Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Bonfire Ball w/ Jason Collett, Zeus & Bahamas @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 03/26/10

I don't even know where to begin.

For a while now, I've been yearning for a show where a few artists just took the stage together to play each others songs, especially after Monsters of Folk did the format so masterfully last year. Well, the Bonfire Ball was exactly what I was looking for. Jason Collett, Zeus & Bahamas, together in one show, not just with three different sets, but all taking the stage together, weaving together a three hour set comprised of all their songs (and more). With Zeus both touring with and backing Jason Collet on his last tour, and Bahamas (aka Afie Jurvanen) playing on both their albums, the format only seemed natural. I've seen each of these bands live before and each one I would gladly pay to see on their own, so a show like this? Awesome.

The night started off with Jason Collett hitting the stage alone for "My Daddy Was a Rock n’ Roller" before Zeus and Bahamas came out to join him for "Fire" and "Hangover Days". Bahamas took front and centre next for three songs, and then three from Zeus, with their first being the awesome "Kindergarten". The rest of the first half traded off Zeus and Collett every few songs, with "Bitch City", off Collett's new album Rat A Tat Tat, being great live, and "High Summer" having a pretty funny intro. Collett talked a bit about the differences between Canadian & American cultures (they just came back from a week touring in the States) and pointing out what the sign of a true Canadian is (the ability to make love in a canoe), a fact that tied into the song. That was pretty much the most banter for the whole show, which was a little sad; I especially missed Afie's stage banter, which is part of what won me over when I first saw Bahamas. He just oozes charisma, and was hilarious with his faux arrogance and attitude that almost reminded me of Dave Grohl. While he still still insanely charismatic, there was only a little banter.
Back to the set, though: while this wasn't the first time I've seen the new Zeus songs live, it is the first time since the album came out, so it was great to be familiar with them. "River by the Garden" and "Marching Through Your Head" were both superb live. The first half of the show ended with "Cornerstones", off the Sounds Like Zeus EP, which just tore the place down. Every time I've seen them (this will be the fourth) they just get better and better. And it's really cool to see them switching things up, as just about every song had a different configuration, with three of the four members switching off between the guitars, bass and keys, and all of them providing vocals. Very Sloan-esque of them.

I think I honestly could have left right then and been satisfied, but we still had a lot more show to go!

The second half began after a quick break with Zeus back out, with their insanely catchy "How Does It Feel?" (a slogan we decided was probably not a good idea to have on a t-shirt). They traded off for a few, with Collett's "Rave On Sad Song" being another highlight. Then there was a little of Bahamas' banter; before "What's Worse" he called out a guy who was being a little rowdy, then proceeded to sing the song to the girl he was with. There was also a great moment in the song where Afie and one of the members of Zeus had a nice guitar duel going. I can not wait until Bahamas is back for a headlining show of his own.
Collett had a bit of a love double shot with two newer ones, "Love is a Dirty Word" and "Love is a Chain", before one of my favourite Collett songs, "Charlyn, Angel of Kensington". Jason was, of course, insanely good live. This was my fourth time seeing him live (the other three times, interestingly enough, were all in '08) and I've never been disappointed.
Rounding out the second portion, Bahamas dedicated "Hockey Teeth" to a random couple who may or may not have been on their first date, and Zeus nearly blew the roof off with "You Gotta' Teller", before "ending", all together, with another of my favourite Collett songs, one which is always incredible live, "I'll Bring The Sun". The way the song builds to the conclusion, seeing everyone just go crazy on stage, it was just... wow. It blew the roof all the way off.

Then there was the obligatory encore, which was an all-cover-song set, and if you know me, you know I love hearing bands do covers live. First saw just Bahamas on the drums and Neil Quin of Zeus on the guitar for what may have been the best cover, R. Kelly's "Ignition". Done completely straight. Yeah, it was glorious. The rest of Zeus came out for their cover of Genesis' "That's All", then for his cover, Bahamas absolutely owned the room with "I've Never Found A Girl (Who Loves Me Like You Do)" by Al Green. I wouldn't be surprised if half the girls in the room fell in love with him that night, and the other half after that song. Collett pulled out some Rolling Stones for "She's So Cold", and the night ended, after more than three hours, with everyone rocking out to The Beatles' "Slow Down".

And to put the proverbial icing on the cake? Grant Lawrence and CBC Radio 3 were urging people to fancy themselves up, as if going to a real ball. So, of course, never one to pass up the opportunity to suit up, I went for it. And the cool thing is, so did a fair amount of others! Most of the Biltmore was still in the usual hipster-wear, but there was a group of us all gussied up. You could definitely tell who in the room was an R3 listener.

Three fantastic bands. A dream format. Cover songs. Suiting up. This was quite possibly a perfect show for me; it was one of, if not the, best of the year so far and will certainly be hard to top.

I managed to (mostly) keep track of the setlist. It's a bit of a doozy, so prepare for some scrolling. I also missed the titles of a few songs... they may be new, since I tried to match them with songs I know/have, but I also might just fail. If you know them, feel free to let me know so I can fill 'em in.

My Daddy Was a Rock n’ Roller (Collett)
Fire (Collett)
Hangover Days (Collett)
Your Touch (Bahamas)
Caught Me Thinking (Bahamas)
Be My Witness (Bahamas)
Kindergarten (Zeus)
I Know (Zeus)
Airplane (Zeus)
We All Lose One Another (Collett)
High Summer (Collett)
Greater Times On the Wayside (Zeus)
The River by The Garden (Zeus)
Idols of Exile (Collett)
Bitch City (Collett)
Long May You Love (Collett)
Marching Through Your Head (Zeus)
Cornerstones (Zeus)
How Does it Feel? (Zeus)
The Renegade (Zeus)
I Got You Babe (Bahamas)
Cold Blue Halo (Collett)
Lake Superior (Collett)
Rave on Sad Song (Collett)
Already Yours (Bahamas)
What's Worse (Bahamas)
[mystery song] (Zeus)
At Risk Of Repeating (Zeus)
Love is a Dirty Word (Collett)
Love is a Chain (Collett)
Charlyn, Angel of Kensington (Collett)
Out of Time (Collett)
Hockey Teeth (Bahamas)
Heavy On Me (Zeus)
You Gotta Teller (Zeus)
Blue Sky (Collett)
I'll Bring the Sun (Collett)
Ignition (r. kelly cover) (Zeus [Neil Quin])
That's All (genesis cover) (Zeus)
I've Never Found A Girl (Who Loves Me Like You Do) (al green cover) (Bahamas)
She's So Cold (rolling stones cover) (Collett)
Slow Down (the beatles cover) (all)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Les Chemins De Verre

Yes, yes, yes. I had heard rumblings of a new album from my favourite francophone band, Karkwa, but it was only today I found out it would be released so soon. Les Chemins De Verre will be released March 30 (yes, next week!) and their website has what I assume is the first single up. So here is the title track for your listening pleasure. And I do mean pleasure.

Download Les Chemins De Verre by Karkwa

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Immaculate Machine @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 03/19/10

Ok, I've gotta complain about the Biltmore here for a moment. I think it is a great venue to see a show, but where there are severely lacking is in time management and consistency. On their site, they had doors at 8, show at 9:30. But 9:30 rolls around, and nothing. Then 10. Then finally at 10:30 the first band goes on. The first band of three, mind you.
When they have Glory Days and want to kick everyone out, they have no problem making a show run smoothly and on time, but this just seemed like they were trying to milk money out of everyone there by keeping us as long as possible so people would buy more drinks (jokes on them, I just had free water!).

So for full disclosure, I was kind of tired by the time the first band came on (up at 630 with six hours of sleep will do that), and I fully admit it may have effected my enjoyment of the opening acts. The first of which was A Pale Blue. They hit the stage at 10:30, but there was a bit of stalling for a while after the curtains opened. Their sound was kind folky-country, but maybe a little too much on the country side. The set was half an hour, but seemed quite a bit shorter, since there seemed to be quite a bit of them standing around for no apparent reason... They were not bad by any means, but just not really anything that held my attention.

Then coming on at 11:30 was Sun Wizards, a great band name. Their set, too, was pretty short, but definitely more up tempo. They had some catchy songs, but it seemed a little bit too much like one catchy song played with slight variations over and over. The vocals were also really indistinguishable; I think the lead singer somehow managed to mumble and yell simultaneously... Again, they were not bad, and I might be interested in seeing them open for someone again, but I probably wouldn't go see a show for just them.

Both bands sets kind of blended together (within themselves, not with each other), and again, my general fatigue probably played a factor, so I am not counting either one of them out. But neither one particularly gave a good enough first impression to get through my tired eyes.

And finally, FINALLY, hitting the stage at 12:30 was Immaculate Machine. Last time I saw them I was quite disappointed by Kathryn Calder not being at the show, but this show more than made up for it. I am not sure if she has fully left the band, or is just more of a part time member now (with her being in New Pornos and her upcoming solo album), but I was reminded so much of why I love the band. That's not to take away from Brooke Gallupe, as he is also an excellent musician, but Immaculate Machine without Kathryn is like Stars without Amy Millan, or Black Mountain without Amy Weber. Yes, Campbell, McBean and Gallupe are all more than capable of fronting their respective bands on their own, but it would just be weird. It was only three songs in, with "C'mon Sea Legs" and "Dear Confessor" (one of my favourites) back to back, when I realized how much of an impact Calder made.
That was just reaffirmed throughout the night, especially when they played some of their older songs like "Broken Ship" and "Jarhand". And of course the newer ones were great too, with "Sound the Alarms" and "Neighbours Don't Mind" both being incredibly high energy and rocking. Spanning songs off their last three albums (their first, Transporter, got no love) and throwing in a their usual cover song, this time "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac (they've played a different cover every time I've seen them live, and that is just another reason I love the band so much) this was probably the best I've seen them play. They were all on top of their game, and it's kind of interesting to see how they've grown since the first time I saw them four years ago.
They played for about an hour or so before "leaving" and coming back for just one more and taking off for good. Which I didn't mind too much, since it was already after 1:30 at that point. I may have managed to be alert for their entire set, but I don't know how much longer I would have lasted. There was also a cool piece of merch I picked up, a collected edition of the various comics Brooke has done over the years. Some can be viewed here at their website but there are more in the book. For only $5 it was definitely worth it.

While the poor time management may have put me off the show "earlier" in the night, it was more than worth it to see the excellent set from Immaculate Machine.

Only Love You For Your Car, Don't Build the Bridge, C'mon Sea Legs, Dear Confessor, You Destroyer, Thank Me Later, Sound the Alarms, Phone No., Broken Ship, He's a Biter, So Cynical, Jarhand, The Chain (Fleetwood Mac cover), No Suck Thing As The Future, Neighbours Don't Mind. (encore) Nothing Ever Happens.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Originally I wanted to review every album I bought/otherwise listened to last year. Clearly, I've slacked on that. Partially cos there have been a lot of albums that, for whatever reason, I don't feel like writing a full review for. So what I have decided to do is give a few really quick reviews all at once.... in haiku form. Here we go!
After this I think I only have one more full album review (maybe two, depends on how I'm feeling) then I am done with my '09 albums! Only three months too late... and now I'm behind in my '10 releases... a bloggers work is never done.

Other Truths by Do Make Say Think
Epic wall of sound
Requires many listens
To reach its true depth

Download Do by Do Make Say Think
(notice: track is 10 minutes long. the album has four tracks, but runs 43 minutes!)

Them Crooked Vultures by Them Crooked Vultures (John Paul Jones + Josh Homme + Dave Grohl)
A bit too "queens-y"
I wish they rotated jobs
Even still, quite good.

Download Scumbag Blues

The Persuit by Jamie Cullum
Good, as expected
Usual brand of jazz-pop
Some nifty covers

Download Mixtape by Jamie Cullum
And because I feel like it, here is another track from the album, a cover of Rihanna's Don't Stop The Music.

Download Don't Stop The Music by Jamie Cullum (Rihanna cover)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Trews @ LiveCity Downtown -- 03/14/10 (Even More Paralympic Shenanigans)

I really wish LiveCity existed all the time. Three great bands in three nights, and all for free. You can't beat that! The Paralympic opening weekend was closed out with Antigonish, Nova Scotia's The Trews! (side note: I love saying Antigonish.) I missed their show at Atlantic House during the Olympics due to the insane lines, so I was more than happy when I found out about this show.

I've said before that The Trews have got to be one of my favourite live bands; few bands have can match their raw energy live, and they did not disappoint this time. Even after Colin admitted they left Canadian Music Week in Toronto at 5am that morning, any fatigue on their part was not noticeable (or at the very least, well concealed). They kept up the energy for nearly an hour and a half, hitting material old and new, and even a brand new one which has been played live since their acoustic tour, "Highway of Heroes", a moving number written about a woman from their hometown (Antigonish) who went off to fight in the Canadian Forces and never returned.
Some other highlights of the set were "Ishmael & Maggie", which is perhaps my favourite Trews song, ending with the band forgoing their instruments and crowding around the two mics to sing the end a capella. That transitioned nicely into another one of my favourites, "Poor Ol Broken Hearted Me" which had the crowd singing along by the end. Another great song-along, "Tired of Waiting" had a bit of an extended ending which segued perfectly into "Hold Me In Your Arms", which "ended" the main set. And of course no Trews show is complete without John-Angus' fantastic guitar playing. Part way through "Yearning" the rest of the band left the stage, leaving just him up there to melt most every face in the crowd. For the encore, they came back with a few mellower tracks, "Man of Two Minds" and the acoustic "Sing Your Heart Out" before ending the show with the intense "Burning Wheel" and the band just go crazynuts at the end.
One of the things I have always loved about The Trews live shows is how they slip in random covers here and there, and this show was no different. There was a verse from Fleetwood Mac's "Second Hand News" in "Can't Stop Laughing". The chorus of "Waving Flag" by K'naan was in the middle of "Yearning", and they started "Tried of Waiting" with a few lines from "54-46 That's My Number" (originally from Toots & the Maytals, but oft-covered).

This was my fifth time seeing The Trews live, and while I don't think it was my favourite show of theirs, it is always enjoyable to see them live. I can't recommend them more if you have the chance to see them live... especially for free!

Dark Highway, So She's Leaving, Not Ready To Go, Can't Stop Laughing (w/ Second Hand News by Fleetwood Mac), Paranoid Freak, Yearning (w/ Waving Flag by K'naan), Ishmael & Maggie, Poor Ol' Broken Hearted Me, Highway of Heroes, Fleeting Trust, Tired of Waiting (w/ 54-46 That's My Number by Toots & the Maytals), Hold Me In Your Arms.
[encore] Man of Two Minds, Sing Your Heart Out, Burning Wheels.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Weakerthans @ LiveCity Downtown -- 03/13/10 (More Paralympic Shenanigans)

Why am I not a bigger fan of The Weakerthans? That was one of my first thoughts after leaving their free show at Livecity Downtown last night. Not to say I don't like the band. I have their latest album, Reunion Tour. I hear them on CBCR3 all the time. I've even seen them live before. But for some reason I guess I've always been more of a casual fan than anything. But after a pretty damn good show at Livecity Downtown last night, that may have to change.

Starting off with "Night Windows" and, of course dedicated to the curlers, "Tournament of Hearts" they went on to play for a little over an hour. They played most of the songs I knew from them, including the catchy "Sun in an Empty Room" -- which features one of my favourite lyrics: "parallelograms of light" -- and toasting us with the spoken word "Elegy for Gump Worsley", which is, as you might guess, about old goaltender Gump Worsley. Half way through the set, most of the band left, leaving John K Samson alone for "One Great City", which saw just about the whole room singing along, especially to the chorus proclaiming their hatred of Winnipeg. They ended the set with "Civil Twilight" and another song, which I didn't catch, but was a pretty great way to end the set.
There was the usual short encore tease before Samson came out alone again. He admitted he felt bad about forgetting some of the words in the last couple songs (which I didn't even notice) and felt as if he owed us... so reached into his pocket and handed a $10 bill to one of the people in the front row! After dedicating the song to both the volunteers and protesters of the olympics, and relating his pride of the guitar solo in the upcoming song (which we would know when he started playing with the "guitar solo face"), he launched in to "Utility". The rest of the band joined him mid-song; in time for his solo, which was pretty awesome. They ended the night with a couple more songs, managing to not only keep up the high energy they had throughout the set, but amplify it.

Even though it's my third time seeing them live (first time I saw them open for Feist, second I won tickets to their Rolling Tundra Revue with The Constantines) I was still blown away by how great they are. It seems every time I see them live I like them more & more, to the point where I think I am going to have to rectify my woeful underappreciation for this band.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Said The Whale @ LiveCity Downtown -- 03/12/10 (Paralympic Shenanigans)

It's time for round two of the free shows! Last night was the opening of the Paralympic Games, and while there may not be nearly as many free shows as the Olympics, Livecity Downtown is open again and has some great bands playing this weekend and next. To kick things off? Said The Whale! I somehow managed to miss all their shows during the Olympic break, so I certainly wasn't going to miss seeing them this time.

Even though it's my fourth time seeing the band, I am still amazed by their live show. The energy and enthusiasm they put into playing, it's obvious that they love what they're doing. And even though they're still a relatively young band, everything just comes together so well that you would think they have been playing together for decades.

They kicked off their set with their newest single, "Emerald Lake, AB", an older one which had most of the crowd singing along, "This City's A Mess" and "Love is Art/Sleep Through The Fire", which almost overshadows the recorded version with how ridiculously good it is live. It was kind of strange to hear "BC Orienteering" without Hannah Georgas (even when I've seen the song live, she's always been there to sing her part) but it was still great nonetheless. "Holly, Ontario" started off with some cool "chest percussion" -- which I kind of wish the crowd joined along to instead of just clapping -- and went from a soft start to a crazy climactic ending as it sort of segued into "Dear Elkhorn". They broke out a brand new song, which I think was called "New Brighton", and was pretty cool.
Regular readers (both of you) know how much I love "Goodnight Moon", and it's always great to hear live, with it's soft beginning that turns into the whole band (and the crowd) going nuts for an insanely joyous ending. Plus it's always fun to see someone rocking out on a ukulele. They "ended" with "Camillo (The Magician)" and everyone in the crowd just went crazy, but came back for a one song encore, since they only had four minutes left. A brief poll of the crowd had "Curse the Current" win out over "Gift of a Black Heart", and they asked everyone to sing along to close out the night. It may not have been quite as awesome as the unamplified rendition from their show at St James Hall, but it is a great song to close out a show with.

Even though they played for an hour, it didn't seem like nearly enough and I can't wait to see them again at the Commodore on May 5th, opening for the awesome Plants & Animals. That is bound to be an amazing show.

Emerald Lake, AB; This City's A Mess; Love is Art/Sleep Through Fire; The Banks of the English Bay; BC Orienteering; Black Day In December; The Light is You; My Government Heart; Holly, Ontario -> Dear Elkhorn; New Brighton; Out On The Shield; False Creek Change; Howe Sounds; Goodnight Moon; Camillo (The Magician). [encore] Curse The Currents.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Elliott BROOD @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 03/11/10

If nothing else, it was an interesting show. After a couple of shows with really good crowds, I guess it would have to have balanced out some time. But I suppose that is what you get when people are there more for free booze and "dancing" than the band playing. I guess in retrospect, I really shouldn't have been surprised by something called the Jameson Bartenders Ball.

Right out of the bat, the show failed a little, as the communication on the timing was kind of... sub par. The invite page on the facebooks, where you had to RSVP to get in, said doors were 8 and seemed to imply the band would be 9-11, then there would be shenanigans from 11 onward. In fact, the doors were not til 9 (and even then we were not let in until 930) and the band didn't go on until almost 11:30. For those two hours we had to sit through a "DJ" with his "club remixes" of good (or decent) songs, and watching people "dance" while "dressed fancy". It was... well, let's just say fascinating, especially considering it was, how shall i put this... not the usual Biltmore crowd (it was a broverload).

But I digress, onto the show itself! I was sad that I only sort of saw Elliott BROOD during the olympics, so another show so soon was satisfying. And as always with BROOD, they didn't disappoint. They had their usual incredible raw energy and stage presence, even if they were, as they admitted, a few whiskeys in. Every time I am see them I am somewhat surprised to see just how much energy they can build with just the three members. Playing about an hour and a half, they hit a nice mix of older, newer, and a few brand new songs, even throwing in a couple covers, like CCR and White Stripes, which is always cool to hear. They hit most of my favourites of theirs, like the instrumental "Chuckwagon" off Mountain Meadows, which is absolutely fantastic live. I was somewhat disappointed that they didn't pass out the kitchenware for "The Valley Town" and "Write It All Down For You" -- it seems I'm destined to never get any -- but considering the levels of intoxication in the room, that was probably a good idea. Both songs were killer, though, even without the props and despite the usual crowd participation being somewhat lacking; it seemed like only the select few up at the front were HEYHEYHEY!!!-ing along. They ended the set with "Fingers and Tongues", and even though I would've liked to hear "Miss You Know", that was still a pretty damn good way to end the night.

Ok, wait, one more mini-rant. A couple songs into the set, a couple of (drunk) girls decided they had the right to just... wander on to stage. They started off at the back, on the side, kind of out of the way and dancing a little bit, but security seemed to not care and before long they were in the middle of everything, and pulling more people on stage. It was, to put it nicely, ridiculous. And at least one member of Elliott BROOD was visibly displeased. And the worst part about it? It was blatantly obvious that these people knew nothing of the band, let alone being fans. They were attention whores in every sense of the word.

Anyway, I feel like I've ranted sufficiently in this, and I don't want to give the wrong impression: Despite all those annoyances, Elliott BROOD made the whole damn thing worth it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Islands Disappear by Said The Whale

To say Said The Whale has had a good year would be an understatement. Not only winning awards and selling out shows, they also released Islands Disappear, their second full length (or first depending on how anal you are). The majority of the album was recorded live off the floor; which I fully admit, I am a sucker for. It almost always gives the album a more warm and spontaneous feel to it, and Islands Disappear is no exception. The album revels in enthusiasm that would have no doubt been lost if it wasn't recorded as such.
While their previous Howe Sounds/Taking Abalonia was, as its title might suggest, more about Vancouver, this album takes a broader look at Canada, and is no doubt influenced by their trips from coast to coast touring.

The short and mellow "Dear Elkhorn" is a perfect intro track, easing the listener in before launching into the gang vocals of "Out on the Shield", which races to its climax, and is the first of many undeniably catchy songs on the album. Next up is one of my favourites off the album, "B.C. Orienteering", which is an almost acoustic duet with friend of the band, Hannah Georgas about the perils of, well, orienteering in BC.
"Camilo (The Magician)", arguable their most popular & "breakthrough" single, brings everything together for what is quite possibly a perfect power pop piece, and where it leaves off, "Emerald Lake, AB" picks up. The tempo slows a bit, but the unbridled enthusiasm keeps soaring, until the title track, "Islands Disappear" kicks in with its moody drums and crashing cymbals, which segues perfectly into "Black Day in December", which builds in intensity til its end.
The layered, and slightly self-deprecating, "Gentleman" proves that not every musician is the clich├ęd swaggering arrogant, and manages to bare some insecurities, announcing "I'm an uncool Canadian kid / awed and inspired by all the popular guys" who "need[s] a small-town girl to follow me home and teach me how to be a real man." Another couple mostly acoustic songs follow, "False Creek Change" exploring the changes of the city since Expo '86 (and I can't help wonder if there will ever be an equivalent song regarding the Olympics) and "A Cold Night Close to the End" delving more into the bands more romantic side.
"The Gift of a Black Heart" shows the band at their musical best, starting simple then building layer upon complex layer until the grand and nearly epic finale. It flows nicely into "Goodnight Moon", a song I've already raved about, and my love for it has grown even more since then. Starting slow and calm and lullaby-esque, just when you think it's about to end, the band launches in and the gang vocals start for the most raucous, joyous and energetic ending. It's songs like this that are strongly improved by recording live off the floor; no way would it have worked without that pure enthusiasm that is more than apparent. Closing out the album, "Holly, Ontario" is a perfect bookend to "Dear Elkhorn", both musically and thematically, and encapsulates the album as an individual experience and story, rather than just a random collection of songs.
As well, the band has managed to amass some of the cream of Vancouver's crop to help out on the album. The album include folks from bands like Hey Ocean!, The Zolas, Dan Mangan, Shane Nelken and even CBCR3 DJ Lana Gay, and that's just for the gang vocals on both "Out On The Shield" and "Goodnight Moon".

While it may be too early in Said The Whale's life to call this a "career defining" album, it is definitely worthy of a place on anyones "best of '09" list. There is a subtle restraint to the album, with a noted focus on substance over style, and that would have been the downfall of a lesser band. But with Islands Disappear, Said The Whale gives an excellent album that proves they have what it takes.

Download Out On The Shield

Download BC Orienteering

Download The Gift of a Black Heart

Clicky to exchange monies for music

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Basia Bulat @ St James Hall -- 03/05/10

This seems familiar. It was September the last time Basia Bulat was in town, playing the same place, St James Hall. I'll dispense with the bad-sequel-title jokes* and get on with the show itself.

Opening was Katie Stelmanis. She came out and took a seat at the piano on stage and promptly silenced the room with her superb voice and masterful piano skills. It was no surprise to find out after she is classically trained. After the first song she tried to get some backup from her laptop, but when that failed, she ended up doing an acoustic set, more or less, with just the keyboard. She also had a pair of mics, one normal and one which I'll call the "epic chorus" mic. I quite liked her set and am intrigued to hear what she sounds like normally, what it would have sounded like if she had got the computer up and running properly. Hopefully she'll be back soon and I'll be able to find out.
(fun fact: Katie is on blocks recording club records, the same label as Owen Pallett. I first heard Basia Bulat when she opened for him, when he was still Final Fantasy, a couple years ago)

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. They started out with a couple of her more well known songs like new single "Heart of my Own" and the incredibly infectious "In The Night". That started the night with a high energy, and even with a simple three-peice of drums, viola and guitar/autoharp/piano (whatever Basia was playing that that moment), they had no problem maintaining that energy throughout the set. There was a great moment where Bulat said something along the lines of "How do you make folk music more rock & roll? Add some distortion pedal to the viola!"
Though there were song of her slower songs; at one point Allison & Bobby took leave of the stage for Basia to play of the mellower songs alone. After a few songs they came back with Katie Stelmanis to join them for a song on the piano, and closed out the set.
The encore started off with Basia Bulat wanting to do something she did last time she was here, which was to come to the front of the stage with her ukulele, and Allison for backing vocals and handclaps, and sing "Before I Knew" with no amplification for her voice. As I said last time, I have no doubt she'd be able to pull that off in a larger venue. It's also kind of funny that every time I've seen a show at St James Hall, the performers have done a song without the aide of microphones.
They played another couple songs before Basia Bulat took to the front of the stage again, this time alone and without an instrument, and sang one last, gorgeous, song before thanking us again and taking off. However, the crowd was still hungry for more, and in what may have been a rare for-reals-encore, they came back out to do one last song.

And it was a great crowd, too. Very respectful and silent during the songs. There were even a couple songs that slowly faded to nothing, and the crowd waited to go crazy only when the final note was played.
Even though the hall was starting to get kind of warm and stuffy (again) and the seating -- church pews -- was not very friendly to tell people, St James Hall is still a pretty damn nice & intimate venue, and perfect for someone like Basia Bulat. I'm glad that I was able to see her there (twice), as her next show here will probably be somewhere bigger since this show sold out.

*Bad sequel title jokes (as in, both the sequel titles, and the jokes, are bad): Basia Bulat 2: Folk Harder. 2 Basia 2 Bulat. Basia Bulat 2: Autoharp Boogaloo.