Photo by Rachel Bernstein

Review by Olivia Valera


Soft chatter and laughing fill the intimate space of Berklee’s Red Room at Cafe 939. Early birds don the new merchandise of headliner Haley Blais as she embarks on a tour for her second album, “Wisecrack.” Based out of Vancouver, Canada, Blais began her career on YouTube, uploading her own songs and covers. The new album is a beautiful display of layered sound and impressive vocals.

The show opens with a set from Toronto-based singer Charlie Houston. With a smoky voice and a mellow but groovy electric guitar, Charlie warmed up the audience with humor and a collection of music detailing the difficulty of relationships and the joys of partying with friends. An interesting contrast of pop-lyricism with a paired-down accompaniment of drum beats and guitar, Charlie ends their show thanking Haley Blais, as tonight marked their first night on tour together.

I hear a soft buzz as the lights dim and the show begins. I close my eyes to the sounds of birds and the whisper of trees in the breeze filling my ears. When I blink them open again, Haley Blais and her band dance onto the stage. The auditory nature effects are briefly drowned out by applause before the band begins with “Soft Spot for Monarchs,” the first track on her new album. 

She moves around the cluttered stage with an acoustic guitar, dancing and singing with the other instrumentalists. The harmonies and layered chords create a symphony of sound, finished off by Blais’s smile and a knowing glance as she leads the song to its conclusion.

She promises the crowd that by the end of the night, she will have played through the entirety of “Wisecrack.” Thankfully, this doesn’t mean she forgets to add a few fan favorites from her earlier EPs that the intimately sized crowd softly sings along to. “Small Foreign Faction” seems to break the audience out of their shell. Blais plays a more upbeat piece than the recorded version, leaning into the audience’s participation as they sing every lyric with her.

“The Cabin” is my favorite song from the “Wisecrack” album. Its shifts between high-energy, angry sounds and soft melodies are the perfect mix of moody, folksy pop. The bassist, Alex Maunders, added to the layers of harmony through his carefree musicality and obvious joy in playing. Blais captured attention with her ethereal vocals, occasionally using auxiliary percussion to give the sound flair.

As Blais wraps up her set, she encourages the crowd to stop and buy one of her tee shirts,  which her dad designed for this tour. She returns for an encore to heavy applause, with just her guitar and a synthesizer as a backup. The simple and comforting song “Be Your Own Muse” showcases her undeniable talent as a musician. She sings the final melody in a higher register, the last note ringing out into an emotionally overcome audience. The soft sounds of insects and birdsong fill the room again as she heads off stage.