By Peter Jabs

At the cusp of another wicked winter on a November Saturday night, a few hardies dared to abandon the hockey game on the tube and venture forth into the elements for exquisitely beautiful music playing at the Apollo. Tragically old-fashioned romantic Jake Vaillant warmed up the room with a growling, agonized voice like a very young Tom Waits. In fact, he was celebrating his 25th-going-on-65th birthday, complete with pizza and cupcakes his mother had brought. He just tore the place up with his slow waltz depicting the nightmare of suburbia. Kevin Sidlar very tastefully accompanied on his hand drum proving that sometimes less is more.

F&M specialize in those achingly wistful minor key melodies that threaten to crush your flaming heart into smouldering smithereens. Their songs conjure up European Impressionist paintings of gloomy dusks on lonely gravel roads where heavy clouds get their bloated bellies scratched by the clawing fingers of bare tree branches.

From the opening accordion prelude of “I Have Never Seen Such Darkness,” the Edmonton trio of Ryan and Rebecca Anderson, and Bryan Reichert put a spell on their listeners that took them on a roller coaster ride between despairing romanticism and the redemptive power of love. Romantic enough to inspire pairs of lovers to get up and dance cheek to cheek. The singing voices of the Andersons with their Irish lilt were especially expressive of that indigo-dark mood. Perhaps with their classicism and soft punk style they may be likened to a cross between Leonard Cohen, whom they cover, and a sobered-up version of The Pogues.

P.S. Get well Sheila, and get back to the bar where you belong. We miss you already.