"Are we slowly winning you over?" yells Dave Mackinnon of the Fembots. No need - the crowd was already in a happy, feel-good mood as I arrived late to a packed Lee's Palace, unfortunately missing Ox, the first band on the bill. Third song in, The Fembots were in full-swing, playing their innovative, country-hinged soundscapes to a relaxed audience.
The Fembots launched into a slow, lazy song and the fiddle was sweet and heartbreaking, the twangy, high vocals are earnest and from the heart. I'd like to see the Fembots again in a smaller, less crowded bar: their sound makes me think of summertime, porches and cold beer.
They exit the stage and make way for one of the bigger, more anticipated shows of NXNE: Sarah Harmer. And she walks on to a loud, excited reception. She is composed and as she begins singing in her clear, pretty voice she has us all charmed.
I'm not very familiar with her music, and I'd never seen her live before, but you could tell most of the audience we're big fans - the girls next to me mouthed the words along to almost every song she played. There was a really warm buzz happening in the crowd at Lee's that night, but not in a corny way, just really appreciative people who could obviously relate to her music.
Harmer's songs ranged from a dreamy, country melancholia to folk, funny and upbeat, but always with the simple easiness of a real natural. She drew us all in as she chatted and joked with the audience and sang with her band and solo.
I unfortunately had to leave before the end of her set ending the evening with the child-like "Peanut Butter Toast". One quick glance back at the crowd of serene faces looking up to the stage confirmed that, although her folky style might not be for everyone, those who like her really seem to love her, and even the most snotty music fan would have to appreciate her charisma as a performer.
Writer: Fiona McLean