Streaming Cafe

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

German duo Sea+Air

by Malcolm Petch
Whitney Houston.
There, I said it (or wrote it, actually). Did her name catch your eye? A few months ago probably no-one would have given her name more than a once-over, but nowadays we see it everywhere.

Sea+Air is a husband and wife act that hails from Germany. They’ll be at Streaming Café April 7. And the duo owes a lot of their recent traction to their one-night performance as a warm-up act for Whitney Houston when the iconic singer was on tour in Europe back in 2010.

In contrast to the mega-production stage show of a singer like Houston, all that Daniel Benjamin and his wife Eleni brought to the table for the large crowd were their voices, their acoustic instruments, and their intriguing melodies. Needless to say, they wondered how they’d be received in that environment.

"We got the audience quiet with our voices and melodies, which is a lot better than huge applause," says Benjamin in an e-mail to Event Magazine’s Chris Stanford. "It was a key moment for us because we didn't expect anything.”

"But we realized there's a mainstream music crowd that is interested in good, handmade music."

The experience impacted the pair with a fresh realization of how far-reaching their style of music could actually be, and their confidence level grew enough that they started looking at touring outside of their home-base of Europe.

I first wrote an article on Germany’s Daniel Benjamin when he and his wife Eleni, originally from Greece, were due to come through Streaming Café in April of 2011. Owing to some unfortunate international logistics, their tour did not make it out of Europe that season, and we didn’t get to see them.

But I found the duo really engaging, and I was disappointed they wouldn’t be here. It’s been great to see their names back on the roster.

Sometime after the pair’s eventful evening with Whitney, they decided to go big rather than going home: they planned for and embarked on a two-year world tour. That tour is what brings them to Kelowna on April 7.

One of the things that so intrigued me the first time Sea+Air were going to come through was that Daniel Benjamin had contacted us looking for a place where they could rent a harpsichord for their time in Canada. I mean, how many artists of the indie-music touring variety lug authentic acoustic harpsichords around with them? Especially when they could just use something electronic.

When you figure in the fact that Benjamin started his musical journey at 14 years of age in a punk band, you’ll see that Sea+Air’s use of a harpsichord is even more of a stretch than it first appears. From punk music to rediscovering the ancient virtues of German tradition and baroque melodies, Daniel and Eleni have traversed the gamut of musical movement. As Benjamin’s tour bio from last year said: “Are you ready for harpsichords instead of keyboards, timpani instead of drums, classical guitar instead of rock axes and an organ pedal instead of a bass guitar?”

Daniel and Eleni used to tour under the name “Daniel Benjamin”, but changed the name to Sea+Air a couple of years ago. The name is laden with hidden meaning, including everything from the fact that – in a cross-language play on words – “Sea” sounds like the German for “She”, and “Air” sounds like the word for “He” (making She+He, in other words), plus the fact that Benjamin says he and Eleni (who is also a dancer) met in the sea and air between Greece and Germany.

The Canadian portion of their world tour encompasses only three weeks. That’s not a lot of time for a vast nation like we are. It’s a treat for us to host Sea+Air at Streaming Café on April 7 at7:00 p.m. – and as always, you can catch the music live either in person at 596 Leon Ave in Kelowna or online at streamingcafe.net
But come early: classical guitars will fit easily in the café, and organ pedals probably won’t take up that much space – but them there timpani and harpsichord thingies are definitely going to fill space quickly!

One Night Music Fest! with Andy Shauf, Cara Luft, Jordan Klassen & James Lamb

by Malcolm Petch
Interested in getting the most bang for your musical buck? Then join us on April 28 for our one-night Music Fest! Returning artist Jordan Klassen and newcomer Cara Luft join SC faves Andy Shauf and James Lamb for an evening dedicated entirely to music. Tickets for this stellar night are on sale at the café and online.

After three years under our belts here at Streaming Café, we’ve covered a lot of musical territory. Though primarily an indie-folk-acoustic-pop-alternative venue (okay, you try classifying the artists we bring in around here…), we’ve had full-on pop artists and bands, deep country and true folk singer/songwriters, wailing blues harp artists, intelligent jazz, straight-ahead rock and roll and Juno-award winning gospel artists, to list some of the genres we’ve enjoyed. We even hosted a heavy metal band one night, although there is no record of that because the producer forgot to hit the record button… (not naming names, but it was neither Joel nor Martin that forgot).

Every once in a while our enthusiasm for the music gets the best of us, and hosting a single amazing artist becomes not enough; on those nights we break out of the confines of “two sets joined by a break” and head into the territory of booking multiple artists for the same event. Following hard after the tradition of our Valentines Day Jazz Night and our Fall Blues Fest, and gleaning everything we could learn from our Breakout West host-venue experiences, we’ve pulled together this Music Fest for the end of April to feature some of our favourite artists.

No, this time around there is no holiday theme around which we’ve grouped these artists, and our lack of confidence in the weather lately left us unwilling to call this our “Spring” music fest (one must actually have warm weather to feel one is enjoying Spring). We just like each of these performers, and when it turned out they were all in the area at roughly the same time we thought, “What a great excuse to have another Music Fest!”
Cara Luft is the one artist at this Music Fest who has never played Streaming Café before. But don’t let that fool you; Cara is anything but a newcomer to the music scene. A line in her bio reads: “Cara played with dulcimers and autoharps while her peers played with Barbies and Nintendo” – which is the legacy that comes from being born into a musical family. And if you’ve been awake long enough you’ll know the name “The Wailin’ Jennys”, the Juno-winning group of which Cara was an original founding member. This lady has put in her time!

And it shows in her performances; after her time with them, Calgary’s Foothills Acoustic Music Institute said, “Cara Luft was fantastic... the most musical fun we have had in a long long time... [you] would be foolish not to snap her up!”

Cara Luft has been based in Winnipeg for the last few years, which is a good central point for touring in Canada. Cara says she’s been doing a lot more driving than usual, and has even popped down across the line to that other country down there to do a few shows.

We’re privileged to be on Luft’s pre-release tour in support of her new album, Darlingford. The record will be officially released across Canada and Europe in May, but it will debut for the first time at a CD release party on April 13 in Winnipeg. And Cara has promised that folks attending her shows out West here (she will be in Cranbrook and Vernon as well as Kelowna when she’s here in BC this month) will be able to pick up a copy of the CD (as long as they pay for it and promise not to tell anyone they got it early). If you’ve never heard this talented young woman, here’s a link to check out some of her music: http://www.myspace.com/caraluftmusic

Andy Shauf needs no introduction to regular SC fans. Shauf has logged three appearances in front of the wood wall already (November ’09, November ’10, and May ’11), and his local fan base grows by leaps and bounds every time he blows through town. Andy’s name alone on the docket means tickets will move fast for this event, so don’t hesitate if you’re hoping to catch the Shaufster this time around. And if you’ve never seen/heard Andy before, there are lots of examples of his music on our website, ready for your listening pleasure.

James Lamb has already been here twice as the name artist (June ’09 and May ’11) plus other occasions as a supporting cast member for artists such as Sara Ciantar and an integral part of the group Buffaloswans. He’s getting close to setting the all-time attendance record…

James gets regular CBC Radio airplay, and it’s always a treat to have him play. Just like Andy, if you’ve never seen/heard James Lamb perform, check out the vids of his earlier performances here at SC; he’ll be an integral part of this Music Fest on the 28th.

Long-time SC regulars may recall Jordan Klassen, who first played here in August of 2010. And even if you haven’t been an SC regular for that long, chances are you may have heard Klassen’s music elsewhere: “Go To Me”, from Klassen’s EP Kindness, was placed in last year’s movie Catch .44 (starring Bruce Willis and Forrest Whitaker), and other tracks have been part of TV series such as USA Network’s Royal Pains and the upcoming iTunes version of the series Felicity.

All in all, this evening should be a great night of old favourites and fresh new faces. Mark your calendar: April 28, 7:00 p.m. Pacific. Catch the music and the action in person at 596 Leon Ave in Kelowna or online at www.streamingcafe.net.

And remember: you’ve got to have a ticket to get into this one, so don’t be disappointed! Online purchases can be had from http://streamingcafeonenightmusicfest.eventbrite.ca/ and physical tickets can be found at the physical café in downtown Kelowna, 596 Leon Ave (which, coincidentally, is where the Music Fest will be! Weird, eh?)