My first time ever at North By North East started off last night, and it began with the ending of Tracks on Tracks. For those who haven't been following along, Tracks on Tracks is a project put together by Vancouver's Green Couch, with some help from CBC Radio 3 and VIA Rail. The event took ten bands from Vancouver to Toronto by train, with bands playing every night, some acoustic sets throughout the day, and even a few shows at stops along the way.
All the bands that were on the train -- save the duo of Zach Gray and Adrian Glynn, who were last minute additions, played about a half hour each for a long, but amazing, night of spotlighting BC's finest music.
Chris Ho started off the night, and was a good choice to open, easing the gathering crowd into the night with his upbeat, folk rock. His catchy songs had people stomping and clapping along, and while I wasn't as wowed by his stuff as some other bands on the train, I think he definitely has a great potential as he grows as an artist. (But that isn't to diminish Chris in any way, but rather a note on the sheer talent the Tracks on Tracks train held)
I hadn't heard much of Shred Kelly before the train trip, and they definitely won me over on the train with their self-described "Stoke Folk". And which I got a sense of it from their shows on the train, I didn't get the full scope of how amazing Sage McBride's voice is until seeing them in a proper venue. They've got a great energy, especially Tim Newton, whose fingers are a blur when playing the banjo, and had everyone singing along to the all-too-relatable "I Hate Work" and ended off with "Tornado Alley", which sweeps up into an intense ending.
Portage & Main kept the folk/roots rock going, backed by The Matinee's Peter Lemon and Mike Young on drums & bass. John Sponarski and Harold Donnelly, both on guitar and vocals, mesh together so well, and even though they've only been a band for a year, the fact that they've played together on and off for years is a definite credit. Their train themed, absolute rocking "Sweet Darling" filled the room with energy and they ended, as they usually do, with the giant sing along "Oh Carolina" -- even pulling Grant Lawrence on stage with them to belt out the chorus.
And it would only make sense for the folk rocking The Matinee to be up next. The first time I saw them, I was impressed and an instant fan, and they have somehow managed to get even better; with an unparalleled energy and amazing charisma from the whole band, especially frontman Matt Layzell, and the brilliant guitar work from Matt Rose, I think this show may have been the best I've seen them play. They were on top of their game with new song "Young and Lazy" - and if this song doesn't become a huge hit for them, something is wrong in the world -- and ended off with "The Road", that at one point had each member surrounding Peter Lemon on the drum kit for a great drum breakdown.
That could have already been a stellar show, but we were not even half way done, with Maurice up next. He brought the mood down a little, but not in a bad way, with his alt-pop singer/songwriter vibe. In the spirit of Tracks on Tracks collaboration, Maurice had Marcus from the Belle Game on bass and TLGLTP's drummer filling out his lineup. The set was full of JP Maurice's heartfelt songs, as he oozed raw emotion, with songs like "All I Ever Wanted" and the undeniably catchy "Mistake".
Next we transitioned to the "dancey" part of the night, with the electro-pop of Adaline. The driving beat of "Wasted Time" got everyone moving, as did her amazing and seductive voice. Her set seemed a little short, as she got the five minute warning only three songs in, but managed to fit in a couple more; "Stereo" and ended off with "Rebels of Love"
Then was time for the grand sounds of The Belle Game. Their set also felt a bit short, but they still filled the room with their orchestral pop. The set featured mostly new songs from the band, which sounded amazing, and they also brought up Zach from The Zolas to help out on vocals for a song. They ended with the majestic "Sleep to Grow" building to a huge, climactic ending.
Sidney York almost wasn't going to be able to play the showcase, due to another show that night, but they were able to come back for a quick set. They always put on a fun show, and even with only three songs they packed them with enough energy for a full set. Getting people to sing along to "Roll With Me" and the insanely catchy "Mile High Love" ended off the set.
And it should be noted that Mike Young from The Matinee was filling in for their sick bass player, so in one night he ended up playing fours sets with three bands in two venues.
And then, it was a Topless Gay Love Tekno Party. Dressed up in giant silver shoulderpads and covered head to toe in glitter, the band made their way through the crowd, glittering people as they went by, throwing handfuls in the air. They took the stage and launched into their brand of insanely fun, self-deprecating tongue in cheek dance pop. With songs that had ridiculously catchy and easily sing-along-able songs, the entire crowd was singing along -- even those hiding from the glitter in the back. They had balloons and glitter flying through the air the entire set, as well as a large inflatable... phallus... that was kept up through half the set, and they ended off with the self titled "Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party", again getting the whole crowd to sing along.
And yet again, that would be a great ending, but there was still one more band to go, side project from TLGLTP's bass player Ian Bevis, Bear Mountain. The trio was joined by Luke Cyca on drums, and keep the dance party going with some synth looping and catchy beats. At this point half the crowd was filtering out, as it was around 2am, and half the crowd still dancing, as well as some heartfelt goodbyes from all the people on the train saying goodbye. Since Friday night, it felt like the party would never end, but this was the last hurrah.
And what a hurrah it was.