Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bahamas @ Biltmore -- 03/27/12

Afie Jurvanen has been around the Canadian music scene for a while, playing with the likes of Feist, Jason Collett, and Zeus, but he's also got his own project, Bahamas. From the first time I saw him on stage I was won over, and since I missed him the last time he was through town, there was no way I wasn't going to be at a sold out Biltmore to catch his this time around.

Opening the night was Vancouver's own Wake Owl, who I had heard good things about, and was intrigued to see. The trio -- as opposed to a five piece they said to have been playing as recently -- took the stage armed with guitars, keys, ukulele and violin for a stripped down, yet still lush folk sound. With nice harmonies and well written songs, they drew the attention of the growing crowd, and definitely seemed to make some new fans. The soaring "Seaside" and driving, set-ending "Gold" that got people clapping along by the end were the two songs that caught my attention most, and I will definitely be on the lookout for the next time they play.

Not long after it was time for Bahamas, Afie was joined by Jason Tait on drums and backed by the immaculate voices of Carleigh Aikins & Felicity Williams. They kicked off the set with the first couple tracks from the new album Barchords, "Lost in the Light" which had all the ladies (and even a few guys) swooning over him right off the bat, and then the incendiary "Caught Me Thinkin'". The set contained a good range of songs, off both the new album and the previous Pink Strat, that were beautiful and tragic and heartbreaking -- sometimes all at once -- and perfectly performed; among the highlights were the upbeat, break-up song "Okay Alright I'm Alive" the strangely romantic "Hockey Teeth". And aside from the excellent musicianship, Afie has an amazing stage presence, so incredibly smooth and an effortless confidence, as well as funny and engaging in his banter between songs.
After they finished off the set with "Never Again", they were out for the encore, an amazing cover of Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels", getting the sold out crowd involved in a giant sing along, before capping off the night with the soft and beautiful "Snow Plow"

The only thing to mar the otherwise great night had nothing to do with what was happening on stage, but rather the crowd. I am not sure if it was because both bands were more on the quiet side, but there was a conversational din throughout the entire night that was frustrating and maddening. I do not now and will never understand people that pay money to get in a venue, only to talk through, and over, an entire set; especially the headliner. If you're raising your voice over the band to be heard, you're doing something wrong.

But I digress. Bahamas always delivers live, and Wake Owl was a nice treat that I am intrigued to check out again. All in all, a pretty fantastic show.

Lost In The Light, Caught Me Thinkin', Already Yours, For Good Reason, I Got You Babe, Hockey Teeth, Lonely Loves, Southern Drawl, Sunshine Blues, Overjoyed, Okay Alright I'm Alive, Be My Witness, Your Sweet Touch, Never Again.
(encore) You Don't Know How It Feels [Tom Petty cover], Snow Plow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Great Lake Swimmers @ Vancouver Aquarium -- 03/26/12

I have to admit, I have never really considered myself a big fan of Great Lake Swimmers. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy hearing their songs on the radio, but I've never really delved into their music beyond that. Though when, mere hours before the show, I was offered a chance to see them play an invite-only set put on by The Peak at the Vancouver Aquarium, in front of the beluga tank.... how could I refuse? If nothing else, it would be an interesting setting for a concert.

As the crowd gathered in the depths of the aquarium, Great Lake Swimmers took the makeshift stage for a soft, intimate performance fit the setting perfectly, with blue lights bathing the crowd and stage. Their hour long set consisted of songs from their new album, New Wild Everywhere, a collection of soft yet rich songs.
Front man Tony Dekker didn't say much between songs, except expressing his awe of the setting, but was a captivating lead singer, backed by the lovely voice and violin from the equally lovely Miranda Mulholland. Highlights of the set were the catch first single, "Easy Come Easy Go", the beautiful "Fields of Progeny" and the final song of the hour long set, the upbeat title track, "New Wild Everywhere".

And the belugas definitely seemed into the show, swimming up the the window throughout, seeing what was going on, and "dancing". They were especially interested in drummer Greg Millson, who looked like he was watching the mammals almost as much as he was drumming.

To call it a "once in a lifetime event" is perhaps a bit melodramatically, but it was definitely a special rarity that won't be soon forgotten, and perhaps more importantly, it definitely made me more interested in checking out their new album next week.

The Great Exhale, Changes With The Wind, Cornflower Blue, Easy Come Easy Go, Fields of Progeny, Think That You Might Be Wrong, Ballad of a Fisherman's Wife, The Knife, New Wild Everywhere. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Plants & Animals @ Rickshaw -- 03/21/12

Don't ever let it be said that I don't give second chances. A couple years ago, I went to one of the first shows at the then-new Rickshaw Theatre, and came away utterly disappointed. The reason was because of the terrible sound -- the venue is more or less a giant cement box -- and I have all but avoided it since, even passing on some good bands there. But when Montreal's Plants & Animals announced that would be their Vancouver date, I had to put aside my trepidations, because there was no way I was missing them.

The opening band was another from Montreal, Little Scream, which is not the name of the band, but the stage name for Laurel Sprengelmeyer. She was, however, joined by a band (which including one member on bass flute) for some dark and moody music, occasionally a little haunting and ethereal. My favourite song of their set was "Cannons", as well as some great covering for a broken string; while her guitarist went off stage to restring it, she showed off her powerful voice with an a capella song.
I quite enjoyed the set, and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.

Not too long after, the Plants & Animals kicked off their set, the trio of Warren Spicer, Matthew Woodley, and Nicolas Basque were joined by a fourth member on bass, starting a bit soft with "Song for Love", but immediately exploded into "Feedback in the Field". The sound for the set was... okay. Not as bad as I had feared, and certainly not so bad as to ruin the show, but the reverberations of the sound off the concrete walls was still very much noticeable. Despite this, the band put on a fantastic set; they had a good rapport with the crowd, bantering between songs, and each member had a great energy. And most importantly, they are all fantastic musicians, making everything they did on stage seem utterly effortless.
Highlights of the set included the bluesy swagger of "Crisis", one of my favourites off the new album, and "Undone Melody", a show burner that build to a huge ending. After about an hour, they "ended" with a bit of a sing along to "Bye Bye Bye", before coming back out to a chanting crowd for a couple more; the raucous "Why & Why" and what they more or less admitted was their own favourite song to play, "Faerie Dance", starting off slow and light and then exploding into a phenomenal climax with the band just jamming.

In the end, I was a little disappointed they didn't play the title track from the new album, The End of That, which has quickly become one of my favourite of theirs, and especially disappointed that they didn't play "Mercy", one of my favourite songs period, but despite that -- and despite the sound -- it was still a great set, and I am definitely glad I gave the venue another shot, because I would not liked to have missed this show.

Song For Love, Feedback in the Field, Crisis, Before,  Runaways, Lola Who?, The Mama Papa, Control Me, Game Shows, No Ideas, Undone Melody, Light Show, Bye Bye Bye.
(encore) Why & Why, Faerie Dance.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Portage & Main and Redbird @ Media Club -- 03/09/12

On the eve of their [almost] cross-country tour, Portage & Main and Redbird got together to throw a little going away party at the Media Club. Both bands were among my favourite new bands (and albums) last year, so I was excited to see them together.

First up was Twin River, comprised of Courtney Ewan and Andy Bishop (of Red Cedar and White Ash Falls) and joined by some familiar faces; Malcolm Jack of Sun Wizard on bass and Dustin Bromley of Pleasure Cruise and about eight other bands on drums. It was their first show in that incarnation, and they sounded pretty tight; Ewan took lead vocals for most of the set, and their folk-alt-country sound set the tone for the night. Though nothing from the set really stood out, it was still enjoyable, and I am definitely interested in hearing more from them in the future.

Next up was Redbird, led by the beautiful voice of Savannah Leigh Wellman with John Sponarski on guitar and Ben Appenheimer and Graham Serl on bass and drums, respectively. They kicked off the rootsy-rock set with "Therein Lies the Grey", immediately captivating the packed Media Club. Savannah has a great stage presence, and good banter, especially the back and forth between her and Sponarski.
A few new songs were sprinkled throughout, including one called "I Fall Again", which really caught my ear, and "The Tower", their new single which has one of my new favourite lines "Nostalgia is a fool's addiction", and after Sponarski tore it up with a solo during "In The Hands of Ghosts", the set ended with another new one, "Roll Over Me".

Therein Lies the Grey, West Wind, Wandering One, Set Me Free, I Fall Again, Oh Please My Heart, The Tower, In the Hands of Ghosts, Roll Over Me.

And finally, Portage & Main took the stage, Sponarski and Harold Donnelly splitting vocals and guitar, with Georges Couling on keys and sharing the rhythm section with Redbird. They began the set with "Nothing", and from the get go, they were firing on all cylinders. They had a great energy as they rocked through their set.
Savannah joined them for some backup vocals on "Rocky Mountain Wanderer" and they slowed down a little with "When You're Gone", but ramped the energy right back up with a new one, a dirty swamp rocker called "Sweet Darling".And after one of my favourites of theirs, the slow-building "I'd Never Climbed A Mountain", they wrapped up the show with the bar room sing along "Carolina", not only getting everyone to join in on the chorus, but pulling friends on stage to join them.

In the last year, I've been lucky enough to see both Portage & Main and Redbird multiple times each, and I can safely say that this was the best show I have seen from either band. It could have been the atmosphere -- with half of the Vancouver music scene at the packed Media Club -- or wanting to leave on tour on a high note, but both bands pulled out all the stops for a great show.

Nothing (Take What You Need), What Have I Done?, Better Man, Rocky Mountain Wanderer, When You're Gone, Tonight pt. 2, Sweet Darling, I'd Never Climbed a Mountain, Carolina.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Toque Sessions: Acres of Lions @ CBC Studio 1 -- 03/09/12

The CBC Toque Sessions is a series of shows at the CBC Vancouver building, which are free to the public, and recorded for later broadcast on CBC Radio 2 and On Demand (check out the snazzy new CBC Music website).

There are still a few more left this season, but this may be the last one I attend, and if it is, Acres of Lions is a pretty darn good way to wrap up the series.
The show was seated, which gave it a bit of a subdued vibe since Acres are definitely not a "seated" band -- guitarist Tyson Yerex joked that it was like a kids birthday party -- but they still managed to give a good energy and fun set, with front man Jeff Kalesnikoff getting people to sing and clap along, and even get up for a couple songs. Jeff, Tyson, Dan Ball (bass) and Cody Beer (drums) were also joined by Kiana Brasset for some backup vocals, as well as violin on a few songs, both her voice and the strings adding a nice texture to their pop-rock sound.
Highlights of the set included the ridiculously infectious "Reaction", which was one of the songs to get everyone out of their seats; the heartfelt "Like a Drum"; and "This Was Not My Best Day Ever", a song inspired by Firefly, which started with just Jeff on an acoustic guitar, with the rest of the band slowly joining in.
They ended the set with the title track from their newest album, Collections, once again getting people up and a big stomp/clap going on to end off the set. 

Let's Get Sentimental, December, Forgive & Forget, Reaction, Working, Like a Drum, Closer, This Was Not My Best Day Ever, Kids, Collections.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Last Night In Music: Adaline, Ma Petite and Sidney York -- 03/08/12

Okay, it was a bit of a busy night last night, with about a half-dozen shows worth seeing. Islands at the Rio, the Evolution1079 Birthday party at the Railway and Ruffled Feathers out at UBC were all among them, as well as three other shows I wanted to see. So how did I decide? Well, I didn't. I saw them all. So to paraphrase another blog's title, here is Last Night In Music. (Which also ended up being an accidental celebration of International Women's Day)

The first stop was at CBC Vancouver for the CBC Toque Sessions. The series is just about wrapping up, but there are still a couple more to go. The shows are free and are being recorded for broadcast later of Radio 2 and their On Demand section (sidebar: check out the snazzy new CBC Music website).

The former Vancouverite -- now Toronto resident -- Adaline was back in town with her sexy electronic-pop sounds, joined by her backing band and occasionally a small string section, which included Hannah Epperson and Michelle Faehrmann.
The set kicked off with the energetic "Rebels of Love", and went through most of her new album Modern Romantics.
Adaline was all over the stage throughout the set, behind keys and synth and even coming right up to the front, and "threatening" to come down and sit on the laps of the front row. Her great stage presence and confidence was only overshadowed by her incredibly powerful voice, most apparent during the slower "Cost Is Too High", which was a more stripped down song with just her brother on the keyboard backing her, until the strings swelled up at the end.
There were a couple snags in the set, but she rolled with them quite well; at one point when the electronic track failed to kick in at the beginning of "Sparks", she just continuing with different lyrics, jokingly dubbing it the "Screw Up Song". But that aside, it was a very entertaining set, with other highlights being the raw "Lovers Collide", the raucous "Stereo", and "The Noise", a moody song that closed the set.

Rebels Of Love, Wasted Time, That's What You Do Best, Keep Me High, Say Goodbye (I Won't Even), Stereo, Lovers Collide, Chemical Spill, Sparks, Cost Is Too High (Not To Love), The Noise.


After a quick bite the next stop was to the Media Club for Jamison Troy's CD release show, to catch the adorable Indiana Avent as Ma Petite. First up, though, was Two Bicycles, another project from Teen Daze's Jamison. They had a bit of a chill, almost folk-ish vibe, with a prominent saxophone to round out the sound. Some of the songs were a bit similar, but the short set was pretty good, and I wouldn't mind catching them again in the future.

Soon after, Ma Petite hit the stage, Indiana joined only by Ben Appenheimer on stand-up bass. The minimalistic folk-pop set was driven by Indiana's lovely voice and her fun songwriting, with songs like my favourite of hers, "I Like That You Like Books"; "Mittens", about the Australian's first Canadian winter;  "Adventure Wednesday", which is about exactly what the title implies; and the birthday song for "Benny Apples". Indiana was also really talkative on stage, chatting with the crowd and introducing each song, getting people to come fill the empty gulf in front of the stage and leading a sing along for the end of "Man About The Moon".

Morning Song, Lonesome, Adventure Wednesday, Mittens, How to Make a House a Home, Benny Apples, Man About the Moon. I Like That You Like Books, Two Big Thick Ruffled Coats.


And then as soon as Ma Petite ended, it was a rush to get over to the Biltmore in time for Sidney York. Though my timing was perfect, as they hit the stage mere moments after I walked in the door (clearly they were waiting for me).
The normal trio of lovely ladies -- Sheryl Reinhardt on oboe, Krista Wodelet on bassoon and of course, Brandi Sidoryk on keys, french horn, ukulele and vocals -- were joined by Luke Cyca, Colin McTaggart and Neil Dorin something on drums, guitar and bass, respectively, but it was the girls who really stole the show. I've been able to see Sidney York more than a couple times in the last few months, and I think it's safe to say this was the best set I've seen from them.
There was an incredible high energy from the three of them; Sheryl and Krista ran through the crowd clapping at the start of "Dick & Jane", and Brandi was exploding all over the stage the whole night, even bouncing with energy when just sitting at the front of the stage, with people from the crowd joining her for "Roll With Me". Brandi also did a great job of talking and joking with the crowd, acknowledging the intimacy of the show, and even mentioning "fun facts" about specific people in the audience she knew.
Other highlights were the dark "Math & Fractions", the softer and heartbreaking "Go Home, Atticus Jones", where the boys took a break, and "Mile High Love", which ended the set with a bang.

Tea As It Should Be, Math & Fractions, Cold In Here, Apocalyptic Radio Cynic, Go Home Atticus Jones, Dick & Jane, Doctor Doctor, Roll With Me, Mile High Love.

Despite some timing worries for the latter two, pulling off the triple-show went off without a hitch (though I was sad to miss some of the others on both later bills), and though it was a bit of a hectic night, it was three somewhat different shows to make a pretty great night of music.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Trews @ Vogue -- 03/03/12

Since I first saw them, The Trews have been one of my favourite live bands. Since then I've seen them several times, both acoustic and electric, and they have a raw energy that is matched by few, and always put on a show well worth seeing.

Opening the night was Ontario's Poor Young Things, who were pretty much a straight ahead rock band. With three guitarists driving their sound, they played a short but sweet set, and though they only have one EP under their collective belts, this year's Let It Sleep, they meshed together like a band that has been at it for years.
They were joined by Trews keyboardist Jeff Heisholt for a couple songs, and they brought it to an end with the aptly named "Fire", which was my favourite of the set, building to an explosive ending. Some of the songs were a bit similar, and they're certainly not trying to reinvent the genre, but they had a really good energy and they definitely knew how to rock out. A solid band to open for the night.

(side note: I did not get the chance to ask them if their name is form the Peter Elkas/Joel Plaskett song, so I'll just keep assuming it is)

Then as bagpipes filled the air, The Trews hit the stage, in front of a projection screen, kicking things off with "Misery Loves Company" from the new album, Hope & Ruin. They then ramped up the energy with "Not Ready To Go" -- with a little bit of Humble Pie's "30 Days In The Hole" slipped in -- getting everyone up to the stage and not letting their foot off the gas for the next hour and a half.
As usual, they had an amazing raw energy, especially from lead singer Colin MacDonald, going back and forth across the stage, urging everyone to sing along and once even getting his guitar right down into the front for so people could strum.
Among the highlights of the set were the raucous drinking song "Can't Stop Laughing"; one of my favourites, and a great singalong song, "Poor Ol' Broken Hearted Me"; and "Yearning", which featured an incredible extended guitar solo from John-Angus MacDonald, the other members ducking off stage, leaving him to shine. Drummer Sean Dalton also had a spotlight moment later on, with a breathtaking drum clinic before the last song of the main set, "Hold Me In Your Arms"
Colin came back out for the encore alone, starting one of my favourites of theirs, the heartbreaking "Ishmael & Maggie" before the band slowly joined him for a giant singalong. And they wrapped up with another personal favourite, the incendiary "Every Inambition" from their first album, House of Ill Fame, ending the show in an intense way, with every member going nuts.

It was another great show from the band, and even though I have seen them a number of times, I don't think I'll ever tire of their live show.

Misery Loves Company, Not Ready To Go (with 30 Days In The Hole [Humble Pie cover]), So She's Leaving, Can't Stop Laughing, Paranoid Freak, Sing Your Heart Out, I'll Find Someone Who Will, Yearning, Highway of Heroes, Hope and Ruin, One By One, Tired of Waiting, The Love You Save [The Jackson 5 cover], Fleeting Trust, Gun Control, If You Wanna Start Again, Poor Ol' Broken Hearted Me, Hole Me In Your Arms.
(encore) Ishmael & Maggie, The World I Know, Every Inambition.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rich Aucoin @ Media Club -- 03/02/12

Right off the bat, I don't think there exist words to do Rich Aucoin's live show justice. But I'll try.
After seeing him open for Arkells last year, and turn the Commodore into a giant dance party, I was ridiculously excited to see him live again, and especially interested to see him at a much smaller venue, like the Media Club.

I missed the first band of the night, Bradley, but got there just in time for Young Liars to hit the stage. I've seen them a couple times before, and they always put on a decent show; though their songs tend blend together a bit, and lead singer's voice can be a bit rough at times. But despite that, they have a fun and upbeat synth-pop sound, and put on an enjoyable -- if a little forgettable -- show, and I can definitely see them getting better as they grow as a band.

And then Rich Aucoin hit the stage, first introducing himself then ducking off stage for the "trailers" and "opening credits" projected on a screen, which cut back and forth between video clips and fun "facts" about various members of the audience. It was one of the few times that I have seen a crowd riled up and psyched before the performer played a single note. And the videos went on throughout the night, with various internet memes between the songs, which were set to various video footage, like from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.
Joined solely by drummer Tony Dallas, Aucoin then burst out with an unparalleled energy, getting the crowd to repeat choruses and shout along to songs, the lyrics helpfully on the projection screen. He barely stayed in one place for too long, playing the keys, up to the front of the stage, and even running through the crowd several times, occasionally even to the back of the room; and at one point getting everyone down to one knee, to leap up with a burst of confetti. There was also his usual rainbow parachute brought out for everyone to dance under, and also a second, matte black one and he got all the lights down low to make the club almost completely dark.
But of course the fancy videos and showmanship were just part of the show, with his incredibly catchy and upbeat pop-rock driving everyone to dance, keeping up the incredible energy throughout the whole night. Both "PUSH", with its Daft Punk sampled intro and the bombastic "It" were among the highlights of the show.

Without a doubt, and without hyperbole, Rich Aucoin's live show is one of the best I have ever seen. It's fun, and uplifting, and will leave you with a full heart and grinning for days on end. One of the lines he had everyone chant was "When you give it all up, you get it back", and I can't think of a better way to sum up the show; Rich more that gives it all up, and deserves everything he gets back.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Royal Canoe @ Media Club -- 03/01/12

The last time Royal Canoe was in town, I was -- for some reason -- on the fence about seeing them. But after I did, I wrote "next time they come through town, there will definitely be no fence-sitting". Well, add Hannah Epperson and Elias to the bill, and it was almost a no-brainer to hit the Media Club last night.

Hannah Epperson started off the night with her violin and looping pedals, and immediately wowed the crowd with both. The loops from her amazing violin playing created a great depth from the first songs, which featured a little bit of Beirut's "My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille", and her soft voice fit in perfectly.
Between songs she had some awkward-but-endearing stage banter, and charmed most of the crowd into coming up and sitting cross-legged at the front of the stage. Her short set ended off with what she said was her favourite songs -- and my favourite of the set -- "Murder of Crows".

Next up was Elias, who are hot off the release of their new album Fossils. They started the set with a song I didn't catch the name of, but was one of my favourites of the set, with guitarist Rob Tornroos on vocals, as it built to a giant swirling climax. From there they played mostly from the new album, with a good energy on stage from the whole band -- especially lead singer Brian Healy who was rather engaging, even jumping off stage to run through the crowd and get everyone clapping at one point.
While there are times I think their dark, alt-rock sound may be a little too "Fox-Rock" for me, I can't deny that they have an incredibly solid live show, no doubt honed by their years of playing, and are always enjoyable to watch play.

And finally, Royal Canoe rounded off the night. The stage was absolutely packed with the six members and all their instruments; including but not limited to guitars, bass, several keyboards, and a drum kit & a half. So it was no surprise that they created a huge wall of sound with their synth-driven electronic-pop.
Highlights of the set included the catchy "Hold On To The Metal" off their latest EP, appropriately titled Extended Play (and available on 3.5" floppy disk at the show), "Dumb Waiter" from their first album Co-Op Mode, and the creepy "Nightcrawlin'", which ended the set with lead singer Matt Peters' unique voice filtered through a second microphone, with all sorts of vocal effects. They were back out, though, for a one song encore, which was sadly not "Kasparov", definitely my favourite song of theirs that I haven't seen either time they've played here. But despite that, it was still a fantastically fun and damn good set; they teased being back in May, and I think by this point, going to the show will be a foregone conclusion.