By Peter Jabs 

Outdoors it was cold on July 28, but inside the Apollo the temperature was rising. Local wunderkind Evan Pang had put together an evening (aptly named “Licensed to Chill”) showcasing some of our region’s best female songwriters for a live acoustic project and they were burning up the stage. To start off, Pang’s Toronto housemate Renee Parr lit the fuse with a convincing cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”

After Parr’s set, Mary Walker, backed by the ever helpful Mike Butts on guitar, carried the torch by doing a well appreciated Michael Jackson tune, “Billy Jean.” This singer continues to impress, engaging the audience with her expression and on-stage dancing. Her voice, it seems to me, is that of an angel sent down to us from paradise to remind us that caring and love will conquer all. In accordance with that she also covered some gospel numbers with confidence.

Next up Pang turned it up a few degrees. With talent pulsing out of his fingertips, he makes his guitar come alive by using all parts of the instrument and his intense singing from deep in his soul moves people.

How was that to be topped?  Bring out rising star Janie Chadwick, that of the ‘zebra’ guitar backed by conga player Kevin Sidlar. Faced with the challenge of feeding the flames to burn hotter, she delivered a searing performance. Adding doubly to this challenge was the appearance of half the young men from Hornepayne, her hometown, who had come down to support her. Switching from a sassy rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” to a roaring “Redneck Woman,” Chadwick admirably won the day, rather the night, without faltering.

To close out the evening, when came in the early morning, Nicole Norine bravely executed her set which included some her own compositions. An unlikely yet interesting inclusion of M.I.A.-influenced rapping grabbed quite a few ears which by now had started to cool off.

With the home-grown heat these young musicians create we’ll have plenty of warmth to carry us through the fall and winter.