Hannah Georgas–Anything but “Robotic” (Do317 Lounge, Indianapolis 2/23)
Often called “The Next Feist,” Canada’s rising indie star Hannah Georgas rocked a diverse and packed house at the D0317 Lounge in support of her third eponymous album. She spent most of 2012 touring with Kathleen Edwards not just as the opener but as part of her ensemble. She won “Emerging Artist of the Year” at XM’s Verge Music Awards in 2011 and “Solo Artist of the Year” at the Sirius/XM-sponsored Indies. Her second album This Is Good was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. Georgas was also nominated for both “Best New Artist of the Year” and “Songwriter of the Year” for the 2011 Juno Awards.
In a mainstream market her song “Robotic” would clearly be the stand-out single but robotic is the last way anyone could describe her performance. Although her previous albums, This is It, 2010, and The Beat Stuff, 2008, boasted catchy yet gritty pop tunes, Hannah Georgas seems more probing and has more connectivity. It’s almost impossible to listen to just one song because each one feels as if it’s part of a bigger story. This album seems to have split critics right down the middle. While some are lauding the 80s stylized sound she’s found with producer Graham Walsh, others are complaining that she has become soft to appeal to the masses. I for one, wholeheartedly disagree with this assessment.
At 26 years old, Georgas could still be considered young, and listeners should not only expect but encourage her to grow—and change. Her lyrics still bear that essential singer/songwriter sensibility that rooted her in the hearts of the bruised-but-not-broken, but these vulnerable lyrics become something of an enigma when paired with her elaborate synth-pop sound. Far more haunting and mesmerizing than robotic, it’s the surprise element of her music that will grow her fan base and her demeanor and integrity that will keep her steady stream of loyalists coming back.
The sound leaves the listener in a dazed sort of happy confusion. Imagine if Alice stepped into Wonderland and weren’t so cross with the scenery and the cast of characters. That’s kind of what it’s like to walk into a Hannah Georgas concert. The crowd was a testament to her music’s wide and unusual appeal—from 30-something Colts jersey-wearing overgrown boys to emos who “literally like just turned 21 today and I’m celebrating with my first legal can of PBR!, ” to a pair of awkward teenagers, to professional middle aged men and women, to some prominent local musicians, to a voguish threesome who looked as if they had just stepped out of an old Molly Ringwald movie. Hannah Georgas bridges the gap between ages, genres, and brings the best of both worlds—confessionary lyrics and a danceable beat—quite a feat, as she not only pens all the lyrics but also composes all the music.
She set her Wonderland tone for the evening with “Elephant” to raucous cheers from the audience, her blue voice seemingly coming from a ghost in the rafters of the historical Murphy building. It’s nearly impossible to describe this song, so just take a listen here. It’s not poetic, and it has no chorus. It has only longing and feeling backed by cold albeit perfectly executed tech music, which punctuates her loneliness, and yet the beat is so infectious that the audience sways and slows dances in a sort of curious abandonment as she confesses her deepest fears:
“All these moments become memories.
I don’t wanna wake up one day thinking what did I miss.
I fear my own fate.
I don’t wanna wake up one day thinking where the hell have I been.”
Raised in Ontario, Georgas started playing piano at age six and started voice lessons soon after. She bought her first guitar when she was barely a teenager and played in several bands, including a punk band. At twenty, she moved to British Columbia. She explained why in a recent interview: ““I come from a big family and have three sisters. I needed to clear my brain a bit and find my own place that felt like me.” After a brief stint as a psychology student at a university in Vancouver, she felt the supportive music scene of Vancouver draw her in, and she abandoned her studies to pursue music full-time, despite the protests of her pianist father.
Despite her penchant for techno music, there is something blue collar about Georgas, something down to earth and gritty—yet shy. She and her gifted (not to mention handsome)band mates Corey Curtis (bass and keyboards), Rob Tornroos (guitar), and Flavio Cirillo (drums) played not only with enthusiasm, but with something you rarely see from such talented touring acts—gratitude. And towns like Indy like their musicians friendly and accessible. It’s a little known—and endearing—fact that Indy also loves its Scrabble and its ukuleles, so when she picked up her ukulele and treated us to “The Deep End,” a song about Scrabble, you guessed it: the crowd went wild.
Georgas and her band seemed smitten with the audience, especially at the encore, when she returned solo, guitar in hand. As the crowd begged her to play “Dance Floor,” she broke out laughing and quipped, “I was going to play ‘Ode to Mom,’ but hey, it can wait. If someone could just go get the band. I think they went downstairs to the Red Lion to get a pint.” Minutes later, they all dashed into the room, all smiles, and she granted the audience their wish. It took some doing, but she got the audience calmed down to a more appropriate mood for her somber final number , “Ode to Mom,” a sort of cautionary tale in which she mysteriously proclaims “If there is magic in this universe it’s in the water; if there’s magic in the universe, it’s in the blood.” The lyrics, although mystifying, seemed to strike solidarity in the audience, bringing the show to a fully satisfying close.