Sandro Perri and Ryan Driver – Raw Sugar Café, Ottawa, ON (Nov. 3, 2011)

Words: Alessandro Marcon // Photos: Ming Wu

Sandro Perri’s got an ice axe, sledgehammer and razor sharp X-Acto knife, so don’t even think about putting him in a box. Unless of course that box is beautifully decorated, jammed packed and serving up pints. In that case, he’ll happily oblige, as was the case on Thursday night at Ottawa’s Raw Sugar Café.

First to take the stage was Ryan Driver, who can most ostentatiously be described as a subtly purple tipped butterfly skirting the banks of a placid bed of water. Look to the far shore. See the lovers holding hands. Feel the soft, caressing breeze of sporadic, melodious licks. “I’ll plant you flowers in the back of my mind,” he sings. Well Mr. Driver, you’ve certainly planted a few beauties in the back of the Raw Sugar Café. Driver wasn’t done there, as he saddled up alongside Perri’s Mexicali-donkey saunter through the rattlesnake backroads of enigmatic dreamscapes.

As with many a musician in the modern age faced with the daunting weight of everything that’s come before, the drive to create something new and meaningful inevitably lies in attention to layers, texture and unadulterated taste; the likes of which Perri is a cunning thaumaturge. Impossible Spaces: a tangle of twinkle, a riffing far from raff. The bassline on “How Will I?” is so silky, pulsating, and throbbing that the tune rises and falls like a spectacularly hypnotic surreal camel jaunt at sunset. “How will I come back to a simple refrain?” sings Perri. Who cares, man? Just keep this pony saddled and trotting.

The number that followed was like a cute little Lynchian teddy bear — one that you’d give to your child, not to fend off nightmares, but rather to draw them in closer, illuminating the beauty that lies in even the darkest of corners. The music continues. The Moog heats up, provoking and pulling loopy little ice cream balls out for a stroll when the sun’s gone down sanguine. Bass and percussion move in unison like a coalesced heartbeat, laying the down the carpet for Driver’s mellifluous flute glide.

The night, like almost all of Perri’s tunes, aptly and elegantly comes to a close. The crowd is appreciative; they ask for an encore. When the last note rings out, the dream is over. I’ve been crawling and floating through a grown man’s toy box, which I’d been ecstatic to be in. Lego blocks of beautifully insouciant sunrays are stuck in my hair. I have no desire to remove them. With luck, they’ll stay with me throughout my cold bike ride home.
“And you change again, but it’s nothing like a wheel goes round.”

No it’s not Sandro. No, it’s not. This Sandro hears ya.