AV and the Inner City
"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 made up of 6 singers: band leader and multi award-winning soul singer-songwriter AV (Ann Vriend); Debbie Houle (co-founder of the Juno-nominated international touring Indigenous a cappella group “Asani” and backup singer for Juno winner Maria Dunn), jazz radio host, jazz singer, and professional pickle company owner Johanna Alleyne (company: Mojojojo Pickles and Preserves); Crystal Eyo, lead singer and songwriter of Edmonton pop/RnB band “Mercy Funk”; Alenka Lundell, who fronted and wrote songs for bands in her home country of Czech (formerly Czechoslovakia); and marching band and choral singer, Jenn Dahlen, who also sings backup vocals for American singer-songwriter Jennifer Berezan.
From April 2020 to October 2021, 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 neighborhood of McCauley; often with guests. The concerts often also featured other acts and bands from all parts of Edmonton as well as from the immediate neighbourhood. The 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 neighbourhood 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.
Since then “AV & the Inner City” has been invited to perform at the Calgary International Blues Festival, the Toronto Blues Summit, the pandemic versions of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and Jubilee Auditorium Outdoor Concert Series, the Taste of Edmonton Festival, the Sasquatch Gathering Festival, and many other concerts around Alberta— and they will be performing at 2 major Canadian folk music festivals in the summer of 2023. From their humble inner city beginnings they joke that they have the goal of "world domination"-- but really they are thrilled to be developing their sound to audiences beyond the front porch, with the commitment they will still play free concerts with and for the neighborhood now and then.
Here is a mini-documentary video about the group's first out-of-province performance, with a music video for the song "Don't Wait" embedded within it: