Hervana’s MTV Unplugged Singalong Packs House of Targ

April 18th, 2016 by  |  Published in Concerts


I’d been to House of Targ many times for shows, but the night of April 15th was the first time I’d ever seen a line spilling out the door and down the sidewalk. It’s a testament to how iconic Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York album has remained, which Toronto’s Hervana were paying tribute to that night. Only an hour after doors, the venue had already hit capacity and by the time the first band took the stage the floor was packed with an eager crowd.

Sleepy and the Noise are a pop and alt-rock trio from Ottawa who blend quirky indie traits with a mainstream rock sensibility. Their music definitely fit the tone of the night, with straightforward, poppy instrumentals that could have easily existed in the 90s, but with a tendency to zone out on parts to accommodate the storytelling approach of the lyrics.

The guitarist would occasionally break out into a bit of guitar noodling, but managed to keep it tasteful. My favourite moments were when the band would burst into fast-paced, heavy instrumentals which acted as the perfect dynamic to the more even-paced moments.

Trees of North America, an Ottawa four-piece, were up next and, again, fit the theme of the night’s sound, which was of course 90’s alt/grunge. Their influences were sort of hard to pin down. I was getting bits of Breeders, Pixies in some of the guitar, R.E.M., the Tragically Hip and occasionally a bit of Alanis Morissette in the vocals, but essentially they kind of sounded like a bunch of 90’s stuff thrown together. It was awesome.

The songs were super catchy and made you want to move around, keeping a quick and rhythmic pace. There were poppy elements to the sound, but that didn’t stop them from layering on the distortion and fuzz every once and a while, bringing things up a level. The only thing I feel they could benefit from would be additional vocals in their live set, because they make great use of them in their recordings, and seem to have a knack for crafting catchy and interesting melodies.

The crowd hadn’t thinned at all over the time that the two opening bands played, and in fact very well may have increased by the time Hervana had set up. In a fitting tribute to the Unplugged album, the band sat spread across the stage on stools with battery powered candles scattered around, acting as both an homage and an inside joke.

The set almost immediately, and predictably, turned into a giant sing-along, with everyone bellowing along to their favourite Nirvana songs and classic covers from the album. While the band handled the various covers very well, I found the performance of the Meat Puppets covers had an exceptional amount of energy and intensity to them.

It was interesting to hear female interpretations of songs like “Pennyroyal Tea” or “Polly,” with the singer sometimes using her particular range to alternate between how she would sing certain lines. The set kept to the album very closely, but there were moments where they did things their own way, which kept it interesting as well.

The set ended, of course, with “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” which was unsurprisingly the highlight of the set. Widely regarded as the most notable song from the concert album, I’m sure it’s a daunting performance to take on, but Hervana pulled it off flawlessly, with of course the entire bar singing along. With the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs for the final, haunting yells of the song, it makes you wonder what it would be like to see Nirvana play it 20 years after Unplugged.

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