Freedom or Death, Samantha Savage-Smith double up at The ARTery

Geez, The ARTery is rapidly turning into a buzz bin.

Along with promoting visual arts, it’s a must-go venue for up-and-coming artists and Saturday night was a prime example of why, with buzz-heavy singer-songwriter Samantha Savage-Smith (that’s five, count ‘em, five s’s there)  teamed up with equally buzz-heavy electro-soul duo Freedom or Death for a twin bill.

The latter band is heavily 80s brit-pop influenced,  cut through with clever lyrics and some really exceptional synth arrangement, the bastard kids of Bronski Beat, Stone Roses and Broken Social Scene, with a little Coldplay thrown in. Or something.

Savage-Smith is well-known on the Alberta scene thanks to strong gigs in her hometown Calgary followed by a showcase at the Calgary Folk Fest. She was then named an iTunes composer pick, getting valuable time on the front page of the music service. Savage-Smith is in the midst of a cross-Canada tour promoting Tough Cookie, which is through indie powerhouse Arts & Crafts, the launchpad for Canadian greats like Feist and Broken Social Scene.

She’s performed at Sled Island, the recent Fuse Festival, and showcased at Toronto’s NXNW festival, which, in turn, earned her an invitation to play at the Canadian Consulate in New Orleans. Her debut video for the heart-tugger You Always Come to Mind aired on The Wedge program on MuchMusic.

A gig at CMJ Music Festival in October 2010 earned Freedom or Death preview accolades from the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy section, claiming the band as one of the top 12 ‘must see’ bands of more than 1200 playing the festival.

When Toronto-based electro-soul duo Steve Fernandez and Sway Clarke were starting out as a couple of refugees from the music industry, they were inspired by a slogan from the 1820’s during the Greek War of Independence.

“Freedom or Death” became the war cry for the people of Greece. The duo of adopted the name, as well as the mantra for their musical process. “We want to have the freedom to make the music and the artistic choices that we want.

Fernandez and Sway, both fans of Spike Jonze’s work, worked with the director’s footage for their acclaimed video “Lost In Dances”.