Concert Review: Sunshine State @ The Rivoli, Toronto 8/3/07

I was first introduced to the playful folk of Sunshine State in December, when they played a show with Karen Kosowski.  I was immediately captivated:  the music was solid, the lyrics witty and insightful, the stage presence of singer Alezandria Coldevin commanding the attention of the room immediately.  It is obvious from the moment they take the stage that Aleza and her partner in musical crime James Bryan (Philosopher Kings) truly enjoy what they do, and that enthusiasm is infectious in the way that Lindsay Lohan is ‘a little messed up’.

Their debut CD, available now on CDBaby (indie music heaven for the discriminating shopper) and iTunes, is a solid effort from start to finish, moving from playful folk to melodies that make me want to tango, perhaps salsa if inebriated.  Being rather enamoured with the disc, I made it a point to catch the band’s set at The Rivoli recently, bringing along two virgin listeners to soak up the sunny sounds.

Accompanied by bass and drums, Aleza and James quickly stole the hearts and dancing feet of the crowd.  It’s impossible to not smile in their presence, no matter how bad your day has been.  The live arrangements were tight, well-executed and fresh, the performance casual, the sort of relaxed vibe of friends singing around a campfire after three two many beers on a hot summer’s night.  Sunshine State engages their audience, pulls them in, and throws a sonic arm around their shoulders, as if to say, “Welcome!  Grab a drink and kick off your shoes!”

Lyrically, the songs succeed in winning over new listeners precisely because they are at once so relatable (who hasn’t had a broken heart, or wanted to quit a soul-sucking job?) and also so witty that you forget the attached bitter emotion of relationship disasters and learn to laugh at them.  This is not to say that there are no serious songs in the band’s repertoire;  The Day After captures the melancholy ‘nothing will ever be the same’ feeling a break-up brings on its heels.  However, it’s the sassy enticement of Booty Call, the uplifting ‘break free’ call of Day Job and the irresistible beat of Mas Que Nada that I wager send new listeners scampering to the merch table for a CD.  To which I say:  more power to Sunshine State.  It’s not often that a band of such sunny disposition (to make a terrible pun) has the ability to be more than a ‘party background CD’ band.

Do yourself a favour:  even if you prefer your indie with a strong dash of sadness and comiseration, check out Sunshine State.  I dare you to listen and not smile.  I dare you not to walk away thinking, “You know, life could be worse; might as well smile and laugh at it all.”  Make an effort to catch a live show if you’re able;  like so many of my favourite artists (The Dresden Dolls, for one), the live show blows the studio versions out of the water, simply due to the full package appeal of Aleza’s banter and chemistry with James.

(Oh yes…. My virgin listeners?  They each walked out with a copy of the CD.  Success!)

MySpace page

Setlist (8/3/07)

Thank You (For Leaving)
Booty Call
7 Months
One Night Stand
Mas Que Nada
Day Job
Drug Dealer (A Love Song)

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