Monday, September 28, 2009

Pink Mountaintops @ The Rickshaw Theatre -- 09/27/09

It's a shame when an otherwise awesome show get ruined by outside forces. Like shitty venues. If I never go back to the Rickshaw Theatre, it'll be too soon. Located just off Main & Hastings, the crazies were out in full force as we waited an hour after doors were supposed to open to be let in. Once inside, it was none too impressive. A converted movie theatre, it looked more like an old warehouse with a stage and seats. But who cares how it looks, right? As long as it sounds good? Well, no such luck in that category either. The sound was murky and echoy, and seemed to drop in and out. It didn't help that there was a myriad of technical problems, at least at the start of Pink Mountaintops set, and at one point a tech guy was fiddling with something mid-song, causing ear piercing feedback. I know Vancouver needs all the venues it can get, especially now, but.... no thanks.

But enough ranting about the venue, onto the show itself. The first of the all-Vancouveronian show was The Pack A.D., and boy, do they know how to put on a fucking rock show. The garage blues duo, consisting of singer/guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller, were all energy and blew the roof off (and given the venue, it wouldn't surprise me if that literally happened). The only reservation about them is a lot of their songs are kinda... similar; a fact they they jokingly acknowledge when introducing songs. I had heard a fair amount of them on CBCR3, but never really had any inclination to look into them any further. I'm not sure if that has changed, but I would probably not hesitate to see them live again.

And then finally, Stephen McBean and co. hit the stage as Pink Mountaintops came out. The Pack A.D. sounded okay on the sound system, with their minimalistic sound, but once you have six members on stage playing sweeping music, you definitely notice the faults. Despite all this, however, they still managed to put on a pretty great show. focusing mostly on the new album, Outside Love, they played a decent mix of old and new. A lot of the songs sounded a but edgier and more punched up live, but the slower songs, like Vampire, were appropriately (and beautifully) toned down. McBean didn't say much during the show, but it was hard to tell if that was his usual untalkativeness, or frustrations. He even managed to break three strings over the course of the set. It was probably due to his sheer awesomeness, but if I could find a way to blame it on the venue...
They played for about an hour and change, before coming back out for the obligatory encore of a couple songs. It was about as good a set as could have been done.

I know this review is mostly me trashing the Rickshaw, but man... it was pretty bad. I don't know if it was just the scope of Pink Mountaintops was grander than the theatre could handle, but considering their website boasts they are "a place with amazing acoustics and a top notch sound system"... mind you, it also lists "working bathrooms" as a feature, so....
I don't know how many shows they have had there before last night, so I am hoping it's just the kinks of a new venue, and that if they continue to hold shows there, they can get their shit together. But for now, I think I'll be staying away.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Most Serene Republic @ The Biltmore -- 09/26/09

Three down, one to go. Last night was Arts & Crafts band The Most Serene Republic (the first non-Broken Social Scene related band on the A&C label) at the Biltmore.

Grand Archive was out first, and they were Perfectly Acceptable Music. Kind of a generic Seattle/Washington indie sound, to the point where I was not at all surprised when I found out they are on Sub Pop.
They started out a with a few softer songs, but as the set went on, they punched things up a fair amount. The highlights of the set would have to be the cover of ELO's Telephone Line and when a couple Most Serene Republic'ers (Most Serene Republicans?) joined them on stage for backup violin & tambourine on one of their songs. It was a decent set, and by no means bad, just a little bland and forgettable. Especially after the performance TMSR gave.

Shortly after (oh, curfew shows), The Most Serene Republic filled the small-ish Biltmore stage with seven members. Kicking off the set with Bubble Reputation, the first track from the new album, ...And The Ever Expanding Universe, they played a pretty good mix of old and new, off all three of their full lengths. They managed to take their incredibly grandiose sound and not lose anything in the translation from album to live show. There were some small differences, but for the most part it was spot on. The show was a much more lively and upbeat affair, as they stuck to most of their higher energy songs, not playing any of the instrumentals. Which makes sense, cos those are all slower songs, but I still would have liked to hear a couple. Heavens to Purgatory (my fave off the new album, perhaps) and the awesomely powerful gang vocals on Present to Future End were probably the high points of the set. They played for about an hour or so, then were back for the obligatory encore with one song before the 11pm curfew.
Their stage presence was pretty great as well. High energy and dancing around -- lead singer Adrian Jewett had moves that were not completely unlike Elaine's -- and they had a very good rapport with the crowd, as he coined the new Vancouver nickname "The 'Couve'". The introducing of some songs in random, funny voices, was pretty amusing as well. For some reason, I didn't think they would be so... funny!

I wasn't sure what to expect from the night, as the albums can be somewhat dense, and sounded like it could have been difficult to pull off live. But I guess I just underestimated their awesomeness, as it was one hell of a show.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Holy Fuck @ Venue -- 09/24/09

Just a brief aside before the review: the Final Fantasy show tonight has been cancelled due to Owen Pallett having a serious flu. This makes me incredibly sad, as it was the show in this stretch I was most looking forward to... :(
I hope he gets better soon and is able to reschedule... and on a day when I have no other show!
But anyway, on to the matter at hand:

There are two interesting things about my little 5 day stretch (of 4 shows, now). One is they're all in different venues. Tonight was the newly renovated Plaza Club, renamed The Venue, which is a ridiculously silly name. They've opened it up a bit more, especially downstairs, but the awkward general shape is still there -- it still feels like you're inside a ship -- and the sound is only slightly better than it was. The stage got a much needed overhaul, though. It's much bigger with better lights and a pretty nifty LED screen along the back. It's an improvement over the old Plaza Club, but it's still kind of a sub-par venue. It's good enough, but with some of the other, excellent, venues in the town, it's like eating at McDonald's when there is a Cafe Crêpe across the street.

The other interesting thing is the wide variety of music. Sure, they're all Canadian, and would all fit under the "indie" umbrella, but the bands sounds were about at the opposite end of the musical spectrum as last nights lineup. First up was Basketball, who I knew nothing about before the show. And I wish that were still the case. The best way to describe them would be Tribal Electronica, and they started out okay, but by the end it kind of devolved into pretentious noise, with all songs sounding... kinda similar. They had decent energy, with the lead singer jumping into the crowd a few times to sing and all three members jumping around switching instruments through most of the set, but were most certainly nothing I'm in a hurry to hear again.

Finally around 11, Holy Fuck hit the stage and... wow. They may be an electronica band, but this was no simple DJ set. They don't use any fancy tricks -- like looping, splicing or programming anything -- so everything was done live with the help of drums, a guitar, and two tables full of keyboards and other miscellaneous instruments... as well as non-instruments, like a 35mm film synchronizer. Having the show done this way, you almost get the sense that no two Holy Fuck shows will ever be alike. Sure, the songs themselves will always be the same, but the subtle nuances of them will always shift and change, just by the very nature of how they play live shows.
They went for a solid hour or so, just rocking out with limited breaks between the songs and not much by way of stage banter -- only speaking to us twice, to thank us and that sort of thing -- but they more than made up for it with the amount of energy they put into playing; an energy that overflowed off the stage and got damn near everyone in the place moving. They were less a band a more a force of nature. Case in point, they ended the main set with Lovely Allen, which was indescribably amazing, and had had everyone jumping. I would have been completely satisfied had they ended the night there, but they came back out for a couple more, leaving our already blown minds steaming piles of goo all over the Venue floor.

Simply put, I can not wait to have the chance to see Holy Fuck live again.
(also, I managed to snag a copy of that creepy-as-fuck poster for my ever expanding poster wall. huzzah!)

I will leave you with proof. This video was not mine, I take no credit for it other than finding it on the YouTubes and posting it here:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Basia Bulat @ St James Hall -- 09/23/09

With both Transmission and Rifflandia going on this week(end), it seems like a few of the artists involved in those festivals are making the short jaunt over for shows here. This probably helped create a record breaking five shows in a row for me (and seven in ten days). So screw Victoria, I'll have a festival of my own! I don't have a name for it (yet! Suggestions?) but it is bound to be legendary.

Opening the night was Woodpigeon. Or rather, Mark Hamilton (no relation) from Woodpigeon going it alone. Armed with just his guitar (and some backtracking and looping for a couple songs) he seemed a bit shaky to start, admitting "I am nervous because Basia Bulat is in the next room. She's probably just like 'pffft!'". Over the coarse of the half hour, though, he seemed to relax, and was only really showing nerves in the banter between songs. The music itself was solid. His light and sort of folksy sound was a perfect opening for someone like Basia and reminded me a little of a stripped down Sufjan Stevens or a less bizarre Grizzly Bear... maybe a little Iron & Wine-y (but not whiny). He also gets major "props" for not only breaking out a cover song in the middle of his set, but covering an ABBA song. I knew the band name from from R3, but couldn't think of anything from them before the show... but after the show, I have to say he won me over. At least enough to want to hear them as a full band.
Sidebar: They're playing as a six piece Saturday night at Little Mountain Gallery... shame I can't make it though, I wish I could.

After a short break, Basia Bulat hit the stage with band mates Allison “Wonderland” Stewart on viola and backing vocals and brother Bobby Bulat on drums. The one thing that struck me right off the bat is how tiny she is. I didn't realize she was so short, which made it all the more impressive that such a powerful voice -- which is even more amazing live -- comes from such a small stature. She started the set with The Pilgriming Vine, which began with just her & her guitar before exploding energetically half way through as the other two joined in. The high energy was kept up through the entire night, even during the slower songs. There was a good mix of old & new, giving us a preview of the album due out next January. Most of the newer songs were pretty high energy and a bit faster, and got me really excited for the new album... there was even a song where they added a distortion pedal... to the viola!!
The older songs were great, too, with the seated crowd bopping along to In The Night, I Was A Daughter and Snakes & Ladders, but the highlight of the show was most definitely Before I Knew, which saw Bulat take to the front of the stage with her ukulele and Allison for backing vocals and handclaps, and proceeded to sing the song with no amplification for her voice. That was a pretty amazing sight, and even though St James Hall is not very large, I have no doubt she would be able to pull that off at a venue of any size. It was a testament to the raw power, and beauty, of her voice.
Through the set, she seemed incredibly grateful to be there, and that the audience was there. It was her first Vancouver show of her own, and even if it was just the generic "[TOWN] is the best city to play in!" banter, she managed to sound incredibly sincere. She was charismatic and goofed off quite a bit between songs, joking about introducing her glasses too early in our "relationship" and her Beatles guitar picks... I'm not gonna lie, I think I developed a bit of a musician-crush on her last night.

I don't know why, but I wasn't really expecting anything from the show -- not low expectations, but rather... no expectations. I saw her once before, opening for Final Fantasy, but that was before I knew her, really, and since she was the first of three, the crowd was pretty noisy. (HATE) After the show, though, I was pretty blown away and now I can't wait to get my hands on the new album, and I really hope she is back for a tour then.

All in all, an excellent start to Kirkapalooza.
(ok, terrible name)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Happiness Project by Charles Spearin

As a founding member of KC Accidental and Do Make Say Think, as well as regular contributor to Broken Social Scene, multi-talented Charles Spearin has quite the musical background. His new release, The Happiness Project, is no doubt the most interesting album I have heard all year. The concept behind the album is to find music in everyday life and to blur the lines between singing and speaking. In each song, Spearin takes clips from interviews and talks he had with friends and family and sets them to music. Not in an Auto-Tune The News way, but more like a film score. The music emphasizes the natural ebb and flow of the voice, turning the cadence and inflections of the words into backbones of songs, building off them and exploring. The music itself ranges from upbeat jazz to moody and dark, but the subject of each song/interview is, as you might expect from the title, happiness and this gives the album genuinely heartwarming feel to it.

This is a short review -- for a short album, it clocks in at 32 minutes -- as it is incredibly hard to quantify; I can't think of anything else like it, and it really just needs to be heard to understand it. It may not really be one that you can listen to over and over, and I'm not sure where it will end up in my favourite albums of the year, but it is the most fascinating, and definitely worth a listen. And I urge you all to take a listen.

Download Mrs. Morris

Download Marisa

Download Ondine

Or better yet, take a look at this video in which Spearin himself describes the project much more eloquently than I.

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Monday, September 14, 2009


Nov 9th - Nov 10th
Matthew Good in Vancouver, BC
The Centre for the Performing Arts
On sale: Friday Sept 18 @ 10am

There is no emoticon for the excitement I feel!!!

(Also, I have reason to believe the opening band will be Mother Mother!)

I have not yet listened, because I am waiting for the for reals copy, but you can stream the new album from his website, or by clicking here!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Immaculate Machine @ The Biltmore -- 09/12/09

I always seem to have bad luck with Immaculate Machine. As much as I love them, I've only seen them live thrice before -- and of those, only one was them headlining. Every time they come through, it seems like the fates have conspired against me seeing them. For example, last time they came it was the same night that I already had tickets for The Stills.
This time, however, there was nothing to stop me from heading to The Biltmore for some musical goodness. Or was there...???

Up first was Char2D2, who had me won over with the name before anything else. Normally consisting simply of former Bella member, Charla McCutcheon, she has added a touring drummer for her shows. Music-wise, it was Perfectly Acceptable Music and about what you would expect from someone of her background. All the songs were pretty catchy, and some nervous/humble/charming stage banter sprinkled the set. I wasn't quite won over enough to pick up the EP, but I will be sure to keep to keep a lookout for her in the future, and wouldn't mind seeing her live again.

Then shortly after Immaculate Machine hit the stage... but something was wrong. Brooke was there, but not so much Kathryn. And the weird thing is, her replacement (who, I will say right now, was not bad, but just not Kathryn) wasn't even on the keys, rather another guitar. So of the band I fell in love with, only one member was there -- with drummer Luke having left the band, and music all together, after the new album came out. The show was still pretty damn good, but it was more like... Brooke Gallupe & Friends Cover Immaculate Machine. Not to take anything away from Brooke, as he is an excellent musician in his own right, but it was almost like seeing Stars without Amy Millan or Arcade Fire without Régine Chassagne. I am probably sounding a bit harsh, but it is mostly because the whole thing was unexpected. I almost do wish the show had been billed as a Brooke Gallupe solo show.
The set was kind of up & down. Starting with a few tracks from the new album, which sounded great, but as soon as they got into some of the older stuff the changes seemed very noticeable. C'Mon Sea Legs wasn't quite the same, nor was Broken Ship, and Dear Confessor -- one of my favourite songs, not just of theirs -- sounded completely different. Not necessarily worse, just... different. Most of the newer songs, however, sounded awesome, with maybe the exception of And It Was, also suffering slightly from the Calderlessness. Sound The Alarms, however, was a fantastic song live and He's A Biter even had Brooke breaking some strings.
They ended the main set with a double shot of Nothing Ever Happens and Neighbours Don't Mind, two related songs (from different albums) about the perils of Brooke's apartment. The encore break was short, as they had to be out by 11 for, and I quote Brooke, who was quoting the staff, "The Invasion Of The Hipsters"
Every time I've seem IM they've done random covers, and tonight was no different. After talking about singing it in karaoke after their Chilliwack show the previous night ("if you ever want to sing karaoke with sad cowboys....") and learning it in sound check, they launched into a pretty awesome cover of Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town.

Again, I am focusing on the flaws, but it was most certainly not a bad show by any means; rather somewhat of a disappointment. Had I known Calder wasn't going to be there beforehand, I don't think I would have minded nearly as much. And again, her replacement was certainly by no means bad, but they lack of Kathryn & the lack of any sort of keys just made it a completely different show from what I've seen before. And since it seems like she had a diminished role in the most recent album, and wasn't in the newest video for Only Love You For Your Car (which is, by the way, an awesome, awesome video)... I'm starting to wonder and worry about her/the bands future status...

As for the setlist:
Don't Build The Bridge, Only Love You For Your Car, Thank Me Later, C'Mon Sea Legs, Dear Confessor, And It Was, Sound The Alarms, You Got Us Into This Mess, Broken Ship, He's A Biter, So Cynical, Nothing Ever Happens, Neighbours Don't Mind.
(encore) The Boys Are Back in Town, No Such Thing As The Future.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Franz Ferdinand @ Malkin Bowl -- 09/06/09

Well, it was bound to happen. Almost every time I've seen a show at Malkin Bowl it has threatened to rain, and every time I have used my vast powers to make sure it doesn't. Until last night. It had been raining on and off all day, and when we finally got to the park, it was still lightly drizzling and ended up raining to varying degrees the whole show. Though it was a warm rain, luckily, so it wasn't unpleasant or cold or uncomfortable, just a little wet. (It's still good, it's still good).

The opening back, Defektors (the 'k' makes them edgy), hit the stage around 7, and they were... well, let's just say their song was not horrible, but the decision to play it over and over for their whole set -- which, mercifully, only lasted about 25 minutes -- was questionable. They mumbled through the introductions, claiming each iteration of the song had a different name, and stood around kinda awkward while playing, with little to no stage presence. It's not like they were terrible by any means, but I have already forgotten their set and all their songs.

I am pretty sure that the show was accelerated a little, due to the rain (which was a light drizzle at that point), as it was 8 when Franz Ferdinand came out and launched right into No You Girls. They paused after the first song to say hellos and Alex Kapranos thanked us all for waiting in the rain, informing us how awesome we are. Of course, since he mentioned it, as soon as they started the next song, Dark Of The Matinée, it started absolutely pouring. This stopped no one, however, from enjoying the show as Franz's insane energy kept everyone moving. A few times, mostly during the instrumental bits and solos, Alex and/or Nick would even venture out into the front part of the stage, uncovered and soaking wet, to play a little in the rain. They played a pretty good mix of songs from all three albums, with an obvious focus on the newest. A lot of the older songs, though, had a few changes or updates thrown in, mostly just some extra flourishes, or a solo here or there. Nothing to make the songs unrecognizable, but just so they don't go "stale".
After a few more songs -- Bite Hard being notable, as it is incredible live -- Alex introduced everyone while leading into This Fire, an amusing song to hear in the pouring rain, especially with everyone shouting the chorus. What You Came For was followed by their first and probably still biggest hit, Take Me Out (a sly jab, perhaps?) which had everyone singing/yelling along to the chorus. The main set ended with the combination of the last songs from the first two albums. 40', which had an amazing instrumental interlude and Alex doing a call & answer with the crowd for the La La La-La's, and Outsiders, which is always incredible to see this song live, as it ends with all four members of the band going batshit insane on the drumkit.
As the rain finally eased up, they came back out for the encore, keeping up the insane energy with a few older songs. They capped off the whole night with Lucid Dreams, which was the song I had most hoped they would play. The song itself was more like the single version than the album version, which had me a little anxious, but those fears were quashed when they did indeed go into the second half of the song, from the album version. Stretched out to about 10 minutes, the synthy-dance-funk-o-tron ending, which sounds more like Death From Above 1979-lite or Holy Fuck than anything Franz has done before, was mind blowing and a near perfect way to end the show. As the sing came to a close, each member departed the stage one by one, starting with Alex, then Nick (leaving a synthy-loop going), then Bob, leaving drummer Paul all alone (with said loop) to go insane on the drums and bring the song to an epic finale. They came out one final time to the very front of the stage for a bow and that was that. At 9:30, no less!

Each time I have seen them live, they just keep getting more and more mindblowingly awesome. Maybe they venues have been getting progressively better (Colloseum to Commodore to Malkin Bowl) and maybe it's cos last time they played was before the new album, but even despite the weather, it was one amazing show. The only way it could have been better is if they had played Katherine Kiss Me, but since that is a very mellow and almost acoustic-y song, I can understand why they didn't... but it still would have made for a really cool closing song, like a kind of dénouement after the insanity of Lucid Dreams.

The setlist was as follows:
No You Girls, Dark of the Matinée, Walk Away, Bite Hard, Tell Her Tonight, Do You Wanna?, This Fire, What You Came For, Take Me Out, Ulysses, 40', Outsiders.
(encore) Michael, Turn It On, Darts of Pleasure, Lucid Dreams.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

songs of the indeterminate time period.

Hey look! It's another instalment of my song(s) of the week month "whenever I feel like it" segment!
Here are a few songs; ones that are new, newish, or new-to-me for your listening pleasure. I'll also try to include at least some diversity in the selected songs.

Today there is a bit of a theme, with guest artists on songs in genres you would perhaps not expect them to be in.

Metric's Emily Haines and The Dears' Murray Lightburn join forces with k-os for this track. It is not a surprising collaboration, considering all have worked, in some capacity, with Broken Social Scene, have toured together and are buddies. All three of their voices mix amazingly well together, and the song itself is pretty damn good. It is off k-os' new album YES! and is quite possibly one of my favourite tracks of the year. Maybe only just a little because it features two of my favourite musicians, and now makes me really want a collaboration between Haines & Lightburn together.

Download Uptown GirL by k-os
artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music

This Nova Scotian collaboration features rapper Classified with quintessential maritime musician, Joel Plaskett. Both artists have been around for over a dozen years and albums and are both pretty influential in their respective genres and scenes. It's a pairing that may sound like it wouldn't work, given their respective sounds, but it comes together excellently, and even features some of Plaskett's playfulness. It is off of Classified's thirteenth album, Self Explanatory.

Download One Track Mind by Classified

artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music

When internationally renowned electronica DJ Misstress Barbara -- the misspelling being intentional, a portmanteau of "miss" and "stress" -- put out her first album, I'm No Human, she enlisted in the help of fellow Montrealer Sam Roberts for vocals on the track I'm Running. It's another pairing that works much better than you would expect, with their voices melding together perfectly. The overall catchiness of the song doesn't hurt, either.
It also has a pretty cool video.

Download I'm Running by Misstress Barbara
artists website where you may listen to more and exchange monies for music