Concert Review: Val Thomas Emerges From the Cave

Montreal Indie-Folk Artist Launches Debut EP, Chronicles From the Cave

Val Thomas onstage at Diva Orange for her debut EP launch. Photo Jérémie Gauthier-Caron

On Saturday night, Val Thomas launched her debut EP, Chronicles from the Cave, at Le Divan Orange as part of the M for Montreal festival in collaboration with Arté Boréal.

I was eager to meet the Montreal artist whose music was the soundtrack of my week. After greeting me warmly, Thomas led me downstairs, where I was privy to the pre-show excitement. We sat on a low couch, amongst her band members, the other performers, and guitars.

“Basically, I was really interested in the concept of being seduced by fantasy and illusions,” she explained about her EP. “And that’s what I like about that allegory, that writing from Plato. We really get a sense of how we believe shadows, and how we believe those reflections that are not necessarily real.”

She added that this was something she’s experienced in her past relationships and that songs were inspired from that.

“I think it’s the kind of EP, or music, that you listen [to with] your earphones, and kinda just chill out by yourself. If it can provide introspection, or a mood,” she said about Chronicles from the Cave.

After a few moments of reflection, she continued, stating that “I guess on a deeper level one of my hopes is to make peace with those shadows, you know, from the cave. But I think for me, singing and songwriting is kind of making peace with those more difficult parts of ourselves.”

Thomas and her band were the second to play at the concert after Montreal folk musician, Laura Lefebvre. The lights were dimmed, and we settled into Thomas’s universe. A warmed-up crowd welcomed her, ready to enjoy local, quality music.

Above the usual bar sounds of the clinking of glasses, the ordering of drinks, and the whispers between friends, Val Thomas was there.

She played barefoot, a beer bottle placed at the base of the microphone stand. I felt right there with her, in the familiarity of her bedroom, where she taught herself how to play on a friend’s guitar.

“I used to play a lot of sports and I was injured, I had a surgery on my knee, so I couldn’t walk for a few months,” Thomas said. “I was playing around the couch or on the bed, because I couldn’t really do anything else at that time. With just a few chords, you could write some songs. That’s what’s fun about the guitar.”

Val Thomas’s band onstage at Divan Orange for her debut EP launch. Photo Jérémie Gauthier-Caron

Thomas’s songs are fresh, but they also feel familiar. She explained that her musical influences include Sade, José Gonzáles, Bon Iver, and Laura Jones.

“I really look up to them for this sort of simplicity, it’s like a gentle kind of strength, I guess,” she added. It’s not overproduced, but it’s straight to the heart, and it’s honest.”

What brought the whole set together was Thomas’s skillful use of the transitional moments between songs. She told jokes and playfully rapped while the drummer, Kenton Mail, steadily kept a beat until the whole band was ready to dip right into the next song.

The energy never dropped, neither on the stage nor in the crowd. The transitions were used wisely, as we got to know Thomas outside of her music, and allowed for a seamless performance.

Chronicles from the Cave is a solid debut EP, but what makes the artist shine is her presence. A brilliant entertainer, Thomas occupied the whole stage with her vibrancy, her honesty, and her sound.

It was energizing and moving to see a performer unapologetically owning her stage. “I hope to be doing this for a long time.” said Val Thomas. And so do I.

Val Thomas // Chronicles from the Cave