The Paper Kites fly high at Maxwell’s

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Photo by Hayley McGoldrick

On the chilly evening of Nov. 23, a long line of people — primarily couples and small groups of friends — waited impatiently outside of Maxwell’s Concerts and Events to see The Paper Kites.

Around 7:30 p.m., the reasonably sized crowd was ushered through the doors where I was able to meander around the space before the opening act.

Having never been to Maxwell’s before, it was underwhelming, but about what I expected from a smaller venue.

The smell of stale beer and offensively bright neon signs aside, the vibe was relaxed and eager with the majority of the people who were standing around me undeniable diehard fans of The Paper Kites beyond just a passing, “oh yeah, they’re cool.”

I fall somewhere in-between the casual listener and dedicated super fanatic. I really like their music and listen to their songs frequently, so it was intriguing to hear how excited people were about them playing there.

The opening band was a Toronto-based group, Wild Rivers, and they proved to be a breath of fresh air before the main event.

The four musicians who took the stage were laidback and didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously, with the lead singer, Khalid Yassein, using his dry sense of humour to fill the space between their songs for the amusement of the audience.

As I looked around me, multiple people were mouthing along to every word and I heard one, not-your-typical-indie-band-fan remark loudly, “that was fucking amazing.”

Casually poking fun at their own music genre, he quipped, “That was our only happy song. The rest is depressing. That’s all indie bands are, just sad.”

The Paper Kites came on stage to an awestruck crowd about an hour later in near darkness, red strobe lights filtering through blinds stationed at the side of the stage.
    It was unexpected and for a second I caught myself thinking that I was watching a performance in someone’s apartment with how personal and close-knit the atmosphere felt.

Hearing their music always makes me want to stare moodily out of a rain-streaked train window — their calming songs lulling me into a peaceful state of being — and experiencing them live was no different.

I didn’t seem to be alone in this feeling either. The people around me were swaying dreamily in tune with the music, captivated by the band.  Endearingly quiet and humble, Sam Bentley wooed the crowd with his Australian accent and awkward charm.

He encouraged everyone in the room to enjoy their music as I’d never seen a band do at a concert before.

He joked lightly, “The last time we were in Waterloo two years ago and we dubbed them the ‘loudest crowd.’ Maybe this year we could break the record for quietest.”

And with little to no effort, the crowded concert room fell to a hushed silence. His acoustic strumming wasn’t overpowered by baseless chatter, and the respect everyone there seemed to feel for him was genuine.

Through the relative silence, Bentley commented that for the next song, he liked to play it with all of the lights turned out, in the pitch dark.

Encouraging an audience-wide chant to turn off the buzzy and bright coat check sign after he remarked through a chuckle, “I think that bloody coat check sign will ruin the illusion of darkness,” it was turned off and the room was able to fully enjoy the music we had come for.

As I looked around me, multiple people were mouthing along to every word and I heard one, not-your-typical-indie-band-fan remark loudly, “that was fucking amazing.”

Something that you don’t often feel at concerts is a sense of intimacy and a true connection with the band onstage in front of you.

Yet, The Paper Kites did just that. Their ease and realness with where they were and who they were playing for made their performance so much better to experience.

Smaller venues and lesser known bands can put on shows that are unexpectedly beautiful and enjoyable, and this night was no exception.

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