Oh Wonder Brought Romance to the Van Buren
by Sedona Rose Saulnier
It is 8:00 pm and the area around West Van Buren and 7th Avenue is booming. People are dressed in their most self-expressive attire. Everyone has a radiant beaming smile as they enter the alluring two-month-old concert venue, the Van Buren. The outdoor restaurant and patio are filled to the brim with audience members chatting at the intimate black round tables and bar seats. With a long pristine bar showcased through the ceiling to floor windows of the urban chic building and wonderfully kind staff, the venue truly sets itself apart from many others. There are no large flashing signs or marketing gimmicks. The scene at the venue says all you need to know about the night: It will be memorable.
Walking into the Van Buren, audience members feel like exclusive members to a club. The venue is deceivingly large with top and bottom seating areas, as well as an open floor plan. This allows for large audiences to dance on the new wood flooring that glows under the impressively programmed lights. One-of-a-kind murals of Arizona landscape enclose the sizable stage to capture the magic of the city of Phoenix and the pure energy that is associated with memorable nights out.
Against the barricades stand hundreds of fans anticipating the band’s arrival, many of whom are snapping numerous photos to post, eagerly jumping around from friend to friend complimenting each other, and excitedly trying to position themselves just right for the night. Promptly at 8:30 pm, Jaymes Young performed the stunning opening songs and audience members listened intently and danced with those closest to them, showing they were in the best of moods. People were enticed by the modern sound of the artist as well as his exceptional guitar playing. His talents with live instruments set this artist apart from many others today. It is apparent that his music selections invited all those who have been longtime fans or those who have never heard a word come from his smooth and well-trained voice as they left the bar and patio to get a closer look and listen.
Young did an exceptional job of warming the audience up and giving them the perfect teaser to the feeling and vibe of the music to come. It is always enjoyable to see an opener and headlining band who share similarities in their art perform on the same night. While the audience had positive reactions to Young’s work, the best reactions were reserved for the night’s stars.
In a time filled with sounds generated by computer synths, Oh Wonder has found a niche with live instrumentation and listeners ate it up. This mere three-year-old musical duo formed by accident and it could not have been a more perfect match. Josephine Vander Gucht, pianist, singer, and violinist, was on track to pursue law when she met producer Anthony West. The two had a humble start, which makes falling in love with the group that much easier. They initially uploaded their songs on SoundCloud anonymously at the beginning of the partnership, hoping to pitch their songs to other artists. Fans found the music and they responded well. The two had both put out music before but never had such a rapid response. West’s background in arranging music complemented Josephine’s classical training and songwriting skills, and the two have such an amazing nearly tangible chemistry on stage as they laugh, sing together, and move with their music.
Concerts are visual. The art is in the presentation. This is one concept this group understands perfectly. The cameras filming the concert from the middle of the floor in front of the stands filled with more passionate fans and families did not do the artists justice. Their performance quality cannot be witnessed any other way than live and in person. Josephine’s flowing rose-colored dress and Anthony’s vibrant blue and white striped collared T-shirt shone along with their personalities under the illuminated “OW” center stage. The two sang simultaneously throughout the concert as they almost always do, throughout these poetic masterpieces in their latest album. It was enough to put the audience in a trance. As “Lose It” played the words, “Won’t you dance with me” rang in the minds and hearts of all the audience members as they move. In between songs, Josephine entranced the audience with her bubbly sweet voice and quick anecdotes about her family and partner that made the audience feel even more a part of the shared experience of the concert, shortening the gap between the famous artists and the proud, loyal listener.
If there was anything to take away from the concert, it was Josephine’s inspiring words of wisdom she gave while giving her account of why the song “All We Do” was written. “Any personal goals that you want to achieve… Begin it now, and dream bigger than you ever thought possible,” said Vander Gucht. Between their unique fresh sound and inspiring drive to write wholesome music, it is clearly just the beginning for this dynamic duo.
This Phoenix show was the 24th stop on the tour which is appropriately titled the Ultra-Life World Tour after their second and most recent album’s title for the album comes from the lead single, “Ultralife”. The band has solidified their exceptionally romantic sound with this concert and album. In the eyes of the group, the album is all about “finding someone or something that makes you feel ultra, that makes your life extraordinary in some small or massive way.” The single “Ultralife” explores the unexpected feeling one gets from infatuation, which was apparent in the looks of the audience members young and old as they vibed with the music and pondered the meaning all at the same time. The best art provokes emotion and makes people think, and watching people cry and laugh at the concert proved Oh Wonder can do just that.