Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sing It Forward @ Vogue -- 12/21/11

Name your three favourite Vancouver bands. Chances are pretty strong that at least one of them was at the Vogue last night for Sing It Forward, an evening benefiting the kids of the St James Music Academy. Organized by David Vertesi and Ambrosia Humphrey, they brought together some of Vancouver's finest for a night of music.

Leading up to the night, there was also a series of videos posted on Vancouver is Awesome of the bands joined by the kids of SJMA for a song (see them all on their Vimeo channel), and these were shows throughout the night between sets.

As there were almost a dozen acts, each had a short set of three acoustic songs, so I won't linger too long on each act.

Arriving just in time for the last song by Aaron Nazrul of The Boom Booms, he was joined by just about the whole band for a song about East Van, where they're from. It sounded pretty much what you'd expect from The Boom Booms; upbeat and energetic.

Next up was The Belle Game, starting off with "Sleep To Grow", including a fantastic ending with Andrew Lee on trumpet. Even stripped down acoustically, the band had a lush, rich sound that seemed to fit perfectly for a theatre venue like the Vogue; I would love to see them do a full set there sometime. They wrapped up their set with "Shoulders and Turns" with a good number of the other musicians coming out for percussion to end with a bang.

Rococode was next, their raucous sound translating acoustically very nicely (the use of the xylophone definitely helped out with that). The songs -- "Empire" especially -- were no less catchy, and "Dreams" possibly worked even better as an acoustic song, being much more haunting stripped down, and getting the crowd to sing along for the end of it. 

Up next was the man of the night, David Vertesi himself. With just Andrew Rasmussen joining him on keys, he played some of the softer songs from his album; "All Night, All Night, All Night" and "Learn To Run", the latter building to an intensely emotional ending. He ended the set with a surprise guest, calling out Hannah Georgas to sing backups on "Mountainside", bringing up the energy a bit more to wrap up his set.

Ben, Tyler and Jacelyn of Said The Whale were up next, with Ben taking care of the vocals, since Tyler was still recovering from having his tonsils removed (seriously). Every year the band puts out a Christmas song or EP, and their set consisted solely of some of these Christmas songs, with the dreary "Puddleglum" being one of my favourites of the night. Even in a post-surgery haze, Tyler had pretty good energy, and Ben's great voice effortlessly filled the venue.

Wrapping up the first half of the night was Aidan Knight who started off with the most heartbreakingly beautiful song, "Margaret Downe", and even managed to break a string. At an acoustic show. After some of his usual hilarious banter -- a story about how his guitar got the name Burnt Reynolds -- and some deliberation, he played a brand new song and ended, of course, with "Jasper", bringing up all the kids on stage to sing with him.

At this point there was a short intermission, and then Adaline kicking off the second half. She had a bit of a auspicious start, as the keyboard she rented wasn't working, and the one they had been using all night wasn't ready. But she handled it like a champ, first encouraging the kids to continue on with music, then ready to sing a capella, with Robbie Driscoll on bass. Just as she started, though, they got the keyboard fixed and she was able to launch into her somewhat dark, sexy sound, starting with "The Noise" and then bringing out Laura Smith to help with background vocals for "Keep Me High", ending with her own Christmas song from the Light Organ compilation.

Next, Vince Vaccaro was out solo, armed with just his guitar. I've always found Vaccaro's music kind of hit or miss, personally, but I rather enjoyed his acoustic set, and I can't deny he is a pretty great performer. After his first song, he invited all the St James kids back on stage, and they helped out -- along with Ash from Hey Ocean and everyone's drummer Johnny Andrews -- for "Costa Rica" to wrap up his portion of the night.

Another surprise guest popped up between sets when Shad came out to fill the time before the next act with a couple freestyle verses, including his soliloquy from the end of "Live Forever"

Then it was the only non-Vancouver act, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald coming in from Calgary. After a new song, and teasing an upcoming album, he launched into "Movie Life", with a little but of "The Thong Song" (cleaned up a little, for the kids) slipped in at the end, and another new one with Vertesi -- and the kids back up on stage out to help out with singing. MBF is always incredibly fun to watch live, as he just exudes charisma, and you can't help but be charmed by him.

Zach Gray of The Zolas was the penultimate act, coming out with a couple new songs; "Strange Girl" and, after taking a survey of his own (which went about as conclusive as Aidan's) a brand new one called "Ancient Mars", which Zach described as a nerdy love song that he never played all the way through before. It had me at the first line, "I want to believe in time travel". He ended the set with everyone getting into "You're Too Cool", and some great singing along from the crowd.

And finally, wrapping up the night was Hey Ocean starting with a really cool version of "Big Blue Wave" -- which I may have liked even more than the full band version. They threw in their new Christmas song, which had the best intro; first Vertesi introduced in each instrument as they came in (including everyone's favourite holiday instrument: the keytar) and then brought out the awkward dancers, with the greatest dance moves of the year from Aidan Knight and Alex Andrew from the Belle Game. They wrapped it all up with the St James kids back on stage, and all other musicians as well, for a giant singalong to "Alley Ways", for a pretty great moment to end the night on.

It ended up being a four hour long night, but it hardly felt like it, as there was never a dull moment or a lull in the show. All the performers were top notch, and they kept the changeover times to a minimum, with the videos or the lovely emcees from The Peak keeping things running smoothly.

It would be cliché to call it a magical night, but there is hardly any better description, and I hope some variation of this turns into a yearly event.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We Are The City w/ Treelines & Fields of Green @ Rio Theatre -- 12/10/11

Two years ago -- to the day -- was the first time I saw We Are The City live. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. They quickly became one of my favourite "local" bands (being from Kelowna), and I have probably seen them a dozen times since. Even the brief departure of David Menzel didn't slow them down, but last night was the first Vancouver show with him back. And along with them was a couple other Kelowna transplants -- and Peak Performance Project alumni -- for a killer lineup at the Rio Theatre.

First up was Fields of Green, and right off the bat I noticed their energy, particularly that of drummer, who is almost a human analog of Animal from The Muppets, with wild arms flailing. They had a bit of a synthy, prog rock driven sound and some pretty catchy songs, with a few new ones in the set, as they had just finished recording a new album and part way through the set they switched things up with the keyboardist taking over on guitar for a few songs, and switching up lead vocals for another.
When I saw them earlier this year, I thought they were quite good, and really fun to watch, but a bit green, and I thought they have really improved in just the last couple months. I am definitely looking forward the the upcoming album, and their next show.

Treelines was up next, starting their set off with a bang by high-kicking right in to the rocking "Ghost Towns". As usual they, they had a great energy, especially lead singer Matt Lockhart, but especially his brother and bassist Steve, who never fails to amuse me by singing along to every word of the set, even though he rarely has a microphone in front of him.
Mid-way through the set they brought things down for a moment with the heartbreaking "When I Get Grown", which saw Matt Kelly on slide guitar, and the title track for their new digital EP, Courage, which starts slow but swells to a grand finish.  After a couple more they ended the set ended with catchy "Ode to the Prairies", and that awkward moment where someone in the front threw a bra at Steve, who didn't seem too amused by it (keep in mind, it was an all ages show). Treelines always put on a fun, rocking show and this was no exception.

And finally, We Are The City hit the stage to a bit of a haunting intro and kicked off with "Happy New Year", garnering a fair amount of singing along. The set was a mix of new and old, with Menzel nailing the guitar parts from the High School EP and the trio sounding better than ever. When I first saw them, I was amazed by how tight they were, and they have gotten exponentially better since then, with a great stage presence and an incredible energy; especially Andy who is up and down more than any drummer I've seen. They also have some of the best banter, which seems less like "stage banter" and more like three friends chatting with you, which is highlighted in the way Cayne & Andy play off each other and interact.
As for the set itself, highlights included the beautiful "April" and the intense "Astronomers", both from In A Quiet World, a newer, unreleased song called "The Birds" which ebbs and flows, and "Mourning Song" off their most recent 7", with an amazing outro/transition between that and "Dark/Warm Air", which saw Andy on vocals and has a bass line that thumps right to your core.
Early in the set I was ever so slightly disappointed that they did not play the entire High School EP in order, with the Amazing Factory video playing on the big screen behind them, but that disappointment was sated when they launched into "Dark/Warm Air" and the video came on screen. That was the "last" song, but they were back out for "Angel in White", with the video projected for that song as well.

My only squabble was that there was a slight buzzing for the entirety of We Are The City's set, and while it wasn't always noticeable, there were a few times during the softer parts of the song where it was; but aside from that, it was an incredible set, and an incredible night of three great bands.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

SchMusic BC Christmas Party w/ David Vertesi, Maurice & Sidney York @ Electric Owl -- 12/07/11

As December comes, so too do the holiday-themed parties and shows. And of course the fine folks at Music BC aren't going to let the season go by without the SchMusicBC Christmas party; some mingling of industry types, followed by a trio of great bands. Bands that regular readers (all 17 of you) will know I am quite fond of.

First up was Sidney York, with the usual trio of Brandi Sidoryk, Sheryl Reinhardt on oboe and Krista Wodelet on bassoon joined by an all star supporting section of Devon Lougheed on guitar, Luke Cyca on drums and bassist extraordinaire Shaun Huberts.
The set started off with Brandi on guitar for "Tea As It Should Be", but she was soon on the keys, where she remained for most of the night -- with a couple exceptions when she broke out the french horn or ukulele. And, as usual, her vocals were powerful and spot-on.
The band, especially Brandi, has always had a great energy and presence but this time seemed everything seemed to be turned up a notch, with the band meshing together so beautifully, and both Sheryl & Krista seeming even more outgoing than previously.
Aside form their own material, part way through the set they threw in a cover of The Naked & Famous' "Young Blood", which sounded great, and they ended the set, somehow topping the energy with "Roll With Me". My only complain about the set -- and the night in general -- was the sound at the Electric Owl was not the best. There were a few moments of feedback and occasionally it seemed the bassoon sounded too low; but aside from that, it was best set I've seen from them this year, definitely energy-wise if nothing else.

Next up was Maurice, who I have seen a few times now this year and am liking more and more every time I see them. Joining JP Maurice was a who's who of Victoria musicians with drummer Jason Cook, Mike Edel on bass and Adam Sutherland on guitar. They opened with "Big Country", and the the set just built with energy from there, with JP's fantastic presence and raw emotion driving the energy and intensity of the songs.
There were a few new tunes, which sounded great, and some off the recent Noverdubs EP, including the fantastic cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" and the insanely catchy "Mistake", during which Maurice lived up to the the "schmooze" part by hopping off the stage and asking a few people up front who they are and what they did. After a couple more they brought out another cover, this time of Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party's "Robin", which had the band going all out, ending the set with a bang..

And finally, rounding out the night was David Vertesi, who -- much like the previous acts -- surrounded himself with some great and notable musicians; Juno winning Peter Carruthers on bass, Dan Klenner on drums and Andrew Rasmussen on guitar and keys (and keytar). I've seen Dave several times this year, with various members in his band or even solo, and this configuration, which I think is the permanent lineup, definitely worked together the best. Everyone, especially Vertesi, was completely at home and comfortable on stage, with Vertesi's effortless charm and a smooth baritone that lulls you into the songs that are often about love, and usually brutally honest.
The set ranged from the more upbeat, getting people to dance -- or at least shoulder shimmy -- with "Broadcasting", then completely shifting gears to more heartbreaking songs like "Learn To Run", as well as a cover, with his own take on Spice Girls' "Say You'll Be There". It not only got a good number of people dancing at the stage, but Vertesi even had his own little choreographed dance for one of the verses.

Even if the sound in the Electric Owl still leaves something to be desired, it was still a fantastic night of local(ish) music and company, and I am already looking forward to the next SchMusic BC party.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Best of 2011: Albums: Haiku Edition

Okay, so I definitely fell behind this year when it came to album posts and reviews. But that's not going to stop me from subjecting you to yet another Best of 2011 list, which will be my favourite albums of 2011, in -- what else? -- haiku form. It's actually going to be less of a "best of" and more of a "personal favourite". I completely acknowledge that there may have been, technically, better albums this year; but some of those "better" ones I just couldn't get into for some reason *cough*Feist*cough*
So here it is. While the list is not numbered, it is in a vague order of "least-best" to "best", and I've included EPs as well as LPs because why not, that's why.

The King Is Dead by The Decemberists
Back down to basics
Strong songwriting from Meloy
As you would expect

Diaper Island by Chad VanGaalen
Refined and focused
Soaring vocals, instruments
On top of his game

Days Into Years by Elliott BROOD
Suitably toned down
War memorial inspired
Brilliant songwriting

Portage & Main by Portage & Main
A solid debut
Strong folk rock, heartfelt lyrics
Great blend of voices

Eureka by Mother Mother
Infectious and fun
But not without some darkness
Stellar shared vocals

Orchard by Jess Hill
Incredible voice
Beautiful and haunting songs
Mesmerizing folk

Michigan Left by Arkells
A bit more polished
But still more fun rock and roll
A strong follow-up

The Whole Love by Wilco
More adventurous
Bookended with two great songs
Their best in a while

Let's All March Back Into The Sea by The Liptonians
Cacophonous sound
A whole host of instruments
And clever lyrics

Summer of Lust by Library Voices
Energetic songs
Sharp, intelligent lyrics
Pop at its finest

No Bad Days by Wide Mouth Mason
Six years since their last
New bassist Gordie Johnson
Haven't missed a step

We're All Friends & Lovers Until It Falls Apart EP by Redbird
Strong, lovely voice
Coupled with great songwriting
Wonderful debut

Seeds by Hey Rosetta!
Heartbreaking lyrics
Symphonic and grandiose
Complex yet catchy

We're All Dying To Live by Rich Aucoin
Highly ambitious
Perfect, cinematic flow
Brilliantly unique

Apocalyptic Radio Cynic by Sidney York
Insanely catchy
Clever, sexy, sometimes dark
Power-pop with depth

Temporary Resident by Imaginary Cities
Take one stellar voice
One stupendeous musician
For near perfect pop

Kaputt by Destroyer
Rich, dense, and jazz-y
Lyrically ambiguous
Very beautiful

Oh Fortune by Dan Mangan
Darker and more dense
Rich music, poignant lyrics
Exponential growth

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care by Explosions in the Sky
Crashing crescendos
Breathtaking rises and falls
Far beyond "epic"

High School EP by We Are The City
More going on here
Than most have in a full length
Nearly perfection

Degeneration Street by The Dears
All-star Dears line-up
From the brink of destruction
Better than ever

Lights of Endangered Species by Matthew Good
Full of emotion
Amazingly orchestral
A career highlight

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Matthew Good @ Vogue Theatre -- 12/03/11

Full disclosure: Matthew Good is one of my all time favourite musicians. I have been following him for over a decade, since the Band days, and have seen him live at least once a year for the last seven years. That being said, I don't think this post will be bias because of that; rather I think he is my favourite because he puts on shows like this.

Opening the show was Daniel Wesley who I "unfortunately" missed -- I've never really been a fan, and have seen him before live so I wasn't too broken up about arriving after he played.

As it was time for Matthew Good to take the stage, the lights dimmed with only two floor lamps on either side for illumination, and Matt Good in near complete darkness, with Anthony Wright on keys for a stripped down, acoustic version of the normally orchestral "While We Were Hunting White Rabbits". Earlier in the week Good had mentioned on his social medias that he was coming down with bronchitis, but not only would he not be cancelling the remaining shows, he would be going all out, as he usually does on the last shows on the tour. And did he ever. Were it not for a horse speaking voice (and some coughing) I never would have been able to tell, as his voice soared over the beautiful piano for the opening song. If concerts are all about creating "moments", this was definitely the first of several.

The rest of the band came out, launching into "The Boy Who Could Explode", for a set that mainly focused on the new album and Good's solo career. There were the usual older ones, though; "Apparitions" and "Hello, Time Bomb" got huge recognition pops, Good stepped off the mic for the crowd to sing part of "Load Me Up" and the sheer emotion of "Weapon" gave chills. Other "moments" throughout the set included the goosebumps-inducing epic instrumental ending of "Shallow's Low", building in intensity as each band member came in, and "Zero Orchestra" an energy-filled and punchy new song that is one of the best of Good's catalogue.
There wasn't much of the usual banter, likely due to the bronchitis, which is a shame, since despite the heavy material in his songs, Good is always funny and a great story teller on stage. He also melted into the background several times, to let his band -- which included old MGB member Ian Browne on drums -- have the spotlight. Especially guitarist James Reid, who at one point tossed his hat off stage for a killer solo, only for it to be tossed back on stage and land almost perfectly on his head.

The set ended with the title track and final song off of Lights of Endangered Species, but everyone knew it wasn't done, and and during the encore break the crowd spontaneously broke in to the opening chant to "Giant", only for the familiar "K-I-C-K-A-S-S, that's the way we spell success!" and accompanying clapping to blast out of the speakers moments later as the band came back out and launched into the song. After epic "Champions of Nothing" and unreleased b-side "Hornets", the two hour set came to an end perfectly with "Set Me On Fire".

As mentioned above, I have seen Good over a half dozen times, in venues ranging from a couple hundred to a couple thousand people, and while I am not sure if this was my favourite Matthew Good show, it definitely ranks up there, and definitely will make an appearance on any inevitable best-of-2011-concerts list. It was an amazing show, and reminded me why he was one of my favourites.
As if I needed a reminder.

setlist
While We Were Hunting Rabbits; The Boy Who Could Explode; What If I Can't See The Stars, Mildred?; Zero Orchestra; Born Losers; It's Been A While Since I Was Your Man; Shallow's Low; Load Me Up; Hello, Time Bomb; The Future Is X-Rated; Non Populous; Apparitions; Weapon; Lights of Endangered Species.
(encore) Giant; Champions of Nothing; Hornets; How It Goes; Set Me On Fire.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Second Annual Movember Mo-Off @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 11/30/11

As November draws to an end, so too do the lifespan of many men's nose neighbours. Of course I mean the moustaches sported for Movember, to help raise awareness for prostate cancer. And to end off the month with a bang was the second annual Movember Mo-Off, the brainchild of Savannah Leigh Wellman. As well as three pretty kickass bands, there were prizes for best 'stache, a barber station to shave (or just trim) the cookie dusters with before and after photos, a photobooth, moustache shaped cookies and lots of mustachioed men in attendance; to either the chagrin or delight of the ladies.

The first band of the night was Redbird, with a mix of songs off their debut EP, We're All Friends and Lovers Until it Falls Apart, and newer ones. I've mentioned before my soft spot for female singers with a strong voice and a little bit of a roots bent (an affliction I blame on the likes of Neko Case) and Savannah's great pipes and beautiful songwriting definitely fit that mould. The guitar riff on "Therein Lies The Grey" will get stuck in your head for days and "No Game" contains one of my favourite lyrics of the year, "My subtlety sabotages me / so please read between the lines".
Another highlight of the set was a new songs which I didn't catch the name of, but saw the band rocking out a little harder than the rest, with a great solo from guitarist John Sponarski.
Redbird has definitely been one of my favourite new bands this year, and I was glad to be able to see them one more time before years end.

Next up was another favourite new band, and a double shot of Sponarski with Portage & Main. They were fresh off a tour with Treelines, which would explain three quarters of the band joining John, Harold Donnelly and Georges Couling; Matt Kelly on pedal steel, Steve Lockhart (with his usual enthusiasm) on bass and Grant McKinnon keeping things incredibly tight on drums. It probably helped that they had spend the previous two weeks playing together, but as a whole they meshed phenomenally well, and it was probably the best set I've seen from P&M this year (and I've seen them a few times).
Highlights of the set were the fantastic harmonies of the catchy "What Have I Done" and the intense "Tonight pt 2", plus a new song, a complete rager, revelling in dirty southern rock. They rounded out the set with my favourite of theirs, "I'd Never Climbed A Mountain" which builds to a soaring ending, and finished in their usual way, with the great singalong "Carolina".

Finally, wrapping up the night was a band I have seen thrice in the last two weeks, The Matinée. And even thought it was the third time, it still felt fresh, as they did a good job of changing up their sets; most of the songs were the same, but they would throw in different touches, like a bit of "Another Brick In The Wall" slipped into a song and a cover of Ryan Adams' "Let It Ride". They were missing keyboardist Dave Young, but were still firing on all cylinders, with their usual blend of folk, roots and rock and great energy & presence, especially lead singer Matt Layzell (even with his self-described creepy moustache).
They didn't end up starting til around midnight, so the weeknight crowd had thinned out a little, but as soon as they kicked off with "Let Her Go", everyone there was into it, with the usual clapping/stomping break in "Sweet Water" and singing along to "Rocking & Rolling". After the great drum breakdown in "The Road", that has each member bashing on various drums, they ended the night with "Stomp", which starts with Pete Lemon shining on drums and builds to an insane climax, featuring one of many face melting guitar solos from Matt Rose.

Not only was it a night of three killer bands, but they ended up raising over $1,500 for Movember. I'd say it was a huge success.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

2011 Grey Cup Festival @ PlayNow.com Stage -- 11/26/11

I'm no football fan, so for me the best thing about Vancouver hosting the Grey Cup is definitely the free outdoor music. Over the weekend there has been a ridiculous amount of great local bands playing at a free outdoor stage just outside BC Place. Friday saw Rococode, Bend Sinister, Kyprios and The Dudes, among others, but the lineup Saturday night was just stellar. Sponsored by The Peak, it started with TV Heart Attack and The Boom Booms, both of which I missed, and then just ramped up from there.

The first band I caught was The Belle Game, getting there a song or two into their set. As per usual, they had a great stage presence, with members, including sometimes-member Andrew Lee on trumpet, dancing and even braving the rain and coming right out to the front of the stage a few times -- at their own risk of falling. Highlights included "I Wish You Weren't Like A Dead Lover (Sometimes)" and "Shoulders and Turns", which saw tour-mates Hey Ocean! joined them for the cacophonous ending (and also guitarist Alex Andrew's random dance break).

Next up was The Matinée, fresh off their big Peak Performance Project show and BCCMA appearance. Kicking things off with "L'Absinthe", they immediately won over the gathering crowd with their collective charisma, getting everyone to forget about the cold and rain, if only for a moment, while clapping & stomping along to "Sweet Water" and singing to "Rocking and Rolling", one of the highlights of the set.
"The Road" was another highlight, especially with the amazing drum breakdown, and it was fun to see them slip in little bits of covers to their songs, including Neil Young's "Old Man" in "Let Her Go".

The last time I saw The Zolas, a month ago, the band was comprised of Zach Gray backed by The Liptonians, but they were back to the usual lineup with Tom Dobrzanski on keys, Henry Alcock-White on bass and Niko Friesen on drums.
Starting with "You're Too Cool", they were as energetic as ever, with some great banter from Gray; at one point someone threw on Oh Henry bar on stage, so Zach responded by tossing out some chocolate he had in his pocket... and then some carrots that were in the other pocket. The set included a couple new[ish] songs, "Guest" "Cultured Man" of their recent 7" and "Strange Girl", which had short, kinda-rapping verse from Gray, and they brought their portion of the evening to an end with a bang, with "Marlaina Kamikaze".

As the cold picked up and the rain died down a little, Hey Ocean! hit the stage next. Their newest single "Big Blue Wave" started the set, which consisted mostly of their new material from their as-yet-unreleased album -- unless you happened to be at a show on their recent tour, or there last night, where they were more than happy to hand out copies.
Among the new songs, "Make A New Dance Up" was definitely the most catchy, and there were a few older ones as well, including "Fish" with the adorable Ashleigh Ball dancing out at the front of the stage, as well as their great cover of "Be My Baby" -- which had everyone, including the entire Belle Game out huddled around drums at the end. After a couple slower songs, one of which dedicated to the memory of Randy Ponzio, they wrapped up the set with "A Song About California".

And finally, wrapping up the night was Said The Whale just as the rain was letting up -- which had Tyler slightly sad, since they went out and bought 50 ponchos for people and wanted to toss them into the crowd.
They started off with an older, rarely played song "Wanting like Veruca", and had a few other older tunes throughout the set, including "Live Off Lamb" which Tyler said they hadn't played in four years. But as well as the old, there was new, with a few songs from their recent EP and upcoming album; the insanely catchy "Lines" and the intense "Big Sky Montana" being two highlights.
There was also a funny moment during "BC Orienteering" when Ben forget some lines, first asking the audience to help, then trying to catch up until Jacelyn stepped up like a champ to finish the verse; which wasn't the only time the keyboardist stepped up for a larger vocal roll, including one of the newer songs.
There was also lots of singing along throughout the set, especially for the closing pair of songs, "Camilo (The Magician)" and "The City's a Mess"

Any one of these five bands I would see on their own without hesitation, and putting them all together -- for free, at that -- was absolutely worth braving the elements to see.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Maurice with Ciseaux @ Media Club -- 11/25/11

It was an insanely busy night in shows last night, and I ended up at the Media Club for a bit of an island invasion, with a couple bands full of islanders descending upon Vancouver.

First up was Ciseaux, the newly named band of Katie Schaan. I had seen her a couple times this year under her own name and playing solo, but this was the first time with a full band, which included one of Aidan Knight's Friendly Friends, Olivier Clements on trumpet; and it was definitely the best I've seen from her. They opened with "The Ocean" and right off the bat I remembered how floored I was by her incredibly powerful voice, which was the focus of a lot of the songs.
When I saw her the first time, I [half] joked that all her songs seemed to be about boys she had crushes on, but judging by the new songs she was playing -- which made up the bulk of the set -- she's really spread her wings as a songwriter. And the new songs sounded pretty great, with the best being the final song, the dancey and disco'd up "Dance Card" which saw the incredibly bubbly Katie come out from behind the keys and out in front of the stage to dance, drawing the crowd up to the stage to do the same.
I really enjoyed the full band sound, and am definitely looking forward to the new album.

Next up was Stellar Radio Choir, who had a lot more of a rock sound, with a grunge or garage feel to it. That gave it a very 90s vibe, but without feeling rehashed or dated; I felt that they were kind of to the 90s what The Sheepdogs are to the 70s. The trio had a basic guitar/drums/bass setup, with some pretty great harmonies, which saw the drummer singing a lot of the time, and a decent stage presence, though not much banter. They had a pretty cool sound, and while nothing really jumped out at me, I enjoyed their set and wouldn't mind catching them again at some point.

And finally, rounding out the night was Maurice, who was joined by Mike Edel on bass and Vince Vaccaro on drums. Given the calibre of artists on stage, it was no surprised they meshed really well, and JP Maurice had great stage presence, full of raw emotion. Highlights of the well-crafted set were the insanely catchy "Mistake" and "Big Country", which saw the band jump into the crowd to sing; first unamplified, which didn't quite work since it was still a little loud in the venue, but once they grabbed a mic, it sounded great -- especially everyone joining in on the chorus.
After an awesome, intense song that I didn't catch the name of, he ended the set with his brilliant cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" -- which at one point hilariously segued into "Teenage Dream" -- inviting everyone to join him on stage, from members of the two previous bands to random other people.
I really enjoyed the set and am already looking forward to the next time he'll be playing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Imaginary Cities @ Biltmore -- 11/24/11

Come the end of the year, when it is time to make lists and all that, I am certain that one spot on the list will be taken by Temporary Resident, the debut album from Imaginary Cities. I had seen them live earlier this year at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and even thought I saw them four separate times, it was never for long enough, so I was eager for a headlining show of their own; which turned out to be their first headlining show in Vancouver.

They brought Toronto's The Coppertone along with them to open the show, who had a very blues rock feel to them, with Amanda Zelina's strong, smoky voice complimenting the loud, driving guitar very nicely. There was a good energy to the set, with most of the songs having the same electric-roots feel -- though there was a moment mid-set where they took things down for a moment for a slower, ballad-y number.
They had a good presence while playing, but for the most part there wasn't much banter, with the bass player doing most of the talking -- and his killing time while Amanda changed strings only bordering on awkward. Ultimately, I quite liked them, and would definitely be interested in checking them out next time they're through town.

Not long after it was time for Imaginary Cities, as they hit the stage starting with the lead track of Temporary Resident, "Say You". Marti's voice was, as ever, superb and hypnotic with Rusty on top of his game as usual, to say nothing of the rest of the band. Early on in the set they hit one of my favourite songs of the year, "Ride This Out", starting soft and building to a frantic ending, and after a magnificent cover of Cake's "Mexico" they slipped in some new songs. The new stuff was distinctly "Imaginary Cities" but also showed growth, making me very anxious for what's next from the band.
They teased an end of the set with the insanely infectious "Hummingbird", with the packed Biltmore clapping along, and were back out for another pair -- "the only other two songs [they] knew" -- with "Don't Cry" and the most perfect way to end off, the beautiful "That's Where It's At, Sam".
A fantastic set from the band who meshes so well together you would hardly knew they are still in their infancy. Though practically non-stop touring for the last few months definitely helped with that, and as if there was any doubt, this show cemented them as one of my favourite new bands of this year.

setlist
Say You; Marry the Sea; Temporary Resident; Ride This Out; Cherry Blossom Tree; Where'd All the Living Go; Mexico [Cake cover]; [Turning of the Tide?]; [Bells of Cologne?]; [Water Under the Bridge?]; Hummingbird.
(encore) Don't Cry; That's Where It's At, Sam.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Death From Above 1979 @ Commodore -- 11/21/11

Some years back, just when I was getting in to the band, Death From Above 1979 came through town and, for whatever reason, I decided not to go; I figured I would see them next time.
And then they broke up.
I had long come to terms with the fact that I would have to live with this regret when they announced their reunion earlier this year, and had been eagerly anticipating a Vancouver show, but with a little bit of caution. Would they live up to their past selves? Was this something I had built up too much in my head?

Opening the night was Biblical, who were pretty much the epitome of a generic hard rock band. Imagine Eagles of Death Metal with all satire stripped, and less talent, and that's pretty much what it was. They started off with some power chords before the vocals came in, a gruff, clichéd growl, and nothing in their set really sounded all that original, a few times their influences rubbed through a bit too much. While I am not sure I would classify them as "bad", they were definitely generic and forgettable.

And then it was time for Death From Above 1979. As the lights went down, chants of D-F-A immediately started until the duo hit the stage. They opened with an instrumental, showing off Jesse F Keeler's crunching bass and the chaotic drumming of Sebastien Grainger before exploding into "Turn It Out". Pretty much any reservations I had were eradicated right off the bat; and not just by the volume.
Blowing through the set, they managing to up the energy with every song, playing just about everything from their "one and a half albums". They stopped a few times for some banter, with Grainger joking that he recognized every person from years ago (pointing out a few in particular), prompting us to boo their hometown of Toronto and teasing that Hawksley Workman would not be there, so we were stuck with them.
Highlights of the set included "Black History Month", which ended with a swirling storm of reverb and feedback, the insanely chaotic "Pull Out" and above all, "Romantic Rights", which got a huge recognition pop from the crowd and thunderous clapping-along in the middle, the only time Grainger got out from behind the kit to sing at the front of the stage. They "ended" with "Do It!", which build to an insane finish, and were back out for the usual encore, ending the night with just as much intensity as they began.
While I was disappointed they didn't play "Sexy Results" -- possibly my favourite of theirs -- I couldn't help but be blown away by the set. I don't think anyone would argue that their return is anything less than triumphant.

setlist (not 100% positive)
Turn It Out; Dead Womb; Going Steady; Too Much Love; Cold War; Black History Month; Go Home, Get Down; Little Girl; Blood on our Hands; You're A Woman, I'm a Machine; Pull Out; Romantic Rights; Do It! 
(encore) You're Lovely (But You've Got Lots of Problems); Losing Friends

Friday, November 18, 2011

Peak Performance Project Finale @ Commodore -- 11/17/11

It was a night that would change the lives of three bands. It was, of course, the Peak Performance Project finale concert, with over $225,000 in money being awarded; $100,500 for first place, $75,000 for second and $50,000 for third. The three bands vying for the prize were The Matinée, Current Swell and The Boom Booms, picked as the top three from the twenty bands competing in the third year of the promotion. After all bands take part in a week long bootcamp and a series of showcase shows, the winners are chosen not just on musical talent, but a number of other things, including a series of challenges, fan voting, a business plan, and a mysterious "x-factor".

Going into the finale, I fully admit my bias was with The Matinée as my clear favourite, and to be blatantly honest, I wasn't really into either Current Swell or The Boom Booms all that much. But that being said, they are all hard working bands who I am sure will put the money to great use.

But on to the show itself. Kicking off the night was The Matinée, slowly taking the stage to "Also sprach Zarathustra" (the opening song from 2001: A Space Odyssey) building with a bit of instrumental before lead singer Matt Layzell took the stage, just oozing charisma as he grabbed the old fashioned microphone and got down to it. They got the crowd into it early, getting people to sing along with "Sweet Water", and several times throughout the set getting the crowd to clap along, leading to thunderous clapping/stomping and making the Commodore's floor bounce. The incredible presence had the audience eating out of their hand the entire night, and not to mention their insane talent -- especially Matt Rose who gave several guitar clinics throughout.
A couple highlights of the set were "The Sinking of the Greenhill Park", their Vancouver 125 song -- a challenge to all bands to write a song about Vancouver -- where they were joined by a small string section to back them up, including Michelle Faehrmann and Hannah Epperson and "The Road", which featured THE drum breakdown, with guitarist Geoff Petrie jumping behind a second kit, and the rest of the members on floor toms just pounding away.
They brought the set to an end with the explosive song that culminated in Rose, again, smashing a guitar on stage. If they weren't already a favourite, this set would have definitely cemented that as, even with bias aside, I thought they were the strongest of the night.

Next up was Victoria's Current Swell, who were my practical prediction to win it. I have never really been a fan of the whole "island rock" sound that they have, but I will admit they know how to put on a show and their live set is a bit more energetic and harder rocking than expected. Their set consisted of a number of new songs, from their recently released Long Time Ago as well as some older material, including what was definitely the highlight of the set, "Cursed", my favourite songs of theirs which features a incendiary guitar riff. There wasn't much chatter from the band, but they, too, have a good stage presence and the crowd was really digging them.
They wrapped up with only a couple of the members out for a more acoustic number, giving the set a bit of a softer ending. Much like I thought at their showcase, I like them live a lot better than any of the recorded material I have heard, and even though I am not a fan, I certainly thought they put on a damn fine set.

And finally, rounding out the night was The Boom Booms. The bands reggae groove is, again, really not my thing but while they are not the best technical musicians, I can not deny that they are incredibly tight and absolutely know how to work a crowd. Getting a huge section of the floor dancing and singing along, moving, grooving and even almost all of the dance floor to taking a knee at one point, they had an incredibly high energy. That said, I thought a fair amount of their songs had a similar vibe to them and kind of blended together -- and there seemed to be one member whose sole job was shakers and backup vocals. 
The set also included a cover of Nelly's "Must Be The Money" and featured Simon Kendall from Doug & The Slugs out for a few songs. 
Again, it may be just a personal preference, as they clearly have a legion of fans, but despite their fun, high energy set, I wasn't really turned around on my opinion of them. They are good at what they do, but what they do isn't for me.

After the three bands played, it was time for the big announcement and handing out the oversized novelty cheques. As I am sure you know by now, Current Swell took top dollar, with The Boom Booms coming in second and The Matinée rounding out the top three. While it certainly wasn't the outcome I wanted, it was actually exactly as I predicted -- which makes it the first year of The Peak PP that I've not only successfully predicted the top three, but placement as well.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for two of the bands playing, I still thought it was an incredible night, with the crowd buzzing for the entire show, and all three bands putting on phenomenally energetic sets. And while I think that overall, the contest was not as strong as it was last year (which is more a testament to the insane amount of talent involved last year than anything) it was still a great ride; I definitely was made a fan of several of the bands taking part and I am already looking forward to next year.

Major kudos is deserved to both The Peak and Music BC and all the people involved in this incredible yearly contest, especially for their support and nurturing of local music. I hope the bands involved go on to keep doing what they're doing, and I hope The Peak continues to support them, even (or especially) the ones that didn't make the top five.

Monday, November 14, 2011

2011 CBC Radio 3 Bucky Awards

Today CBC Radio 3 announced the Bucky Awards Long List, honouring the very best in Canadian music for the past year. Each category in the long list has seven nominees and by the end of the week, fan voting will whittle each category down to five to form the shortlist. Voting will be open until November 27th at midnight (PST) and the winners will be announced by Grant Lawrence at the big Bucky Awards extravaganza, on Wednesday Dec 7th at 11am (also PST).

The nominees (with my pick[s] **'d) are these:

UPDATE: They cut down the categories to a short list of five:

DOUBLE UPDATE: Winners in bold! Awards for some, miniature congratulations for others!

Best Song
**Dan Mangan - Rows of Houses
**Mother Mother - The Stand
**Hey Rosetta! - Yer Spring
Austra - Lose It
The Rural Alberta Advantage - Stamp
Young Galaxy - We Have Everything
D-Sisive - No More Words

Most Canadian Song
**Elliott Brood - Northern Air
**Library Voices - The Prime Minister's Daughter
Joel Plaskett - On The Rail
Ohbijou - Niagara
Harlan Pepper - Great Lakes
Will Currie and The Country French - Tommy Douglas
The Warped 45s - Grampa Carl

Best Vocals
Austra - Lose It
**Imaginary Cities - Ride This Out
**Elliott BROOD - If I Get Old
Kathleen Edwards - Change the Sheets
Jenn Grant - Getcha Good
K-OS - Holy Cow

Best Live Act
**Arkells
**Rich Aucoin
**Library Voices
The Sheepdogs
Best Reason To Learn French
Oh No! Yoko
**Rococode
HONHEEHONHEE
Purity Ring
Grimes
Odonis Odonis
Teen Daze

Best Lyric
“Soon you're 33 / And everything you tried to be / Is pulled apart by fear and greed.”
**Hey Rosetta! from Welcome
No I’m not here waiting on anyone… especially not Jessica.”
**We Are The City from Happy New Year
“It’s like paradise spread out with a butter knife.”
**Mother Mother from The Stand
“If you only got one leg then shake it / If you don’t wanna smile then fake it / If you got a potato, bake it.”
SOCALLED from Work With What You Got
“Barbra Streisand.”
Duck Sauce from Barbra Streisand
“Tchaikovsky and Mozart, Debussy and Brahms / If born at the right time would've driven TransAms.”
Snailhouse from Airwaves
“Speaking of Adidas, maybe one day you’ll carry my fetus / If he has your genes he'd be a genius / Even as son or a daughter hotter than Phoenix.”
Cadence Weapon from Baby I'm Yours (feat.Shad)

Sexiest Artist

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Arkells w/ Rich Aucoin @ Commodore -- 11/11/11

When I first saw Arkells a couple years ago I was immediately won over by them, and they've since grown to one of my favourite live bands. So no way was I going to miss when they came through the town to the Commodore. There is also a [vaguely] interesting lineage (for lack of a better term) for the band; I saw them opening for Matt Mays & El Torpedo, who I first saw opening for The Trews, who I first saw opening for Big Sugar. Since then I had seen Arkells headlining a few times since, and none of the openers really blew me away, so I thought the streak was over. Turns out I was wrong.

While I had heard of Rich Aucoin, and probably heard a couple songs on Radio 3, I wasn't terribly familiar with his music and really had no idea what to expect. He first came out first to introduce himself, and say that his songs would be synced up to movies projected on the screens, but first he had the "opening credits", which consisted of flashes of names with funny facts, like "[Person's] phone never runs out because it runs on the power of Greyskull" with, judging by the pockets of cheers, names of people at the show; it even including Dan Mangan and Steph Macpherson, who were both also there.
As for the set itself, it started with a burst of confetti and the opening song "set" to clips from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and right off the bat it broke into a dance party with the Commodore floor bouncing. Aucoin had an unparalleled energy and enthusiasm, leading many singalongs throughout the set -- which were helped by the words being on the screen -- and jumping off the stage and through the crowd a few times, once even disappeared side stage only to reappear out the side door and run around the room, jumping on tables, going all the way to the back and working his way through the crowd to return to the stage. The set culminated with Aucoin bringing out an actual giant parachute (like from elementary school) for the crowd to dance with/under. And not only was it an incredible spectacle of a show, but the music more than lived up to it and matched the energy; insanely catchy and danceable pop, with a synthy edge.
At the end thanked everyone, and said if they wanted any of his music to just text him, leaving his number up on the screen with a note saying he would send anyone a zip file of his music (I did, receiving his EP, Public Publication).

It would be tough for a band to follow that, but if anyone could, it would be the Arkells. They came out swinging with the title track of the new album, Michigan Left, and right away I was reminded of why they are such an incredible live band. They have a raw energy and passion that in unmatched and an incredibly presence, having the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand the whole set. They keyboardist was especially good and jumping up and pumping up the crowd, and singer/guitarist Max Kerman just oozed charisma.
They focused mainly on the new album, with a few from Jackson Square, and highlights being the punchy "Where U Goin'", the raucous "Deadlines" and what has quickly become on of my favourite Arkells songs, "On Paper". Before they launched into "Agent Zero", they asked Rich Aucoin & his band to come out and help them, as well as the aforementioned Dan Mangan, to the surprise of the crowd, with Dan & Max sharing vocals by the end of the song.
The main set wrapped up with "Oh, The Boss Is Coming!", everyone shouting the eponymous line at the start, and singing along. But of course, there was the encore, with "Book Club" and an incredible cover of Hall & Oats' "You Make My Dreams" -- again joined by Aucoin & Mangan -- before ending with yet another sing-along, and my favourite of their songs, "John Lennon", somehow managing to top the energy of the night.

setlist
Michigan Left; Ballad of Hugo Chavez; Where U Goin; Pullin Punches; Bloodlines; One Foot Out The Door; Heart of the City; Whistleblower; On Paper; Deadlines; Kiss Cam; Agent Zero; Oh, The Boss Is Coming!
(encore) Book Club; You Make My Dreams (Hall & Oats cover); John Lennon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yukon Blonde @ Biltmore -- 11/10/11

I am not sure why, but while I have always liked Yukon Blonde's records, I find they pale in comparison to their live shows. I've had the chance to see them a few times this year, and they are definitely among my favourite live acts, so I definitely wasn't going to miss them at the Biltmore, especially since they also brought a couple cool opening bands along with them.

Thanks to some internet lies, I showed up a couple sings into Kingdom Cloud's set. I was surprised to see they didn't have their keyboard with them, but that didn't stop them from winning the crowd over with their incredibly infectious pop. I've seen them a few times this year and am always struck by their awesome energy, especially singer/guitarist Evan Jeffery, who hardly stands still for a minute. As well as their own stuff, they also threw in a cover of Guided By Voices' "Game of Pricks", and highlights included the awesomely titled "Turbo Ranger" and "Rainbow Road", which closed out the set.

Second up was The Paint Movement from Toronto. They had a they had a really upbeat and fun sound, rounded out by keys and a sax player, with catchy boy/girl vocals and harmonies. While they lacked diversity in their songs a little, but had a really good energy and stage presence, engaging the crowd. It was a really fun set, and I would absolutely catch them next time they were through town.

And finally, Yukon Blonde rounded out the night. Starting the set with "Babies Don't Like Blue Anymore", they immediately burst forth with their incredible energy live, great harmonies, and flat out rockin' songs. Several times throughout the set, they had the crowd singing and clapping along, and there were even a few crowd surfers -- including guitarist Brandon Scott. They also seemed to have a bit more banter and joking that the last few times.
Among the highlights were members of both bands coming on stage to help out on vocals for "Kumiko Song", and some of their new songs, including "Radio" which I have seen live a few times and is quite possibly my favourite song from them, even though it hasn't even been released yet. They also tossed in a cover, starting the encore with a cool rendition of Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule the World", and after another great singalong to "Wind Blows", they brought the set to an end with an older song, "Nico Canmore", wrapping up what was the best set I've seen from them.

setlist (taken from the on-stage setlist, so some new songs may be shorthand)
Babies Don't Like Blue Anymore, Radio, Brides Song, Stairway, Rather Be With You, Loyal Man, Water, Iron Fist, Fire, Kumiko Song, My Girl, Breathing.
(encore) Everybody Wants To Rule The World [Tears for Fears cover], Wind Blows, Nico Canmore.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Elliott BROOD @ Commodore -- 11/09/11

Last night proved that something is going very right with live music in Vancouver. Not only did Elliott BROOD sell out the Commodore on a Wednesday night, but they did it the same night that Dan Mangan was right next door, at a sold out Orpheum.
It was a tough decision between the two, but I had seen Dan four times this year, and the BROOD only once, at the Folk Fest. Plus, I have an unofficial rule of "see that band that travelled furthest to be here" and I was also interested in checking out the opening band; those factors all made the decision a little bit easier.

That opening band was One Hundred Dollars, and from their first song, "Black Gold", I was immediately in awe of Simone Schmidt's voice; incredibly strong and perfectly suited their alt-country sound, a little reminiscent of Neko Case or Carolyn Mark. I've always been a sucker for strong female vocals with a bit of a country bent, and they were no exception.
A couple of the highlights were "Everybody Wins" (which was less upbeat than the title suggested, with the next line being "except for the losers") and another song I didn't catch the name of, but including one just Simone's voice with little to no accompaniment, aside from the stomping of the crowd. Even though they had a country twang, they still rocked out from time to time, with a couple great guitar solos, and songs that got everyone moving. They were an excellent choice for opening band, I will definitely have to catch them again next time they are through town.

And then it was time for Elliott BROOD who, right off the bat, were visibly humbled by the turnout and the support of their fans. They thanked us for coming a few times, as well as being in awe of the venue. And also right off the bat they began the process of tearing the roof off, with the intense, barn burning instrumental "Chuckwagon" early on in the set. Other highlights of the set included  a couple form their new album, Days Into Years, the softer and kind of melancholy "If I Get Old" and the more rockin' "Will They Bury Us?".
All three members, Mark, Casey and Stephen, were all on the top of their game, both musically and in their stage presence, joking with the crowd a little and a few times making a near-thousand person venue seem much more intimate.
After a sing-along to "Northern Air", Casey said that everything else was just the appetizer, and now it was time for the meat; the Alberta beef, getting a huge cheer going into "Oh Alberta" with the sold out room singing and clapping along. They kept the energy going with "The Valley Town" and my favourite, "Write It All Down For You"; and even though they didn't hand out the tin pans and wooden spoons for it, the crowd was still stomping, clapping and HEYHEYHEY-ing along, proving that they didn't need props for everyone to be into it.
They brought the main set to an end with "Fingers & Tongues" before coming back out with a cover of a Dylan (by way of The Band) song, "When I Paint My Masterpiece" and wrapped it up with the most perfect ending song, "Miss You Now", again getting the entire crowd -- except the folks in the balcony, despite Mark's scolding -- to jump along (it was their "goal" to break through the floor).

They definitely lived up to their reputation as a stellar live band, with he band's fantastic energy, and made for one memorable night.

Monday, November 7, 2011

An Evening with Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer @ Vogue -- 11/06/11

I had no idea what to expect going into this, but I knew I couldn't miss it. Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers, and while I was only just getting into the music of Amanda Palmer, I knew it was going to be an interesting night.

The show began with Gaiman & Palmer unofficially coming out, just to say the show was being recorded for posterity and we should behave accordingly, before introducing the opening act, Australia's The Jane Austen Argument. They did a short opening set of only three songs, with Jen Kingwell on piano and Tom Dickins on vocals. The first was called "Under The Rainbow", inspired by The Wizard of Oz, and they ended with Dickins taking a ukulele and Kingwell joining on vocals for a song written by Gaiman. They had a pretty lovely folky-cabaret sound, and I wouldn't have minded to hear more of them.

Then with nary a break, Gaiman and Palmer were back out to kick off their two hour plus show with a duet of "Makin' Woopie", which was the first of many times that the couple would prove their love of each other (but not in a nauseating way) throughout the night. From there, it mostly alternated between Gaiman reading poems and short stories, and Palmer's songs, but there were also a few more duets, including a fantastic torch song sung by Gaiman called "I Google You", and Palmer reading a poem while accompanied by Gaiman using Bloom on his iPad.

Among my favourite Gaiman moments were the fairy tale inspired "Instructions", a pretty funny story structured as the answers of an interview, "Orange" and the increasingly creepy "Feminine Endings". And even though it was closer to spoken word, he was a surprisingly good singer for his parts of the night.
On Palmer's side, she went back and forth between the piano and ukulele throughout the night, with some highlights being an almost anti-love song, "I Want You, But I Don't Need You", a kind of tongue-in-cheek look at the music industry with "Gaga, Palmer, Madonna" and a beautiful cover of "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" on ukulele, dedicated the young girl who died at the Occupy Vancouver site the previous day (Palmer did a "ninja gig" there earlier in the day, which is something they've been doing at each city they visit).

In the middle of the set there was also a brief Q&A, and lots of interaction with the audience throughout. The couple were incredibly relaxed and made the whole night very casual and informal, like you were in the living room of some friends hosting a gathering (of you and a few hundred others).

Near the end, Palmer said she was covering a different Velvet Underground or Lou Reed song leading up to Gaiman's birthday, taking on "I'll Be Your Mirror". After another duet, a cover of Leon Payne's "Psycho", which was borderline funny/sad, the night ended with Amanda Palmer and quite possibly my new favourite song, "Ukulele Anthem" -- which is exactly what it says on the tin, a song about how amazing the ukulele is.

In all, it was an engaging, interesting, entertaining, hilarious and beautiful night of art.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Adaline CD Release @ Biltmore -- 11/05/11


After spending several months in Toronto working on her new album (with a guy you may know... Hawksley Workman?) Adaline returns to Vancouver to celebrate the recent release of said CD, joined by a couple more pretty cool acts.

First up was Rococode who, as I am sure I have said before, has been one of my favourite new bands this year. I've seen them a few times recently, and they were just as good this time, despite Laura's fresh hand injury, having received stitches the day before. As usual, the set was incredibly tight with superb harmonies (including some surprisingly high notes from bassist Shaun Huberts) with highlights being "Empire", which always gets stuck in my head, and the raucous "Blood", which is a great way to end the set.

setlist
Wild in Waiting, Dreams, Weapon, EJ(ay), Empire, Blood.

In Medias Res was up next and for full disclosure, I went to high school with some of the members, and so saw some of their very early show... and they were pretty much the usual high school band; and since I have not seen them since then, that's kind of how I still remembered them. (Which is my own fault, not theirs.)
Hitting the stage one at a time, with Rob Tornroos from Elias on drums, and lead singer Andrew Lee (not that Andrew Lee) on pedal steel they started with a slow building song. Their sound was a dark, post rock/math rock that was definitely was not bad, but just not necessarily my thing. They are definitely good at what they do, and I liked the slower, more melodic songs, but many songs broke down into a bit of chaos, and those I didn't care for as much.
There wasn't much banter, Lee mumbled into the mic a few times, thanking us and saying since the show had a curfew, they'd just keep playing. But they had a good energy, especially on the more chaotic songs, with Andrew at one point falling over without missing a beat, and a couple times equipment almost toppling.

And finally, Adaline hit the stage, with a backing band that including her her brother on keys and Robbie Driscoll on guitar. She started with "Silent Player" and "Stereo",  the first two songs from her new album Modern Romantic. Both -- especially "Stereo", one of my early favourites off the album -- were extremely energetic with her incredibly strong voice driving the sexy electro-pop sound. She also had a great presence, confidently going right up to the front of the stage a few times, when not on keys or synth.
She focused on material from the new album, playing nearly the whole thing throughout the set, with highlights being the driving and quite catchy "That's What You Do Best" as well as the first song of the encore, the soft and beautiful "Cost Is Too High"; after which she was surprised with flowers from her mother, sharing with the audience for the last song, "Sparks".
Even with a minor technical problem with the microphone (that was soon fixed) it was a fantastic set, and I can only hope Adaline returns to call Vancouver home soon enough.

setlist
Silent Player, Stereo, Keep Me High, Rebels of Love, That's What You Do Best, Say Goodbye, Wasted Time, Lovers Collide, The Noise.
(encore) Cost Is Too High, Sparks.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Little Red @ Media Club -- 11/02/11

photographs courtesy of the awesome Leigh Eldridge.
As far as I know, this was the first visit to here for Australia's Little Red, and while I may not have been a huge fan before the show, I had heard enough of them that I was intrigued to catch their show. And when I found out Sex With Strangers, whose Peak Performance Project showcase I had missed, would be opening, I was doubly intrigued.
I wasn't the only one, either, as the Media Club was packed -- unusual for a Wednesday night -- with what seemed to be a lot of Aussies in the crowd.

Vancouver's Sex With Strangers was up first and what struck me immediately was the immense charisma of frontman Hatch Benedict. He had an incredible energy, all over the place -- even off the stage a few times, where he sang in that awkward pocket between the front of the stage and the audience, going up to people, singing to them and imploring them to dance (with varying degrees of success). Musically, they sounded like synth-robots producing dancey rock songs; which seems apt, as a running theme of the set was the introduction of each song to be about robots. And while they certainly put on a fun set, I found them to be a bit... unfocused; a few songs seemed to lack direction at times. But it was enjoyable, regardless, that ended with what is hands down their best song, "New City Anthem". If all their songs were as good as that one, they would definitely be on to something.

Soon after, the five members of Little Red took the stage, mentioning they drove straight from Chicago to Vancouver, and were glad to be on stage playing music for us after 37 hours in a van. They kicked off with "Get A Life" and "Slow Motion" from their new album, Midnight Remember, focusing mostly on that. Their incredibly infectious pop rock got everyone into it and dancing, and the band was amazingly tight and with great chemistry. The harmonies were pitch perfect, and a few times they lead vocals switched from Dominic Byrne to other membesr; one of my favourites of the set, "Place Called Love", saw keyboardist Tom Hartney taking over vox and the song swelled to a raucous ending.
The whole set built with energy til the end, capping off the main set with a great new song and the energetic "Rock It". They were back for the usual encore, a bit of a slower song, before being coaxed back for a second encore, including insanely catchy and dance-able "Coca Cola".
It was a really good set, that definitely blew away my expectations. I know the commute from Melbourne to Vancouver might be a bit tricky, but hopefully they're back soon enough.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shows of November

Beginning of the month means a quick look at some of the shows I am excited to see. I say "quick", but it's pretty stacked, so let's get to it. Here are the four I am looking forward to the most, and then a lot more below.

Imaginary Cities at the Biltmore on November 24th. 
I think I am most looking forward to. I saw them a couple times at the Folk Fest (see left, not my video), but one short set and a few workshops had me hungry for more. I am definitely looking forward to them headlining the Biltmore.

An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at the Vogue on November 6th.
I have only recently gotten into Amanda Palmer's music, but Gaiman is one of my absolute favourite writers, so whatever they are going for their evening together should be amazing.

Feist at the Centre for Performing Arts on November 18th
It's been way too long since seeing Feist, and while I feel like I should be more excited about this, Feist has never failed to be anything less than stellarlive, so this is bound to be good.

Death From Above 1979 at the Commodore on November 20th and 21st
I never did get to see DFA1979 while they still existed, and I was very, very sad about that. This is a pricey one, but will it be worth it? Spoiler: probably yes.


As early as tonight, there is Little Red with Sex With Strangers at the Media Club on November 2nd,
and there is a great lineup this weekend for Adaline CD release party, as she's joined by In Medias Res & Rococode at the Biltmore on November 5th.

Then the insanity begins next week with a huge decision, Dan Mangan at the Orpheum or Elliott BROOD at the Commodore, both on November 9th. Following that, Yukon Blonde at the Biltmore on November 10th, Arkells are at the Commodore on November 11th and then Hey Rosetta! at the Commodore on November 12th. That is going to be some week.

We can't forget about the Peak Performance Project finale, featuring The Matinée, Current Swell & The Boom Booms at the Commodore on November 17th. I am definitely pulling for The Matinée, and while I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of the other two bands, it's sure to be one hell of a fun show.

The following weekend is pretty busy, too, with Maurice and Ciseaux at the Media Club on November 25th and all the Grey Cup festivities. I am most looking forward to November 26th which will feature The Belle Game, The Matinée, The Zolas, Hey Ocean! and Said the Whale. All in one night!

And wrapping up the month is an important show, the Movember Mo-Off. Featuring Redbird, Portage & Main and The Matinée (these guys again?) it's the end to the month long raising awareness and money to fight prostate cancer, by sporting 'staches. Which I am partaking in this year, and you can help by donating here.

Whew. All that, and I am positive I am missing some. This is going to be a busy month.