- City of North Vancouver's second annual free outdoor summer concert series, Concerts in the Square kicks off Saturday, Aug. 4 with headliners Jon and Roy performing with special guest Shaun Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason. Also performing tomorrow: Krystle Dos Santos, Adam Woodall Band and Tonye Aganaba. The show starts at 5 p.m. in Shipbuilders' Square at the Shipyards located beside Lonsdale Quay along the City's waterfront.
AROUND the time the day's last rays of sun are dancing on the darkening waters of Burrard Inlet, Jon and Roy are slated to take the stage at Shipbuilder's Square next to Lonsdale Quay.
The folk duo have released five albums drawing on influences ranging from Bob Dylan to hip-hop to reggae, but Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer remain in a state of constant transformation.
"I think we're evolving into more of a band and less of a duo," says Middleton, who provides guitar work and vocals for the group.
Perhaps best known for providing grooves for the Victoria band Current Swell, Louis Sadava now lends his bass to Jon and Roy.
The group's backbeat is supplied by Roy Vizer, who's cooked up a range of rhythms since first meeting Middleton at the University of Victoria.
Middleton had become a regular at open mic nights, honing a picking style in which he used his thumb to play a bass line.
A fan of hip-hop, in which complex lyrics often centre around a heavy beat, Middleton liked the idea of adding Vizer's percussion to his guitar.
"He was very good at combining the beats with what I was doing," Middleton says.
Much like the commercial where peanut butter collides with chocolate, Middleton says they both sensed they had something together, and soon decided to start a band.
"It was a natural response in terms of how we jelled musically," he says.
While Middleton shared his love of the Grateful Dead with Vizer, and Vizer reciprocated with his appreciation of African music, it was in the Caribbean where they truly bonded.
"He was really into Cuban music and reggae, and I was also into the reggae," Middleton explains.
The down-tempo yet danceable rhythm of reggae pervades their newest album, Let It Go, adding a layer of seeming simplicity to Middleton's intricate guitar work.
"There's something about the groove that's very hypnotic," Middleton says of reggae.
The hip-hop influence of their early work is not as apparent on the new album.
"Deep Steez," a freestyle, rap-influenced folk jam that kicked off their first album, Sittin' Back, was 468 words. "Vibrant Scene," one of the more poetic tracks off Let It Go, needed fewer than 150 words to tell its story.
Much like the music uses a straightforward structure to showcase surprising dexterity, the lyrics tend to use simple language to convey complex emotions.
"A lot of the songs on the album have no changes. The whole song is one riff," Middleton says.
The cumulative effect makes the album sound looser than much of their previous work, feeling a like porch jam session caught by microphones.
"Musically I think we wanted to go more into a live kind of feel," Middleton says. "I think we're at a pretty comfortable place when we made that."
The music is a far cry from Middleton's high school band, The Cyanide Monks.
The punk, metal, indy-rock mash-up makes Middleton chuckle as he reflects on a youth spent oscillating between Nirvana and Metallica.
It was a different sound that graced Volkswagen commercials for several months in 2008, as Jon and Roy licensed the song "Another Noon" to the carmaker.
The duo has also been featured in surfing and motorbiking movies.
While radio has helped their cause, Middleton says finding new ways to get their music to the public has resulted in new fans.
Middleton is casual in conversation, excitable only when discussing picking up his first guitar, which happened sometime around Grade 7.
"Addicted to it," he says definitively.
Jon and Roy are the rare group to make the transformation from hip hop duo to folk band seem like a natural evolution, and as the sun sets on Lonsdale Quay this Saturday, their fans will have a chance to see how much they've changed and how consistent they've been.
CONCERTS IN THE SQUARE
- AUGUST 4: JON AND ROY AND SPECIAL GUEST SHAUN VERREAULT OF WIDE MOUTH MASON; KRYSTLE DOS SANTOS; ADAM WOODALL BAND; TONYE AGANABA.
- AUGUST 11: BARNEY BENTALL WITH MUSICIAN/SONGWRITER ANDREW ALLEN. CANADIAN FOLK MUSIC AWARD WINNERS THE FUGITIVES ARE ALSO PERFORMING WITH FERA AND NORTH VANCOUVER'S LYNN CANYON BAND.
- AUGUST 18: 2010 PEAK PERFORMANCE PROJECT WINNER KYPRIOS; REDGY BLACKOUT; GEORGIA MURRAY; BEN SIGSTON; BADGERCHILD.
- AUGUST 25: NEIL OSBORNE AND DAVE GENN OF 54/40 TEAM UP WITH COUNTRY SINGER JESSIE FARRELL. WIL; HEADWATER; THE WHETHERMEN; BABE GURR.
- AUGUST 26: A SPECIAL MATINEE PERFORMANCE IS BEING PLANNED FOR NORTH VANCOUVER SENIORS WITH DAL RICHARDS ORCHESTRA PROVIDING THE ENTERTAINMENT FOR A STRAWBERRY TEA.
FOR MORE DETAILS WWW.CNV.ORG/CONCERTSINTHESQUARE.