C.R. Avery is an exemplary ambassador of the Commercial Drive melting pot bohemian lifestyle. The beatboxing slam poet turned cabaret blues harmonica player has released well over a dozen albums, a half-dozen hip-hop operas, a few books of poetry and has collaborated with all kinds of weird ensembles, from the Legal Tender String Quartet and Tons of Fun University to the Prague Symphony Orchestra. He’s also represented his hood of East Vancouver on tours to the far corners of the earth on the folk festival circuit to, say, getting pulled up onstage by Tom Waits in Germany. The breadth of his kitchen sink cabaret style is matched only by his hustle.
Though his compassionate eye for beautiful losers and tragic heroes is central to his poetry, humour is always at the core.
Undoubtedly, Avery is a master of stage presence. The guy knows how to play to his crowd, responding to catcalls in character and calling out lacklustre responses lest the crowd lull themselves to complacency. Coaxing the girls to sing “some birds walk” and the guys to follow with “for the hell of it” for his encore, the crowd left with a song on their lips and a memory reminiscent of what it would be like to see Kid Koala produce a Tom Waits show indelibly imprinted in their minds. You haven’t been to East Van unless you’ve seen this guy live.
By Alan Ranta (Exclaim Magazine)
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