Tuesday, November 18, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Nine: Space!

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general as most perfect songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs To Play While Punching and Kicking The Air To Get Your Frustrations On Life Out.

And this week is going to be a little topical. Inspired by something that happened last week, it's the Top Six Interstellar Songs!

Space out to:

"The Universe Expanded by Franz Ferdinand
"What If I Can't See The Stars Mildred? by Matthew Good
"Go Go Space Man by Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party
"Cosmic Destroyer by Chad VanGaalen
"Cold Moon by The Zolas
"Space Oddity by David Bowie

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Paper Lions @ Media Club -- 11/14/14

Flashback to two years ago -- almost to the day. I was at the Media Club to see PEI's Paper Lions as they came through town, and I remember looking around at the modest crowd and being so angry. This is a band that way more people need to see live! I thought. Cut to this past weekend, as they rolled through town again, still touring strong on their 2013 album My Friends, this time to a packed and sold out club.

Opening the night was Djavin Bowen and the Uproar. Maybe. Despite the promo material saying Lonesome North, lead singer Djavin Bowen introduced themselves as such, and even hinted it was a temporary name. Whatever they are called, the seven-piece included members of Young Pacific and other local bands, and even a trumpeteer -- whose tuxedo was in contrast to the rest of the bands' t-shirts and denim -- to fill out their sound.
With a high energy, their songs were filled with an indie pop vibe, occasionally sauntered into folk territory, and had some catchy songs; a few that were definitely made to sing along to, and an ambitious cover of Arcade Fire's "Sprawl II" that broke down into some folksy harmonies at the end.
The set was a little rough, perhaps because they are a fairly new band, but is was not bad. Not great either, but someone to keep an ear out for in the future (if you can figure out what they're called).

Not long after it was time for Paper Lions, starting with lead singer John MacPhee taking the stage alone, with a drum machine pumping out the beats to "Bodies In Winter" as the rest of the band burst in mid-song. From there they hit the gas on their incredibly infectious indie rock, spanning from old favourites like "Sweat It Out", that had the crowd appropriately yelling along with the chorus, "I'll sweat it out from nine to five, to sweat it out on Friday night", to a rockin' song from their newest EP, Acquaintances, called "Do You Wanna".
Songs ranged from the softer, harmony-laden "Ghostwriters" to the all-out-rocket "Strawberry Man", which goes all the way back to their time as the Chucky Danger Band. The latter they may have even broke some strings -- or worse -- as the band had to quickly duck off stage to fix it while John told the story about the video for their next song, "Travellin'".
After one of my favourites, the ferociously catchy "Lost The War", they wrapped up the main set with "My Friend", John jumping into the crowd at the end to proclaim each person in the crowd his friend, doling out hugs and high fives while singing.
But of course, they were not quite done as the encore began with drummer David Cyrus MacDonald exploding into a drum roll that would make "Wipeout" blush, as the band joined him for the fierce "So Lonely", and wrapped up the night with one of my favourites from the new album, "Sandcastles", leaving the crowd with the sentiment "We build sandcastles, knowing that they'd wash away"

Paper Lions are such a strong live band, the four members having incredible chemistry together on stage, with near-perfect harmonies, and put on one hell of a fun show. I'm already looking forward to the next time they're through town.

Bodies In Winter, Stay Here For Awhile, Sweat It Out, Philadelphia, Don't Touch That Dial, Ghostwriters, Do You Wanna, Little Liar, Strawberry Man, Travellin', Lost the War, My Friend.
(encore) So Lonely, Sandcastles. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer @ Commodore -- 10/09/14

Two years ago was the first time I saw The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer, as part of the Peak Performance Project, And since then, I have had the worst luck seeing them again; every single time they played, I was cursed to miss it for one reason or another.
But finally, I broke that "streak" earlier this year at the Burnaby Blues & Roots Fest when they played a short set, and now I finally got to see them headlining a show of their own. And not just any show, their first headlining show at the legendary Commodore Ballroom, in front of a sold out crowd.

Unfortunately, I missed the openers Petunia & The Vipers, arriving at the venue a couple minutes before The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer hit the stage, adorned with over a dozen bare lightbulbs. The duo of Shawn "The Harpoonist" Hall on harmonica & vocals, and Matt "The Axe Murderer" Rogers on guitar and kickdrum were joined by a pair of lovely & powerful backup vocalists, Dawn Pemberton and Jody "Miss Quincy" Peck, and later on "Major" Tom Heuckendorff on organ to fill out the sound.

Starting off by teasing a verse of their song "Roll With the Punches" -- which was reprised a few times throughout the set, but for some reason never paid off with the full song -- they launched into an hour-plus set that focused on songs from their new album A Real Fine Mess. Their gritty, swampy blues sound drives straight into your soul, with songs like "Mama's In The Back Seat" with its frantic rhythm; the rollicking "Act Your Age", letting both Pemberton and Peck shine on backup vocals; and the Big Sugar-ish funk of the almost-title-track "A Real Fine Noise".

Part way through the set, the pair let the rest of the band take a break -- as Shawn joked they wanted to hog the spotlight -- for a pair of songs that included a bit of a slower song, "In The End", and one written by Matt's brother, Ben Rogers, "Love Me 'fore Ya Leave Me".
After a few more, they wrapped up the set by somehow taking things up another notch, with a one-two punch of "Wake Up" and the explosive "Get Out", both from their previous act "Checkered Past". And of course, they were back out for a couple more, enlisting in the aid of Miss Quincy & The Showdown drummer Jen Foster, for the aptly titled "Shake It", and wrapped everything up with "In And Out Of Love".

You wouldn't think that a show where the two main band members sit on stools all night would be dynamic, but in this case, you would be wrong. Even though both stayed seated for the set, they drew the crowd in with plenty of opportunities to clap, stomp, & sing along, and had energy to spare. Proof could easily be found on Shawn's shirt, which was soaked with sweat by the end (probably Matt's too, but his was darker to begin with). The duo was also vocally and visibly honoured to wrap up their tour with a packed hometown show, at the Commodore.

When they first announced they would be playing there, I was a little surprised, as I didn't realise that they had become a "Commodore band". But what didn't surprise me was watching them tear it up. They put on a great show, and I only hope this means my luck has turned, and I am able to catch them again next time.

Roll With the Punches (pt I), Cry a Little, Do Whatcha, Act Your Age, Don't Make 'em Like They Used To, A Real Fine Noise, Roll With the Punches (pt II), Mama's In the Backseat, Tea for Two, In the End, Love Me 'fore Ya Leave Me, Feel Me Now, Are You Listening Lord, Sweat This Pain, Roll With the Punches (pt III), Wake Up, Get Out.
(encore) Shake It, In and Out of Love.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Eight: Rainy Nights

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like like best winter songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Arbour Day Songs.

And now that we're in the rainy season -- in Vancouver, anyway -- why not take a look at the Top Six Rainy Night Songs!

Hear the drops of:

"Crushed Pleats" by Dralms
"If Only" by T. Nile
"Banks" by Rococode
"Make You Better" by The Decemberists
"Loud Talker" by David Vertesi
"Movin' Away" by My Morning Jacket

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Monday, November 3, 2014

The Strumbellas @ Imperial -- 10/30/14

I've said a few times before on this blog, there's a certain ubiquitous folk sound that I have just "gotten over". Maybe it was the over saturation, maybe I've just moved past it, but I find myself thinking it less and less interesting.
That being said, there are still some bands that prove there's still some good folk out there, and The Strumbellas is one of them. Which the Toronto band did last week as they took to The Imperial, as part of their Ride On North America Tour.

First up was Edmonton's The Provincial Archive. The four-piece had a poppy, folsky sound reminiscent of early Decemberists, as they played songs from their recent album It's All Shaken Wonder. 
Starting with the lead off track from the album, "Daisy Garden", lead singer Craig Schram introduced every song with a brief story, occasionally switching off between guitar and banjo, and even taking one song solo as the rest of the band took a break for "Land Machines".
The crowd stadily grew, and made their way towards the stage, as the set went on thanks to catchy songs like "Common Cards", and "Weight and Sea" from their previous album,  Maybe We Could Be Holy, which got some clapping along,
Their set ran for about 45 minutes -- maybe a little long for an opener -- but it was a solid set nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to the next time they're back.

The six members of The Strumbellas packed the stage launching immediately into "Home Sweet Home" from their Juno winning album We Still Move On Dance Floors, getting the crowd doing just that.

The entire band had a great energy and presence on stage -- especially David Ritter on keys and lead singer Simon Ward -- and a very loose vibe; they joked around with the crowd, and never wasted an opportunity to needle each other. They made even a packed Imperial feel like an intimate hangout in someone's living room.

Musically, their "folk popgrass" sound had songs ranging from a slower, country jams to a fiery rocking  and everything inbetween -- with plenty of stompin' and clappin' and singing along to their deceptively upbeat songs, a lot of which about death. Highlights included the anthemic "End of an Era", the explosive energy of "Sheriff", and a new song that they "weren't finished fighting about".
There was also a great moment where Simon said he was going to try a song off-mic, unplugging his guitar and stepping to the front of the stage for a beautiful song "The Fire", as the rest of the band joined him off-mic and the crowd shushed each other into silence.

They wrapped up the main set with "Sailing", but of course were back for more -- one member joking that the whole encore concept was "More awkward than sleeping with your wife's sister" -- and they wrapped up with a couple more, including the raucous "Did I Die" that even included a harmonized rap from Simon & David.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Rural Alberta Advantage w/ July Talk @ Commodore -- 10/23/14

Celebrating the release of their new album Mended With Gold, The Rural Alberta Advantage hit Vancouver for the first time in about two years. And if that wasn't reason enough to fill the Commodore on a Thursday night, they had fellow Toronto band July Talk along with them; a pairing that was bound to tear down the proverbial house.

I got to the venue just as the Toronto five-piece July Talk took the stage, fronted by the pairing of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. Their whiskey-soaked blues-tinged rock & roll mixes Peter's rough growl and Leah's sweet (yet no less powerful) voice, and the two have a great energy and playfulness on stage. They would be constantly teasing and getting in each others faces, and frequently strutting up to the front of the stage. Especially Leah, who spent most of the set perched on the monitors. Part way through the set, Peter even leapt into the crowd to surf, while still playing guitar, which inspired guitarist Ian Docherty to do the same at the end of the set.

And the crowd was definitely on their side, singing along to many songs -- Leah giving the crowd the mic to join in on the frantic "Guns + Ammunition" -- and when they announced it was the last Canadian show on their current tour and joked they should sing "O Canada", the crowd not only complied, but couldn't be stopped. 
Other highlights of the set included the great vocal-interplay of "Headsick", and "Paper Girl", which somehow managed to top all the energy they had throughout the set for a fiery finale.

It's not hard to see why they won (mere hours before their set) a Casby Award for Best New Band, and I hope they're back soon enough, with a show of their own.

That was going to be a hard act to top, but The Rural Alberta Advantage were up to the task, the trio consisting of the distinct voice of lead singer and guitarist Nils Edenloff, Paul Banwatt's frantic and incredible drumming, and multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole playing about four or five instruments, sometimes simultaneously.

Starting off with the explosive "Stamp", they created a folk rock (emphasis on the rock) sound much greater than you would expect from just three people. From their newest songs like "To Be Scared" and "Terrified" off the new album Mended With Gold -- both of which written about the Evil-Dead-like cabin Nils wrote the album in -- to the moody "Don't Haunt This Place" from their first album Hometowns, they tore through their whole arsenal of songs. And even though the trio is from Toronto, they had plenty of songs about Alberta, the fan favourite and chaotic"Tornado '87" and the newer, intense and heartbreaking "Vulcan, AB" being standouts.
With a fantastic energy, the band had the crowd whipped into a frenzy, people furiously clapping, singing, and even crowdsurfing -- impressively, even during their slower and calmer songs.

After about an hour, they ended the set with "Drain the Blood" before Nils came back on stage alone for the encore, starting with "The Build" as the band slowly joined him and closed out the night with a few older songs. The eerie "Barnes' Yard" bringing the energy back up, and they ended off with one last rager, fan favourite, and Alberta-inspired song "The Dethbridge In Lethbridge" with the crowd singing along to the last note.

Stamp; Muscle Relaxants; Don't Haunt This Place; Our Love...; Runners in the Night; Tornado '87; Vulcan, AB; Luciana; On the Rocks; Two Lovers; 45/33; To Be Scared; Terrified; Four Night Rider; Edmonton; Frank, AB; Drain the Blood.
(encore) The Build; Barnes' Yard; In The Summertime; The Dethbridge in Lethbridge.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

David Vertesi @ Anza Club -- 10/22/14

It's been a while since David Vertesi -- tall bass player of Hey Ocean! -- has done a solo show in Vancouver. But earlier this month he released a brand new song, to tease his upcoming second solo album which should be released sometime next year, and a quick jaunt of western tour dates, wrapping up in him home of Vancouver.

Starting off the night at the Anza Club was Windmills from Kelowna. The one-man-band of Cory Myraas took the stage alone armed with his guitar and a looping station, building layers of his ambient-pop (or maybe post-folk) sound, with almost haunting vocals.
He combined it with awkwardly charming stage banter between songs, even going so far as to tell a couple purposefully terrible puns, or joking he was going to "kick it up to 7", as he wrapped up the set with a couple of the more high energy songs of the set.
It's always fun to watch loopers perform live, and he was no exception.

Next up was Rosie June joined only by Andrew Rassmussen on keys and synth, with more of a minimalistic pop sound. The focus was definitely on her lofty and breathy vocals for the show, but unfortunately much of the set it was either too low, or not clear at all, at times hard to make out what exactly she was singing. In fact, she didn't have very much stage presence, hardly moving through the entire set. Even Andrew behind the keys was more animated than she was.
Aside from her own songs she included a cover of Sugar Ray's "When It's Over", and the synth beats were definitely catchy. But I can't help but feel if she just had a bit more behind her vocals, it would have been a much more enjoyable set.

And finally, finishing the pattern of adding a band member, David Vertesi hit the stage with Andrew once again on keys, and Johnny Andrews on drums. They started with a slow-boiling instrumental before going into "Soft Skin" from Vertesi's first album Cardiography, joking that his genre of music was "sad dad cruise ship" (a phrase plastered on the shirts he had for sale).
His songs are simple, yet effective, many of them are about love, or the lack thereof, but it's the emotion he brings to the songs with his smooth baritone that really sells it and sucks you in. The best example of that came later in the set with the heart-wrenching song "Learn To Run" as it built to an intensely emotional release.
As well as the new songs -- like the catchy "Loud Talker" -- Vertesi also threw in a couple cover songs; first an almost lounge-y version of GOB's punk hit "I Hear You Calling" which was a really cool reinterpretation, and later a pretty straight up and dancey cover of "Say You'll be There" by Spice Girls. He wrapped up the set, without bothering with the whole faux-encore business, with his most upbeat (musically, anyway) song "Mountainside", leaving the floor dancing.

Vertesi left the crowd with only a little taste of his new album, but from the sounds of it, I am already looking forward to it.

[intro]; Soft Skin; Gentlemen Say; [new song]; I Hear You Calling [Gob cover]; Loud Talker; All Night, All Night, All Night; Learn To Run; [new song]; Say You'll Be There [Spice Girls cover]; Mountainside.