Monday, April 30, 2012

Yukon Blonde & Library Voices @ Commodore -- 04/27/12

This was a show I was looking forward to for a while. Two of my favourite bands to watch live teaming up for a cross Canada tour, with the final night being the homecoming show for Yukon Blonde.
And I fully admit, while Yukon Blonde was the headliner, I was just as -- if not more -- excited to see Library Voices again.

First up, though, was Great Bloomers from Toronto. I had seen them once before (coincidentally, also sharing the stage with Yukon Blonde) and I was interested to see them again. The five-piece hit the stage with a slow build up before launching into their upbeat rock, with a little twinge of folk. They were pretty straightforward, but they had a great stage presence and a solid sound. Highlights of the set were the catchy "The Young Ones Slept" and a pair I didn't catch the name of, which they ended the set with; the first one started soft and built to a great climax, and the final song a straight up rocker.
Really enjoyable, and a great opening act for a show where the first band could have been easily overshadowed and forgotten about. I definitely look forward to seeing them again next time they're through town.

Next up was Regina's own Library Voices. When I had seen them before, it was always at smaller venues with the seven members of the band crowding on stage, so it was great seeing them make use of the the large space of the Commodore. Bassist Eoin Hickey-Cameron was never in one place for more than five seconds, Paul Gutheil tossed and twirled his saxophone, and during one of the later songs, "Kundra On The Dance Floor", singer Carl Johnson put down his guitar and was dancing precariously on the edge of the stage, and even singing while upside down, on his head at one point. To say nothing of the rest of the band, who all matched the energy to make one of the most entertainingly energetic live shows.

But of course, it wasn't just the energy; they packed the too-short-set with music that is aptly described as "Pop as fuck!". Insanely catchy with smart and clever lyrics, song like "Be My Juliette Gréco, Paris 1949" laments of a time "Before Photoshopped hips and collagen smiles / When longing meant more than a drunk dial" and their literary love was pretty clear in "Reluctant Readers Make Reluctant Lovers".
Tearing through the songs with fantastic precision, they brought the set to an explosive ending with the packed ballroom floor singing and, naturally, clapping along to "Generation Handclap" and yelling along with "Step Off The Map and Float", which saw a couple members of The Great Bloomers and Yukon Blonde joining them. My only complaint about the set was that it seemed far too short, but then again, I could watch Library Voices play all night. They are, without a doubt, one of the most fun bands to watch live.
Oh, and one of the instruments in Michael Dawson's arsenal is a theremin. How can you not love a band that so expertly integrates a theremin into their sound?

If Raymond Carver Were Born In The 90s; Write Me A Myth; Traveller's Digest; Be My Juliette Gréco, Paris 1949; Party Like It's 2012; Haunt This House; My, Myself, and ID; Reluctant Readers Make Reluctant Lovers; Kundera On The Dance Floor; Generation Handclap; Step Off The Map and Float.

I don't envy any band that has to take the stage after Library Voices, but if anyone can, it's Yukon Blonde, the four core members were joined by Matt Kelly to round out their sound with an additional guitar and keys. There was a bit of a nervous energy at first, with the show not only being their homecoming show, but their first time headlining the Commodore -- Jeff Innes was visibly in awe more than once looking out into the packed room -- but the any nerves quickly subsided as they launched into their set (which included some family members, including Grandmothers, front and centre).

They kicked off the set with the first two songs from the new album, Tiger Talk, "My Girl" and "Radio" -- a song that immediately became, and remains, my favourite my favourite song of theirs the first time I heard it -- and didn't look back as their spot on harmonies and amazing energy, especially from Innes and Brandon Scott, carried the rest of the set, from the unbridled "Breathing Tigers" and "Iron Fist" to the more subdued "Guns" and "1000 Years".
After the explosive "Stairway", they were back out for the encore, first "Wind Blows" before inviting members of both Great Bloomers and Library Voices out for  a massive, end-of-the-tour songalong to the final song of the night, "Fire". As the stage filled, Jeff and Brandon even parted with their guitars for members of the other bands to take over, and Scott even leaped off the stage to crowd surf.

The one thing that the bands had in common, especially Library Voices and Yukon Blonde was their pure excitement. They were probably more thrilled to be there than the crowd was, and that energy more than shone through. Few things make a live show better than looking up at the musicians and seeing that joy on their faces.

setlist (incomplete, as there were a couple songs I missed the names of)
My Girl; Radio; Brides Song; Iron Fist; [New song]; Sweet Dee; Rather Be With You; 1000 Years; Breathing Tigers; Guns; Babies Don't Like Blue Anymore; Stairway; [mystery song].
(encore) Wind Blows; Fire.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ David Vertesi @ Vogue -- 04/14/12

Photographs by Leigh Eldridge
Even though he was here for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival last summer, it seemed like it had been forever since the last time Joel Plaskett was in Vancouver, so nothing was going to stop me from missing one of my favourite live acts return to the Vogue Theatre -- and seeing as it was sold out, more than a few people felt the same way.

First up was David Vertesi to warm up the crowd with his deep, smooth voice and heartfelt folk-rock songs. Joined only by Andrew Rasmussen on keys and backup vocals, Vertesi had the crowd into it, from the heartwrenching "Learn To Run" that built to a grand finish, to the shoulder-shimmy-inducing "Broadcasting".
Aside from his solo material, he also hit one of his Hey Ocean! songs "Jolene", and a great cover that's been a staple of his live shows, Spice Girls' "Say You'll Be There", which had a great jazz-piano solo to end it. He wrapped up his set by inviting a surprise guest to the stage, Hannah Georgas to sing on "Mountainside", but not before making sure everyone left the theatre with a copy of his CD, offering it on a "pay-what-you-feel" system, be it money or hugs.

Gentlemen Say; Soft Skin; Jolene; Caroline! A Ghost!; All Night, All Night, All Night; Learn To Run; Broadcasting; Cardiography; Say You'll Be There [Spice Girls cover]; Epilogue; Mountainside.

Then it was time for Joel Plaskett Emergency, the trio kicking it off with "You're Mine" from the new album, Scrappy Happiness, for a nearly-two-hour set that spanned a good chunk of Joel's career. They came out rocking, right off the bat, with "Tough Love" and "North Star" before the Emergency band took a break for Joel to play a few songs solo, including the heartbreaking "Face of the Earth", and two of his biggest songs, "Nowhere With You" and "Love This Town"; which got a roar of applause when he, a little sheepishly, sang the infamous Kelowna verse unchanged.
Joel started into "Lightning Bolt" and the band came back out mid-song for it to build to a huge ending, and they didn't let up the energy until the end. "Work Out Fine" had everyone singing along, and Joel slipped in a few lines of other songs and played around with the song and on stage, lying down on his back for a verse. There was a huge sing along to "Through & Through & Through" and they brought it to a big finish with "Extraordinary".
But of course, the crowd was hungry for more and Joel was back out after not too long for "You're Mine" -- a nice echo to the first song of the night -- and the band joined him part way through "Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'", but not before the entire sold-out audience was clapping along, and capped off the night with "Come On Teacher"
Plaskett is a phenomenal performer and showman; effortlessly charming and funny on stage -- joking about his dancing monkey statues which he had on a foot switch, told stories about his old van, and more -- Joel managed to take a sold-out Vogue Theatre and make it seem much more like an intimate night of music. I don't think there would be many that would disagree with Joel Plaskett being one of Canada's best live acts.

You're Mine; Deny, Deny, Deny; Tough Love; Waiting To Be Discovered; Heartless, Heartless, Heartless; North Star; Harbour Boys; Let You Down; Love This Town; Face of the Earth; Nowhere With You; Lightning Bolt; Work Out Fine; Through & Through & Through; Maybe We Should Just Go Home; Extraordinary.
(encore) I'm Yours; Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'; Come On Teacher.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Jeremy Fisher w/ Steph Macpherson @ St James Hall -- 04/12/12

Even though I've seen Jeremy Fisher live a few times, I had somehow never seen him play a show of his own; it was always headlining or playing with others (a la the Malahat Revue). So when I heard he was coming back through town to St James Hall -- with a fine opening act, no less -- I was determined to go.

Opening the show was Steph Macpherson for a solo set consisting mostly of songs from her forthcoming album, Bells & Whistles. Mostly it was just Steph and her guitar -- her rich voice and gorgeous folk songs --  but  mid way through, she took a seat at the grad piano for the beautiful "Open Book". Throughout the set, Steph drew the audience in, giving it an intimate feeling by telling stories between songs and wearing the emotion of the lyrics on her sleeve. She also got everyone involved, singing along for the end of "Best Of Us" and clapping to the final song of the set, the upbeat and undeniably catchy "Summer Salute".
The set was short, but very sweet, and made me that much more excited for her upcoming CD release show, with a full band, next month at the Media Club

Bells & Whistles, Keeping Time, Best of Us, Open Book, Silver Platter, The Verdict, Summer Salute.

Not too long after, Jeremy Fisher hit the stage; just him, his guitar and an assortment of harmonicas. Right away, he created a very relaxed laid back atmosphere, talking and joking with the crowd and weaving stories between, and sometimes even in the middle of, songs. Even when he joked that it was a hard song, or warning us he'd screw up, he seemed absolutely comfortable on stage and made it seem effortless, with a great presence and connection with the audience.
Fisher played for just over an hour, hitting songs old and new, and also paying homage to his influences with a few covers, like when "Scar That Never Heals" segued into "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard". He also made use of the grand piano on stage for a couple songs, "Left Behind" and later for a brand new songs called "The Bride Is Dead", which was about exactly what the title implies, and was hilarious; definitely a highlight of the set. Other favourites included the high energy "Alison", and "Laissez Faire".
Near the end of the set he took requests, playing a few fan favourites, before ending with "High School" and "Fall For Anything", joined by Marcus Takizawa on violin. He was back out for an encore, this time with Vancouver's Adrian Glynn for a couple songs, first a new song by Adrian then ending the night with "Cigarette".

Gone [John Hiatt cover], Shine A Little Light, Ain't Got Nothin' But Plenty Of Time, Scar That Never Heals -> Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard [Paul Simon cover], Left Behind, Singing on the Sidewalk, Alison, The Bride is Dead, Jolene, Lay Down (Ballad Of Rigoberto Alpizar), Just Friends, Canned Goods [Greg Brown cover], Laissez Faire, Naked Girl, High School, Fall for Anything. 
(encore) [Adrian Glynn song], Cigarette.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Kathleen Edwards w/ Hannah Georgas @ Commodore -- 04/06/12

The first (and as of last week, only) time I had seen Kathleen Edwards was during the Olympic festivities two years ago, and while I had liked her music prior, it was her after seeing her live show when I really started being a fan. So after two long years, I wasn't going to miss the chance to see her again. And then having Gorgeous Hannah Georgas as both her opening act and on backup vocals, well, that was just the proverbial icing on the musical cake.

For her opening set, Hannah Georgas was only backed by Ted Gowan on guitar and keys, and a drum machine. The set was a little softer and more subdued, just being the two of them, but Hannah still had a great energy. She teased her forthcoming album with almost an entire set of new songs, and I can't wait to hear them with a full band. One of the ones that caught my attention most, after the soft  an gorgeous "Shine", was a higher energy song, "Fantasize" (according to the setlist).
After an all-too-short set, she brought it to an end by inviting Kathleen Edwards and Jim Bryson out to assist with backup vocals and ukulele, respectively, for "Deep End"

Elephant, Somebody, Chit Chat, Waiting, Enemies, Millions, Shine, Fantasize, Deep end.

Not long after, Kathleen Edwards hit the stage with a band that included Hannah on backup vocals and Jim Bryson on guitar and keys. She kicked off with the opener of her new album Voyageur, "Empty Threat" for an hour and a half set that spanned all four albums. Some of the highlights included "Goodnight California" seeing Kathleen break out the violin and built into an amazing jam ending, and "In State" which gave Bryson a chance to show off his chops, rocking out so hard his glasses literally flew off his face. 
Mid-way through the set, the band took a rest, leaving Kathleen alone for the soft "Hockey Skates", before they came back out with a beautiful cover of The Flaming Lips' "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate". They ramped the energy back up with "Sidecar" and "Back To You" before ended with the main set with the heartbreaking breakup song, "Change the Sheets".
But of course back out, ending off the night with the older "6 O'Clock News" and a couple more, with Kathleen adding how deeply grateful she was to be playing for a packed Commodore.
Edwards has a great energy and presence on stage, with a great gift of connecting with the crowd. Her banter and stories between songs are funny, yet the songs are so personal that you almost can't help but be moved, as she is just dripping with raw emotion at times.

While there were a couple songs I missed from the setlist, that I was hoping to hear, it was still a great show from a couple of Canada's best female singer/songwriters.

Empty Threat, Chameleon/Comedian, Asking for Flowers, House Full of Empty Rooms, Goodnight California, In State, 12 Bellevue, Hockey Skates, Feel Yourself Disintegrate [Flaming Lips cover], Going To Hell, Sidecar, Back to You, A Soft Place to Land, Change The Sheets.
(encore) 6 O'Clock News, For The Record, September Girls.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rococode CD Release Show @ Electric Owl -- 04/04/12

At the tail end of a cross Canada tour, Rococode comes home for the official CD Release show of their debut album, Guns, Sex & Glory, released a couple months ago. And they brought with them their "band mentor", and another local band who I've been meaning to catch.

Due to another show, though, (seriously, it seemed like everything was happening Wednesday night) I got there part way through Wintermitts set, catching just the last couple songs. The bi-lingual band had a grandiose, orchestral-pop sound, with a stage packed full of instruments; keys, accordion, horns, and more. I caught just enough to know that I definitely want to see them again, hopefully seeing an entire set.

Next up was Ryan Guldemond doing a solo set. Taking the stage alone, he sounded a lot like you'd expect from the frontman of Mother Mother, just a little more on the bluesy and jazz side, with his distinctive voice over some catchy and cleverly written songs. A few he introduced as new, but I'm not sure if they will be eventual Mother Mother songs, or for his own repertoire, and while I didn't catch the name of any of the songs, there were a few I am hoping are released in some form.

And finally, Rococode hit the stage, starting off with the slow build up of title track to their debut album, Guns, Sex & Glory before launching into "Weapon". Seeing a band at the end of a tour can go two ways, either the band is firing on all cylinders having played together so often, or being completely road-weary, and the four members of Rococode were definitely the former; their harmonies were airtight and the insanely catchy power-pop spot on.
They played nearly the entire album, with a few new songs thrown in, highlights being the haunting "Dreams", the definite earworm "Empire", and the closer of the night, the cacophonous "Blood".
I've been able to see Rococode several times in the last year and a half, and they never fail to impress live; continually getting better and putting on great live shows.

Guns, Sex & Glory; Death of a Payphone; Run Run Run Run Run (Run); EJ; Concentrate On Me; Empire; Dreams; Concentrate On You; The Riot; Ghost I & II; Blood.

The Matinée @ Commodore -- 04/04/12

With festival season fast approaching, we're starting to get a glimpse of what is going on and who will be where. The other day Live at Squamish had a big party at the Commodore with The Matinée and Current Swell to unveil who will be joining them on August 24th through 26th up at the Logger Sports Grounds and Hendrickson Fields.

The Matinée was up first, drawing everyone into in immediately by getting the growing crowd to stop and clap along to "L'Absinthe", building up an energy that would just build throughout the set. As well as older favourites like the interminably catchy "Let Her Go" and the great sing along "Sweetwater", they teased a new album with some new songs, including my favourite "ScooterFruit" (thankfully a working title) that explodes into massive ending, with the band rocking out and some great shredding from Matt Rose & intense drums from Pete Lemon. The other stand-out new track was called "Young and Lazy", that instantly grabs you, with a classic roots-rock feel that will no doubt be a huge song for them. I'm calling it now: if it's released as a single in time, it'll be the song of the summer.
They ended off, as they do, with "The Road", including the great breakdown which had every member pounding away on the drums, and the entire room stomping along. As usual, it was a great, high energy show from the band, and I already can't wait to see them on the big stage in Squamish.

Unfortunately, I had to skip out on Current Swell, and the lineup unveiling, due to another show (seriously, it seemed like everything was happening Wednesday night), but the lineup looks like it is coming along nicely; Tragically Hip and City and Colour are the big headliners, which I think is a good pair (even if I'm not that big a fan of City & Colour) and it's got a pretty solid lineup all around. Some bands I am definitely looking forward to include Plants & Animals, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Kathleen Edwards, Mother Mother, and local favourites like Rococode, Maurice, Wake! Owl and The Matinée. They've also got The Sheepdogs, Lights, Chromeo, The Airbourne Toxic Event, and more rounding out the lineup, promising that there will be at least one or two bands for everyone.
It's a pretty good lineup overall, but I think they need at least one more bigger "name" as a draw. But don't get me wrong, I will definitely be heading up there for the weekend, as the last two years up there have been an absolute blast.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

John K Samson @ Biltmore -- 03/31/12

I honestly don't know why I am not a bigger fan of The Weakerthans. I do really like them -- I don't think there's a song written by John K Samson that I haven't liked -- but I've always seemed to be a bit more of a "passive fan" to the band. So when I heard John K Samson was coming through town for his solo tour, I knew I both shouldn't and couldn't miss it.

Opening the show was Shotgun Jimmie, who was a veritable one man band. It was just him and his guitar on stage, and not only was he using a suitcase as a kickdrum, but had a second kick drum going as well. At one point he was effectively playing two drums, the guitar and a shaker all simultaneously.
Admittedly I haven't heard too much of Jimmie's music, but I was definitely won over within only a couple songs. With a sound that reminded me of a cross between Joel Plaskett and Chad VanGaalen, and an effortless stage presence, he charmed his way through a collection of songs old and new; my favourite being one I didn't catch the name of that he introduced as about love and outer space.
After a solid set, he brought out a couple guests, including John K Samson, joking that their band was named "Welcome Wireless Internet Restaurant" and ending the set with a high energy, rocking song.

It wasn't long after that John K Samson hit the stage; at first coming out alone and leading the sold out crowd in sing along to "One Great City", before being joined by The Provincial Band, which included Shotgun Jimmie on guitar. The set consisted of not only his own solo material from his recent album Provincial, but a fair amount of Weakerthans songs, too. Ranging from the soft and beautiful "The Last And", to the more upbeat and rocking "When I Write My Master's Thesis", Samson had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the moment he hit the stage. With many sing alongs, and people shouting out random Manitoban references, John did a great job of engaging the crowd, even down to little things like leading a salute during the spoken word "Elegy for Gump Worsley" and asked people to support the petition his get Reggie Leach into the Hockey Hall of Fame, with a song whose title is also a link to the petition, "". Other highlights of the set included older favourites "Pamphleteer" and "Tournament of Hearts" and his own "Longitudinal Centre" and "Cruise Night".
After "ending" the set with "Left and Leaving", he was back out for the encore with "Plea From A Cat Named Virtute", strapped on the bass for a Propagandhi song, "Gifts", and ended the night with yet another sing along, this time to "Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure" and John completely unplugged and standing at the very edge of the stage, guitar and voice unamplified.

And not only was Samson a great performer, but he was also looking out for his fans; during "Tournament of Hearts", he paused in the middle of the song when he noticed a girl had passed out, and made sure people gave her room, that she was okay, and even offered her some of his water and a spot to sit.

It was pretty fantastic set from one of Canada's finest songwriters and I am already looking forward to whatever is next from Samson and/or The Weakerthans.

One Great City, Heart of the Continent, Cruise Night, When I Write My Master's Thesis, Letter In Icelandic From The Ninette San, Tournament of Hearts, Night Windows, Elegy for Gump Worsley, Pamphleteer,, Longitudinal Centre, The Boat Dreams From The Hill [Jawbreaker cover], The Last And, Highway 1 West, Left & Leaving.
(encore) Plea From A Cat Named Virtute, Gifts [Propagandhi cover], Reconstruction Site, Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure.