Tuesday, March 3, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Sixty Nine: Siblings

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 best drummers, but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs Written About Fictional Characters from a SciFi Television Show. 

From The Jackson 5 to the Rankins, family bands have been a long tradition, but this week I'm gonna focus even further and take a look at the Top Six Sibling Bands!

Put these in your earholes:

"I Go Hungry" by Mother Mother
"Firefly" by Hollerado
"Congo" by Bear Mountain
"Toughest Man in Prison Camp" by The Sumner Brothers
"My Silver Lining" by First Aid Kit
"No Cars Go" by Arcade Fire

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

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Stars & Hey Rosetta! @ Vogue -- 02/28/15

Five years ago this month, I saw Stars with Hey Rosetta! opening for them at the Orpheum. It was a great show, which Hey Rosetta! nearly stole, so much so that Torquil even said something along the lines of "that's the last time they ever open for anyone!"
Well, I'm glad that's not quite the case, as the pair of bands wrapped up a Canadian tour with a pair of sold out shows this weekend at the Vogue Theatre.

I was even more excited given the fact that I hadn't even seen Hey Rosetta! live in almost four years.
In front of a giant golden backdrop, they filled the stage, seven members large (eight, when Stars' Evan Cranley joined them part-way thought the set), with everything from violin, cello, french horn, xylophone, members occasionally switching around, playing different instruments. The big band created Hey Rosetta!'s lush, sonic wall of sound, with powerful songs that erupted into a swell of strings and horns.

Starting off with a "Soft Offering (For the Oft Suffering)", and lead singer Tim Baker behind the keyboard, a lone spotlight on him before the rest of the band joined in. They grew the intensity with "Gold Teeth" and finally exploded with "Yer Spring", culminating in a jam that saw Tim Baker, now on guitar, taking a running leap off hey keyboard stool. Other highlights included "Red Heart", which had a little bit of "Black Heart" slipped in, and the incredibly emotional "Welcome". They ended with the beautiful "Bandages", starting with Tim on acoustic guitar before the rest of the band slowly joined in.

They played a nice, hour-long set which made it feel more like a co-headlining spot than an opening spot, which was as it should be. And I especially liked the lighting for their set. A lot of it was backlit -- but not so much that you couldn't see the band -- and a few times, they would dim the stage lights with a spotlight on the prominent instruments. It was a nice touch.

Soft Offering (For The Oft Suffering), Gold Teeth, Yer Spring, What Arrows, Young Glass, Neon Beyond, Red Heart / Black Heart, Kintsukuroi, Welcome, Bandages.

After a quick break, Stars immediately got the sold out theatre dancing with "From The Night" the first song off their latest album, No One Is Lost. The amazing energy from the whole band was immediately apparent, especially lead singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. Besides both putting a great amount of passion into their singing, Torquil danced like he didn't care, and more than once Amy could be seen air-drumming along to Pat McGee.

As their shows are wont to do, the set spanned every possible emotion. From the vitriolic "We Don't Want Your Body" to the heartbreaking "Dead Hearts", from the bitter "One More Night" to the gorgeous "Elevator Love Letter", no one can go from love to death, from joy to sorrow, faster or better than Stars.
But the absolute highlight of the set was one of my favourite Stars songs, "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It". The song started and half of Hey Rosetta! emerged on stage in 80's gear, neon spandex and headbands, with an amazing choreographed dance to go along with the song. And perhaps because of that, if lifted both Torq and Amy for an amazing performance; I actually got chills as Torquil spat out the lines "But if you like it sing along / Sing 'cause you don't know how to say it" and "Take the weakest thing in you / And then beat the bastards with it". 

The set drew to a close after a rousing "Take Me To The Riot" with the opening synth of the title track to No One Is Lost started for the final song, only for Torquil to interrupt and make sure to slip in one more song. And after an incredibly heartfelt love letter to the fans, he got out his melodica for the opening strains of "Your Ex-Lover is Dead", the crowd singing along to every single word. 

For the encore, Amy and Evan Cranley came out alone, joined on backup vocals by Kinley Dowling of Hey Rosetta! by popular demand, for the soft and lovely "Favourite Book", before the rest of the band emerged. They did a quick audience poll for the last song, with "Calendar Girl" winning out, as they ended the night with Amy Millan's gorgeous vocals, and the conclusion of the song seeing Torquil drop his mic, rip out his in-ear monitors, and jump down into the crowd, yelling at the top of his lungs the final words of the song, "I'm alive"

It's ridiculously cheesy to put into words, but there's something about seeing Stars perform live that just makes me want to be better. Seeing the love the band has for their music, for each other, for the fans, even for Hey Rosetta! is quite something, and as long as they keep making music, I will keep showing up.

From The Night, Fixed, We Don't Want Your Body, Backlines, You Keep Coming Up, A Song is a Weapon, Are You Okay?, Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It, Look Away, Dead Hearts, Trap Door, One More Night, Elevator Love Letter, Take Me To The Riot, Your Ex-Lover Is Dead, No One Is Lost.
(encore) My Favourite Book, Calendar Girl.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sam Roberts @ Commodore -- 02/27/15

It's been a few years since I last saw Sam Roberts and his Band play live, and apparently nine years since they last graced the stage of the Commodore Ballroom. Which is probably why they were playing back to back sold-out shows this weekend, on the heels of last year's latest album, Lo-Fantasy. 

I caught the first of the two nights, unfortunately missing both local acts that opened the show, Pigeon Park and The River & The Road. 

I arriving just in time for Sam Roberts Band to hit the stage, with a giant LED screen behind the band. Most of the time the screen had shapes, colours, and patterns to go along with the songs, but a few times it had something more specific; old clips of Detroit in 1967 for the appropriate song, or a direct feed from a camera that was sitting on stage, pointing out into the crowd.

The Montreal band delved into Lo-Fantasy early with "Shapeshifters" and "Human Heat" kicking things off, before hitting songs from all previous albums (and showcasing just how many hits the band has). There was lots of singing along throughout the night, which started early with "Where Have All The Good People Gone?" and lots of dancing (well, weak-moshing/jumping, perhaps to prove that "Them Kids" did not, in fact, know how to dance to rock 'n' roll). Other highlights included the jangly keyboard of "Detroit '67", the driving, anthemic "Kid Icarus", and the dark and kind of brooding mood of "I Feel You".

"Chasing the Light" closed out the main set, but instead of the normal silence to tease the inevitable encore, there had glitchy, synth beats pumping out with a video on the big screen, leading up to a countdown for the band to reappear. They promised the crowd "We're All in This Together" before one last singalong, "Brother Down", that ended with Sam jumping into the photo pit to get right up with the crowd, and even grabbing the camera that fed to the big screen and playing cinematographer.

That ending right there would have been pretty good, but they weren't quite done. After an hour and a half, they still had one song left in the tank. One song that is not only my favourite Sam Roberts song, but unarguably their most epic, the ten-minute long "Mind Flood". The song ebbed and flowed with swirling psychedelic guitars and cacophonous drums, to built to an intense climax for the perfect ending to the show.

Shapeshifters, Human Heat, The Last Crusade, Where Have All The Good People Gone?, Golden Hour, Fixed to Ruin, Let It In, Detroit '67, Metal Skin, Kid Icarus, I Feel You, Hard Road, Them Kids, Bridge to Nowhere, Chasing the Light. 
(encore) We're All In This Together, Never Enough, Brother Down, Mind Flood. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gay Nineties album release @ Fox Cabaret -- 02/26/15

Though they released their Liberal Guilt EP at the end of last month, Gay Nineties took to the Fox Cabaret Thursday night to celebrate with the official record release show.
And, strangely enough, of the three shows I've seen at the Fox Cabaret since it opened last year, two of then have been Gay Nineties.

Local boys JPNSGRLS ("Japanese Girls", as opposed to, say, "Japan's Grills") opened up the night, as they started the set with a Goonies reference, the lead singer yelling "Hey you guys!" before launching into a set worth of hard, fast, and raw indie rock. .
Singer Charlie Kerr hardly stood still for a minute, bouncing around stage, miming the lyrics, and even holding the mic stand upside down; he had energy and enthusiasm to spare, and more than once had the fans at the front of the stage singing along. Highlights from the set included the frantic "Smalls" and a song dedicated to sci fi nerds "A Girl From A Different Dimension".
They also did something that I'm not necessarily a fan of, the opening band encore. After they finished up with "Brandon", there were a few calls for an encore and the band came back out to play one last song -- to their credit, though they did ask if there was time, and there was plenty.

Then, after a little too long of a break while DJ Owen Ellis spun, the lights dimmed and the sound of wind chimes filled the cabaret while Gay Nineties took to the stage. They started, appropriately enough, with the first track of the EP, the building intensity of "Intro" exploding into their current single, "Hold Your Fire". Going through the entire EP over the course of the night, weaving older songs in as well, the band showed off their sound that is a distillation of a few decades and genres, that blended together well without ever feeling derivative; hook-filled rockers like "Hold Your Fire", the slightly sleazy "Turn Me On", the groovy hip shaking "Good Times", and the soulful harmonies of "Tangled" all came together for a fun set.
The entire band was on point, especially Malcolm Holt's drumming -- including tossing his drumstick high in the air and catching it literally without missing a beat several times throughout the set -- but especially Parker Bossley, who has an effortless confidence and presence on stage. As they ended the set with the ridiculously catchy "Letterman", Parker lead the crowd in a call-and-response, perched on the edge of the stage, sharing the microphone with fans along the front.
And of course they were back for more, one last song, a rockin' cover of David Bowie's "China Girl", dedicating it to JPNSGRLS.

It's almost hard to believe that Liberal Guilt is only Gay Nineties' second EP; they are still a relatively young band that hasn't even released a full length album, but they've already come out swinging. And judging by the show, I doubt they have any intention of slowing down.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Sixty Eight: Places

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 best song endings, but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs That Are Exactly Five Minutes and Three Seconds Long. 

This week we're going travelling! Kind of. Sort of. Not really. What I mean is, it's the Top Six Songs With Places in the Title!

Let's go to:

"Siberian Springtime" by The Ruffled Feathers
"Montreal" by Towers and Trees
"End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story" by The Dears
"Vulcan, AB" by The Rural Alberta Advantage
"Paris" by Scenic Route to Alaska
"New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" by LCD Soundsystem

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

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Arkells @ Commodore -- 02/20/15

Hamilton, Ontario's Arkells kicked off their High Noon tour in Vancouver this weekend, at the legendary Commodore Ballroom. The sold out show was a long way from their 2008 Vancouver debut, at the Penthouse (a strip club that, for some reason, used to host live music as well).

I've seen the band a good number of times, I would probably put them in the long list of my favourite Canadian bands, especially ones to see live, so I was naturally excited to catch them once more.

Vancouver's own Dear Rouge opened up the show, and it had been a while since I had seen a proper show from them, so I was interested to see what they were up to. The main duo of the band is married couple Drew and Danielle McTaggart, at the front of the stage, but Danielle as lead singer was definitely who all eyes were on. She stalked the stage charisma and a strong voice, as well as playing a little bit of guitar or synth for some songs.

They teased their upcoming album, ranging from the poppy songs like "I Heard I Had" to the darker and moodier "Black To Gold", and a good number of the sold out crowd was clearly there to see them, too, as they had the crowd clapping along during a few songs, including a breakdown in the final song (which I thought killed a little of the momentum at the end).

Ever since they won the Peak Performance Project back in '012, I feel like Dear Rouge is always just slightly playing catch-up to their own success. Which isn't a knock on the band, they've just had a great amount of it in a very short time, and are still a relatively new band. But with catchy dark pop and Danielle's charisma, I don't doubt they'll grow into it before long, and be headlining the Commodore themselves soon enough.

It wasn't too long before Arkells hit the stage, right on time at 10:30. Starting off with "Brought To Light" from High Noon, it was immediately apparent that all members of the band had loads of confidence and energy on stage. Especially frontman Max Kerman, who is one of my favourite lead singers to watch; he's got an unparalleled charm and enthusiasm, that is infectious. It's hard not to be drawn in, and from nearly the start he had the packed ballroom singing and clapping along, exemplified by a huge chorus of voices in unison singing along with "John Lennon" -- still one of my favourite Arkells songs which came early on -- and the "punching in/punching out" call & response from "Oh, The Boss Is Coming".

The set spanned all three of their albums thus far, from the softer and slower "I'm Not The Sun", a rarely played song from Jackson Square, to the title track of Michigan Left with a little Motown mixed in, to the slowburning "Never Thought That This Would Happen". 
Other highlights included "Pulling Punches" with Tony Carone's excellent keyboard solo, the anti-negativity of "Cynical Bastards", and one of my favourites from the new album, timed almost perfectly so when the clock struck 11:11, they were in the middle of the song "11:11" (and, come to think of it, the show may have ended just around 12:34). 

They drew the main set to a close with "Fake Money", and blasts of confetti to wrap it up (though, a missed opportunity in that it was just regular confetti, and not like, Monopoly money or anything).
And of course, it wouldn't be an Arkells set without some covers and/or Motown. They laid down a little Peter Gabriel in the main set, with a pretty great cover of "Sledgehammer", and in the encore Max invited Drew and Danielle from Dear Rouge back out for a rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", a fun duet.

The encore also included an acoustic version of "Book Club", with Max, Tony, and Mike DeAngelis all sharing one microphone -- with Max telling a bit of the backstory behind the song and Tony & Mike imitating some of the songstresses from Women In Song -- and they ended off with their current single, and arguably biggest to date, one more time getting the sold out crowd to sing along to "Leather Jacket", both the band and the crowd still high energy after the two-hour set.

Max said at one point that they always seemed tired when coming into Vancouver, as they usually travel the country in the other direction, so it was nice to start things off in the city, fresh-faced and raring to go. And that's exactly what they did. It was a great strong show from the pride of The Hammer, and I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing them live.

Come To Light; Michigan Left; John Lennon; What Are You Holding On To; Hey Kids!; Oh, The Boss is Coming; Never Thought That This Would Happen; 11:11; I'm Not The Sun; Dirty Blonde; Systematic; Kiss Cam; On Paper; Pulling Punches; Sledgehammer [Peter Gabriel cover]; Cynical Bastards; Whistleblower; Fake Money.
(encore) Book Club; The Ballad of Hugo Chavez; Ain't No Mountain High Enough [Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell cover], Leather Jacket. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Sixty Seven: Opening Riffs

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 best French songs, but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Interconnected Bands

This week we take a look listen at some songs that grab you right away, with the Top Six Opening Riffs!

Kick into gear with:

"One Big Holiday" by My Morning Jacket
"Gold Guns Girls" by Metric
"3000 Flowers" by Destroyer
"I Love Not Loving You" by Wide Mouth Mason
"Rock Ranger Record" by Matt Mays + El Torpedo
"Hold Your Fire" by Gay Nineties

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

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