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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Seven: Questions?

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 rainy day songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs That Have Been Parodied On The Simpsons.

This week is all about the songs that ask tge tough questions, the Top Six Inquisitive Songs?

Query these:

You Man? Human?? by The Flaming Lips (feat. Nick Cave)
Are We Gonna Die? by MeatDraw
I Am, Are You? by We Are The City
Who Are You? by Kathryn Calder
What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way) by Wolf Parade
Question Mark? by Ryan Dahle

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

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Bahamas @ Vogue -- 10/17/14

Somehow it has been two years since I last saw Bahamas play live. The last time, it was at the Biltmore Cabaret, so to take a jump from there to a sold out Vogue Theatre was pretty indicative of how big he's become, and how well his latest album, Bahamas is Afie is doing.

Opening the night was Toronto's The Weather Station, and much like Bahamas is Afie, The Weather Station is Tamara Lindeman. She took the stage alone armed only with her guitar and breathy but powerful vocals as she wooed the packed theatre with her folky, alt-country sound.
She had a good stage presence -- not shy, but hushed, as if to urge you closer -- and she joking with the crowd, even a few times even answering single questions yelled in the direction of the stage, and was pretty captivating while playing.
Near the end of her set, she invited Afie -- who produced her upcoming album -- on stage to play the drums for the last couple songs, switching to an electric guitar.
I enjoyed her set, but I get the feeling that her live shows are the kind that are exponentially better when you know the music, and so I'll definitely have to check out her new album before she's back.

Soon after that, Bahamas himself, Afie Jurvanen, came out joined by Felicity Williams, Christine Bougie, and Jason Tait as his backing band. As they kicked off with "Never Again", Afie looked visibly glad to be there, to be playing for a packed house. He played and strut around the stage with an effortless cool and charisma, even bantering with the crowd, with his dry sense of humour.
The set began with some older songs, including the ridiculously catchy "Caught Me Thinking" before he delved into his new album. Highlights from included the gorgeous and heartbreaking "Can't Take You With Me", and the pairing of "I Had It All" and "Nothing To Me" as Afie pointed out the juxtaposition of the two song titles.

Part way through the set the band took a break as Bahamas pulled out the guitar his first album was named after, his pink strat, for "Lonely Loves" off that album, as Afie showed off his considerable talent on guitar. The band came back to end off the main set, as they were joined by Tamara Lindeman to help out on vocals for the beautiful "Lost In The Light" before leaving.
But of course, they would be back, with Jason Tait utilizing the vibraphone for the first and only time throughout the set on "Montreal" and Lindeman returning to help out with vocals. After a cover of a Bobby Womack song and newly fan-favourite "All The Time" off the new album, the crowd took to their feet for the third standing ovation of the night, and Bahamas ended things off with another beautiful song,"Snow Plow", and Afie one more time showing how grateful he was to be there.

From even the very first time seeing Bahamas, as an opening act at the Biltmore (five years ago this month, actually), I could tell he had ridiculous amounts of charisma and charm. Even in a sold out theatre venue, he still managed to make it seem small and intimate, and is such a good performer. It's no wonder, after many years of backing up bands like Feist, Jason Collet, Zeus, and more, that he went out on his own, and no wonder that he can sell out venues like the Vogue.

Never Again, I Got You Babe, Caught Me Thinking, Already Yours, Like A Wind, Can't Take You With Me, Waves, I Had It All, Nothing To Me Now, Lonely Loves, Sobering Love, Overjoyed, Okay Alright I'm Alive, Your Sweet Touch, Lost In The Light.
(encore) Montreal, Bitter Memories, Please Forgive My Heart (Bobby Womack cover), All The Time, Snow Plow.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

WiL @ Vancouver Fanclub -- 10/16/14

Americana North is a series of shows at Vancouver Fanclub that focuses on "amazing music that fits under the broad 'Americana' description and consisting of Roots, Folk, Bluegrass, Alt Country, Gospel and Blues..!". 
And while I hadn't managed to catch any of their previous shows, with artists like Neil Osbourne and Lindi Ortega, when one of my favourite guitarists to watch live popped up in their lineup, I knew I couldn't miss it.

The openers of the night were Old Mare, from Abbottsford, with a bit of an alt-folk/alt-rock sound. They wore their influences pretty heavily on their sleeves, and while they were all fine musicians, it was not really all that memorable either. A Perfectly Acceptable Opening Band.

It wasn't long after them that Wil took the stage, and I think it was the first time I had seen him with more than just a drummer; in addition to Keith Gallant on drums, they were joined by Lena Birtwistle on keyboard and sometimes backup vocals.
Wil started the show with "Hold Me On", the lead off track from the new album El Paseo, and immediately said that was it, show was over, just one song. But of course, he was joking as he launched into a two-hour set that spanned all the way from the first song he ever wrote, and still a crowd-pleaser, "Both Hands", to more off his new album, like the insanely catchy "Make Make" and "Roam", written for Travel Alberta, which almost gives you the sense of soaring over Albertan landscapes (in a good way).

"Roam" was also the first song of the set where Wil lived up to his "I Break Strings" moniker, breaking a string in the outro. But while that may be one of the things he's known for, it never feels gimmicky -- he even admitted that he doesn't necessarily want to break strings -- just a byproduct from his intense, blurry-handed strumming. (Also, fun fact: his wife Caroline makes jewelry from the recycled broken strings.) And so after changing the string in under a minute, he was back on track, his frantic strumming going to precise picking, and even slide guitar, while emotion poured out of his soulful vocals.

As the main set came to a close, he built in energy and intensity until it all came bursting out on the explosive "Honey Pie", before ending on a slightly calmer note, the slow and heartfelt "Dance With The Devil". And of course he was back for one more, the intense "Look Around", where he snapped not one, but two more strings from his guitar, leaving everyone in the room spent.

It's a testament to his on-stage performance that a singer/songwriter with a guitar and only a couple backing musicians could play for two straight hours, and it never seemed to drag on.

Hold Me On, Wedding Dress, El Paseo, Oak Tree, Make Make, Both Hands, Morning Sun, Ride, Roam, Brother, Hey Now, If You Want Me To, Here We Go, Honey Pie, Dance With The Devil.
(encore) Look Around.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Darcys @ Media Club -- 10/15/14

The Last couple times that Toronto band The Darcys were through town, it was in the opening slot for someone else. And both times, I felt the set was criminally short. So lucky for everyone, they hit the Media Club as they came back around on their most recent tour, on the rainy Wednesday night.

I only caught the end of the first band Hollow Twin, who seemed interesting, before the next band, The Lion The Bear The Fox, featuring Christopher Arruda (the lion) on keys and Cory Woodward (the bear) & Ryan McMahon (the fox) on guitars. All three of the musicians had solo careers, to various degrees of success, but joined together for something more than the sum of its parts. Arruda even admitted he was close to quitting music before joining up with the other two, in the introduction to a song that he wrote for his two friends & bandmates. Another highlight of the set was the final song, an incendiary stomper of a song, that transitioned a little into Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall".
Solo artists coming together can always have mixed results, but the three of them meshed so well that you would think they've been a band all their lives, their three voices intertwined for some great alt-folk harmonies.

And finally, it was time for The Darcys. They started off with the dark and moody "Close to Me", the first track from Warring, as they were celebrating the (just over) one year anniversary of the album's release.
Most of the set focused on the dense and atmospheric art-rock of the album, with songs like the more upbeat and driving "Pretty Girls" and "Itchy Blood", with its slow-simmering intensity. Singer Jason Couse has a great stage presence to him, with a voice that ranges from haunting whispers to soaring heights, and even up into the falsetto.
They reached beyond the album a few times, for some older ones like "Don't Bleed Me" from their self-titled, as well as a couple new ones; near the end of the set they prefaced a song with the fact that they were going to rock & roll now, before playing a new song called "LA Jesus", a huge rocker that I immediately wished I could play on repeat (the only thing I had in my "show notes" for that song was "fucking killer")
The set came to an end, appropriately enough, with the final song off Warring, "Lost Dogfights", seeing Couse coming up to the very front of the stage and just pour his soul through the microphone, before the band brought the song to a swirling ending. But as they went to leave the stage for the faux-encore, they realised there wasn't really anywhere to go in the Media Club, so just stayed there and proclaimed it was now the encore. Jason teased a cover, saying it was only the third time they played the song live, before getting everyone remaining to put on their red shoes and dance the blues with David Bowie's "Let's Dance".

I can't remember the last time The Media Club sounded so good, and this is going to be a show to remember, especially as The Darcys inevitably move to bigger and bigger venues.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Five: Opposites

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 songs over 15 minutes. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Parenthetical Songs.

This week is pretty simple, it's the Top Six Opposites! What do I mean by opposites? Well, you'll just have to listen to find out. Or I suppose you could also just read the song names...

How about some:

"In The Beginning" by The Stills
"End Of An Era" by The Strumbellas
"Hold On, Hold On" by Neko Case
"Let Her Go" by The Matinée
"We Won't Last The Winter" by Small Sins
"Summersong" by Treelines

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

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