It was a quiet Thursday, and my wife was having some friends over. I had received an email about a last minute concert at The Pearl Company, but with such short notice I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Rich couldn’t make it, Ralph wasn’t home, Jesse was away, and so on. I had to go out to allow the ladies space, but did I want to go to a concert alone? I could just go to the bookstore, have a coffee, browse for a couple of hours. Ah, what the heck, it’s five bucks, and maybe it’ll be good — after all, the review online compared this guy to Robert Fripp.
I managed to find a parking spot right in front of the building. Wow! That’s a first. Up the stairs, to the second floor where the performance space is, and there’s Gary Santucci and Barbara Milne, the owners and hosts, and a young guy, tall, slim, short hair, long sideburns, glasses. Gary introduces us, and he happens to be Jean-Paul De Roover…the star of the show. We have a long chat about his gear, the relative merits of looping, his familiarity with Fripp, and other loopers. He doesn’t know Jacob Moon, but the name Bill Frisell rings a bell. At this point you’d expect the audience to be drifting in. After all, it’s almost 8:00. A woman arrives, she’s a friend of Barbara’s, and she drops her $5 on the table. That makes two of us. We introduce ourselves. Garbielle and I sit in the front row of chairs and couches that make up the comfy seating of The Pearl Company. Gary sits behind me. He says something like, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Pearl Co., tonight our guest is Jean-Paul De Roover.” And from then on it’s J-P’s show.
I sympathize. I did a reading of my unpublished novel one night, and it snowed like crazy, three people came into the shop out of the storm. I read to them. They drank the free coffee and ate the free buttertarts, then they left. I know the feeling. Nevertheless J-P takes off. He’s playing a Fender acoustic guitar that he says he borrowed from his sister. His website shows him with a couple different axes, not this one, but by the end of the night you know why he took his sister’s guitar on tour. He beats the crap out of it! Not fretting and picking, but beating it…like a drum. J-P plays loops, which means he creates a full band sound all by himself. Whether he begins with a riff, a beat, a bassline, even a vocal — he then adds the missing pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle until finally the whole is revealed.
He works behind a red framework built from plastic pipe. His gear is on shelves, or on the floor, a plethora of pedals laid out before him. He knows where everything is. And he has done this enough to move smoothly between each piece of equipment and maintain the music and the connection with the audience. He plays the songs from his recently released CD, Windows and Doors. The CD comes with a DVD which contains a brief documentary on the making of the album, a series of live performances and a couple of videos suitable for MTV (or Much Music here in Canada). He is a sensitive singer with a flexible voice, he lays down harmonies and background sounds (including percussive noises) with an ease and facility that is amazing to watch/hear. He reminds me at various times of Brian Wilson, or Lindsey Buckingham. His guitar playing is not really like Robert Fripp except perhaps on the experimental “Catharsis” which builds to a thrilling climax as loop after loop is layered onto the mix.
Because of the intimacy of the evening we feel free to take part, to clap, to sing along, to ask questions. J-P is happy for this, and answers honestly. He talks about the songwriting process and how he is less interested in lyrics than melody. He begins with melodic ideas, even when constructing the abstract experimental pieces. He add words as an afterthought, and yet the words he adds are filled with ideas. He is a thinker, having just completed his Master’s in Sociology. Sociology? That’s right, and it’s a perfect fit for his songs about life, death, love, loss and all that.
Partway through the night, early on I think, two other people arrive. They are as overcome by the music as Gabrielle, Gary and I. And after the show we hang around for a while, talking to J-P, looking at the original artwork for his CD. It’s a beautiful package, Windows and Doors. We are all familiar with going through doors, but some of us take the less obvious route, through the window. Jean-Paul is inside that window, breaking through. Even his CD package breaks through! It folds out to become a little house. Buy one and see for yourself. Keep your eyes out for De Roover appearing near you. He’s definitely making a return appearance at The Pearl Co. and I’m getting the word out early!
(Hamilton, ON, October 8, 2009)