed was an hour of the most intense and beautiful cuts from Julia, including “Eveyone is Noah, Everyone is the Ark” and “Love The House You’re In,” a personal favorite.
Off stage, Krug seems like someone you could chill and have a cheap beer with at a grungy bar. During his performances, he is a force to be reckoned with. It’s those aforementioned hints of madness that are particularly captivating, his ferocious concentration and artistry bordering on revelation. As it was my first time seeing him play, I found myself wondering how it’s possible for any one person to be so talented and focused, how someone could deliver such a vibrant performance with an essentially limited palette. Maybe it’s my Canadian pride amplifying my admiration. But his roots don’t really matter; coming from anywhere, he’d still sound amazing, and his voice and piano are all he really needs.