Friday, September 30, 2011

Peak Performance Project Showcase #4 @ Red Room -- 09/29/11

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. The first year was won by We Are The City, and last year, Kyprios, with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.

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. In the last two years, the bands would all have to learn and play a cover of a classic Canadian song, but this year they will all be playing the songs they wrote about Vancouver for the Vancouver125 celebrations. Honestly, I am a bit disappointed about that, because one of my favourite aspects of the showcase series last year was seeing which song they picked and how they interpreted it. But I am sure their Vancouver songs will be great.

The fourth showcase was my most anticipated, featuring two bands I had seen before and enjoy live, and two that I had not seen live before, but was most looking forward to seeing.
(Also, the night featured five different musicians named Matt.)

The Matinee kicked off the night, and boy did they ever kick it off with a bang. I had heard nothing but good things about their live show and they more than delivered. Starting with a slower tune, they quickly burst forth with a driving, folky roots-rock sound.
Lead singer Matt Layzell has an amazing charisma on stage and Matt Rose is a phenomenal guitar player, to say nothing about the rest of the band. They had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand, clapping along with "Sweetwater" and singing along at various points. There was also a fantastic moment in the middle of "The Road" where they brought out a couple extra drums for a breakdown, with each member bashing away. The whole set came to an explosive ending, which saw Rose smashing an acoustic guitar.
The set was pretty amazing, and I think it would be fair to say it was my favourite showcase of the project thus far.

Up next was Redgy Blackout, the other band I was really looking forward to. And they, too, definitely lived up to my expectations. They put on a really fun and energetic rock show, and as well as their own songs, they broke out a great cover of Arcade Fire's "Wake Up", which I loved (see above mini-rant about covers). Another highlight was Scott cracking out the trumpet (and top hat) for a jazz-infused "Who Am I", my favourite song of the set. 
They had a bit of a lull, though, and some lost momentum when they brought out a piano for their Vancouver 125 song and technical difficulties ensued, but they brought it back by the end of the song which featured a good number of the other PPP band members joining them for a song-along. They ended with the beautiful "Alexandria" and an energetic "Bottom of the Sea". 

Behind Sapphire was up next, hitting the stage with kind of a weird -- and long -- intro wearing Asian masks before launching into "Oh My, What A Fine Day". They passed out glow sticks, that they were wearing, and disposable cameras (I think) through the crowd. As usual, they had a great energy and looked like they were having the most fun on stage, but for whatever reason the sound for the set really wasn't the best. Grant's vocals were not coming through very clear and the whole thing just seemed really muddy, which really detracted from their set.
It was more a disappointment than anything, really; I have seen them before and know they can do a lot better.

Finally, it was Treelines closing out the night. They (high)kicked off their set with some straight up rock, and a pretty intense energy. Especially from frontman Matt Lockhart, but especially from his brother Steve, on bass, who is always belting out the lyrics, whether he is mic'd or not. They played a good mix of songs from their Young Man EP and newer ones, including "Courage" which featured a slow burn to a soaring chorus and "When I Get Grown" with Matt Kelly (now also from CBC's Cover Me Canada) on pedal steel and featuring Michelle Faehrmann on cello.
Their Vancouver song, creatively titled "The Vancouver Song", featured either the silliest or most brilliant lyrics, and was really a simple, straight forward, and descriptive, love letter to the city.
And they brought it to a close in fine fashion with "Ghost Towns", getting everyone at the front of the stage jumping and dancing along.

It was definitely the best all-around showcase thus far, though next week looks like it could be just as good. For the final week, we'll see Maurice, Lindsay Bryan, 41st & Home and Rococode wrapping everything up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Royal Canoe w/ Rococode @ Media Club -- 09/27/11

I'm not really sure why, but I was a little on the fence about this show. Not that I didn't want to see Royal Canoe, but it just almost slipped by. But then at the last minute, the day before, Ghostkeeper had to drop out, and when they were replaced by Rococode... well, that tipped the scales a little.

Rococode were great, as usual. The roco-harmonies between Laura and Andrew were super tight and spot on. They started off with the haunting "Dreams" before blasting into "Empire", which always gets stuck in my head and after a few more, they ended their short set with the raucous "Blood", with Johnny Andrews' drumming really driving the song home. I have seen them a few times so far this year, and even though they recently released a two song 7", I am more than eagerly awaiting their full album. But their next show will have to suffice, which is their showcase for the Peak Performance Project next Thursday.

Not long after Royal Canoe hit the stage, which was packed with equipment, including at least guitars, bass, six keyboards, and a drum kit and a half. The stage was so full that when they were switching around, they had to hop off stage and go around. But it wasn't all just for show, as the six members of the band perfectly recreated they unique sound, that you wouldn't think they'd be able to pull off live. Starting with "Soothsayer", their set included some new songs as well, such as the moody "Exodus of the Year". Another new song, "Nightcrawlin'" was also a highlight with Bucky using dual microphones, a regular one, and one for crazy vox manipulations with his assortment of effects pedals. They ended the set with the slow-burner "Dear June", not bothering with the whole faux-encore routine -- which is something more bands should do.
They had a really good live energy, and while it was cool to see them in a setting as intimate as the Media Club, I definitely want to see them in a bit bigger venue -- or at least on a bigger stage -- so they can stretch their legs. And although I was quite disappointed that they didn't play "Kasparov" -- definitely my favourite song off of Co-Op Mode and probably one of my favourite songs from last year -- it was still an insanely fun and damn good set. Next time they come through town, there will definitely be no fence-sitting.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Broken Social Scene @ Malkin Bowl -- 09/24/11

Bittersweet. That's really the best way to describe what happened. With the recent announcement of their impending hiatus, it turned out that Broken Social Scene's show at Malkin Bowl would be their last Canadian date for the foreseeable future.
I was glad it was going to be at the Malkin Bowl, in the middle of Stanley Park, surrounded by trees, as it is one of my favourite venues to see a live show in, and some of my favourite concerts had taken place there.

But first, Ra Ra Riot was out to open the show. With over a half dozen members on stage -- including a cello and violin -- they had a pretty upbeat and infectious indie-pop sound to them and a really lively stage presence. The crowd was still filtering in while they were playing, but they had amassed a sizable crowd of people clapping along. "Boy" -- one of the few songs in their set I recognized -- which especially catchy. They were definitely a good fit for the opening slot and I wouldn't mind catching them again next time they're through town.

Not long after the stage filled with the familiar faces of Drew, Canning, Spearin, Peroff, Whiteman, Lobsinger and a few others as Broken Social Scene came out. The stage was prepped for rain (which held off), so everything was set up several feet back from the front, but they made use of the empty space with multiple members walking up to sing or shred throughout the set.
They kicked it off with "Cause = Time", for a set that was an hour and a half long, and included a pretty even mix of songs from You Forgot It In People, their self-titled and the most recent Forgiveness Rock Record. There was also a really cool cover of Modest Mouse's "The World At Large" thrown in, and an amusing moment where Drew joked about an actual YMCA, which caused Canning to start an inevitable crowd singalong to the first bit of The Village People.
They were at the top the their game, and though I have seen them a few times now, it was probably the best show I've seen them play. Other highlights were two of my favourite BSS songs, the gorgeous "Anthem for a Seventeen Year Old Girl" that had many people singing along, followed by the incredible instrumental "Meet Me In The Basement", featuring dueling guitar riffs and intense drumming. They "ended" the set, perhaps appropriately enough, with "KC Accidental", but they were back out after mere moments, saying they had time for just one more, before launching into the absolute perfect way to end things, "It's All Gonna Break". An amazing ten minute jam that built to an intense and epic ending, with horns and each member hoisting their instrument (mostly guitars) into the air for an amazing sight.

When they ended the main set, Drew gave props to each member on stage, giving a heartfelt send off to the band, and proclaiming: "We're Broken Social Scene, please don't forget us"

As if we could.

Cause = Time; Texico Bitches; 7/4 Shoreline; Stars & Sons; All to All; Fire Eye'd Boy; The World At Large [Modest Mouse cover]; Fuzz*; Sweetest Kill; Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day); Major Label Debut; Looks Just Like The Sun; Anthem for a Seventeen Year Old Girl; Meet Me In The Basement; KC Accidental. 
[encore] It's All Gonna Break

*It said Fuzz on the setlist, but it appeared to be "Late Nineties Bedroom Rock For The Missionaries", with some lyrics from Kevin Drew's "Gang Bang Suicide", that segued into "Shampoo Suicide"

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Peak Secret Show: Dan Mangan @ Olympic Village -- 09/24/11

The Peak was at it again. First was Mumford & Sons, the second, Foster The People, and today was the third Secret Show put on by 100.5 The Peak, with the location of the show only being announced two hours before the show began at 1pm. And with a local favourite like Dan Mangan -- who played The Peak's launch party almost three years ago -- playing a free show, you know it was going to be big. The previous secret shows had both been pretty short; less than a half dozen songs from the bands and lasting about half an hour. But as Dan said at about the half hour mark, they had all their stuff out, they might as well play longer. And who would have stopped him?

Joined by Gordon Grdina on guitar, Kenton Loewen on drums and Colin Cowan on bass, they started off with "About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All" from the new album, Oh Fortune, followed by what has quickly become one of my favourite Mangan songs, "Post-War Blues", building to an insane ending. As well as the new stuff, he threw in a few old ones, with people to clapping along to "Sold" and even taking requests when mid-way through the set he admitted they had no set list. People asked for the heartwrenching "Basket" and "Road Regrets", which he almost couldn't play until a capo magically appeared from the crowd to save the day. There was also song string-breaking action from Grdina on "Rows of Houses" which segued perfectly into "Regarding Death and Dying".
Dan thanked The Peak and everyone that supported local independent music before ending it the way we all knew he would, with "Robots", bringing some (familiar) robots on stage to dance, and with everyone in the packed plaza singing and clapping along. (See a sub-par quality recording of Robots taken on my phone right here.)

I had expected it to be a fun show, but it even surpassed my expectations, and of the three secret shows, this was by far my favourite. But if anyone can pull off a show to top it for the next one, it's The Peak.

About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All; Post-War Blues; Oh Fortune; Sold; Leaves, Trees, Forest; Some People; Rows of Houses; Regarding Death and Dying; Basket; Road Regrets; Starts With Them, Ends With Us; Robots.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Library Voices w/ Dinosaur Bones & The Provincial Archive @ Biltmore -- 09/22/11

It was a strangely busy night in Vancouver for a Thursday, and while I was a little sad to have missed the third show in the Peak Performance Project Concert Series Showcase Spectacular, and Royal Wood, it had been too long since I had last seen Library Voices live, and seeing as they put on one hell of a live show, I wasn't really a tough decision. And in addition, they had brought with them two bands I was really interested in seeing; both I have wanted to see for a while, but just never had the chance.

The first of the two was The Provincial Archive, from Edmonton, starting the night on a bit of a mellow vibe. They had a folk sound that reminded me, at times, of The Weakerthans in all the best ways. The four of them had an assortment of instruments, from melodica to stand-up bass to accordion to banjo, great harmonies and really catchy and well written songs. They definitely won over more than their fair share of the crowd as they wove through their set, ending with a newer song, "Drive" and what was probably my favourite of the set, "Weight and Sea".

Second up was Dinosaur Bones, who started to picked things up a bit, energy-wise. With a bit of a dark-and-brooding-pop sound, the band was really tight and put on a solid show. The members had a great chemistry together and played off each other with an effortless ease. With highlights of their set being "N.Y.E" as well as the last song, which I didn't catch the name of, I really dug them and would definitely be intrigued to catch them live again.

And then, hitting the stage seven members large, it was Library Voices. From the beginning of the set -- opening with "If Raymond Carver Was Born in the 90s" -- they had an enthusiasm that is unparalleled. Especially their bass player, who hardly stood still for a minute, singing along even when he wasn't on mic and just generally getting everyone pumped. But the liveliness wasn't limited to him, as each member of the band was just as energetic, a few times coming out to the front of the stage, even on the boxes right in front of the stage at the Biltmore.
Their set focused on the new album, Summer Of Lust -- with the awesomely titled "Reluctant Readers Make Reluctant Lovers" and their current single "Generation Handclap" definitely being highlights -- but they also hit a few older ones, the apocalyptic "Party Like It's 2012" and the insanely infectious "Step Off The Map and Float", which wrapped up the main set. But of course, they came back out for the usual encore, starting with one of my favourites from Denim on Denim, "Bookish", and ending with a pair of covers. The first was (I think) "The Letter" by The Box Tops, which was really fun and upbeat song, but they ended the night on a more quiet note, saying it seemed the proper thing to do on a Thursday. The band crowded the front of the stage to play Lennon's "Oh Yoko", which ended up with a couple members wading out in the middle of the crowd for a massive sing-along.

Any of the three bands playing would have been great on their own, but putting them all together made for one fantastic show, and I can't wait to see any of them again.

If Raymond Carver Was Born in the 90s; Write Me A Myth; Generation Handclap; The Travellers Digest; Prime Minister's Daughter; Kundera On The Dance Floor; Reluctant Readers Make Reluctant Lovers; Que Sera Sarah; Party Like It's 2012; Be My Juliette Gréco, Paris 1949; Haunt This House; Step Off The Map And Float.
[encore] Bookish; The Letter [The Box Tops cover], Oh Yoko [John Lennon cover]

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hollerado @ Venue -- 09/21/11

A busy week of concerts continues at Venue for Hollerado. I really liked when I first saw them at Live at Squamish last year, but haven't had the chance to see since, so I was definitely going to be there to see them.
And also, how awesome is that poster?

I only caught the last couple songs of the first band, Wildlife, and they seemed like a pretty good fit to open for Hollerado. A pretty straightforward -- if generic -- rock sound, with pretty god energy from the band. Especially the drummer, who picked up his cymbal stand to bash it at the end of the last song.

Next up was Young Rival, who were also straight up rock, but with a bit of a 50s throwback feel to them. They also had a good energy with a fun set, if not much variation to their songs. I enjoyed them, and would probably see them again given the chance, but am not really in any rush to.

And then it was time for Hollerado, who hit the stage with huge energy, launching in to "Juliette" early on, which got everyone on the floor jumping and singing along. There were a few new songs in their set, too, which sounded exactly what you'd expect from the band. Other highlights from the incredibly fun set were "Got To Lose" and "Do The Doot Da Doot Doo", which ended the set with with Menno first hanging the mic over the crowd for people to sing along, and then getting down into the crowd himself. They also had some great banter and joking around between songs -- comparing Toronto's pizza to Vancouver's... more notable exports.
They put on an incredibly fun set, with a fantastic energy; especially Jake Boyd, who was a maniac on the drums.
After the main set they came back out for one last song, and one last sing-along, a cover of Young's "Rockin' In The Free World". With confetti cannons and an incredibly fun live show, Hollerado definitely delivers live and made for a great Wednesday night.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Karkwa w/ Aidan Knight & The Belle Game @ Biltmore -- 09/20/11

Two and a half years ago, I went down to the Biltmore to hear this newfangled Vancouver band called Said The Whale. The show was some sort of pre-Olympics celebration, and as part of the "Cultural Olympiad", had a range of musicians, from Vancouver's STW to the Inuit Lucie Idlout to the band that played between the two, some French Canadian band I had vaguely heard of from CBC Radio 3. Turns out that night would be the beginning of my infatuation with Montréal's Karkwa. To this day I am still pretty sure that they blew out a speaker at the show, and from that night on I would rave about them to anyone that listened, and was definitely rooting for them for last year's Polaris Prize, and was thrilled when they won. And even though I had seen them once more since then, for a free show during the actual Olympics, I was more than ecstatic to see them in what was their first real Western Canadian tour. Especially because they had wrangled a couple opening acts that I would have seen on their own.

The first of which was The Belle Game, who I always enjoy seeing play, despite the fact that I've managed to see them four times in the last three months. Unfortunately I got in a couple songs late, but still caught the last half of their set, with "Shoulders & Turns" and their single, as part of the Peak Performance Project, the infectious "Sleep To Grow". They ended quite dynamically, as they are wont to do, with a newer song tentatively titled "We Left This Home", with Andrea pounding on the floor tom, front and centre, and guitarists Adam & Alex both almost getting right into the crowd for the finale.
There was also a neat moment where Katrina, who is originally from Montréal, addressed the crowd en français, to express how grateful they were to be sharing the stage with next two acts. (I think, at least. My French is limited to what I remember from Téléfrançais)

Second up was Aidan Knight, who is also a huge fan of Karkwa -- he even mentioned being at the same previous Biltmore show during his set -- and was visibly thrilled to be opening for them. It was a bit of a unique set for Aidan, as he had a bit of a different band backing him. Olivier and Julia were, as usual, on horns and keys, but they were only joined by Hannah Epperson on violin and Katie Schaan on cello. It gave the set a sound that was somehow both richer and more minimalistic.
Starting off with "Knitting Something Nice", the set also consisted of a few new songs, including one as-of-yet unnamed one with just Hannah (Aidan asked for suggestions as to the name, but I don't think he liked mine: "In Love With A Trumpet Major") and the heartbreakingly beautiful "Margaret Downe". And, of course, no Aidan Knight show is complete without his charmingly awkward stage banter. They ended, as per usual, with "Jasper", which had the crowd singing along, and some amazing strings to go along with it.

And then, it was time for Karkwa. Every once in a while I worry that I have psyched myself up for a show too much, and that the only possible outcome would be disappointment. But Karkwa hit the stage, double drummers and all, and my fears were immediately quashed when they launched into "Le Pyromane" to begin the set. The band has an absolutely incredible intensity as their wall of sound washes over you with driving guitars -- including some incredible solos -- and dual drummers who play off each other perfectly. Highlights of the set included the upbeat "Marie Tu Pleures", which had everyone clapping along, the somewhat dark "Le Bon Sens" and definitely "La Façade", which is up there as one of my favourite songs. After "Le Compteur" drove home their main set, they were back for another pair, ending the night with "Oublie Pas", and leaving the crowd drained, with faces melted off.

It was a show that will absolutely end up as one of my favourites of the year, and cemented Karkwa as one of my favourite bands; especially to see live. Connecting with an audience is hard enough without a language barrier, and it is a testament to the band, and Louis-Jean, that they were able to keep the crowd completely enthralled throughout the set. Earlier in the evening Aidan Knight mentioned that, cheesy as it sounded, Karkwa's music transcends the boundaries of language, and I couldn't agree more. I just hope that the packed venue (on a Tuesday night, no less) showed Karkwa that they have more then enough of fans in the west, and that they'll be back soon.

Le Pyromane, L'Acouphène, Échapper au sort, L'épaule Froide, Les Chemins De Verre, Dormir Le Jour, Le Bon Sens, La Façade, Marie Tu Pleures, Le Compteur.
[encore] Moi-léger, Oublie Pas.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dan Mangan @ CBC Studio 40 -- 09/17/11

Gearing up for the release of his new album on the 27th, Dan Mangan took over Studio 40 at CBC Vancouver for a special unveiling of Oh Fortune, broadcast live on CBC Radio 3. Hosted by R3 announcer Lisa Christiansen, they started by requesting no applause between songs, and Dan explained that he wasn't going to be talking, just going to go straight through the album, with all the transitions between songs intact.

Joined by his usual cohorts, Kenton Loewen on drums, Johnny Wah on bass and Gord Grdina on guitar, they were also had keys and a section of strings, horns and woodwinds to round out the sound. Starting off with the awesomely-named "About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All", they immediately made use of the awesome expanded instrument section, with a song that made me want to learn to waltz. "Post-War Blues" is a song I had heard live before and loved, but after hearing it on the album -- and especially last night -- it has quickly one of my favourite Mangan songs, driving to an explosive and emotional climax.
The rest of the set was a range of emotions from melancholy "If I Am Dead" to a little more more upbeat with the title track, "Oh Fortune" and "Daffodil", which despite still being emotional, still had Dan's sense of humour with at least one pun in the lyrics. On the surface, the album sounds very different from Nice, Nice, Very Nice, but is still very distinctively "Dan Mangan".
As the album drew to a close, they ended with the question-only song, "Jeopardy", and then the audience finally got to show their appreciation. There was a bit of banter, and Dan tossed some (very un-aerodynamic) t-shirts into the crowd, but they weren't done yet, as he played a few older ones. The ending of "Sold" has most people clapping along, and he brought the whole evening to a close, unsurprisingly, with "Robots", coming out into the crowd for everyone to sing along to the end.

It was a fantastic show, and as a person that always listens to albums front to back, it was an amazing experience to see pulled off live. Even though I have had the opportunity to see Dan Mangan live several times now, he never fails to wow me with his live performances.
And if you missed it, don't worry; it will soon be rebroadcast on the CBC as well as put out as a podcast soon enough.

About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All; How Darwinian; Post-War Blues; If I Am Dead; Daffodil; Starts With Them, Ends With Us; Oh Fortune; Leaves, Trees, Forest; Rows Of Houses; Regarding Death and Dying; Jeopardy; Sold; Some People; Robots.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Peak Performance Project Showcase #2 @ Red Room -- 09/15/11

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. The first year was won by We Are The City, and last year, Kyprios, with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.

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. In the last two years, the bands would all have to learn and play a cover of a classic Canadian song, but this year they will all be playing the songs they wrote about Vancouver for the Vancouver125 celebrations. Honestly, I am a bit disappointed about that, because one of my favourite aspects of the showcase series last year was seeing which song they picked and how they interpreted it. But I am sure their Vancouver songs will be great.

First up for the night was Avairis, whose three members took the stage one by one for a song that built up. They were kind of dirty, bluesy rock group and while they played off each other really well, I didn't really get into them that much. I definitely didn't think it was bad by any means, but it wasn't all that great either; it just... was.
They would, however, win if the prize was based off facial hair, and Duff has a really interesting story -- he was once in a plane crash and messed up his right hand, so he decided to switch and learn to play the guitar with his other hand.

Fields of Green was up next, and they were one of the bands that I had not heard much of before, but was intrigued to see live. With a bit of a prog-infused alt-rock sound and a crazy energy, especially the drummer, who was a maniac behind the kit. Though half way through the set they killed all of their momentum when, after trying to get the Red Room silent (which did not work at all) they decided to do a completely unplugged and unamplified song. I can see something like that being killer in a smaller venue with a quieter crowd, but as it turned out, anyone not in the first five rows couldn't hear a thing, and that really hurt. That being said, they did manage to regain some momentum and ended the set with even more energy than they started with. For the most part, I really enjoyed it, and definitely saw potential in the band; they're a little green right now, but given a few years of hard work, they could be huge.

Third up was Acres of Lions, who are one of the repeats from last year's competition. When I saw them a year ago, I thought they were okay; a decently fun band, though nothing much else. But they really impressed me this year with how much they've improved since then. They played a solid set of fun, upbeat rock songs, and had a really good stage presence, really pulling the crowd into it. The best example was mid-set, with their new single, "Reaction", which got everyone clapping and ba baa-ing along, and was sure to get stuck in peoples heads well into the next day.
Plus, any band that has a song about Firefly ("This Was Not My Best Day Ever") is aces in my books.

And rounding out the night was Current Swell. I had heard some of their stuff before the Project started, and I never really cared for them that much, so I had a bit of a bias going into their set. But they were a lot more rocking that I thought they would be, and they had a fantastic energy.
While there were still more songs I couldn't get into than could, there were a couple I really dug. "Cursed", which has a fantastic guitar riff throughout the song, was great live and their Vancouver 125 song, "Granvilletown", was also pretty fun. I enjoyed them a lot more than I thought I would, but (to be honest) I still wasn't really "won over" by them. I would probably see them live again, but likely won't be scrambling to get an album.

Maybe not quite as good as the first week, but still a damn fun show. And, on a side note, pretty much half of the Vancouver music scene was on hand to see the showcase, which is always great seeing all the love and support.
On tap for next week next week, we'll you'll see The Oh Wells, Ashleigh Eymann, Sex With Strangers and The Boom Booms.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Explosions In The Sky @ Vogue -- 09/09/11

I (as I am sure most do) have a list of bands I have not yet seen live, and need to. I had the fortune of seeing one of the top three bands on that list earlier this year when My Morning Jacket came through town, and now I have been able to cross off a second from that top three at the Vogue last night. I had heard tale and seen clips of Explosions In The Sky live, and so when they announced a Vancouver date on their latest tour, I knew there would be no power in the 'verse that could stop me from going.

First though, opening the show was Twin Sister from New York, and the best way to describe them would be if Björk covered the 80s. The entire decade. The lead singer had a very similar voice -- but much less... shrill -- and the songs were loaded with synth, with kind of a chillwave-indie pop sound to them. The songs were quite catchy, though, and the band had a pretty good stage presence and energy, joking about the "smoke machine" in the crowd and bantering with some of the people up front. Their set seemed to drag on a little toward the end, but was ultimately pretty enjoyable.

Then a little after 10, Explosions In The Sky hit the stage with Munaf Rayani taking the sole microphone to thank the crowd profusely for coming, and especially for selling out the Vogue since it was only their second time in Vancouver. They would be the only words spoken until the end of the set when he thanked us again, as the five of them started off with an older song, "Greet Death", which began softly before bursting forth with an intensity completely unparalleled. With the stage dimly lit -- back lighting for most of the set -- they poured through their instrumental post-rock songs nearing ten minutes in length, transitioning from one to the next seamlessly, with only the briefest moments of calm to catch your breath before more cacophonous crescendos of wailing guitars and crashing drums.
It can be hard, sometimes, for an instrumental band to capture an audience, but even though there wasn't a single word said during their performance, they had each person completely hanging off every note. It was astounding, the scope of epic sound that only five members can make, but it probably helps to have three guitar players.

Most of the songs played were from their last two albums, the newest Take Care, Take Care, Take Care and All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, but there were some older ones, too, and memorable moments throughout the show. During "The Only Moment We Were Alone", Rayani, on his knees, slowly raised his guitar over his head and thumped the strings -- accompanied by all the lights suddenly raising, bathing the theatre in blinding light. It was one of those moments that sounds cheesy to describe, but was breathtaking to see in context, and will be a sight not soon forgotten.

After almost an hour and a half, they wrapped up the set with Take Care's closing track, "Let Me Back In", playing right up until the curfew, without bothering to stop for the tired faux-encore bit. And even though the crowd was clamouring for more, Rayani came back out after a few minutes to say it was a great show for them, and if it was a great show for us, we should just end on a high note.

And I couldn't have agreed more.

Greet Death; Last Known Surroundings; Welcome, Ghosts; Trembling Hands; The Only Moment We Were Alone; Be Comfortable, Creature; Postcards From 1952; Your Hand In Mine; The Birth and Death of the Day; Let Me Back In.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peak Performance Project Showcase #1 @ Red Room -- 09/08/11

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. The first year was won by We Are The City, and last year, Kyprios, with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.

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. In the last two years, the bands would all have to learn and play a cover of a classic Canadian song, but this year they will all be playing the songs they wrote about Vancouver for the Vancouver125 celebrations. Honestly, I am a bit disappointed about that, because one of my favourite aspects of the showcase series last year was seeing which song they picked and how they interpreted it. But I am sure their Vancouver songs will be great.

Kicking off the whole series was The Never Surprise, joined by drummer Neko Friesen and Robbie Driscoll on bass -- both of which have played with just about all the bands in Vancouver. They started the set with some slow, folk-y songs, but as the set went on they picked up the energy a little. There wasn't too much banter, aside from some gratuitous "thank yous", but they all seemed confident from the start, which just grew as the set went on. A little bit of feedback struck them early on -- that actually persisted throughout the night -- but it was played it off quite well. They wrapped up the set with their Vancouver 125 song, which was probably the most energetic one they had. They were the crowd into it and clapping along, and it was definitely a good ending song.

Hilary Grist was up next, keeping the mood somewhat mellow with her singer/songwriter folk-pop style. Musically, I thought she was okay; a nice voice and catchy songs, but nothing that really stood out or that I hadn't heard before. But she did have a fantastic energy and stage presence. Coming out from behind the keyboard, singing at the front of the stage, she was great and getting the crowd into it. As the set went on there was a couple of nice moments, with the whole band came up to the front for a soft, cute song and one song consisting of a good sized brass section. She ended her set with a song that started off with just her, then the band joined in, then her large brass section came in as well, for a big ending with the crowd singing and clapping along.

Following her was Jasper Sloan Yip, who I had heard a few songs from, but for whatever reason had never seen him live or delved deeper into his work. But that will have to change, because he put on a thoroughly enjoyable set with a bit more rock in his folk, and a nice balance of slower songs and fun, catchy upbeat ones. Yip had an effortless charm to him, and he & his band all had a good presence on stage, and great chemistry, playing off each other really well. I also loved the addition of the strings, especially violin, to the songs, giving them a nice depth. He, too, ended with a big, grand, clap-along song -- which was a fun song, but had me wondering a little if someone told all the bands at bootcamp that was a good way to end a show.

Wrapping up the night was The Belle Game. I've had the chance to see their big, chamber pop sound a few times in the last couple months, and this was probably their best show I have seen them play. While they have never been lacking energy, this set had an abundance of it, with the members moving around more, being more dynamic. Members of the band would come up front and centre to show off, notably Alex Andrew on guitar and trumpetite Andrew Lee (on loan from The Ruffled Feathers) blowing his heart out for a couple trumpet solos, and a really good intensity from singer Andrea Lo.
And they also had a big, bombastic ending to their set, wrapping up the first night of the showcase shows with a bang.

Definitely a fun night, and a great start to the showcase series, which runs for the next four Thursdays at the Red Room. Next week we'll hear from Avairis, Fields of Green, Acres of Lion and Current of Swell

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shows of September

I'm going to try a new thing here, where on or around the first of every month, I'll do a little blurb about the upcoming shows I am stoked about that month.
So for September, the top three shows I am most looking forward to are:

Explosions in the Sky.
These guys are firmly in my top three must see live bands, and I am so very excited by their impending show, on the 9th at the Vogue Theatre. Words can not express how much I want to see them, so instead, see this video. If you don't even have an inkling to see them live after that... I don't even know what to say.

Karkwa with Aidan Knight & The Belle Game.
 I am so glad the Polaris Prize winning band is back, as both times I have seen them have been incredible. They're at the Biltmore (where I am pretty sure they blew a speaker the first time I saw them) on the 20th, and supporting them will be none other than Victoria's Aidan Knight, who is always great live, and whose Karkwa-love rivals mine. And if that wasn't a stupendous enough double bill, The Belle Game will also playing.

Broken Social Scene.
I've seen them in a small venue during the Olympics and a large outdoor part co-headlining with Sam Roberts, and places in between, and they always put on a mind-blowing show. Now they're hitting up Malkin Bowl -- which is one of my favourite venues here -- on the 24th. You may never know who, exactly, is going to show up to be in the band; but you always know it's going to be one hell of a show.

Other shows going down I am excited about are the back to back Hollerado and Library Voices shows -- 21st at Venue and 22nd at the Biltmore, respectively. Been too long since either has been here, and both are incredibly fun and lively bands with great live shows.

And then, of course, there are the Peak Performance Project showcases. Running every Thursday for the next five weeks, they're a chance for each of the top 20 bands to show what they have. Each show is at the Red Room, and the lineups consist of:
8 - The Never Surprise, Hilary Grist, Jasper Sloan Yip, The Belle Game.
15 - Avairis, Fields of Green, Acres of Lions, Current Swell.
22 -The Oh Wells, Ashleigh Eymann, Sex With Strangers, The Boom Booms.
29 -The Matinee, Redgy Blackout, Behind Sapphire, Treelines.
With Lindsay Bryan, Maurice, 41st and Home and Rococode taking place October 10th.

So that's it. That's what I am looking forward to. See you there?