Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Seventy One: Songs of the Night

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 Spring songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs that have references to The Simpsons in them. 

This week is pretty simple, and may or may not have been chosen to play one particular song, it's the Top Six Songs of the Night!

Put these in your earholes:

"Saturday Night" by Yukon Blonde
"Another Friday Night" by Leeroy Stagger
"On a Week Night" by Henry & The Nightcrawlers
"Cruise Night" by John K Samson
"Up All Night" by Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans
"Dark Night of the Soul" by Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse

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


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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Limblifter @ Biltmore Cabaret

It's been over a decade since the last Limblifter album, I/O, and while the band has never officially called it quits -- they even did a few "comeback" shows a few years ago -- it seemed like a new record was elusive. Especially after Ryan Dahle formed Mounties with Hawksley Workman and Steve Bays and the success they have had.
But good things come to those who wait, as their fourth album, Pacific Milk, finally comes out in a couple weeks, and Limblifter hit the Biltmore to tease the album.


First up was Invisible Ray, a garage-y rawk duo from Vancouver. Fast and loud and sloppy with long hair swirling and growly vocals, there was nothing in the set that was all that bad, but nothing that particularly stood out, either. Well, except one song whose chorus was, I am pretty sure, "Destroy destruction".
I'm not always a fan of the type of hard rock they had going, that would have been right at home in the Fox Seeds competition, but as an opener, they were fine.


The second opener was Jesse Creed aka The Passenger, and was about as far on the other end of the spectrum as you could get. He took stage without a word and started putting together a set of ambient synthy tones that ebbed and flowed as one long, instrumental piece, as if in movements. The music was haunting at times, often dreamy, and could have easily been the score to a Wes Anderson movie.
Musically, I really liked it, but it was not that dynamic of a live show. Jesse was hard at work on his table of instruments, but didn't say a single word on stage, just got up, played, and left. 



Not long after that, Limblifter hit the stage. Frontman Ryan Dahle joined by Megan Bradfield on bass, Gregory Macdonald on guitar & keys, and newcomer Eric Breitenbach on drums, and they started off with some new songs from Pacific Milk. And the new songs sounded pretty great; lead single "Dopamine" had the same Limblifter feel of catchy hooks and sharp lyrics, without sounding too dated. A few of the other new albums that caught my ear were "Key of Karavana" and "Moods of Mechanics".
Of course they hit the old material as well, as they went all the way back to '96, to their debut self-titled with the turmoil in "Tinfoil", and hit about every album since -- even Dahle's solo album, Irrational Anthems with the erratic "Chop Chop".
After they brought the main set to an end with the perfect song for frustration, "Screwed It Up", they came back for the obligatory encore and a few more old favourites. "Ariel vs Lotus" got the biggest reaction of the night and "Perfect Day to Disappear" seemed an excellent choice to wrap things up, as the band started to leave the stage. But Dahle asked with a smirk if we wanted to see the band scramble as he gave the crowd one more, launching into "I Wonder If...", and the rest of the band indeed scrambled back to their instruments to finish the show off.


There was one down side, unfortunately, but it had nothing to do with the band. There was That One Guy front and centre the whole time, way too drunk, thinking it was his own private show, as he tried to converse with the band between every song by yelling at the top of his lungs, and filming the whole thing (including his yelling) with his cell phone.
But aside from That One Guy, it was a strong show from one of my favourite bands from the 90s, and I can't wait to hear what the new album has to offer.


setlsit
Hotel Knife, Chop Chop, Under the Riot, Palomino, Vicious, Cordova, Tinfoil, Dopamine, Cast a Net, Key of Karavana, Wake Up To The Sun, In/Out, Juliet Club, Moods of Mechanics, Position Open, Cellophane, Screwed It Up.
(encore) Count to 9, Ariel vs Lotus, Perfect Day to Disappear, I Wonder If...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Shred Kelly @ Electric Owl -- 03/14/15

Celebrating the release of their third album, everyone's favourite ski bum band returned to Vancouver this weekend, bringing their "stoke folk" sound to the Electric Owl.


Opening the night was fellow Peak Performance Project '014 alumni The Wild Romantics.
I had only ever seen them as a duo, the couple Aleisha Kalina and Evan Miller crafting fine folk tunes, but this time they were armed with a full band. And with the full band was a much more rock 'n' roll sound. Their voices came together harmonizing on songs like "A Monday In May", and my favourite of the set, a bit of a sassy song with a bite, "Who You Fooling".
Aleisha and Evan also had a good stage presence, especially as the set went on. They seemed comfortable enough at the beginning, but by the end they were getting more and more playful, leaning on each other and sharing a microphone, and both of them even getting right into the faces of the crowd (literally).
I think they are still a relatively young band, only a couple years old, but they're already off to a pretty good start.


Shred Kelly hit the stage not long after, the five-piece Fernie band started off with a song that encapsulates the band perfectly; Tim Newton slowly plucking his banjo until he picked up the pace to a blurry hand, joined by Sage McBride's lovely voice, the song building to raucous ending. It is a trait shared by many Shred Kelly songs as both the songs and the band exploded off stage with ridiculous amounts of energy. And the Saturday night crowd was more than happy to reciprocate; people dancing and stomping and clapping, even a little crowd surfing, and no less than two rounds of shots and a round of beers was sent up to the stage.

Pulling songs from all three of their albums, highlights included the softer and haunting "Ghost Inside My Head", the frantic "Cabin Fever", and my favourite off of  Sing to the Night, "Stuck Between", a bit of a darker song with Sage's powerful voice filling the room. And somehow the band managed to top the energy of the night with the last three songs. The tumultuous "Tornado Alley" lived up to its title; the ridiculously catchy "The Bear", with an impressive run on the keys from Sage and an even more impressive drumming from Ian Page-Shiner; and the huge "Sing to the Night", the voices of Tim and Sage blending together better than ever.

For the encore, they first warmed up everyone's vocal chords with the soft and beautiful "Jewel of the North" before one of the most cathartic singalong songs, "I Hate Work". And as everyone chanted along to the title, the band segued nicely into Loverboy's "Working For The Weekend", during which they split the room for the singalong: one half of the crowd singing along with Sage "Everybody's working for the weekend" and the other half with Tim, chanting "I Hate Work". 


When I first saw Shred Kelly, on a train car in Melville, Saskatchewan, I was suitable impressed. And in the few years since, they've barely slowed down -- touring, recording, taking part in the Peak Performance Project -- and have just gotten better and better.


setlist
Let It Go, Cabin Fever, Start Again, New Black, Leaving Town, Ghost Inside My Head, White River, Rowed Away, Time Is Passing, Stuck Between, Family Oh Family, Tornado Alley, The Bear, Sing to the Night.
(encore) Jewel of the North, I Hate Work (mashup with Working for the Weekend [Loverboy cover])

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith @ Vogue Theatre -- 03/14/15

Not counting a couple festivals and secret shows, it's been a little over two years since the last "proper" theatre show from Dan Mangan in his hometown of Vancouver. Since then he has not only released a new album, Club Meds, but also "re-branded" a little bit. The new album was much more of a collaborative effort with his long time band members -- Gord Grdina, Kenton Loewen, and John Walsh -- and so Dan wanted that to be reflected in the name. And such, the folksy strumming of Dan Mangan has turned into the psychedelic rock of Dan Mangan + Blacksmith. And together with members JP Carter and Tyson Naylor, the band hit the Vogue Theatre to end off their tour with a pair of shows at the Vogue Theatre.


Starting the night was a very short set from Calgary's Astral Swans. Matthew Swann was on stage for about 15 minutes, alone with his guitar (and a bit of a nervous energy) playing songs off his album All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson, which was released on Madic Records, a label Dan started specifically to release this album.
Songs like "You Carry A Sickness" and "Attention", were powered by his haunting voice, and in keeping with the name of his album, he also did a cover of a Willie Nelson song, "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain". It sounding somewhere in between the psych-folk of the rest of his set, and the country twang of Willie.
It was a short but sweet set.


There was almost no changeover time before Hayden came out with his band. Honestly, I never really got into Hayden's music and the only other time I had seen him live was a set at the Vancouver Folk Fest main stage, the bright and sunny beach not really a good setting for the sadder songs he was playing. So I was interested in seeing him play in what was certainly a more suitable venue.

The set was a collection of alt-rock songs, many of which started softer before building to an intense ending, that spanned his career, going back to the 90s. At one point the band took leave for Hayden to play the heartfelt "Bad As They Seem", off his debut album Everything I Long For.
Hayden also went from guitar to take a seat behind the keys for "Bass Song", one of the highlights of the set for me, which built into an absolutely chaotic ending. Other highlights included the set-ending "Dynamite Walls", and "Hollywood Ending", where they were joined by JP Carter on trumpet for a song that broke down a little at the end, finishing with Hayden laughing at some on stage antics -- which they joked about after, the band in very high spirits.
Along those lines, Hayden flashed a dry, self-deprecating humour a few times, certainly most evident when he drolly exclaimed something along the lines of "This could be the best your life gets" before pausing for a moment to reflect, and adding "I fucking hope not"

But ultimately, while I can certainly respect his talent, the set didn't really do anything to convert me. Still just, not my thing.


And finally, Dan Mangan + Blacksmith arrived to moody lighting and the intro to the first song from Club Meds blasting through the speakers. They kicked right into "Offred" for a set that mostly focused on that album, and their previous Oh, Fortune. In fact, there was only one older song in the main set, and that was when the "new" sound the band had was most evident, during the ending of "Road Regrets" as it soared into a giant finale.

There were also a few opportunities for the members of Blacksmith to shine, as if to hammer the point home that they were a band now, not just Dan solo with some other guys. Guitarist Gord Grdina took over vocals on "A Doll's House", a distorted trumpet solo from JP lead into "Pretty Good Joke", and a phenomenal drum solo from Kenton Loewen brought the house down as it lead into the fierce "Post-War Blues".
But of course, some things didn't change. Dan still told a few stories and jokes -- and playfully bickered with Gord -- throughout the set, and the whole band still had a great stage presence and chemistry together.

Other highlights included my two favourite songs from the new album, "Forgettery" and the fast paced & frantic "Mouthpiece", before the set drew to an end, appropriately enough, with the final song off Club Meds, "New Skies".
There's no way that was going to be all, though, as Dan came back out alone and poked a little fun at the whole tradition of the encore (though also admitting it did feel pretty good). The theatre hushed for an incredible performance of "Basket", perhaps the only song from Nice Nice Very Nice that resembled its original, since it was just Dan on his acoustic, his gruff voice buckling with emotion.

As the rest of the band came back out, they asked the crowd what to play, before setting on "Fair Verona", and a song that Dan admitted they hadn't really been playing on this tour, the fan favourite singalong "Robots" (I assume he would have been run out of town if he didn't at least play it it in Vancouver) which had the whole crowd singing along, naturally, as well as Astral Swans and Hayden -- and at one point Gord's young daughter even joined them on the microphone.
But even that wasn't quite enough, as they played one last song, a completely reworked rendition of "Sold", the frantic song slowed way down to something that more resembled a ballad, as Dan reunited The Granville Street Choir to sing along and draw the night to a close.


It was the end of the tour, hometown show, and everyone was excited to be there; on stage and in the crowd. I've really been liking the new album from the band, and this was really my first chance to witness them really play it live. And it did not disappoint.


setlist
Offred; Vessel; Starts With Them, Ends With Us; Leaves, Trees, Forrest; Post-War Blues; Road Regrets; Pretty Good Joke; Forgettery; A Doll's House; Mouthpiece; Rows of Houses; Kitsch; New Skies.
(encore)
Basket; Fair Verona; Robots; Sold.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Seventy: Animal Bands

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 instrumentals, but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs That Could Be a James Bond Theme.. 

This week we're taking a look at a trend of band names that seemed to reach full saturation a couple years ago, the Top Six Sibling Bands!

Get wild with:

"Nowhere To Go" by Loon Choir
"You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son" by Wolf Parade
"A Duration of Starts and Lines That Form Code" by Frog Eyes
"Freedom" by The Lion The Bear The Fox
"My Government Heart" by Said the Whale
"The Walls Have Drunken Ears" by Whitehorse

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


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Monday, March 9, 2015

The Acoustical Sounds of Big Sugar @ Vogue Theatre -- 03/07/15

It was without a doubt the quietest Big Sugar show I have ever been to. The Acoustical Sounds of Big Sugar was a night of, well, acoustic songs from Big Sugar, to celebrate their recent album Yard Style, a collection of new and old songs done (you guessed it) acoustically.

With no opening acts, the members of Big Sugar, all clad in white, took the stage shortly after eight wielding an assortment of unplugged instruments. They started off with a couple of newer songs from the Yard Style album, setting the tone for the first half of the night. Frontman Gordie Johnson was quick to joke about the unplugged nature of the show, admitting the only way to "turn the guitar up" was quite literal, and musing that it was the one and only time people would be cheering for flute at a Big Sugar show, after a solo during "Little Bit a All Right".
The majority of the first set focused on newer material, a lot of which had a reggae tinge to it, like "A Revolution Per Minute" and "Eliminate' Ya", and even dipping into Gordie's Grady catalogue, with "West Coast Hobo In a Boxcar Blues", re-recorded for Yard Style.
After DJ Friendlyness took centre stage to sing a Rastafari song -- which I'm not sure if it was one of theirs or a cover -- Gordie and Kelly "Mr. Chill" Hoppe were front and centre for a soft and gorgeous rendition of "Wild Ox Moan", both Gordie's voice and Mr. Chill's harmonica soaring, as the rest of the band barely chimed in.


There was a brief intermission before the band was back out for set number two, this one a little more focused on older songs, as they kicked into blues mode with "Still Waitin'". They went back as far as their eponymous debut album with the lackadaisical "Sleep In Late" and hit songs off every album since. "100 Cigarettes" dropped in a new verse about Vancouver's preferred brand of "cigarettes", and the normally furious "Ride Like Hell" was chilled way out.
The only new song they played was another from Yard Style, "Served My Time", co-written with Antigonish Nova Scotia's The Trews (who have a long relationship with Johnson, as he produced their debut album). 
As the night drew to a close, they wrapped up the main set with a pair of songs that were quite clearly fan favourites; "All Hell For A Basement", which is one of my personal faves, and "Turn The Lights On", both of which had the crowd singing and clapping along.
But of course they couldn't leave it there, as they popped out for an encore of a couple more. Another favourite of mine, their cover of Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (which I think they've pretty much owned by this point) and finally, a banjo'd up version of "Digging A Hole".


I've seen Big Sugar live a few times now -- once right before their breakup and a few times since they reunited -- and they have routinely been one of the loudest and most rockin' live bands I have seen. This show was, obviously, quite the opposite, but the band had no less passion. You could feel how excited they were to be stripping down the songs and playing them in a soft-seater venue. And even though I'm not sure I want Gordie trading in his double guitar for a banjo permanently, it was a really cool show.


setlist
Calling All The Youth, Heart Refuse To Pound, Little Bit A All Right, Freedom Train, West Coast Hobo In a Boxcar Blues, A Revolution Per Minute, Eliminate Ya, I Want You Now, [Friendlyness song], Wild Ox Moan.
(intermission)
Still Waitin', Sleep In Late, 100 Cigarettes, Joe Louis/Judgement Day, Served My Time, Ride Like Hell, All Hell For a Basement, Turn The Lights On.
(encore)
Dear Mr. Fantasy, Diggin' a Hole.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Rah Rah @ Media Club -- 03/05/15

I didn't even notice that The Media Club had (apparently?) been closed for the last couple months, but the other day they celebrated their grand re-opening with one of Regina's finest, as Rah Rah teased their upcoming album, Vessels, out this spring
Though, it didn't seem like much had changed; there was a fresh coat of paint and the bathrooms were not as dank as they once were, but it may still be a work in progress.


First up was Savvie opening the show. Recently transformed from the folksy Redbird, Savannah Leigh Wellman has tongue-in-cheek called her new sound "Sex Rock" (though doesn't specify whose tongue in whose cheek), with crunchy guitars and reverb-drenched vocals to get your hips swaying.
The set was pretty much a shorter version of her recent album release show, playing most of the recently released Night Eyes, with songs ranging from the sly "Break You In", the grittier "Gravity", and the smooth groove of "I Fall Again". My favourite of the set, "Dreams of Surrender", was an intense heartbreaker of a song with Savannah's vocals soaring and culminating with Jason Blood shredding on guitar.


Not long after, the five members of Rah Rah packed the stage. There wasn't as much instrument-switching as previous shows -- most notably, Erin Passmore did not hop behind the drum kit, rather stayed up front on keyboard and guitar. Nearly all members shared vocal duties, but the bulk were split between Erin and Marshall Burns, as they burst out the gates with what I think was a new song, followed by "Art and a Wife" from their previous The Poet's Dead.

The set spanned all three albums as well as teased their upcoming Vessels, with a few songs that really got me excited for the new record. Particularly one called "Chip Off the Heart" (and probably not the mondegreen "Chipmunk for Hire") with Kristina Hedlund on lead vocals. Other highlights included "Henry" with its gang-vocal chorus, the chaotic climax of "First Kiss", and "20s", with a line that has started to hit a little too close to home, "I spent my twenties on rock & roll, I'll spend my thirties feeling old".

As the main set came to a close, they finished with a pair of songs that could only come from a Regina band. First "Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel" which is my favourite of theirs, likely a shared sentiment as just about everyone in the room was singing along, especially "in Regina... Saskatchewan" as Erin and Marshall's voices blended together beautifully. Then they closed out with "Prairie Girl", Erin's voice once more soaring over the ridiculously catchy song.
But of course, they came back out for a couple more, leaving the crowd with a couple more new songs, one sweet song, and one that they were playing live in front of people for the first time ever.


Rah Rah is a ridiculously fun band live, each member full of energy and enthusiasm, and the show was a great tease for the upcoming album. When they first released "Good Winter", I liked it, but I thought it wasn't that big of a departure from The Poet's Dead. But the other new songs sounded like a really great step forward, and I am looking forward to Vessels even more now. And eagerly anticipating the following tour.