Friday, January 27, 2012

Steam Whistle Unsigned w/ Treelines, The Ruffled Feathers & Sidney York @ Biltmore -- 01/26/12

For a while now, the Toronto microbrewery Steam Whistle has been hosting its Unsigned events in various Canadian cities, and now it's finally come to Vancouver. Each concert in the series features three Canadian artists with all of the ticket sales going back to the arts community; in this case to Music BC. And the three acts chosen to launch the series in Vancouver? Well, three favourites around these parts.

First up was Sidney York, who I've seen a few times in the last little while and each time the whole band, but especially "Sidney York" herself Brandi Sidoryk, seems to have more and more pure energy, to match their insanely catchy indie pop. Hardly contained behind the keyboard, she was out to the front of the stage a few times, to get the packed crowd into it, leading sing along to "Roll With Me" and later getting everyone clapping and singing (and likely whistling) along to "Dick & Jane". Brandi also broke out the ukulele and french horn at times, and combined with Sheryl Reindhardt and Krista Wodelet on oboe and bassoon, respectively, the unusual instruments gave the insanely catchy indie pop a touch of eclectic depth. They also threw in a cover in the middle of the set, a really cool version of Savage Garden's "I Want You", and brought the set to an end with my favourite, "Mile High Love", which somehow managed to top the energy of the entire set.

The Ruffled Feathers were up next, with their grand, chamber pop sound. They're new album Oracles is due soon (spoiler: it's good), and their set consisted mostly of songs off that, with the bulk of the vocals handled by Gina Loes, who also played guitar, and trumpetite Andrew Lee and Charley Wu -- mandolin & keyboard -- also contributing. The whole band has a very bubbly and upbeat stage presence, with their sense of sheer joy spreading through the crowd, definitely helped by Gina's adorableness.
Highlights of the set were the ear-worm-y "Blueprints for Our Failed Revolution" and "Home", and definitely "Lead Me To Destruction", which started a little 50s do-wop, with Charley Wu taking over lead vocals -- backed by Gina and Andrew -- before building to a chaotic breakdown and explosive climax.
They ended the set with the mood brought down a bit, and Lee urging everyone to slow dance (and/or make out) for the slow and romantic closer. They are another band that just keep getting better, and more polished, every time I see them, and this was the best yet.

And finally, rounding out the night was Treelines, and even though they hit the stage at nearly midnight (on a school night, no less) their straight up high energy rock had the crowd still into it. With a set ranging from the new EP, back to their self-titled debut, they burst forth right off the bat with "Summer Song" and hardly took their collective foots off the gas through the set; even during the slower songs, like the title track from their newest EP, Courage, which builds to a soaring chorus. Another highlight was the very Canadian, and very catchy, "Ode to the Prairies" which ended the main set before they were back for one more song. Orinially planning on "When I Get Grown", they spontaneously decided on the title track from their Young Man EP thanks to a request called from the crowd, with Matt Lockhart making sure everyone was ready to help out on vocals, since his voice was going (there were a couple tell-tale cracks near the end of the set). And the crowd definitely complied, commandeering the microphone for the chorus of whoa-oh-oh-oh-ooh's to end off the night.

As always, Treelines is a tremendously fun band to watch live, with all four members having an unbridled energy and enthusiasm on stage. And all in all, it was a fantastic way to kick of Vancouver's Unsigned series, with three bands that all had different sounds, but meshed really well together. I can't wait until the next one, and if it's even half as good as this, it'll still be a hell of a show.


Sidney York
Tea As It Should Be, Roll With Me, Math & Fractions, Apocalyptic Radio Cynic, Cold In Here, I Want You [Savage Garden cover], Dick & Jane, Doctor Doctor, Mile High Love.

The Ruffled Feathers
Canals of Suzhou, All My Cities, Home, Our Beautiful Hearts, Mockingbird, Lead Me To Destruction, Paloma, Blueprints for Our Failed Revolution, Your Embrace.

Summer Song, The Vancouver Song, Birds, Burned Up Hands, Statuette, Ghost Towns, Linked Arms, Courage, Cowboys, Ode to the Prairies. encore) Young Man.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hanson @ Vogue -- 01/23/12

Don't judge.

A free ticket and a cute smile coaxed me to a show last night that I would likely never have gone to otherwise. It was a band that made a huge splash in the late 90s with a pop hit, and faded away shortly after, but made a resurgence in the mid 00's, starting their own record label and company, putting out their music independently with a very DIY-mentality. I was strongly urged to look past the initial stigma of the band and their past, and to keep an open mind. And while I was skeptical, I did.

That band? Hanson. Yes, that Hanson. They've outgrown the sugary teen pop of "Mmm Bop" and while they are still pretty poppy, there is a lot more of a rock, soul and a little bit of blues to their sound. One thing that struck me was how legitimately good musicians they are. This was proven a few times, but most notably mid-way through the set when they stripped down for a couple acoustic songs, and again when two of the brothers performed solo songs. And despite the newer sound, they didn't forget where they started, playing older songs, including the two I recognized from Top 40s radio back in the day: "Mmm Bop", which had the crowd going nuts, and "Where's The Love".
They also definitely knew how to work a crowd, with a huge, unrelenting energy, getting everyone to sing, dance and jump along, but also seemed very humble and grateful to their (very vocal) fans.

The encore was just one song, I think called "In The City", which was my favourite of the set; it was their most rocking with a crunchy blues riff. So while I may not have been turned into a screaming fan (they had plenty of those already), I did actually enjoy the show. It was fun, and the brothers earned my respect; a respect that was well deserved.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bend Sinister @ Club Push -- 01/21/12

Back when I was just getting in to local independent music, one of the first bands I came across was Bend Sinister. I saw them opening a show where they blew away the headliner and soon after heard a song on the CBC Radio 3 podcast, and since then they have remained one of my favourite local bands; especially to see live. So of course I was going to go check out their show for the PuSh Festival at "Club Push" (usually known as Performance Works on Granville Island) which, in a nice "full circle" way, was sponsored by R3 and hosted by Lisa Christiansen.

Opening the night was Pleasure Cruise, a fairly new band that actually formed on Twitter, when they were looking for a vocalist and Jody Glenham answered the call. Their lo-fi, retro, fuzzy indie pop sound puts you on a beach within minutes of hearing it and Glenham's voice finds a good balance of seductive and upbeat to fit the sound perfectly.  Starting off with "Weeks & Months" from their EP Business Or... the set was filled with energetic, summery songs, and even included a cool cover of "It's my Party". Other highlights were "I Really Wanna Know" which bursts into an energetic ending, and my favourite off the EP, "Summer Fling".

Next up was Nick Krgovich, who I didn't realise until his introduction was from the Vancouver band p:ano, and more recently, No Kids. He hit the stage alone, but despite that it was just him and his keyboard, he had a myriad of effects and back tracks to flesh out his sound, with twitchy synth, looped drums and midi sax as well as a projection screen behind him that matched up various old movie clips to the songs -- and matched up quite well. At first, I wasn't sure what to think of the electronic/ambient/poppy sounds, but it definitely grew on me as he went on, with Krgovich's stage presence -- and dancing -- definitely helping.
Aside from his own songs, he threw in a few covers, the best being of k.d. lang's "Constant Craving", and while I am not sure it's something I would listen to a lot, it was definitely a really interesting set, and I wouldn't hesitate to see him again live.

And finally, Bend Sinister hit the stage to wrap up the night, starting off with a new song. In fact, the bulk of the set consisted of new material -- with Dan promising an EP in March and a full length later in the year -- that sounded fantastic. The new songs had the familiar Bend Sinister prog rock sound and Dan Moxon's distinct vocals, but you could definitely tell the growth of the band, with a few songs having a bit of a bluesy vibe. My favourite of the new songs was, hands down, "Hot Blooded Man", an absolutely intense song  which almost immediately became one of my favourite songs of theirs; and one I can't wait to hear recorded.
Among the few old songs were "Don't Let Us Bring You Down" and "Things Will Get Better", bringing people to the dance floor. And keeping with the cover song trend, they broke out their rendition of "Don't Stop Believing" before wrapping up the main set with another new one, "She Don't Give It Up". They were back out for the encore with another older song, "Time Breaks Down" before ending with the heaviest song of the set, "Quest for Love".

Dan Moxon in an amazing ball of energy behind the keys, and the rest of the band more than keeps up for one of the most energetic live shows. If this set was any indication, the upcoming album is going to be their best yet.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Mocking Bird CD Release @ Roundhouse -- 01/20/12

It was a show that almost literally snuck up on me. I had all but dismissed it in favour of a different show, until mere hours before, I realised that The Mocking Bird was the new project from Vancouver musician Bob Kemmis. And then when I heard some of the people that would be backing him in the band for their CD release show, well, my decision was made.

Opening the night was Vancouver's Nat Jay armed with just her guitar and lovely voice for an acoustic set. With her folky, singer-songwriter sound, there were a few times where the songs sounded a little similar, but they were all very heartfelt and raw with emotion. The heartbreaking "Some of You" was a great example of this, with the longing lyrics and Nat Jay's warm stage presence drawing in the slowly-growing audience. Her catchy songs, emotional lyrics and intimacy all came together for a very enjoyable set.

Shortly after, The Mocking Bird hit the stage with a band of over a dozen musicians -- all in matching shirts --  joining Bob Kemmis, including a string quartet, horn section, Matt Kelly (Treelines) and Shaun Verreault (Wide Mouth Mason) both on guitar, Pat Steward on drums and his Odds bandmate Craig Northey on percussion. And the set definitely lived up to the pedigree of musicians on stage.
Kicking off with the opening track to the album, "Grace", the set went from upbeat and catchy rock to slower numbers, having almost an alt-country twang with Matt Kelly on pedal steel for a few songs. The strings and horns added an incredible depth to the song without feeling out of place, with the whole thing coming together beautifully for an incredible set.
Highlights were "Where's Your Get Up", "Quitting You", "Loved You Hated Him" and the song they finished off with, the last song off the album, "What A Difference". The usual encore first saw just Bob playing a brand new acoustic song -- with Matt, Shaun, and Pat providing backup vocals -- and then the rest of the band came back for a great cover of The Replacement's "Can't Hardly Wait" to wrap up the night with a bang.

Kemmis is a fantastic frontman with great energy, effortless charm, and funny banter between songs. And that charm and wit definitely seeps into his the songs as well, with some very well written and clever lyrics, and the occasional wordplay (which I am always a fan of). Everything meshed together amazingly for one heck of a show that will not soon be forgotten, and a damn good way to kick off the year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

One Night Stand IV @ Media Club -- 12/31/11

For the fourth year in a row (and my third in attendance), some of Vancouver's finest musicians came together to ring in the new year with nearly three hours of great covers. The night saw many familiar faces from the last couple years, as well as some new additions to the one-off band, which rotated members throughout the night, seeing people on and off stage and everyone getting at least one song of their own -- even those who are not usually front and centre.

This year, the One Night Stand band consisted of Johnny Andrews (Rococode) Andrew Braun (Rococode, Hannah Georgas) Peter Carruthers (Siskiyou) Robbie Driscoll (Hannah Georgas) Hannah Georgas herself, Brian Healy (Elias) Tariq Hussain (Brasstronaut) Ali Milner, Jasmin Parkin (Mother Mother) Laura Smith (Rococode) Rob Tornroos (Elias), "plus surprise guests"

Starting at 10, they played three sets of covers, at the top of each hour, with the obligatory midnight countdown and free champagne.

Set One
Ready To Start (Arcade Fire) - Andrew Braun
Take On Me (A Ha) - Ali Milner
Rolling in the Deep (Adele) - Laura Smith
Suffragette City (David Bowie) - Brian Healy
Dreams (Fleetwood Mac) - Ali Milner
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (The Band) - Brasstronaut
Be My Baby (The Ronettes) - Jasmin Parkin
Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen) - Peter Carruthers
Common People (Pulp) - Tariq Hussain

They kicked off the night, appropriately enough, with Arcade Fire's "Ready To Start" and Braun on vocals (perhaps Rococode covering "Rococo" would have been too obvious) and from there Ali Milner did a great "Take On Me" and Laura Smith crushed the vocals for "Rolling in the Deep". Tariq brought out Brasstronaut band-mates Edo and Sam for a sing along toThe Band and in a rare vocal appearance, Carruthers took centre stage for "Born To Run". The first set wrapped up with a pretty cool cover of "Common People" (almost as good as Shatner's) from Tariq.

Set Two
Under Pressure (Queen) - 
You Make My Dreams (Hall & Oates) - Ali Milner
She Drives Me Crazy (Fine Young Cannibals) - Hannah Georgas
Gold Guns Girls (Metric) - Jasmin Parkin
I Might Be Wrong (Radiohead) - Laura Smith
Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel) - Brian Healy
Single Ladies (Beyoncé) - Smith/Milner/Parkin/Georgas

The second set [apparently] started with "Under Pressure", which I was a little crushed to learn I had missed, due to the photobooth being in the back room this year as opposed to next to the stage. The rest of the set was focused on the lovely ladies of One Night Stand, which was by no means a bad thing. Hannah took over for a great cover of one of my favourite songs from when I was a youngin', Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy" and Jasmin Parkin's "Gold Guns Girls" was one of the more interesting covers to hear, by virtue of the fact that Mother Mother and Metric are fairly similar bands.
They capped off the set -- and the year -- with all four ladies; Smith, Milner, Parkin and Georgas, informing everyone that if you liked it, you should have put a ring on it.

Set Three
With Or Without You (U2) - Rob Tornroos
Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney & Wings) - Andrew Braun
Lust For Life (Iggy Pop) - Brian Healy
Dancing On My Own (Robyn) - Smith/Georgas
Use Me (Bill Withers) - Tariq Hussain
Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads) - Robbie Driscoll
In My Place (Coldplay) - Rob Tornroos
Gz and Hustlas (Snoop Dogg) - Hannah Georgas
Say It Ain't So (Weezer) - Andrew Braun
Like A Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan) - Everyone

The first song of the year, the traditional slow dance song, saw Elias' Robbie T belting out "With or Without You", before a great sing along to "Live and Let Die" lead by Braun. Two big highlight of the night came close together, the first being Robbie Dee -- normally in the background of various bands -- channelling Taking Heads and proving he is a pretty damn energetic frontman in his own right, and the second was Gorgeous Gangsta' Hannah Georgas throwning down some Snoop Dog, which had to be seen to be believed.
And as with previous years, they ended the night with everyone coming back on stage for a giant sing along, with most of the room joining in for "Like a Rolling Stone".

I think one of the best things about this event is always how much fun is had in the room. Starting on stage, it's blatantly obvious how much the people love doing this; love playing some of their favourite songs with some of their favourite people, and that enthusiasm definitely bleeds into the crowd. Hopefully they'll keep it going for years to come -- and seeing as they always sell out well in advance, hopefully next year they can get an even bigger venue!