Saturday, October 30, 2010

Library Voices w/ Bend Sinister & Paper Lions @ Pit Pub -- 10/29/10

It's been years since I've been to a show at UBC's Pit Pub, and while I have been to worse venues *cough*Rickshaw*cough*, it's not really all that great, either. Plus, it's just so out of the way.
But with a bill consisting of Library Voices and Bend Sinister, who are both great live, as well as Paper Lions, who I had heard good things of, it was hard to stay away.

Unfortunately, due to my decision to catch an acoustic Treelines set (and the lack of directional signs at UBC) I arrived a bit late and only caught the tail end of Bend Sinister. As I walked in, they were just finishing up "Time Breaks Down", then went into their last song, a cover of Supertramp's "The Logical Song". It was a pretty damn good cover, and interesting having seen Moxon do the song a while back at a solo show he did. I was sad to have missed them, but I am sure there'll be another show soon enough.

Paper Lions was up next, with some damn catchy power pop. The four piece seemed really tight and knew how to put on a show. Some highlights of the set were a partial cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody" slipped in to a song, with Moxon even coming out to sing, and at one point guitarist switches seamlessly to the drums, while drummer came out to the front for a killer bongo solo (yes, I just put those three words together) which had a little bit of Apache in the mix. I wouldn't mind at all catching them next time they're through town.

Finally was Library Voices. I'm not sure if it's just where I was, or a problem with the pub itself, but I noticed a few times throughout the set the bass was quite overpowering. It seemed to get better later on, so they either fixed it or I just got used it it. That aside, it was an incredibly good set with an insane energy from the eight-piece band -- soon to be seven-piece, as they announced it was the last show for Karla Miller. They played mostly off the new album, Denim on Denim, but with a couple older, and at least one new one thrown into the mix. They had everyone dancing, clapping and singing along. And the band was insanely high energy, jumping and moving around. A few times the lead singer jumped on the railing at the front of the stage, and even jumped into the crowd to sing a couple times. The rest of the band was just as energetic, and even a couple members of Paper Lions and Bend Sinister got in on the action, helping out a few times.
"Party Like It's 2012" "Drinking Games" and "Bookish" were definitely highlights, as well as "Step Off The Map and Float", which closed out the main set. They ended the show with members of all three bands out for a great cover of "Got My Mind Set On You". I always love to see that kind of thing in the encore, with all bands out for a cover, and it never happens enough.

A pretty awesome trio of bands, and I already can't wait to see Library Voices live again.

Treelines (acoustic) @ Waves -- 10/29/10

I am always interested in acoustic sets, so when I found out about Treelines doing just that, in a Waves coffee house, no less, I knew I would have to juggle my schedule and try and make it.

St Augustine was up first, just a single guy & guitar. He played Perfectly Acceptable Music, with a folksy sound that fit right in with the rest of the acts. Nothing terrible, but not really all that memorable either.

Next was Bodhi Jones, he & his bandmates dressed up for hallowe'en, with Jones as "The Ghost of Farmer Bodhi Jones" (though he looked more like a zombie cowboy) and the others a sailor and Logan. His folky sounds translated pretty good into the setting, but while he is a fine musician, he just seems to be missing something. Like I said at his Peak showcase, his songs are just... there, many of them quite similar to another. Again, he's not really all that bad, but just perhaps needs something to make him more unique.

To be honest, when I heard it was an acoustic Treelines show, I was as wary as I was intrigued; I wasn't sure how they would translate to a stripped down sound. Turns out I was worrying for nothing. With a couple members, Matt Lockhart and Matt Kelly (showing off his pedal steel skills) joined by Indiana Avent on violin, the songs translated pretty damn good. Especially the all out rocker "Ghost Towns" which was turned into a self-proclaimed "Joel Plaskett version", a pretty fitting description. Matt mentioned having a Giants of the Forest video done with that version of the song, so I look forward to seeing it. They played only a handfull of songs off their two albums, as well an unreleased one, with Lockhart wondering if they were actually Treelines, or "Treelines covering Treelines" (I suggest Shrublines). The intimate setting of a coffee house also highlighted Lockhart's charisma on stage, talking and joking between songs.

I'm not sure if they'll be doing this kind of show again, but I really hope they do. If not, I am glad I decided to catch it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sufjan Stevens @ Orpheum -- 10/28/10

Last time Sufjan Stevens was in town, a few years back now, I missed out on tickets. Even though my interest in him had wained a little -- not having an album out in five years being part of the reason -- I knew that I would regret missing out this time. And I am so glad I didn't miss out.

Opening act was DM Stith, who came out alone and announced he would be playing us four songs, which was exactly what he delivered. He had a folky sounds, which kind of reminded me of Sufjan at times. There was also some nice use of looping, and a surprise horn section for a song (or as he called it, "Bam! Trumpet"). Before the last song, he told us how while rehearsing, Stevens liked to call the non-lyrical parts of the songs -- the ooohh's and aaaahhh's -- "sex scenes", then promised us a long one before going into his last song. He was quite good, and I hope he hits the road again and is back soon.

And then Sufjan Stevens came out. I had heard many things from his shows, so wasn't sure what to expect... but he came out in full force with his band, almost a dozen strong, including Stith, with keyboards, pianos, horns, a pair of drum sets, and even backup singers/dancers. Capping it off was a giant screen behind them, which added either animations of videos through the show, and it was a pretty grand stage setup. He started off with "Seven Swans", but the rest of the set was heavy on the new material; mostly from The Age of Adz, but a couple from the EP he released just before that, All Delighted People. The title track from the former and "I Walked" were probably two of my favourite, and I'm glad I gave the album a few spins before going to the show, as I can see the new material being kind of tough to get into.
Mid way through the set, he told a lengthy story about artist Royal Robertson, his mental illnesses, artwork and influences on the album. After a few more, he played "Impossible Soul", which was quite an amazing feat, as it is twenty five minute long(!!). The song goes in movements, for lack of a better term, and when it kicked into high gear for one part, the lower half of the orpheum rushed the gap in front of the stage to dance... and they weren't the only ones. The backup singers/dancers came to the front of the stage, with Sufjan himself for some amazing choreographed dance moves. All while decked out in 90's "fashion". And then he brought in the auto-tune, which I was a little less annoyed by than usual, probably because the whole thing just seemed to be more tongue in cheek than anything; he clearly wasn't taking himself seriously.
I was fully expecting that to be all, but he had one more to go, the one song many people there were probably waiting for: "Chicago". The opening notes got a huge burst of applause, and the crowd was captivated by it. After saying his thanks and a long break, he came out for the encore, which consisted of two more from Illinoise. He came out alone, at first, for "Concerning the UFOs..." and then the whole band came back to back him up for "Jacksonville" before leaving the crowd on their feet roaring with applause.

I kind of wished he played a few more older songs -- "John Wayne Gacy Jr." would have been amazing live -- but I also understand why he didn't (humourously forgetting a line in "Jacksonville" was probably part of the reason). Despite that, it was a pretty amazing show, and I just hope it won't be another four years until he is back.

Seven Swans; Too Much; The Age of Adz; Heirloom; I Walked; Futile Devices; Vesuvius; Now That I'm Older; Get Real Get Right; Enchanting Ghost; Impossible Soul; Chicago.
[encore] Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois; Jacksonville.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nadia Von Hahn CD Release w/ 41st & Home @ Media Club -- 10/26/10

Fittingly enough, when 41st & Home didn't play last for their own CD release party earlier this year, I wondered why an act would not be headlining their own shindig. Looks like there would be some sort of strange karma to go around for the Nadia Von Hahn CD release. Admittedly, I wasn't that familiar with Von Hahn, but was there more to see a couple of the other acts that night. (There were also five sets, so I'll try to keep things brief.)

First up was Chantel Upshaw, whose three piece consisted of drums, keys and a laptop. With the occasional triangle or wood-sticks claves. It's been a while since I had seen a triangle at a show... The as-yet-unnamed band played a short set of her light but soulful sound. She had a good presence, but okay banter. Sometimes engaging -- like when introducing "Hypnotized", about numerology -- but other time letting the silence fill the room before the next song. A good set, and perfectly acceptable opener for the night.

Next was one of the acts I was there to see, Christopher Arruda. At his Peak Performance Showcase, I kind of liked his solo tunes a bit better than the ones with his full band, so I was intrigued to see him take the stage alone, with just his keyboard. I've always been a sucker for piano-driven rock. While the sound was less "chaotic and apocalyptic" -- as I described his full band sound -- and more subdued, he managed to keep up a level of intensity and passion to his songs. I've seen full bands that were not able to get that kind of power behind them. I look forward to seeing him again, full band or not, and only realised too late that I forgot to pick up his album, or new EP.

City of Glass was after him, and while they were good, there was something about them that nagged at me through their entire set. They sounded very familiar, and I couldn't place if it was like a certain band, or if they just had that familiar sound about them. It was a good, if a little generic, indie-pop-rock sound that never really stood out. I wouldn't mind seeing them again, to give them another shot... but I won't go out of my way to.

Taking the stage next was Nadia Von Hahn. She came out with a full band, in a 20s Flapper dress, with a sound that very much fit her attire. In fact, she did a cover of  "Why Don't You Do Right?" near the end of her set which was very fitting. She had a really captivating stage presence, and some good banter, especially with (and by) her guitarist. Her sound was very interesting, and I look forward to listening to the album -- which was given out to everyone with the purchase of a ticket, in a gift bag that also included candy. Best CD release ever.

Finally, 41st & Home wrapped up the night. And I will try not to rant, but because of the terrible schedule of the public transit system, it was either leave early... or be stranded in downtown until 3:30 in the morning. I chose the former, so had to bail after only two songs, which I felt terrible about (and mad, since they were the act I was there to see most). I will say, the song they opened with -- which I think is a new one -- was probably the best single song I have seen them play live; a cool intro and great energy behind it. Second up was "Great Bear" which, as many of their songs do, starts slow and builds to a grand climax. Hopefully they'll play again soon enough, and I'll be able to catch the whole thing.

Oh, and through much of the last half of the show, the balloons were flying, bouncing off everyones heads-- accidentally or less so. No one can resist a good game smack-the-balloon! (Not a euphemism.) Aside from the Terrible Translink Tragedy, it was a pretty darn good night in music.
And I can't help but wonder if I'll see Von Hahn headline someone else's CD release party in a few months.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mumford & Sons @ Vogue -- 10/23/10

I have to say, I was really lucky for this. The show sold out in mere moments and I missed out... but thanks to a last minute ticket release, and a quick friend, I was able to snag tickets. I missed their full show the first time they were here, but caught the mini-concert put on by The Peak in Yaletown. Even though it was only a few songs, I was blown away, so I knew I had to see a full-on show.

I arrived a bit late, so only caught the tail end of King Charles' set. He was dressed up all fancy, with a tailcoat and (very tight) white pants, giving him a regal look to match his name. He asked if people liked Bob Dylan, then half-apologized as he went into a cover of "We Didn't Start The Fire", but updated to make the verses a little more current. That got a mixed response at the start, but by the chorus everyone was singing along. He ended with a song that borrowed some from an Oscar Wilde poem -- the exact one escapes me. From what I saw, he was pretty good, but nothing staggering.

Next up was Mt. Desolation, which is a side project from Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin from Keane. They've got a bit of an alt-country sound to them, but really upbeat, for the most part. They went through their new album, and even threw in a cover when "State Of Our Affairs" segued into a bit of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". The whole band was really into it, especially Tim, who is really fun to watch on the keys, bounding with energy. Mid-way through the set, one of the members of Mumford & Sons, who was also on the album, came out to help out with a few songs. It was a really enjoyable set, and I am quite interested to listen to the album and hopefully they're back soon.

And finally, it was time for Mumford & Sons. From the moment they hit the stage, the sold out crowd was just going insane. They started with low lights and "Sigh No More" and then exploded with "Roll Away Your Stone". They hit every song off of the album, but threw in a couple new songs. One was called "Lover of the Light" and saw Marcus get behind a full drum kit to play, as opposed to his usual method of playing the kick drum while singing & playing guitar. Other highlights were "I Gave You All", which was absolutely epic live and "Little Lion Man" had everyone in the place singing along. The whole band seemed completely humbled and overwhelmed by the crowd response, who were clapping and singing along to every song. It is amazing to think it is only their second time here, and they sold out the Vogue in mere minutes.
There wasn't too much banter, but a couple of times they let their humour shine through, and I would like to see a little more of that in the shows, aside from just the "thanks you" and "this is [song]". One such instance resulted in one of their new, untitled songs to be spontaneously named "New Shoes", based on fans wanting the keyboardist to show off his new kicks. That, as well as the other new tune, sounded even more intense than the last album, so I can't wait to hear how they turn out.
The set "ended" with "Dust Bowl Dance", but they were back out for the obvious encore. They mentioned this wasn't something they normally did, and proceeded to play "Sister", all up at the front of the stage, completely acoustic and unamplified. It was a breathtaking sight -- even if the crowd didn't know how to shut up for it... that was the down side of the overly enthusiastic crowd, there was non stop yelling and wooing, even during the slow and quiet songs. They wrapped up the set and blew what was left of the roof off with "The Cave" before thanking us again and departing.
And the lighting was really cool. It is not really something you notice unless it is really good or bad, and this show was great. Lots of backlighting, even some moody red with smoke for "Awake My Soul" and a string of bare bulbs hung from the stage, out over the crowd, creating a really cool effect.

After this show, I am determined not to miss out on tickets next time they come through town. And I would suggest the same to you.

Sigh No More, Roll Away Your Stone, Winter Winds, White Blank Page, Timshel, I Gave You All, Little Lion Man, Lover of the Light, Thistle & Weeds, After The Storm, Untitles (New Shoes), Awake my Soul, Dust Bowl Dance.
[encore] Sister (acoustic), The Cave.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Zolas w/ Aidan Knight and Hannah Epperson @ Anza Club -- 10/15/10

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have had great luck with shows this year that have had a stellar line-up all around. With Aidan Knight and The Zolas on the same bill, this was looking to be one of those nights. And not that, but it had a great build-up of artists. The night was also hosted by Vancouver comedian Ryan Beil, in the guise of The Zolas sleazy manager contractually obligated to host the show.

The night started with Hannah Epperson, who took stage with nothing more than a violin and a looping pedal (which already had me intrigued). Her first few songs were instrumental and were quite beautiful. I was somewhat hesitant when it looked like she was going to add vocals, but her voice matched the mood, adding to the fantastic sound. And even though it was minimalistic, it never got repetative; the grand sound she created with just the violin loops was quite impressive, and I would be very interested in seeing her again.

Aidan Knight was next up, bringing his Friendly Friends with him. The biggest thing I noticed during the set is how much more comfortable he is with stage banter than the first time I saw him. His nervousness turned into an awkward charm, and even that now has more emphasis on the "charm" than the "awkward". Be that something he has worked on through the Peak Performance Project, or something that has just come with playing more, he has definitely become more comfortable. As for the set itself, it was full of old and new songs, including one he admitted to... liberally borrowing some lines from Simon & Garfunkel for, and his Peak cover of Said The Whale's "The Light Is You", where he takes what is possibly the fastest and most upbeat STW song, turns it into a slow, melancholy jam, and still makes it work. As the intense end of "Knitting Something Nice" climaxed, We Are The City came out to help and stayed honorary Friendly Friends for the final song, "Jasper". Aidan didn't jump into the crowd this time, but everyone joined in singing regardless, for a great ending to the set.

And finally, closing out the night, was The Zolas, and the crowd was going crazy for them. As soon as the familiar opening of "You're Too Cool" hit, everyone was singing along. By the end of the song, Zach was visibly in awe of, and moved by, the crowd, with a grin on his face when they sang along, stealing his lines. The band was in fine form -- especially Tom, who was playing with glass in his lungs -- as they hit most of the songs off of Tic Toc Tic, the new "Guest" (which always gets stuck in my head) and the new-to-us "Snow", welcoming the cold season. The band seemed to just feed off the insane energy of the crowd, who were not only going nuts, but throwing stuffed animals on stage (which Zach played with for a song) and lighting sparklers in the audience.
They ended the set with "Marlaina Kamikaze", but were back for the expected encore. Zach called out Aidan and some Friendly Friends, saying they were going to do a cover. As he started saying it was a band that most people would have just heard of, if at all, I perked up and when he said it would be Karkwa, my mind was (visibly) blown. With a trio of drummers, they did "Le Pyromane", and did a damn fine job of it, too. There was one more song to go, the one The Zolas usually end with, "Cab Driver" that brought the set to a powerful ending, with Zach even pulling people up onto stage (some more gracefully than others) for a dance party.

The one thing I have to mention, though, is the sound. It was the first time I had been there, and for the most part, the Anza Club sounded great... but there were a couple times where it seemed to cut out for a brief moment. It seemed to be just for The Zolas, and just at the more intense points, so they might have just been too much for the small venue to handle. During the set, The Zolas mentioned it was probably their last show for a little while, as they were going into "recording mode", and what a way to go.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Young Pacific, Henry & The Nightcrawlers and Guilty About Girls @ The Forum -- 10/14/10

Now this is a pretty cool . 30:Live seems to have the modus operandi of hosting a weekly concert series focusing on local musicians. I am all for things spotlighting the local music scene and bringing bands together... especially when they are bands as good as they had this night.

The night kicked off with Guilty About Girls, a Vancouver pair comprised of two of the members of Pure. With Jordy Birch on Vocals & Guitar and Mark Henning on keys & laptop, they had a bit of an indie-pop-rock sound, with a hint of electronica, giving them somewhat of an 80s vibe. In a good way. Definitely got some people moving. Though they seemed a little stiff on stage. Not much by way of banter, either and there were a few lulls between songs, but in all a good set, and someone I would probably want to catch again. They ended with Candy Candy, with Isabelle Dunlop (I think) coming out of nowhere to help out with the vocals -- seriously, she seemed to just pop out of the crowd, and at first I thought she was just a fan.

Second for the night was Henry & The Nightcrawlers. I realized last night that each time I've seen them play, there has been a different lineup. Of course, Henry has always been Henry Alcock-White, but The Nightcrawlers has consisted of various musicians, usually members of The Zolas or Said The Whale. Tonight they consisted of Zach from The Zolas on bass and Andy & Cayne from We Are The City on drums and keys (respectively). They slid in perfectly with the indie-rock-with-a-side-of-funk sound Henry has, and you never would have guessed they hadn't played together before. Henry also seems to be more comfortable as frontman, and while he's still quiet and maybe a little stoic, there are the occasional moment of dry wit that comes through. He has good chemistry with Zach, too, and more than a couple times in this band, or the Zolas, the two of them have had amusing back & forths. A great set, and really cool to see Andy & Cayne in the band, even if it is just a one-off.

Young Pacific wrapped up the night with their energetic indie pop sound. They were incredibly catchy and really enthusiastic, though there were a couple times a couple times you could tell the band was young (both as a band, and the members). It sounds like an odd criticism, but it seemed like they were playing more to their friends in the crowd than anything, while made for a loose set... though maybe a bit too loose. Other than that minor quibble, the set was quite enjoyable, with the band having a good energy and rapport with the crowd -- though I would be interested to see if they can maintain that with a crowd of strangers. For their "encore" they broke out a cover of "Kids" by MGMT, and did a pretty decent job of it, then they were called back for yet another last song. I can see them being very good with a few years under their collective belts, but they're off to a damn good start so far.

This show in general, and Henry's set in particular, is just more proof for how great Vancouver's current music scene is, and how cool it is to see bands that support and play with their friends, rather than just a bunch of bands that never interact with each other.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Broken Social Scene @ Comodore -- 10/13/10

Broken Social Scene. What more needs to be said? After their first album in five years (not counting the Drew & Canning solo albums), they hit the road to tour. And while I had actually seen them several months ago, when they played a surprise show at Ontario House during the Olympics, I was still insanely excited to see them. And they most certainly did not disappoint.

The Sea & Cake opened the show, and they were good, but seemed to lack stage presence. I admit, I was back a bit for their set, and the stage was blocked, so I couldn't see them playing, but what little banter they had was mumbled, and the few times I saw the lead singer, he was taking the "shoegazing" thing a bit too literally. There was also a similar-ish sound to a lot of their songs. Certainly nothing bad, and they played Perfectly Acceptable Music, but nothing that really won me over. Maybe I was just a bit tired and/or excited for the main act.

And then finally around 10:30, Broken Social Scene hit the stage with some of the usual suspects; Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Justin Peroff (whose birthday it was), John McEntire (who produced the album), Charles Spearin, Lisa Lobsinger, Andrew Whiteman (with his wife, Ariel providing backup vocals on a few tracks) and a few others. As the fog rolled off the stage, they kicked things off large with "World Sick", the opening track form their new album Forgiveness Rock Record. From there they went on to play an amazing set of two hours and over twenty songs, hitting a lot of older material as well as the new stuff. The songs off the new album all sounded great, as you would expect, since they were made by the new, "slimmed down" lineup (which still saw as many as a dozen members on stage), but the older material was also fantastic, despite lacking some original members.
Some of the highlights for the set were "Fire Eye'd Boy", which had a drum fill that seemed like they played with the surround a bit, so Peroff was coming at you from one side, then McEntire, on a small kit, was rebutting from the other speaker. The Sea & Cake members coming out to join them on a couple songs. Drew and Whiteman joking about hitting the right note on "Forced To Love", mock-cursing Sebastien Grainger, and Lisa Lobsinger absolutely nailing "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl", sounding every bit as good as Haines' original. I was especially glad to hear it, as it's one of my favourite songs (BSS or otherwise). Ariel Whiteman, who sang backup for that and a few others, took the spotlight and killed "Almost Crimes" and the two lovely ladies proved that they were more than able to take on the female vocals. They "ended" the set with "Meet me In The Basement", my favourite song from the new record. The instrumental started off grand and then just build from there. The intense drumming, the powerful horns and especially the duelling guitars of Spearin and Whiteman all came together for one of the most intense live songs I have seen.
For the encore, first just Drew came out to start playing "Lover's Spit", to a very low, very blue lit stage. Then slowly a few other members came out to finish it, before launching into another old one, which Drew mentioned was his favourite, "Looks Just Like The Sun". The whole night was brought to an end with "Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)", as the sold out crowd was still going ballistic.

I am very, very, ever so slightly disappointed I didn't hear "It's All Gonna Break", but they did play it earlier this year at the free Olympics show, and the setlist was damn near perfect even without it. With this show, Broken Social Scene once again proves that they are not a band. They are a force of nature.

World Sick, Texaco Bitches, 7/4 Shoreline, Fire Eye'd Boy, Forced to Love, All to All, Stars & Sons, Cause = Time, Sweetest Kill, Art House Director, Romance to the Grave, Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl, Pacific Theme[?] Guilty Cubicles, Superconnected, Almost Crimes, Ungrateful Little Father, KC Accidental, Meet Me In The Basement.
[encore] Lover's Spot, Looks Just Like The Sun, Water In Hell, Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day).

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Peak Performance Project Showcase #5 @ The Red Room -- 10/07/10

The Peak Performance Project is a multi-year contest in which The Peak, along with Music BC, picks 20 BC musicians/bands a year and makes them stars.
Last year it was won by We Are The City, and they have barely slowed down since winning. This year it seems like the competition is a lot tougher; at least half the bands I have either liked before the contest, or have grown to like because of it. I definitely do not envy the judges on who should take it come November.
Part one of the project was a rock & roll boot camp where they went on a week long retreat where industry pros helped them refine their craft. Phase two is a series of shows at The Red Room, four artists a night for five weeks, each playing a 45 minute set, which includes a cover of a classic Canadian song. I always love it when bands play covers live, so that is one aspect I am definitely looking forward to. That, and seeing who everyone pick. Though, I am actually kind of wondering if they dropped the "classic" part of it this year, or if the artists have had a very loose interpretation. There have been more than a few songs that are a little more modern and would certainly not be considered classic. But I digress.

It was the final night of the competition, and one that was different for me than all others. Every other night, there had been at least one act I had heard of and/or been a fan of before the competition, but for this one there was none. While I had heard bits and pieces from each artist, I was not all that familiar with any of them, so going in more or less a blank slate.

First up was Greg Sczebel, who had a pretty nifty stage setup, including a light board in the back. At first had song name, but ended up just being a bit more abstract designs. He had a kind of pop-jazz flavour to his sound, at times bringing out a small strings section of violins and a cello to help him out, and even Kyprios for a quick rap interlude in a tune. His classic Canadian cover was "Gimme Sympathy" by Metric, which was a pretty cool interpretation of it, in his own style. There were some strong covers that night, but that may have been my favourite. Part way through the set, the rest of the band took a break while Schzabel played alone for, appropriately, an anti-love song; a self described song for the single people. The band came back out and as they drew to an end, he played his Peak single, "Causin' A Commotion" and in the middle of the dance floor, his street team broke out into a synchronized, choreographed dance, and he jumped into the middle of them to end off the song. To cap off the set, he grabbed the keytar and a vintage metal microphone, but it ended in disappointment when he used the keytar for less than a minute, and the mic was auto-tuned. Especially disappointing as they were both on stage the entire time, waiting to be used, teasing us. He had a really strong stage presence, especially when he wasn't at the piano, but there was one small thing that bugged me. A nitpick, maybe, but something that bothered me nonetheless: he seemed to mug for the cameras a bit too much. A couple of times he sang directly into the peak camera man filming, and was posing or looking at the photogs up front. Doing that once or twice isn't that bad, be he seemed to do it more frequently. When you have a room full of people (including judges) you would think it be better to sing to them. But that minor thing aside, I really enjoyed his set and wouldn't mind seeing him live again.

Next up was YUCA, who were a late entry into the competition. While I by no means disliked them, they were probably the set I liked the least. Nothing offensive, but pretty generic "RAWK" with a lot of their songs sounded quite similar. They were good, but someone described them as a "radio rock band" and I would probably agree. I do have to commend them, though, for their cover. It was not a "classic"
, but while a lot of the bands in the project had been choosing things that were, if not the same sound, at least within their wheelhouse, Yuca stretched their legs the most. The cover they chose was "Powerless" by Nelly Furtado. Mind you, it did have that same sound as the rest of their songs, but kudos to them for not just choosing another rock song. (I had them pegged for OLP). Near the end of the set, they also had a couple members jump into the crowd with guitars, which seems to be the thing to do for the project, as it's happened a few times. Some of the times it happened werereally neat and natural, but others have seemed forced.
Again, they were not BAD, per se, just nothing memorable. They seemed talented enough, though, and I hope that the project will help them open up their sound a bit.

Third for the night was another repeat performer, Kuba Oms. He, like Adaline, earned entry through last years competition, placing in the top five (but not top three). He had a pretty good sound going, with a bit of soulful, roots-ness to him, but he also had the problem where a lot of the songs sounded a little too similar. His cover was "Twist My Arm" by The Tragically Hip, which was a perfectly fine cover. Near the end of his set he had a contingent of other PeakPP artists up at the side side stage to help out with vocals and/or have a dance party. Which turned out better for them than it did the random guy (I think?) who somehow made his way on stage and tried to sing backup vocals before being given the hook by security

Finally, even though the whole night was running a little later than usual, Kyprios hit the stage to close out the night, and the showcase series. Hitting the stage with a ten (!) piece backing band, called The Chaperones, and all dressed to the nines, he took control of the stage from the first note. Imagine taking a hip hop artist and dropping him into the middle of a 50s jazz club, because that is the vibe he gave off. He kept up the energy throughout the whole set, which was very captivating. Part way through, he started off his Canadian cover just with his DJ mixing together some classic (real classic) Canadian songs -- which I thought was going to be all, and felt cheated -- before he went in to "Sweet City Woman" by The Stampeders. Which was a pretty great cover. Plus, I don't think I ever have, or ever will see a banjo played during a hip hop act. Near the end of the set, he pulled out a bag of lighters and candles, handing them through the crowd and asking for the stage lights to be turned off, for a candlelit song for lost friends. Surprisingly, the roof did not end up on fire (only figuratively). He ended the set by blasting his stage lights back on and a song called "This Is My Hit", which had the crowd going nuts. I had heard various praise for Kyprios before his set, especially from some of the other artists in the Project, and I have to say, he certainly lived up to the hype.

Again, it was a tough call for the winner of the night, but I liked Greg Sczebel's cover better than Kyprios', but I will have to go with him. And that, my friend, is it. I am not quite sure what I am going to be doing with my Thursday nights now.

I may do a kind of wrap up post, but in case I don't: voting for the artists has begun, you can vote right here, but be warned! You can only vote once, so choose wisely. The voting is open until October 18 and a portion of each artist's total mark comes from online voting. The top five will be revealed at 3:15 on November 1st on The Peak at 3:15pm, and the grand finale show will take place at the Commodore Ballroom November 18, where we will find out the winner. One last good luck to all involved!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tokyo Police Club (w/ Arkells & We Are The City) @ Commodore -- 10/02/10

I feel like a broken record saying this, but I have been incredibly lucky with lineups this year. Meaning, I have seen more than a few shows where every single band playing has been stellar. The latest was a little spontaneous, as the original opener, The Meligrove Band, had to drop out of the western tour dates due to vehicular problems. But instead of just leaving it with Tokyo Police Club and Arkells, they had to replace them. With We Are The City. I hate to admit, I was a little on the fence on the show, but as soon as I heard that, I knew I was going.

We Are The City was up first, and you could tell they were thrilled to be there, both at the commodore and part of the bill. They played a short set of their usual prog rock, bursting with energy, as all three of them seemed on top of their game, even though Andy seemed to have a bit of a hoarse voice. At one point they brought out a unique stage prop... the entire front grill of their car, which was in an accident earlier that day (between that & Meligrove Band's troubles, I'm starting to wonder...), and left it in front of Cayne for the rest of the set. I've mentioned before, but it's been really cool to see the band grow over the last year or so, and I will be sad to see David depart the band, but interested to see where they go from here.

Next up was, admittedly, the band I was looking forward to most of the night, Arkells. Besides a short set during the olympics which didn't have the greatest sound, I hadn't seen the Hamilton fivesome in almost a year. The set consisted mostly of songs from their debut, Jackson Square, but they teased a new album with a brand new song that sounded great. Very Arkellsesque, yet not so much like their old stuff as to seem repetitive. They engaged the crowd excellently, especially during "Oh, The Boss Is Coming", which had everyone shout the eponymous line, and then the back and forth "punching in/punching out". A couple times they enlisted the help of TPC member Graham Wright for saxophone, and after giving shout outs to the rest of the bands -- as well as the ones represented in the audience -- they brought Tokyo Police Club up to help out with the final song, John Lennon. Slipping in the now-usual "Eleanor Rigby" lines, they even splitting the stage/crowd between "look at all the lonely people" and "where do they all come from?" They have such raw energy and passion, and the whole band has a confidence to them that makes them one of the best live bands I have had the pleasure of seeing. I can't wait until the new album and/or they come back.

That right there would have been a show worthy of my monies, but there was still Tokyo Police Club to come! They hit the stage with an energy to match, if not surpass, the level set by the other two bands, getting everyone in the crowd into the set. With the infectious levels of enthusiasm, and the incredibly tight sound they've cultivated, I don't think there was a single person there not singing, dancing, or [off-beat] clapping along; they certainly know how to work a crowd. They focused on the new album, but of course played some old favourites, too, before bringing the set to an "end" with a little help from Arkells, then came back out with a cover of Weezer's "My Name is Jonas", and blasting through "Cheer It On", leaving the crowd exhausted.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Peak Performance Project Showcase #4 @ The Red Room -- 09/30/10

The Peak Performance Project is a multi-year contest in which The Peak, along with Music BC, picks 20 BC musicians/bands a year and makes them stars.
Last year it was won by We Are The City, and they have barely slowed down since winning. This year it seems like the competition is a lot tougher; at least half the bands I have either liked before the contest, or have grown to like because of it. I definitely do not envy the judges on who should take it come November.
Part one of the project was a rock & roll boot camp where they went on a week long retreat where industry pros helped them refine their craft. Phase two is a series of shows at The Red Room, four artists a night for five weeks, each playing a 45 minute set, which includes a cover of a classic Canadian song. I always love it when bands play covers live, so that is one aspect I am definitely looking forward to. That, and seeing who everyone picks (I am going to keep a running tally on how many Neil Young and Leonard Cohen songs we get -- so far, one Young, no Cohen... but two Corey Hart).

One random thing before starting, I don't know why, exactly, (well, okay, I do) but the Red Room seems to be very keen on manufacturing a line. Last night was the worst, as the line was the longest of all the showcases so far, but as of 9, when the first act was due on, the place still seemed empty. It was like there was more people in line than inside. It was just... weird.

But I digress. Kicking off the night was Steph MacPherson, whose lush, folk-pop sound was helped by a cello & upright bass, as well as Ajay from The Zolas on drums and Vince Vaccaro on guitar. Her voice was smooth and pleasant, and her sound somewhat reminded me of a Kathleen Edwards. She had a really good stage presence, getting the crowd involved, and her banter seemed pretty natural. Though each song had a similar sort of vibe to it. Even the one she prefaced as "most bitter" wasn't all that different than the rest. She closed with a cover of Stan Rogers' "Northwest Passage", which I am not terribly familiar with, but it was quite a good cover. While she didn't quite blow me away, as some other acts have, but I would definitely want to see her live again.

Next up was Christopher Arruda, who was quite the change of pace. Coming out to a recorded monologue, he hit the keyboard chaotically right off the bat, with the rest of his band helping with a dark and vaguely apocalyptic sound. After a few songs, his band took a break, leaving Arruda alone at the keyboard. He introduced his cover without saying who it was and it took me a moment to place it... "Try Honesty" by Billy Talent. Despite that kind of challenging the "classic" part, it was a really good interpretation of the song (and I say that as someone who is not a fan of Billy Talent or that kind of screamo). There was an intensity to it that wasn't matched for the rest of the set, and really made me like the song. He did a couple more alone at the keys, keeping a slower pace, but when the band came back, the returned to the grandiose sound from the beginning of the set, which all seemed a bit similar. While I liked them, I think I liked the songs where it was just him better; those songs managed to have the same intensity, but just seemed to have more depth. To end off the set, the band took leave once again and Arruda finished off the set with another soft song on an acoustic guitar. It was a really cool set, and I would be interested to see him live again. Definitely had the best cover of the night, too.

At this point a whole gang of people flooded the stage to set up for the next set... clad in pajamas. It was Behind Sapphire who, upon starting their set shouted "Slumber party!" as the only explanation as to why, before launching into it. Their set was incredibly fun, though they also had a defined music style, with their funk-soul-pop sound and lead singers raspy voice -- which I (affectionately) likened to a Muppet at one point. They got everyone in the crowd moving on more than one occasion, and snapping along to their cover, which suited their sound, "1234" by Feist -- again, making me wonder about what constitutes as a "classic" (it's a good song, for sure, but is only a few years old). Between that, running through the crowd, and the lead singer singing into a megaphone, and a vase, they made for a very energetic and engaging set. It ended rather interestingly, too, with the Peak Space Cadets, who represent the band and had been dancing throughout the crowd, going to the front of the stage... and unleashing an onslaught of pillow-feathers. It was a really cool thing to see, but you have to feel for the people who had to clean it up (to the bands credit, they promised to help, and after the show I saw a few members who were)

And wrapping up the night, Said the Whale. I've heard some people mention that they shouldn't be in the project, and while I initially shared that opinion, the members still do have day jobs. They're not making a living off of the band, and just because they have been hard working and gotten their name out there doesn't mean they should be punished. That being said, I have complete faith that the judges will treat them as fairly as the rest of the bands. But as to their actual set, they seemed to have as much, if not more energy than I'd ever seen them, definitely on top of their game. Among their set was a brand new song, which I am pretty sure was their "Last Night" song, from the Bootcamp songwriting challenge. It was quite different, darker and more synth-driven , but it was cool to hear that kind of departure from their usual sound. Right before their cover, they mentioned not really ever having done covers (excluding their friends songs) and then went into a very Said-the-Whale-version of Paul Anka's "Put Your Head on my Shoulder", which was pretty awesome and hilarious. They ended the set with "Goodnight Moon", in which they had a little bit of help by way of members from The Zolas, We Are The City, Hey Ocean! and Aidan Knight jumping on stage with tambourines, bells and the sort.
The only thing was, the sound seemed a bit off. It sounded like there was something wonky with Tyler's mic, and the bass was a bit overpowering. I am not sure why, as the other sets sounded great, but there was a longer-than-usual break before they went on. I think it would have worked out better had they played before Behind Sapphire. Maybe it was the feathers. It wasn't enough to be distracting, or ruin the set, but it was noticeable.

Another tough call, but I think the winner of the night was Said The Whale. It was another pretty damn good night of music, as seems to be the trend. There has definitely been sets I've liked more (or less) than others, but I don't think there had been a single one so far that I have disliked.