Review - Walk Off the Earth @ August Hall (8/26/18)

Ken McCain
Walk Off the Earth @ August Hall (Photo: Ken McCain)
Still riding high on the success of their 2015 album Sing It All Away (iTunes), Canadian band Walk Off The Earth has been on an extended tour of the US, Canada, and Europe for nearly three years. Taking a break from time to time to cut a few new videos of covers from some popular artists, they find themselves covering a ton of ground throughout America for the first time (on a full-blown tour) in three years. Highly popular in their native land to the North, and all over Europe as well, we got to see them on the West Coast before they headed to the East Coast and a few of the southern states. They will, of course, be going to Europe sometime thereafter. We were lucky enough to catch them at the historic and beautiful August Hall in San Francisco, one block off Union Square. The venue has gorgeous details with 32 foot ceilings and 100-year old architecture. Originally built in the 1890's, it has gone from playhouse, to movie house, to a music hall. Take in a show here sometime and maybe bowl a few lanes before the show downstairs (news to me!).
Walk Off the Earth (Photo: Ken McCain)
This was my first time at August Hall, and it was my first time seeing this sensational group live. I've seen their videos on YouTube, and if you haven't I highly recommend it. The first I saw was their cover of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know", embedded below:

I was sold on that one video alone, that if these guys (and one gal) can do this, they can do anything. I remember thinking, and not to disparage Mr. Gotye, that they did this song better than the original. Walk Off The Earth has that effect on songs, songs they cover and originals, too. You almost start to question that perhaps this original song is a cover of another artist. That is the trap that they may find themselves in. However, no matter what they do, they tend to make it their own. They've been praised by Gotye himself on their efforts, and their awards are starting to pile up. Juno Awards and Canadian Radio Music Awards in the last few years have been very good to them. This bodes well for the future of this 5-some of eclectic musicianship.
Sarah Blackwood of Walk Off the Earth (Photo: Ken McCain)
The quintet has been together since 2006 and includes Gianni "Luminati" Nicassio (vocals, bass, etc.), Sarah Blackwood (vocals, ukulele, etc.), Ryan Marshall (vocals, guitar, etc.), Mike "Beard Guy" Taylor (piano, keyboards, etc.), Joel Cassady (all things percussion, etc.). I put the *etc into their descriptions because they all play a myriad of instruments, ranging from kazoo and theremin to whirly tubes and didgeridoo, spoons, slide whistle, .... it goes on a while. They do it all, and incorporate it into their sound along with the help of Lee Williamson, James "Ervy" Ervin, and Zach Gerber on tour to play the normal things while they play the others. It helps to make not only their sound unique, but their stage show unlike anything you've ever seen. As an example, have you ever seen 5 people play the same instrument at the same time? They do this not only for a few of their videos, but they replicate it live as well. They do this with a standard acoustic guitar, a harpejji, and a custom made GuitHarpUlele. For a few of their songs, the GuitHarpUlele is very accommodating and incorporates not only the obvious parts, but also adds a few percussion influences to the mix for a full sound. They play in unison so well it's mesmerizing if you fixate on it. If you look away, you'd swear they are playing individually.
Walk Off the Earth (Photo: Ken McCain)
One great moment, and another first for me, was when they had the fans all gather in as close as they could. The floor probably had 500-600 people gathered about, but as they closed in together they became one. The mics and electronics shut off as they played an unplugged version of their hit "Hold On". It was possibly one of the most intimate moments I've experienced. The crowd, all fans by and large, sang out every word from beginning to end, as they did from the start of the show. It was fantastic! And if you're a fan of balloons and confetti, there's some of that, too. But you may have to wait for it ;)
Walk Off the Earth (Photo: Ken McCain)
Fun, unique, energetic, and full-to-the-brim of a cuppa goodness is all I can say about Walk Off The Earth and their live set. Check out their setlist for covers and originals. Look 'em up on the YouTube, and go see/support them whenever you can. We need more of this in our lives!

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Walk Off the Earth Setlist August Hall, San Francisco, CA, USA 2018

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