Sunday, November 27, 2011

2011 Grey Cup Festival @ 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.

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
**Rich Aucoin
**Library Voices
The Sheepdogs
Best Reason To Learn French
Oh No! Yoko
Purity Ring
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.

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.

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.

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.