AV and the Inner City
AV & The Inner City— Biography
"AV & the Inner City" is a soul/roots group which formed during the course of the COVID19 pandemic and opioid crisis pandemic in the inner city of Edmonton, Canada.
The group is only 2 years old, having just completed their first summer tour, which included 4 festivals across Western Canada; most notably the Vancouver Island Music Festival, the Calgary Folk Music Festival, and most recently, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, at which they received an "Emerging Artist Award" based on their concert performance there. In Calgary the group received a rave review from former Nickelodeon promoter Vic Bell, who stated: "Soul and gospel singing ruled.... This was an act that could have closed the Main Stage any night of the festival. They earned a full house standing ovation."
AV & the Inner City is made up of 6 singers: band leader and multi award-winning singer-songwriter AV (Ann Vriend), Debbie Houle (co-founder of the Juno-nominated Indigenous vocal group “Asani”), jazz radio host, jazz singer, and professional pickle company owner Johwanna Alleyne (company: Mojo Jojo Pickles); Crystal Eyo, a communications business owner and lead singer and songwriter of Edmonton pop/RnB band “Mercy Funk”, ESL teacher Alenka Lundell, who fronted and wrote songs for bands in her home country of Czech (formerly Czechoslovakia); and Jenn Dahlen, a guitar player, singer and clarinetist, who also has sung background vocals for American singer-songwriter Jennifer Berezan.
From April 2020 until October 2021, on every Sunday that the pandemic restrictions and weather would allow AV hosted and performed nearly 60 free concerts on her front porch in the inner city neighbourhood of McCauley, often with guests, including the 6 above-mentioned singers.
The “porch concerts” often also featured other acts and bands who came from all parts of Edmonton, and some from the immediate McCauley neighbourhood, which is somewhat notoriously known in Edmonton— in part because of the very high population of homeless people gathered there, and the ongoing severe and troubling opioid crisis, which in turn affects everyone in the neighbourhood, including many young families, many of whom are very new to Canada.
The pandemic “porch concerts” were informal in nature, but were a much needed life-line of music and social interaction for both performers and audience members alike, especially during some of the most restrictive pandemic periods, and in a place where there is a high population of people already quite cut off from a lot of opportunities and acceptance from the rest of society.
In the early summer of 2021, as small, outdoor concerts were allowed AV asked the group of singers that had been singing so often alongside her if they would be interested in forming an actual official, rehearsed act; the repertoire of which are her own songs, with a cover song or 2 thrown in for good measure, and 3 part harmony soul/gospel style arrangements based around her voice and keyboard playing. All the singers responded with an emphatic "Yes!", and thus "AV & the Inner City" was born.
In the meantime, the porch concerts are still well remembered and requested by many in McCauley, and have served as a continual way of strengthening ties of cooperation and positive camaraderie, so “AV & the Inner City” have committed to continue to perform at least 1 per year, pandemic or not.
Their next step is to work on their first body of recordings, and in the meantime have just released AV's latest single, "Nobody Is You Featuring the Inner City," which has received airplay on both roots and pop stations across Canada since it debuted on September 8, 2023.
Here is the music video for "Nobody Is You Featuring the Inner City":
Here is a mini-documentary about the group's formation, and their 1st out-of-province performance, which led to many festival bookings the following year: