Monday, February 27, 2012

Jasper Sloan Yip @ Performance Works -- 02/26/12

The seventh annual Winterruption Festival wrapped up yesterday on Granville Island, and the festivities included a pair of free afternoon shows from Vancouver's Jasper Sloan Yip; an early electric and an acoustic one almost right after.

I caught the earlier electric set, where the crowd was a bit subdued, being an early afternoon show. But the barefoot Jasper kept a good energy and stage presence, telling stories and bantering with his violin player and partner Stephanie Chatman, joking after one song's false start that "in music, as in life, she is right".
And Jasper's energy definitely came through in his music, with his upbeat and dynamic folk rock sound. Highlights of the set included the infectious "Kiddo" and a great cover of  Wilco's "Jesus, Etc". And the Wilco influence shone through later on for my favourite of the set, "Horseshoe"; particularly on the guitar, with Yip channelling a little bit of Nels Cline. They ended with "Foxtrot", preceeded by Jasper reading a bit of the wikipedia definition of the term, stating that is how he wanted his music to one day be. Which he is well on his way to.

It was a nice way to wrap up a great weekend of music, and I have no doubt that next year, Coastal Jazz will be able to top it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Aidan Knight w/ The Belle Game @ Performance Works -- 02/25/12

For the seventh year running, Granville Island is home to a celebration of food and performance and arts and dance and music for the Winterruption Festival. Last night was a fun show with Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and Acres of Lions, and tonight they've got an even better double bill of Aidan Knight and The Belle Game.

I missed a little bit of The Belle Game, getting there just as they wrapped up "I Wish You Weren't Like A Dead Lover (Sometimes)", with the band going nuts on floor toms. I've had the chance to see them a few times in the last several months, and they just keep getting better, their great stage presence and dense & layered sound filling the room and capturing people's attention.
They urged people to slow dance for the brought things down for a moment with "Shoulders and Turns" and Olivier Clements of Aidan's band, was out to join Andrew Lee on trumpet for "Sleep To Grow". They also had a few new songs, teasing a new album, including the final song of the set "River", with Andrea Lo's vocals taking on a smoky, jazz club feel.

Not long after it was time for Aidan Knight. Even though I've seen Aidan and his Friendly Friends live almost a dozen times now, somehow this is the first time I've seen him headlining a show of his own. They started off with "Land's End" and "North East South West", the latter of which he broke a string during. He was a little flustered at first, but Alex Andrew of The Belle Game saved the day by loaning Aidan his guitar. Knight would self-deprecatingly call himself out on this, and a couple other road bumps later in the set -- including his self-proclaimed "terrible" banter -- but his awkwardness has always been more endearing than anything, and he was as charming as ever throughout the set.
And of course, the music was great. There were some new songs sprinkled in, an untitled one about a girl being in love with a guy who has a fake tan; "Singer/Songwriter", which Aidan introduced as "the 'Inception of songs"; and the magnificently beautiful "Margaret Downe", heartbreaking as always, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite songs the more I hear it.
They ended not with "Jasper" (surprisingly) but with "Knitting Something Nice", starting soft and building to a huge ending. And of course they were back for the encore with a song called "Magic Cupboard" which is "about baking", and finally wrapping it up with "Friendly Fires", with The Belle Game and Zach from The Zolas becoming honourary Friendly Friends, joining them on stage for shakers and clapping and dancing.

The only thing that marred the set was some slight sound issues; the most noticeable being a persistent hum, but it was more a minor annoyance than anything, and didn't stop me from enjoying the set. Knight always puts on a great show, and I am definitely looking forward to the new album he was teasing.

And don't forget, Winterruption continues today, where you have two chances to see Jasper Sloan Yip at Performance Works: an electric set at 12:30 and an acoustic one at 1:45, both free!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald w/ Acres of Lions @ Performance Works -- 02/24/12

This weekend marks the seventh annual Winterruption Festival, a celebration filled with food and performance and arts and dance and music on Granville Island. And do they ever have some amazing music this entire weekend, with free shows during the day and a couple nifty looking double bills in the evenings, like Michael Bernard Fitzgerald with Acres of Lions last night.

Acres of Lions kicked off the night with fill-in-drummer Cody Beer joining Jeff Kalesnikoff on guitar and vocals, Tyson Yerex on guitar & keys, and Dan Ball on bass. They started with "Let's Get Sentimental" from their debut album, and the ridiculously catchy "Reaction" came early on in the set with Jeff  getting everyone to clap and "Ba Baa" along. They slowed down a bit for the Firefly-inspired "Best Day Ever" before rocking the rest of the set, with upbeat and infectious songs like "Kids" and "Closer", before ending with another slower one, the title track off their most recent album, Collections.
While they're not reinventing the pop-rock genre, their live show is just flat out fun; the whole band has a great energy and stage presence, immediately filling the dance floor and getting the crowd to sing and clap along to a few songs.

Not long after, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald hit the stage with a nice sized band including a horn section (whom he introduced as "The Horny Boys"), a pair of drummers, and more. He started off with "Movie Life" and his brand new single, "Follow", playing a good number of songs from his upcoming album and EP, both titled Yes; Side A and Side B respectively. The new stuff sounded much like you would expect, pop-ish with a hint of soul, and the full band gave it a nice, fleshed out sound. It definitely got me interested to pick up the album(s).
MBF also has a great stage presence, genuinely nice and humble, and an effortless charm. He did things like give out his phone number, so everyone could be "text friends" and when there was a bit of a delay, when he had to change and restring his guitar, he kept the flow going with his backup band playing, and then bringing a fan on stage to demonstrate CPR through dance (no, seriously).
Highlights of the set were the aptly named "Firecracker", which was one of my favourites of the night, and the older "Brand New Spaces", with everyone stomping & clapping along, and ending with a medley of top 40 covers including Sysco, Flo Rida, and LMFAO. And those weren't the only covers in the set, he had a few more throughout; Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child" early on, The Boss's "Dancing in the Dark" to end the main set and "Call Your Girlfriend" by Robyn in the encore.

Both bands of the night put on incredibly fun sets, and they were a perfect match for a night of good music. And speaking of another perfect match, I am definitely looking forward for Winterruption to continue tonight with Aidan Knight & The Belle Game at Performance Works.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Toque Sessions: Hey Ocean! @ CBC Studio 40 -- 02/23/12

The CBC Toque Sessions are in full swing, with a series of free shows at the CBC Vancouver building, which are also being recorded for broadcast later of Radio 2 and their On Demand section (sidebar: check out the snazzy new CBC Music website).

I was tempted to pass on the Hey Ocean! session, as I had just seen them at Venue, but when I heard they would be running through their whole new album, Is, accompanied by a mini-orchestra of strings and horns, I knew I would have to go. It was a little less intimate than previous ones, as they had moved it downstairs into a bigger setting -- probably to accommodate said horns -- and was seated, but Studio 40 in the bowels of the CBC is a great place where I've seen some pretty amazing shows.

"If I Were A Ship" lead things off, staring with an orchestral build up, and lead into the undeniably catchy "Make A New Dance Up" and the single, "Big Blue Wave". The two Daves took over lead vocals from Ashleigh Ball;  Beckingham for "Islands" and Vertesi for "Jolene", the latter being reminiscent of Vertesi's solo material, and one of my favourites off the album.
The trio was backed, as usual, by Devon Lougheed on guitar, Andrew Rasmussen on keys, and Timmy "Boom Bap" Proznick on drums, the entire band was on top of their game, teeming with enthusiasm which helped people to be shimmying in their chairs to songs like the peppy and upbeat "Change". And, as to be expected, the orchestra gave beautiful depths to the songs, like the beautiful "Steady" and "(for) give", the prelude and buildup to the soaring "Give". They wrapped up the album with the heartbreaking "Last Mistake", but had one more song, a b-side that didn't quite make the cut called "Maps".

I've always been a sucker for an orchestral section, and if I had my way, most of the bands I see play live would be accompanied by at least a small one, so seeing shows like this are always a treat, especially when the band in question is as fun as Hey Ocean!.

If I Were A Ship, Make A New Dance Up, Big Blue Wave, Islands, Jolene, New Love, Bicycle, Change, Steady, I Am A Heart, (for) give, Give, Last Mistake, Maps.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maurice @ Biltmore -- 02/22/12

It was the start of a busy streak of concerts last night at the Biltmore, with a couple Peak Performance Project alumni teaming up. One band who I hadn't seen since the showcases in September, regrettably, and another who I've seen a couple times since, but don't tire of seeing.

Starting off the night was Redgy Blackout, who put on a lively and fun show with their unique mix of indie rock, folk and pop. Both Scott Perrie and Jeremy Breaks have a great energy, especially during “Who Am I” -- the most upbeat songs of the set with a bit of a jazzy feel -- when Scott put down his guitar for a trumpet and was free to show off his dance moves.
They broke out a few new songs through the set, and another highlight was the beautiful "Alexandria" before they ended with a bang, another big, upbeat number, "Bottom of the Sea".

Library was up next, with some pretty middle of the road rock. They had an okay energy, but not much stage presence. And the songs were not bad, but a lot of them blended together. Even the cover of Springsteen's "Atlantic City" sounded pretty similar. It was nothing terrible, but nothing all that memorable, either.

And finally, Maurice hit the stage, including Jason Cook on drums (doing double duty, as we was with Redgy Blackout as well). They started the set off with the soaring "Big Country", getting the crowd into it. Even though it was a late start, they still managed to bring out the energy in everyone, and had a few people dancing up front, which is a credit to both their music and JP's great stage presence.
After a couple new songs, they slowed things down a little with the heartwrenching "Love Drug", featuring an electric violin, but then brought things right back up with the insanely catchy "Mistake", for which they were also joined by Stephanie Chatman on violin. The usual, and fantastic, cover of Fleetwood Mac’s "Dreams" made an appearance too, which segued into a little bit of both "Teenage Dream" and "Moves Like Jagger" at the end, awesomely and hilariously. And after the upbeat "All I Ever Wanted", they drew the set to a close with their version of Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party's "Robin", a fantastic song to wrap up the set with.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Matinée @ Venue -- 02/18/12

One of my favourite things to come out of last year's Peak Performance Project was the discovery of The Matinée. I've always had a soft sport for roots-rock and alt-country -- which is odd, since I don't really like "actual" country music -- and I was won over by The Matinée two songs into the first time I saw them live. So there was no way I was going to miss their first show of the year, that was apparently also their first headlining show in Vancouver (which seems surprising).

Starting off the night was current Vancouver buzz band Good for Grapes. With over a half dozen members on stage, they had a rich, lush sound that was folky, with a little bit of a maritime edge to it.
Though there wasn't too much banter between songs, but they had a great dynamic and enthusiasm, especially the incredibly animated accordion player.
Their set seemed too short (also because I missed the first little bit of it) and I will definitely be looking out for them again, hopefully soon.

Washboard Union was up next, who, full disclosure, I had seen years ago as Run GMC and didn't really care for, so I had a bit of a bias going in. Their sound could almost be described as "shit-kicker country", with a very down-south and almost bluegrass feel. And true to their name, they had a washboard out for a few songs to accompany the banjo, fiddle and the rest. While it was a little bit too two-stepping-country for my tastes, they definitely were not bad, as they were all good musicians with great energy. And if the crowd stomping along was any indication, I may have been in the minority.

Not long after -- curfewed shows always run like clockwork -- The Matinée took the stage, kicking it off with "L'Absinthe", with the charismatic Matt Layzell giving us the back story mid-song to get the crowd riled up before "Sweetwater", which had everyone stomping and clapping along. They definitely know how to work a crowd, and they had most of the room in the palm of their collective hands from the beginning.
There were a few new songs throughout the set, including a soft one that had everyone gathered around one mic for group vocals, and one called "Scooterfruit" which was the exact opposite; a huge, rocking song that exploded into an amazing ending that sounded like the band was channelling The Who -- especially drummer Pete Lemon. That led into a pretty spot-on cover of The Tragically Hip's "Grace, Too" and they brought it all to a head with "The Road", with the usual insane drum breakdown seeing every member on drums, and ended with Matt Rose putting on a guitar clinic.
But of course, that wasn't the real end and they were back for one more, just for good measure to cap off the night before Venue was turned over to the shiny shirts for the night.

And the final tally at the end of their set was: three bras thrown on stage, and two pairs of comically oversized underpants.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jordan Klassen @ Media Club -- 02/17/12

Over the last few months, two local(ish) bands have been getting some big exposure from spins on The Peak. The first is Bed of Stars, from Evan Konrad's collaboration with Neverending White Lights and their own single, and the other, Abbotsford's Jordan Klassen. So it was of little doubt that the CD Release show for Jordan Klassen's Kindness EP would sell out the Media Club.

First up, though, was Northcote, which was Matt Goud on acoustic guitar, kickdrum and harmonica -- sometimes all three at once -- backed by Blake Enemark (briefly of We Are The City) on electric guitar. He had a straightforward folk singer-songwriter sound, but he was elevated above the generic with both the songwriting and the emotion he put into the songs. His set was fairly short, and I regret not picking up a CD, as I would definitely like to hear more from him in the future.

Second up was Bed of Stars, for a more synthy, electronic pop sound. While they have definitely had a fair amount of hype surrounding them, I thought their live show was just okay. It certainly wasn't bad, but nothing really stood out as songs flowed together, and his vocals seemed consistent through each one. But that being said, I can definitely see promise in the band; it was only their third show ever -- and first with their new guitarist -- and I can see them getting a lot better. After a cover of Kings of Leon's "The Bucket", they ended with the highlight of the set, their single "Falling Apart", which Evan Konrad sent out to The Peak for supporting them, Klassen, and local music in general, and was the high

And finally, the stage packed for Jordan Klassen with over a half dozen musicians backing him, including some familiar faces; Indiana Avent, Jocelyn Price, and Ben Appenheimer. The inclusion of violin, cello, keys and more gave Klassen's folk-pop a grandiose and rich sound that was nearly too big for the Media Club.
He kicked it off with "Call and Answer" from the Kindness EP and "Piano Brother", which will be on his upcoming full length Repentance, both of which set the stage for the rest of the set with the symphonic rises and falls. Klassen had a great enthusiasm on stage, despite admitting he was a touch nervous at the sold out crowd, and barely having enough room to move around at times.
As the set went on, the musicians came and went, with as few as two people -- Jordan and his ukulele, with the cello for "Threads" -- but everyone was back for three huge songs to end the set, which were my favourites of the night. "The Horses Are Stuck" started soft and swelled a chilling chorus with everyone on stage providing vocals; one that I didn't catch the name of, which absolutely exploded into a cacophonous ending; and finally "Go To Me", the single from The Peak that blossomed to a grand climax to close out the set. He was back out for one more, though, a softer, slower song called "Ask Me Not, Astronaut" to send off the crowd into the night.

Overall, it was a pretty good night of music, and I already can't wait to see Klassen again, no doubt in a well deserved much bigger venue.

Toque Sessions: Rococode @ CBC Studio 700 -- 02/17/12

The CBC Toque Sessions are in full swing, with a series of free shows at the CBC Vancouver building, which I believe are being recorded for broadcast later of Radio 2 and their On Demand section (sidebar: check out the snazzy new CBC Music website).

Last night they had Rococode in the studio for some indie pop goodness. The quartet of Laura Smith, Andrew Braun, Shaun Huberts and Johnny Andrews has been taking Vancouver by storm for the last year, and they now finally have their album, Guns, Sex & Glory out on Head in the Sand records.

Starting off, after a small hiccup, with "Weapon" they played an hour set which included songs off their aforementioned album, as well as some new ones, with "Riot" being a definite highlight. The band, and especially their harmonies, have always been incredibly tight, and there was no exception here. They've also gotten more into the habit of banter; introducing songs and joking with each other and the crowd.

Another highlight of the set was "Empire", which never fails to get stuck in my head, and after the haunting "Ghost I" and "Ghost II" they wrapped up with one of my favourites of theirs, "Blood", which built to an explosive ending, a perfect finale for the set.

It's always fun seeing Rococode, especially for something like the Toque Sessions. I am definitely looking forward to the sessions for Hey Ocean!, Acres of Lions and Adaline in the coming weeks.

Weapon, Death of a Payphone, Run Run Run Run [Run Run], Tina, Riot, EJ(ay), Concentrate On Me, Dreams, Empire, Ghost I, Ghost II, Blood.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sweetheart Serenade @ Rio Theatre -- 02/14/12

To be honest, I don't usually pay much attention to Valentine's Day. I usually just let it slip by unnoticed, but when Hip City puts together a show like the Sweetheart Serenade, with a few local acts playing intimate acoustic sets at a venue as nice as the Rio? Well, I wasn't going to miss that.
There were five acts throughout the night, and they all had short sets, so I'll [try to] keep it brief. But first, one thing that bugged me was an incessant buzz or hum throughout the night. It wasn't that noticeable when songs were played, but it was pretty prominent otherwise; if the person on stage was transitioning or bantering. I noticed it last show at the Rio, too, but hopefully it was just a one-off thing. I usually like shows at the Rio, so I would hate for this to be a persistent problem.

But on to the show itself. First up was Hannah Epperson, armed only with her violin and looping pedals. Interestingly enough (probably not that interesting), every time I've seen her has been at a show involving Zach Gray. Her set was short, but she showed off her fantastic violin skills and masterful loops, with a voice that fit perfectly for a few of her own songs, and an instrumental cover of "Can't Buy me Love". She also has the best awkwardly-charming stage banter this side of Aidan Knight, joking with the crowd between songs.
But the short set wouldn't be the last we saw of Epperson, as she was without a doubt the hardest working musician of the night.

Next up was Sunny Pompeii, the solo project of Said the Whale drummer Spencer Schoening. At first he was out alone for a couple songs with a folky charm, both original -- one that started "Last night I dreamt I kissed Neko Case" which immediately became a favourite -- and covers, before being joined by Epperson for a song and bandmate Simon Marmorek for the second half of the set. The covers throughout included the likes of Akron/Family, Grizzley Bear and Animal Collective and while Spencer's voice was a little worse for wear thanks to recording earlier in the day, their original songs were quirky and entertaining.

Next up was Tariq, who was backed by his Brasstronaut bandmate Sam Davidson on clarinet and space clarinet EWI, but performing his own songs. In contrast to Brasstronaut's ethereal sound, Tariq was more straight forward folk, almost with an alt-country twinge to the songs. He kept the theme of love songs going, though had mostly sadder love songs, and the strength of them was definitely Tariq's lyrics; a perfect example being "Front Row Seat", a love songs related through concert seating, with some clever and poignant lyrics that was not just my favourite of his set, but one of my favourites of the night.

John Sponarski, Harold Donnelly and Georges Couling of Portage & Main took the stage next. They, too, were joined by Epperson for a song, "Rocky Mountain Wanderer", and Savannah Leigh Wellman of Redbird (and honourary Portage & Main member) was also out for most of the set providing backup vocals. After the building "I'd Never Climbed a Mountain", they brought their set to an end getting the mellow crowd a bit more energized to sing along to the two-word chorus of "Carolina".
Some of their songs are as good, if not better, when stripped down, so it's always nice to see them play a more intimate acoustic show.

And finally The Zolas wrapped up the night. Zach and Tom took the stage and, once again, Hannah Epperson was out to lend her violin. They played a couple new songs, starting with "Ancient Mars" that had Tom on the drum pad, before feigning leaving, but were of course out for more; a cover of Radiohead's "Codex" and another new(ish) song "Strange Girl", where Zach decided to spontaneously jump on the drum pad mid-song for hilarious (yet awesome) results.
That seemed to be the end of it but they were out one last time -- in what may have been a rare legitimate encore -- for the crowd favourite "You're Too Cool" before ending the show.

In all, it was a really nice night, and all the performers on stage looked like they were legitimately having fun and were all really loose on stage, creating a really nice and intimate feel. Perhaps appropriate for what day it was.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Shaun Verreault @ Backstage Lounge -- 02/11/12

One of my absolute favourite guitarists, especially to watch live, is Shaun Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason; so when I heard he'd be playing a solo show at The Backstage Lounge on Granville Island, of course I was going to be there.

Shaun was joined by Darren Paris on bass & drummer Timmy "Boom Bap" Proznick, and promised lots of improvisation and covers throughout the night ("The drunker I get, the more Prince songs I play") and more than delivered. There was everything from Hendrix to Bill Withers to Marvin Gaye, and even the chorus of Blackstreet's "No Diggity" slipped in. And yes, there were multiple Prince songs, including "When Doves Cry" and "Raspberry Beret". Aside form the covers, there was a handful of WMM songs, including one of my favourites off their latest album No Bad Days, "Sweet Little Thing", a slower, bluesy groove.

And there was improvisations abound with Shaun not afraid to take extended solos, or let his bandmates do the same. It was pretty amazing to watch the three play off each other, build the songs and make it look completely effortless. And no matter how many times Verreault tried to stump the other two, they kept right up with him.

After a pair of hour long sets, with a brief break between them, they wrapped up the night with a superb cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", which has been in the Wide Mouth Mason repertoire for a few years, as well as a little Marvin Gaye and Rolling Stones to close out the night.

As usual, Verreault showcased his phenomenal guitar playing, and it was amazing watching the three musicians mesh and the songs unfold on stage. I could have watched them go on for at least another hour and already can't wait until the next time Shaun plays.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hey Ocean @ Venue -- 02/10/12

This weekend was the first City and Slope festival, a new winter festival that spans from the city centre to the mountains for four days of events. The one I was most interested in was Hey Ocean! at Venue, who are building hype for their latest album, Is; which isn't out for a while, but the band was more than happy to give them out by donation to everyone in attendance, wanting everyone in the room that night to leave with a CD. And not only that, but they had a pretty swell opening band with them as well.

I though I was perfectly on time, but as I got there I could hear Elias had already started. The Vancouver trio of Brian Healy (vocals, piano, guitar), Rob Tornroos (guitar) and Stefan Tavares (drums) were joined by Peter Carruthers on bass, playing songs from their new album Fossils -- due out this Tuesday.
I've known Elias for the better part of the last decade, and have admittedly not followed them too closely, but the new stuff they were playing is probably the best I've heard of them; a moody and dark, alt-rock sound with each member having a great presence and confidence while playing. The highlight of the set was the last song, which I didn't catch the name of, that had Tornroos on vocals as well, and built to a big, climactic ending. It definitely got me excited to check out the album next week.

Not long after, Hey Ocean! hit the stage with a shout of "Hey Ocean!" and kicked it off with "If I Were A Ship", the first song off their upcoming album. The main trio of Ashleigh Ball, Dave Vertesi and David Beckingham were backed up by Andrew Rasmussen on keys, Devon Lougheed on guitar and Timmy "Boom Bap" Proznick on drums, and each member was full of energy on stage; especially Devon, but especially Ashleigh, dancing around and jumping up on the monitors at the front of the stage.
The bands' energy was matched by the insanely catchy songs like the aptly titled, dance inducing "Make A New Dance Up", a fun cover of The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and "Fish", which got a nice pop of recognition applause. They brought down the energy a few times, like with the slow "Islands" -- which was a little too slow in the middle of the set -- but the energy was always brought right back up.
The main set ended with their current single "Big Blue Wave" and an old favourite, "California", and they wrapped up the whole night with an appropriately dance-club-y version of "Terribly Stable", due to the early curfew to let the shiny shirts in to Venue to drink & dance & do what they do.

If I Were A Ship, Make A New Dance Up, Liar, I Am A Heart, Islands, New Love, Fish, Change, Be My Baby, Give, Last Mistake, Big Blue Wave, California.
(encore) Alleyways, Terribly Stable.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Matthew Good @ Media Club -- 02/09/12

As regular readers (all nineteen of you) may know, Matthew Good is one of my all time favourite artist. So when, a little more than 24 hours in advance, the Fox announced a surprise acoustic show at the Media Club, I knew I had to be there. There was no way I was going to miss Matt Good in a venue with a less-than-200 capacity, especially for an acoustic show. Even if it meant waiting an hour and a half in life in the rain, then another hour and a half inside for the show to start.

The show was a kind of kick-off for his upcoming tour, and was very intimate, loose, and on the fly, with Good joked about how often he'd screw up. And which there were a few flubs -- mostly because he hadn't played some of the songs acoustically in a few years, if not over a decade -- and while they would have been bothersome at a large venue show, this felt less like a "show" and more like Good invited us into his living room to play and chat.
And there was lots of chatting, as is usual for his acoustic shows. It was almost equal parts music and stand-up comedy as he went off on tangents on the necessity of drugs ("just watch Treehouse for a few hours"), what exactly emo is, the pronunciation of Bon Iver, how young you are based on the size of the music you bought ("...and if the music you bought was invisible, then you are young."), and even a self-aware moment where he wondered about the mood whiplash between the serious and/or depressing songs and the humourous rants between them.

And as for the songs; he played a great mix of old and new -- though not too much new album -- and aside from "Born Losers", which featured Chris Duncombe of The Washboard Union backing him up on banjo, the set was entirely Matt. He hit a lot of songs that have become my favourites over the years -- not just of his, but of all time -- like the heartbreaking "The Fine Art of Falling Apart"; "Prime Time Deliverance", which always gives me chills; and "Running For Home", a song I never though I would get to hear live, that ended with the entire crowd singing the ending.
As he tends to be, Good was pretty candid about which songs he could and couldn't play; some he can't remember and some, such as "Weapon", just don't quite work acoustically, even giving us a preview of how boring it may sound with just one guitar. But he wasn't afraid to rework songs, such as the symphonic "While We Were Hunting Rabbits" or the horn-heavy "Zero Orchestra"

After two hours, Good "ended" with a great version of "Avalanche", but was of course back out for the encore which included some amazing older songs. "Omissions of the Omen", the secret track off Last of the Ghetto Astronauts, which he hadn't played live since 1996 (and, fun fact, is apparently the first popular use of the phrase "first world problems") and another couple fan favourites and rarely played songs, "So Long Mrs Smith" and "Life Beyond the Minimum Safe Distance", wrapped up the set of a little over two and a half hours, and left the crowd spent.

My favourite artist. In a great, intimate venue. Playing some of my favourite songs. Forget show-of-the-year. This was a show-of-a-lifetime.

Champions of Nothing, Set Me On Fire, Little Terror, While We Were Hunting Rabbits, Strange Days, Prime Time Deliverance, Born Losers, 99% of Us is Failure, Suburbia, Alert Status Red, The Fine Art of Falling Apart, How It Goes, Apparitions, Avalanche. 
(encore) Sort of a Protest Song, Zero Orchestra, Keep The Customer Satisfied [Simon & Garfunkel cover], Running For Home, Omissions of the Omen, So Long Mrs Smith, Life Beyond the Minimum Safe Distance.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wilco @ Orpheum -- 02/05/12

Ever since first hearing A Ghost is Born back on '04, I've been a fan of Wilco, but I would say somewhat of a casual fan; I've liked each album as they've come out, just had never had the chance to see them live. But last year's The Whole Love ended up being one of my favourite albums of the year, and given their live reputation, I knew there was no chance I could miss them when they came through town.

First up, though, was White Denim from Austin, Texas. They sounded very much like you'd expect them to given their name, with a southern rock feel, but also with bits of afrobeat, experimental and prog mixed in. They didn't have much of a stage presence, not saying anything until the end of the set, and the sound was a bit muddy, with indistinguishable vocals at times. But despite that, they put on a entertaining half-hour set, with some the audience calling for an encore when they wrapped up.

It wasn't long after that Wilco took the stage, decorated with what looked like hundreds of tissue-ghosts, draped down the back and hanging from the lighting. Some of them were over lights, but for the most part they were used as a makeshift projection screen, with the occasional abstract lights, fireworks or birds flying behind the band.
They opened, appropriately enough, with the beautiful "One Sunday Morning", a song that ebbs and flows for it's ten-plus minute length, and by the end of it they had the entire theatre rapt. From there they went on to play two hours of songs from their whole catalogue, with highlights being "Art of Almost", building to an incredibly intense ending; "Via Chicago" which featured a few spontaneous and thunderous drum solos, with drummer Glenn Kotche suddenly exploding on the kit; and one of my favourites, "I'll Fight".
It was nearly an hour before Jeff Tweedy addressed the crowd, joking that they had more pressing matters, and thanked us "for clapping". As the set went on he opened up a bit more, with a fake-psychic running gag, joking about the super bowl and lamenting on why it's "Canadian" instead of "Canadia" -- if only because it sounded awkward when he changed "California Stars" to "Canadia Stars". And as amazing a front-man as Tweedy is, it was lead guitarist Nels Cline who was close to stealing the show with his incredible skills, switch guitars on the fly, breaking out the pedal steel, and even the double neck guitar at one point -- but especially his phenomenal solo at the end of "Impossible Germany", another highlight of the set that almost literally blew some minds.

Several times throughout the night I had an ear-to-ear grin, and was just in awe at the entire show; the music, the band, the lighting and the stage setup, everything came together perfectly. And judging by the crowds' reactions, I wasn't the only one to think so. This will no doubt end up on a few theoretical 'best-shows-of-2012' list come the end of the year.

One Sunday Morning, Poor Places, Art of Almost, I Might, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, One Wing, Radio Cure, Impossible Germany, Born Alone, Spiders (Kidsmoke), I'll Fight, Handshake Drugs, Via Chicago, California Stars, I Must Be High, Pot Kettle Black, Dawned On Me, A Shot In The Arm.
(encore) Whole Love, Heavy Metal Drummer, Walken, Red-Eyed and Blue, I Got You (At The End of the Century), Outtasite (Outta Mind).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Toque Sessions: Yukon Blonde @ CBC Studio 700 -- 02/03/12

The CBC Toque Sessions have returned for another year with some pretty swell artists rounding out the lineup. It's been going on for a couple weeks now, but the first one I've been able to catch was last night, and I can't think of a better way to kick it off than with Yukon Blonde.

Joined by Matt Kelly on keys and guitar, the Kelowna quartet opened the set with a pair from their recent EP Fire//Water, first the mellow "Choices" before cranking up the energy with the undeniably catchy "Fire". From there they went on to play their entire new album, Tiger Talk, front to back. Not due out until March, it was a nice preview of the album which features the same high energy rock you'd expect, but definitely showed growth from the band. They still have incredibly energy and spot on harmonies, with a strong 60s and 70s influence -- but without making it sound contrived -- and have done nothing but get better. And they've always had a great stage presence while playing, but their banter is improving as well, with lead singer and guitarist Jeff Innes even hanging a lampshade on one awkward silence, joking about it with Brandon Scott.
The whole set was incredibly tight, and highlights included "Radio", which I am already calling to be on my best-songs-of-2012 list, "Sweet Dee", the dynamic ending to the album, and "School Kids", another from the recent EP which they hadn't played live before, that wrapped up the set.

While I liked their self titled first album, I've always thought it fell short of their amazing live show; hopefully Tiger Talk will capture that energy, and after hearing the album live, my anticipation for it has doubled.

Choices, Fire, My Girl, Radio, Stairway, Iron Fist, Oregon Shores, Six Dead Tigers, For LA, Breathing Tigers, Guns, Sweet Dee, School Kids.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shows of February

It's the first of the month, which means a) your rent is due, and 2) I'm going to post a quick look at some of the shows I am excited to see this month. After a slow start to the year, this month is packed, so let's get to it.

Wilco at the Orpheum on February 5th.
This is the show I am most excited about. I am ashamed to admit I have never seen Wilco live and after The Whole Love, which was one of my favourite albums last year, there is little chance I am going to miss this show.

The Matinée at Venue February 18th
Even though I saw them four times in the sopan of a couple months last year, none of them were their own headlining shows, so I am more than a little excited for this, which is bound to be a boot-stompin' good time. They're also joined by current buzz band, Good for Grapes and Washboard Union (formerly Gun GMC)

Winterruption February 24-26 at Performance Works
This is going to be a good weekend. Starting off with Michael Bernard Fitzgerald with Acres of Lions on the Friday night. Then another beauty of a double bill with Aidan Knight and The Belle Game Saturday, and wrapping it up with Jasper Sloan Yip for a couple of shows on Sunday.

Saturday the 25th also sees a music event, not a concert but a screening and listening party for the new Said the Whale. They've teamed up with Amazing Factory to make a video for each song for their upcoming album, Little Mountain (think High School) and they'll be screening the entire thing at the Rio Theatre. And they promise it'll end in time to head over to Performance Works.

CBC Toque Sessions
The Toque Sessions return this year, which are some free shows at the CBC, it runs through the next couple months and has some excellent acts. This month we've got Yukon Blonde (3rd), Mother Mother (10th), Rococode (17th), Hey Ocean! (23rd), and a bunch more. Check the link above for the full lineup and how to attend.
And Hey Ocean! has another show lined up, with Elias opening for them, at Venue on the 10th (on the same day as Mother Mother! Oh noes!)

Whether you care about Valentine's Day or not, the Sweetheart Serenade at the Rio Theatre is worth checking out. It'll feature stripped down performances from Zachary Gray (The Zolas), Tariq Hussain (Brasstronaut), Harold and John (Portage and Main), Spencer Schoening (Sunny Pompeii), and Hannah Epperson.

There's also Maurice & Redgy Blackout at the Biltmore on the 22nd, Jordan Klassen with Bed of Stars and Northcote at the Media Club on the 17th (which is conveniently after the Rococode Toque session ends), and I am sure a few others that I am missing -- let me know in the comments!