Tuesday, September 30, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Four: Sickness

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 Top Six Juno Winners. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs I Would Put In A Movie If I Had That Power.

You may have noticed a lack of episode last week, and that's because I was sick. Spent some time watching cartoons, passed out on the sofa, and of course, listening to music. Which is why this week is the Top Six To Listen To While Immobile On The Couch Because You're Sick!

For your earballs this week:

"The Key" by Crissi Cochrane
"The Healing" by Bloc Party
"Time (On Your Own)" by Alexandria Maillot
"Heaven" by Louise Burns
"Sparks" by Boreal Sons
"World Sick" by Broken Social Scene

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

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Peak Performance Project Showcase #2 @ Fortune -- 09/25/14

Can you believe it's already the sixth year of the Peak Performance Project? This year they've changed the project up a little. 102.7 The Peak and Music BC have pared it down from a Top 20 to a Top 12, but that was only to make room for a Top 12 of Alberta bands through the newly launched 95.3 The Peak, and Alberta Music.

Part one of the project was a "rock & roll boot camp" where the musicians went on a week long retreat to get lectures and advice from industry pros, to help them refine their craft, and team up with an Albertan band for a collaboration song. Phase two is a series of shows at Fortune Sound Club; three artists a night for four weeks, showing off what they learned to not only an audience, but a panel of judges. They've also been assigned to learn a "Classic Canadian Cover" to play during their set. I always love hearing bands play cover songs, and it's always interesting to see who each act chooses, if it's someone obvious to their style, or something way outside the box. (And yes, I do have a running tally of bands that chose Neil Young)

While the first showcase was more of a folksy affair, this one was a little more rockin'.

Altered By Mom: This is the second year in the project for Devon Lougheed. His previous band beekeeper competed a couple years ago, but have since broke up, leading the way for this new band with an unabashed 90s alt-rock influenced sound, who were one of my early favourites this year.
With a stage adorned in balloons -- including a large A, B, and M -- the band started as Devon made his way through the crowd, pumping people up, before jumping on stage. And then jumping around the stage. Devon has always had an unlimited reserve of energy on stage, and this was no different. At one point he even brought Peak DJ Carly Walde up on stage for a faux proposal during "Small Joys", and later ran through the crowd to hand out Altered By Mom cootie catchers/fortune tellers.
Their cover was a grunged out version of "Old Man" by Neil Young, which they had in their pocket from before the project, and they closed the set with some of their strongest songs; a slower, more heartfelt song called "Larger Than The Ribs" dedicated to all of the bands' moms, before doing a 180 music- and lyric-wise into the very cheeky "Cup Of Coffee, Babe". They brought up a couple guests for their last song, their first-place-winning Bootcamp Collaboration song, Kevvy Mental from Fake Shark Real Zombie and Jasmin Parkin of Mother Mother, the set ended with a giant singalong, Devon splitting the crowd for duelling vocals, for an amazing finish to their set.

Miss Quincy & The Showdown: Another one of my favourites going into the project this year is the all-girl blues rock band from up north. Miss Quincy's raw, powerful voice drove the set as they started with "What Is Life If It Ain't Strange" off their recent album Roadside Recovery (produced by PPP alumni Matthew Rogers of The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer). They didn't say too much through the set, mostly letting the music speak for itself, from badass & sultry songs like "Bad Love" to the almost hymnal "Take It To The Well", which had the crowd stomping and clapping along -- and singing by the end.
Miss Quincy teased a few old standbys for her cover, someone you might expect a rock band to play, before subverting expectations and launching into "Boys Wanna Be Her" by Peaches. I never would have guessed a Peaches cover, but as soon as they started, it made the most sense in the world. It was a great cover, and unexpected, which made it my favourite of the night.
(side note: the other two covers of the night were the third time each song has been covered by PPP bands over the years)
And finally, they wrapped up the set with the my favourite of the set, "Wild Fucking West", a gritty garage blues rocker that was the perfect way to cap off the set.

Goodwood Atoms: The final band of the night, they were a bit of an anticlimax compared to the first two. From Vancouver, the band was the only one of the night I wasn't familiar with, and had a pretty generic folk rock sound. They started with lead singer Francis Hooper out alone, moody back lighting casting him in silhouette, before the rest of the band joined him for what was a pretty by-the-numbers folk set, shaky harmonies and all. I wouldn't say it was bad, but just did nothing to grab my attention.
Their Classic Canadian Cover was a pretty obvious choice as they did a pretty straightforward version of "The Weight" by The Band, trading off verses, joined by fellow PPP'er David Newberry.
They also had an inexplicable and superfluous belly dancer come out intermittently throughout their set to dance back and forth at the front of the stage. I'm not against backup dancers in general, but they have to make sense in context, and be backup dancers. She was neither, out in front of the band, and there did not seem to be any reason for her to be there other than boobs. It didn't feel like part of the show, it just felt exploitative.

Aside from that, it was a good showcase with two of my three favourites from this month's project. They're taking a break next week, but will be back at Fortune in two weeks with a showcase that includes my third favourite, Shred Kelly, The Tourist Company, and Jodi Pederson.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rich Aucoin @ Fortune -- 09/16/14

Regular readers of the blog (all twenty six of you) will know how much I rave about Rich Aucoin, especially his live shows experiences, and that one of my favourite new discoveries of the year has been Chersea. So when I found out that they would be doing a show together, you could say I was pretty excited. And with the addition of Lowell -- who is, much like Hansel, so hot right now -- that seemed like a pretty damn strong lineup.

Starting things off was Chersea, normally a solo looper, this time she was out with a gentleman friend, drummer Drew McKay. It was the first time I had seen Chersea without Chelsea Laing on (literally) every instrument, and while a couple brief times it felt like McKay was just playing alongside her instead of with her, for the most part he provided a good backbone to the songs without being overpowering; a nice supplement, since the focus was (and should be) on Chersea's loops and powerful voice.
Armed with a mountain of keys and synth, a drum pad, and even a trumpet, her songs ranged from the dark synth of "Grey Matter" to the more upbeat and catchy, danceable "I Could Lost It All". It's always amazing watching someone working loops, building layer upon layer, and "Mind Porn" as it grew to an explosive ending.

Oh, and the two of them were also joined by a third person on stage, but not playing any instruments: a girl with a light-up LED hula-hoop dancing just off to the side the entire set.

After draping the stage with white fabric, Lowell was out behind the keys, backed by guy on guitar and a laptop, celebrating her new album, We Loved Her Dearly, out on the same day.
Early technical problems slowed things down right after the first song, but "Cloud 69"got the crowd right back into it, as Lowell came out from behind the keys, dancing at the front of the stage in her very mesh shirt, name emblazoned across the front Wonder Woman-style, very strategically placed.
She's a very strong songwriter with ridiculously catchy alt-pop songs, the anthemic "I Love You Money", and "LGBT" -- the chorus proclaiming "don't hate our love" -- but her live show didn't quite live up to the songs I had heard off the album. I'm not sure if her voice wasn't quite as good, or if it would be better with a bigger backing band, but her live set just fell a little short.

And finally, one day removed from his birthday, Rich Aucoin came out to introduce his usual show opening. He orchestrated a sing along to the 20th Century Fox fanfare before a recorded monologue which can be summed up with "we're all so lucky to be alive" and "Be Awesome", then the usual "opening credits", picking out people Rich knew was going to be at the show and giving them amusing and heroic attributes.

As the intro came to a climax, they burst into "Meaning of Life", the first song off the new album Ephemeral, right away uniting everyone in yelling along. Over the next hour Rich controlled the show from his pedal board and sampler, hardly standing still for a single moment, with his partner in crime Tony Dallas crashing on the drums. Aucoin was all about the stage, in and out of the crowd, getting everyone to form a giant circle before rushing into the middle to dance, blasting confetti cannons, and of course, bringing out the famed giant rainbow parachute (like from gym class) which everyone danced under to "Are You Experiencing?", a physical and emotional manifestation of the lyrics "When you give it all up, you get it back".

His shows are always set to visuals as well, many times movie clips or internet videos to go along with the songs, like introducing "I Am Sorry" with a montage of famous movie apologies, and "Want To Believe" having the appropriate X-Files accompaniment.

It seemed far too short when he brought the set to an end with "It", making everyone vow not to "leave it all in our heads", before gathering everyone in the venue at the stage for a giant group picture. He also, as usual, left his name and phone number on the big screen, promising that if you text him, he'll send you some music.

I always say, it's nearly impossible to simply describe the full scope of a Rich Aucoin show, or even show someone in photos. It's something you have to experience. Every single person in the room is on the same page, and looking around the venue you see nothing but giant smiles. Rich Aucoin can bring everyone together like no one I have ever seen.

Meaning of Life, Undead, Four More Years, Yelling In Sleep, They Say Obey, I Am Sorry, Let It Go, Want To Believe, Are You Experiencing?, It.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Three: Upcoming Albums

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 best of 2006. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Bands Named Someone and the Somethings.

This week is a pretty straightforward list. Now that we're out of the summer drought, a lot of great music will be coming out in the next little while, so I figured I'd take a listen at some things I am really excited or intrigued by. It's the Top Six Upcoming Albums!

Get excited for:

"My Favourite Faded Fantasy" by Damien Rice
"Make Make" by WIL
"Happy Idiot" by TV On The Radio
"Kintsukuroi" by Hey Rosetta!
"From the Night" by Stars
"PSI" by Lydia Ainsworth

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

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Zeus @ Electric Owl -- 09/13/14

The very first time I saw Toronto's Zeus, they were opening for Jason Collett (as well as acting as his backing band) at Richard's on Richards, and played to about 10 people. It was an early show that no one knew was early, so they got shafted. Luckily I've seen them more than a couple times in the six years, and three albums later, they are playing to packed venues like the Electric Owl.

Toronto's The Elwins opened up the show, with their upbeat and bouncy indie-pop songs. The sound wasn't great for them at the beginning of the set, which I think really hurt -- their precision pop and harmonized vocals lose a lot with poor sound quality -- but it evened out a little as the set went on, and the crowd slowly migrated towards the stage, pulled in by the band's exuberance.

They teased the crowd with some new songs, as well as songs off And I Thank You, highlights including the ridiculous catchy "Stuck In The Middle" and a cover of Beyonce's "Countdown", which they put their own spin on and had the crowd counting down along with them. The wasn't the last crowd participation, though, as for "Forgetful Assistance" the mustachioed guitar/keyboardist Feurd Moore conducted the crowd to clap along, and even hopped off the stage among the people at the front, hugging a few, and handing off the tambourine before taking place.

It was a really fun set, and hopefully next time they're back, the sound will be better.

And then, making their return to their Canadian home soil, after a few days in the USA (or "ew-sa", as they said) was the mighty Zeus. With Rob Drake on drums, Carlin Nicholson, Mike O'Brien, and Neil Quin all cycled through guitars and bass and keys, taking lead vocals for different songs, as well as providing perfect harmonies. They were also joined by the newest member of Zeus, Jason Haberman (not Collett as some places have been reporting, and they were quick to point out) previously of Yukon Blonde, on various instruments.

Right away they launched into "Bonnieview" from the new album Classic Zeus, and as soon as they started, their talents burst through. Each member is an amazing musicians with a great presence, and they were blown away by the crowd's reaction to them, which just fuelled their passion even more.

From the hip shaking groove of "Love/Pain", to the explosive rocking and beautiful harmonies of "The Renegade", to the softer and heartbreaking "One Line Written In" and everything in between, the hour-plus set ran through all three of their albums pretty equally. The energetic crowd also joining in, clapping along and singing the ooo-aah-ooo's of  "Strong Mind" before the band brought the set to an end with "27 is the New 17", Rob Drake coming out from behind the drums for the first time and picking up a guitar, for Carlin to take his place, before chants of "ZEUS! ZEUS!" brought them back out for a couple more.

Any remaining faces left unmelted were taken care of with an absolutely incendiary and rocking "You Gotta Teller" -- definitely the best song of the set -- before the capped off the night with and a bit of a rarity, the title track to the Hot Under The Collar 7".

It's always amazing watching them play. Each member has the songwriting and musical chops -- as well as on-stage presence -- to be a fantastic frontman of their own band, and with their powers combined, they are a band unparalleled.

Bonnieview, Heavy On Me, I Know, Love/Pain, The Renegade, Anything You Want Dear, You Could Have A Lover, Are You Gonna Waste My Time?, First One In, One Line Written In, I Miss My Friends, Strong Mind, 27 Is The New 17.
(encore) You Gotta Teller, Hot Under the Collar. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kandle @ Biltmore -- 09/11/14

One of my favourite albums so far this year, as well as one of my favourite new discoveries, has been Kandle. So when it was time for the Victoria native, who not lives in Montreal, Kandle Osborne (yes, daughter of that musical Osborne) to hit Vancouver on her way to the Rifflandia festival, I wouldn't be missing it.

Opening the night was The Franklin Electric, the first time in Vancouver for the Montreal folk-pop band. Great harmonies and a trumpet to flesh out their sound, they put on a fun set, though I'm not sure it's anything I'd go out of my way to listen to, and it did drag on a little. They played for 45 minutes (which seems long for the first of three bands) and had a few too many of their slower songs in the latter half. They even had a big finale that grew to a grand climax, which would have been the perfect ending, but decided to play one more low energy song.

Louise Burns was up next, with her backing band dubbed The Victims, which included Jody Glenham and members of Ladyhawk. The stage was barely lit, the dark mood matching her dark pop as she opened with "Emeralds Shatter" from her latest album, The Midnight Mass. Burns had a great presence on stage -- it was clear she had been performing since a young age, as part of Lillix -- and her strong voice drove the set. Highlights including "Ruby", which manages to be both catchy and a little depressing, and the gorgeous "Heaven", which ended the set. I hadn't seen Louise play her own set in a few years, only shows with her other band Gold & Youth, so it was great to finally see her play again.

And finally, at just about midnight(!) it was time for Kandle. Her backing band, The Krooks took the stage first, playing the Bond theme as Kandle Osborne strutted out. The Krooks were pretty all-star, including ex-members of Broken Social Scene, The Dears, and even Tim Fletcher of The Stills (which made my night, as The Stills were one of my favourites), and Kandle herself oozed sultry charm and charisma on stage, occasionally chatting with the crowd, thankful that there was more than the three people they had played to in Kamloops the night before.

They opened the set with "So Bad", the first track from this year's In Flames, and the set focused mostly on that album, with a few off her self-titled, as well as a couple brand new songs. She introduced one new one called "Won't Do That Again" as her "Disney Villain song", and I didn't catch the name of another about sleeping with your boss, but both were fantastic with the latter built to a powerfully emotional ending, her incredible voice on the forefront. It's a powerful and beautiful voice that was juxtaposed with the dark, blues-rock, but the mix of the two works perfectly.

She wrapped up the set with my favourite of hers, the driving and badass "Demon", which ended set with a bang. She even invited a gentleman dressed as Satan -- waxed up hair into horns, whole head painted red, and everything -- onto stage to dance. She didn't bother with the whole "faux encore", which was great since that was the perfect ending (and it was pushing 1am on a Thursday).

So Bad, Oh Great, Not Listening, Baby, Small, Control Me, Winter, Know My Name, Won't Do That Again, Not Up To Me, [Boss], Demon.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Owen Pallett @ Imperial -- 09/09/14

A little over four years. That's how long it had been since the last time I saw Owen Pallett play live. Since then he's been a little busy; scoring films, getting nominated for awards, and working with a little band that you may have heard of called Arcade Fire. And, of course, working on his brand new album, In Conflict.

I got to the venue just after the first band, Foxes in Fiction, had started. Normally one of those 'single-guy-with-a-band-name' acts, Warren Hildebrand (guitar and vocals) was joined by Emily Reo on keyboards, sampler, omnichord, looping pedals, backup vocals as well as Owen Pallett himself for most of the set, on violin.
They had a very lofty and shoegaze-y sound, with something about their songs sounding almost comforting, like a musical hug.
I really enjoyed the set, and I am going to have to check out their upcoming album, Ontario Gothic, which comes out later this month.

Next up was Avi Buffalo. In contrast to Foxes in Fiction, they were a 'person's-name-but-actually-a-band" act, a four-piece from Long Beach, California. They were a little more indie-sounding, with a hint of twee-pop, definitely influenced by the early-mid 00s and bands like The Shins. Lead singer Avi Zahner-Isenberg's vocals often raising into a falsetto -- which sometimes didn't quite work out so well.
Early on in the set, they had to come to a screeching halt mid-song for Avi to fix his guitar, and the quick-thinking keyboardist started noodling, playing some music from Zelda to quash the potentially awkward silence. But that aside, the sound of the band was strong, but in the end, it didn't really feel like a cohesive set; Avi even apologised for the technical difficulties when they left the stage, so I think I may have just caught them on an off-night.

It wasn't long after that Owen Pallett took the stage alone with his violin. He launched right into "That's When The Audience Died", which is almost what happened watching him carve away with his bow, or watching his frantic fingers pluck away at the strings, all while masterfully looping everything with his amazing voice soaring over everything. Pallett added some keys and even percussion -- by thumping the violin with his thumb -- for a few songs, including one of my favourites off the He Poos Clouds album "Song Song Song", before he was joined by his rhythm section, Rob Gordon and Matt Smith on drums and bass, respectively. They made for a fuller sound, but the focus was still very much on Owen and his looping.

Pallett was also in good spirits, chatting with the crowd a little between songs, and even at one point asking if anyone had questions (which he may have instantly regretted when a guy in the front row started rambling, likely inebriated). He introduced songs with a hint of self-awareness, calling "The Passions" kind of a downer, or admitting that he had been screwing up "Scandal at the Parkade" lately, before flubbing a loop, which just added to the comfort of his set.

Other highlights included the soaring "Tryst With Mephistopheles", the gorgeous ode to his Arcade Fire bandmates, "This Is the Dream of Win & Regine", and the absolutely intense "The Riverbed" -- a song that has quickly become one my favourites of his -- which ended the main set.
But of course, he was back for a few more; another favourite, the frantic "Many Lives → 49 MP" before ending with a pair from his last album Heartland, " Lewis Takes Action" and "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt"

It was a very good audience, too. Lots of cheers and recognition applause from the sold out crowd, but respectfully silent while he was playing. That, combined the great sound in the Imperial, made for a show that won't soon be forgotten.
Now, hopefully it's not another four years til next time.

That's When The Audience Died, The Arctic Circle, Song for 5 & 6, The Passions, Song Song Song, Midnight Directives, Keep the Dog Quiet, Soldiers Rock, Tryst With Mephistopheles, The Secret Seven, The Great Elsewhere, Infernal Fantasy, This Is the Dream of Win & Regine, Scandal at the Parkade, The Riverbed.
(encore) Many Lives -> 49 MP, Lewis Takes Action, Lewis Takes Off His Shirt