Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bloc Party @ Vogue -- 09/29/12

It's been three years since Bloc Party last took the stage in Vancouver, but they made a triumphant return at the Vogue Theatre promoting their first new album in four years, appropriately titled Four.

Opening the night was Ceremony, a punk band from California. They played hard, fast, loud -- and a little bit sloppy -- and all their songs sounded pretty much the same to me. With seemingly limitless energy, the members were jumping, trashing and high-kicking around the stage, especially the lead singer who, unencumbered by an instrument, at one point putting a chair around his head, and another jumping into the crowd to try and instigate a mosh pit. And while I fully admit, punk is not necessarily my "forte", they seemed to hit a lot of the tropes or cliches of a punk band. They were a bit of an odd choice for openers, and I didn't really get into them (and it seemed a fair amount of the crowd shared my opinion) but I've seen worse.

Then as the house lights dimmed, the stage lights came up and an electronic beat filled the theatre as the four members of Bloc Party took the stage, immediately launching into "So He Begins To Lie", the first song from Four. Starting with a high energy right off the bat, front man Kele Okereke got the crowd moving and clapping along from the first song, and never looked back. It was the last show of the tour, and they were determined to make it the best. And the Vancouver crowd was more than willing to oblige, singing along (hopefully in a faux-British accent, like I was) not only to the hits like "Banquet" or "Helicopter", but even some of the deeper cuts, like "One More Chance".
Weaving through most of their catalogue, they played for just about an hour, "ending" with a rager that finishes the new album, "We Are Not Alone" before coming back out for a couple songs; the calm and beautiful "Blue Light" and teasing the chorus of Rihanna's "We Found Love" before launching into the infinitely danceable "Flux". They did another fake-out-ending, back for a second encore to end off the whole night with the slightly-frantic "Like Eating Glass", which once again had the sold out crowd theatre singing along.

Sometimes you'll see a band at the end of a tour, and you can see the fatigue, but that was definitely not the case for Bloc Party. The whole band had a great presence -- Kele, who is more than willing to banter directly with the crowd, the amazing guitar skills of Russell Lissack, and Matt Tong, who is a monster on drums -- and their raw-yet-danceable sound was better than ever.

So He Begins To Lie, Octopus, Hunting For Witches, Positive Tension, Real Talk, Kettling, Song For Clay, Banquet, VALIS, Day Four, One More Chance, We Are Not Good People.
[encore] Blue Light, Team A, Flux, Helicopter.
[encore 2] Truth, Like Eating Glass.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ma Petite Single Release @ Media Club -- 09/28/12

Australian musician Indiana Avent -- who has played violin with people like Bon Iver, Dan Mangan, Gotye, and many more -- has been living in Canada for the last year or so, making her debut album under her own band Ma Petite. With the help of some of Vancouver's finest, the album is almost ready to see the light of day, and to give it a little bit of a tease she took to the Media Club for the launch of the first single.

Opening the night was Garrett Kato, though unfortunately I got there a bit late and only caught his last song. The rootsy rock of Redbird was up next. Lead by Savannah Leigh Wellman's strong voice, she was joined by John Sponarski on guitar & Ben Appenheimer on bass, as usual, and brand new addition: Malcolm Holt from The Gay Nineties on drums.
Opening with "The Tower", the set was a mix of songs from last year's debut EP, We're All Friends and Lovers Until it Falls Apart, and new songs, including an absolute rocker, "I Fall Apart", my favourite of the set.
Redbird continues to get more and more polished in their live show, both musically and stage presence, with some good banter -- especially the joking (and teasing) between Savannah and Sponarski -- and I really can't wait to see how that translated to their next release.

Not long after, Ma Petite took the stage, with Indiana and a few familiar faces, including Olivier ClĂ©ments (one of Aidan Knight's Friendly Friends), Ben Appenheimer (once again) on stand up bass and Matt Kelly (of all the bands) on guitar and keys; Jordan Klassen even joined briefly by on guitar.
Indiana's great sense of storytelling shines through in the songs -- and her stage banter -- for some adorable folky tunes, which she admitted, "boys or birds", with one of my favourites being "I Like That You Like Books", a catchy song about having a crush on the customer while working as a barista.
After a few songs, the band took a break while Indiana did a couple on her own, then they were back for a cover of AA Bondy's "Oh The Vampire" and the song of the night, "Man About the Moon", which starts soft and explodes into a joyous ending. Both that and "Goodbye Sweetheart" following had bouts of group vocals, before the set came to an end -- sans fake-encore -- with a song about adjusting from Australian to Canadian climates, "Two Big Thick Ruffled Coats".

It was a lovely set, and the only problem wasn't with Indiana or the band, but rather the volume of the crowd. I don't know why it is, but the Media Club always seems to have the most talkative crowds, and while the front half of the room was rapt by Ma Petite, the back half (near the bar, of course) was getting almost disruptively noisy.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Limblifter @ Venue -- 09/27/12

Despite being a fan of the bands since the late 90s, I never got a chance to see Limblifter live before they disbanded, and for various reasons I always managed to miss Ryan Dahle's solo shows. Even when they announced their reunion and a show at NXNE, the weekend was just too hectic to see them. I thought maybe I was fated to never see the band live, but my luck turned around with the announcement of a Vancouver show. And it's not just a series of reunion dates; Dahle recently hinted that the band might just be releasing some new material.

It was also an added bonus to see Acres of Lions open up the show. The Victoria band isn't breaking down any barriers with their pop-rock sound, but they are ridiculously fun to watch live. The whole band is highly energetic, especially frontman Jeff Kalesnikoff, who got the growing crowd singing and clapping along throughout the set. Starting off with "Set Me On Fire" and "Kids" from their latest album, Collections, the band drawing the slowly-growing crowd towards the stage. They threw in a new song -- which I didn't catch the name of-- and wrapped up with the infinitely catchy "Reaction" and the much softer "Collections", both of which once again got the crowd involved.

Not too long, Limblifter hit the stage, with Ryan Dahle joined by Megan Bradfield and Brent Follett -- both of which were in the last incarnation of Limblifter -- and Sloan's Greg MacDonald. They started off with a bang, opening the show with "Vicious" and going on to play about an hour of material spanning the entire Limblifter catalogue.
While I can't compare them to their first incarnation, they sounded great; the four of them meshed well together and the songs were familiar, but didn't feel dated. Like they never missed a step.
There was lots of songs got 'recognition applause' -- a big bout of cheering one or two notes in -- throughout the night, like the soaring "Wake Up To The Sun" and staccato "Screwed It Up". Other highlights included "Fiercely Co-Dependant" from the last Limblifter album, I/O, and the earworm inducing "Chop Chop" from Dahle's solo Irrational Anthems.
They wrapped up the set with their biggest hit, "Ariel vs Lotus" and after being met with chants of "ten more songs", were back for the obvious encore. Starting with the soft and beautiful "Alarm Bells", they exploded into "Dominant Monkey" and "Tinfoil" to end off the night.

It was great to finally see them, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what comes out of the reunion.

Vicious, Cordova, Cellophane, Count To 9, Jumbo Jet Headache, Chop Chop, Wake Up To The Sun, Fiercely Co-Dependant, In/Out, Hotel Knife, Screwed It Up, I Wonder If, On The Moon, Perfect Day To Disappear, Ariel v Lotus.
[encore] Alarm Bells, Dominant Monkey, Tinfoil.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shows of October

As the fall rolls along, the shows just keep coming. October looks to be another packed month, and here are the five(ish) shows I'm looking forward to most.
And I'm posting this a few days early to make sure enough people know about....

October 1st: Dirty Three at the Biltmore

You may know them from their work with Nick Cave, but Australian trio are back for their first album in seven years. The instrumental Towards The Low Sun is dense and chaotic and brilliant, and I can't wait to see how it translates live. 

October 19th: Big Sugar w/ Wide Mouth Mason at the Commodore

Reprising their Big & Wide tour from last year, the two iconic Canadian blues rock bands team up once again to storm the Commodore. They've also got Ontario's The Balconies in tow, who I've heard about for a while now and am looking forward to checking out.
It's their first of two shows, which is good because the second night conflicts with...

October 20th: Royal Wood at the Rio Theatre
I haven't had the chance too see Royal Wood live before, always missing the shows, and I can't think of a better venue for him than the Rio Theatre. 

October 24th: Matt Mays at the Commodore
It's been a few years since Mays has been through Vancouver, but I was lucky enough to catch him during NXNE in June, and he was better than ever. Now that his new album, Coyote, is out 
Of course, it's a tough call when on the same night is...
October 24th: Bahamas & Jason Collett at the Rio Theatre
This one is going to be hard to miss. Last time I saw the two together was during the Bonfire Ball with Zeus, which is still one of my favourite shows. I may yet try and figure out a way to at least see Jason, then run over and see Mays at the Commodore...

October 27th: Aidan Knight at the Rio Theatre
Much like Royal Wood, the Rio just seems like it will be the perfect venue for Mr. Knight. The show is just in time for his new album, Small Reveal, which is one of my most anticipated albums of the rest of the year. 

And of course, the Peak Performance Project is still running at the Red Room through the month. With three showcases left, we'll still hear from Maurice, Dominique Fricot, Portage & Main and many more. The first two showcases have been pretty swell, so don't miss them. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Peak Performance Project Showcase #2 @ Red Room -- 09/20/12

The Peak Performance Project is a multi-year contest in which The Peak, along with Music BC, picks 20 BC musicians/bands a year and makes them stars. Past winners are We Are The CityKyprios, and Current Swell with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.

Part one of the project was a rock & roll boot camp where they went on a week long retreat to get lectures and advice from industry pros to help them refine their craft. Phase two is a series of shows at The Red Room, four artists a night for five weeks, each playing a 45 minute set. The bands are rated by a panel of judges, which will go toward their final score in the project, and they've also been tasked to learn a "Classic Canadian Cover" to play during their set. I always love hearing bands play cover songs, and I am definitely looking forward to see who each act chooses (and, as in the past, I am going to keep a running tally on how many Arcade Fire, Neil Young or Leonard Cohen songs we get).

While last week's showcase was all acts I was already a fan of, this showcase was full of bands I hadn't heard too much from, but each one I was interested to hear more of. I've always had a soft spot for folk-y, blues-y and roots-y rock, and all four bands this showcase were along those lines.

The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer: The duo of Shawn Hall and Matthew Rogers started it off with their dirty blues sound, Hall on vocals and harmonica and Rogers on guitar and kick drum. They had a very high energy and everything that did came across with an effortless charm, both playing and the banter between the two. They had the same swampy blues sound through the whole set, but it never got stale, with songs like "Love Me Before You Leave Me", which built to a frantic and explosive ending, and it helped that they were joined by a trio of ladies, including Hilary Grist and Hannah Epperson, for backup vocals part way through. For their Canadian cover they went with one my my favourite Canadian bands, Big Sugar and thier song "Turn The Lights On" -- a great version, if a bit of a predictable choice for the blues duo -- and they ended with another explosive song, "Got My Mojo Working".
They were really fun to watch live, and so far they're my favourite new discovery from this year's Project. 

The Fugitives: One of the more interesting/unique bands in this year's showcase, The Fugitives combines slam poet Brendan McLeod and musician Adrian Glynn (no stranger to the Peak Performance Project himself) for what they call "modern folk". The four piece was joined by hired guns Niko Friesen on drums and John Walsh on upright bass, and Glynn played the most amusingly-named instrument of the night, the balalaika. Their unique style shone through on songs like "Start A War", which which features some very quick singing -- almost rapping -- that would be impressive on its own, but even more so when the whole band harmonizes.
For their Canadian cover, they couldn't pick just one song, so they chose a medley ranging from Arcade Fire's "Keep The Car Running" to "Ain't No Cure for Love" by Cohen, Maestro Fresh Wes' "Let Your Backbone Slide" to "You're Too Cool" by The Zolas, and finished it off with Stan Rogers' "Northwest Passage", which they wove together remarkably well.
Following that was "We Don't Care", about homosexuality in sports (which didn't come across quite as awkward as it could have) and a song with a bit more spoken word in it -- which came across fine, but I'm kind of glad they didn't rely more on it. They wrapped up their set getting the crowd to sing along to "All This Trouble".

The River & The Road: With more straight ahead rock & roll sound, the four piece was good, and they definitely packed the room with their fans, but I couldn't help feel the whole thing was just a little... generic. A lot of their songs had the same vibe to them, and at some points it even felt like they were going down a checklist; Ballad? Check. Everyone on stage for a sing along? Check. Singer playing a floor tom? Check. Percussion breakdown? Check. Even their cover was kind of a "safe" choice, going with "Northwest Passage" from Stan Rogers; a good cover, but it just blended in with the rest of their set.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't by any means dislike them -- they were very good at what they do, had a lively energy on stage, and clearly have some mass appeal. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they end up in the top five.

Headwater: Wrapping up the night was the energetic Headwater. They've had a bit of a lineup shakeup recently, with a few of their members quitting, but the duo of Jonas Shandel and Matt Bryant plugged on, with a band that included Pat Stewart of Odds fame on drums. They started their set off with a bang, a big energy song appropriately titled "Freight Train", and they drove their rootsy sounding rock through the rest of their set with some excellent guitar work and high energy.
Near the end of their set they broke out what was the best cover of the night, "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" from Shania Twain. It was exactly the kind of cover that I love seeing in the showcase series; a fun -- or even silly -- choice that is outside the band's wheelhouse, but done seriously enough that it didn't feel like a joke. You can tell they were having fun with it, and they absolutely pulled it off.

All in all, it was a pretty swell night of music. This year's Project has a great representation of this kind of sound, and all four bands did a great job to showcase that.
Next week there is a break in the showcases, but it's back to the Red Room on October 4th for Alexandria Maillot, Dear Rouge, Facts, and Maurice.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rich Aucoin @ Biltmore -- 09/15/12

"When you give it all up, you get it back." Those are just some of the lyrics that can be heard chanted at Rich Aucoin's shows, and I can't think of a better way to describe them. Aucoin has been criss-crossing the country tirelessly since the release of his album We're All Dying To Live last year, and gaining the reputation of one of the best live shows you will see. He dropped by the Biltmore in Vancouver -- on his birthday no less -- to prove it.

Opening the night was Data Romance from Vancouver. The duo of Ajay Bhattacharyya on drum pads and Amy Kirkpatrick on keys and vocals creates a moody, synth-infused electronic vibe. Amy's voice is soft and ethereal, adding to the dark atmosphere of the songs. For almost the entire set they were content to just play, not saying much, but near the end Amy thanked us and wished Rich a happy birthday, before getting back to it. They were really tight, playing off each other really well, and had an interesting sound, with a lot of the set being a bit of a slower tempo, but they picked it up for the last couple, which were a lot more high energy and danceable, getting the lingering crowd up on the dance floor. It was a strong set from the pair, and I would definitely check them out again.

As soon as Data Romance wrapped up their set Rich Aucoin started to set up, but not on the stage -- he set up his table with his keys and drummers on either side in front of the stage, in the crowd. When they were done and ready to go, Rich give a brief explanation as to what was going to happen; he writes his songs to sync up to old movie clips, which would be projected behind him, and what was a movie without trailers? After a giant sing along to the 20th Century Fox fanfare, there were a couple funny clips, which lead into the "opening credits", a series of slides with fun "facts" about people from the audience. The excitement built until the music started with an explosion of confetti, and the pure joy and fun did not let up for the next hour.
Aucoin is an amazing performer with so much charisma. Very few others would be able to get nearly an entire venue down on one knee, or unravel a giant parachute -- the kind from when you were in elementary school -- and get everyone to play Popcorn and then dance under it. Rich even goes into the crowd frequently, making everyone a part of the show. You don't just watch a Rich Aucoin concert, you experience it.
And of course, the spectacle would be nothing without the songs. Incredibly catchy and high energy songs like "P:U:S:H", "Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E." and "Undead" had the crowd yelling along with the lyrics, helpfully up on the screen, and jumping up and down. The set came to an end with the bombastic "It" and Aucoin even crowd surfing and bringing everyone in for a giant cheer. And, as usual, Rich left up a slide with his actual phone number on it, telling people that if they texted him, he would send you a zip file of some of his music. (I did this the first time I saw him, and got his Public Publication EP)

It's hard to sum up a show like this in words, and I don't think I could even begin do it justice, but Rich Aucoin's live shows will leave you grinning for days afterwards. They are high energy, fun, life affirming, and just pure bliss. If I could watch him play every night, I would.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Royal Canoe & Krief @ Waldorf -- 09/14/12

One of my favourite guitarists is The Dears' Patrick Krief, so of course I was a fan of his previous solo project, Black Diamond Bay. Well, Patrick is back with a new solo album, simply under the name Krief, and when I saw he was coming back to Vancouver I knew I needed to check it out. And then, when I found out Royal Canoe -- who played one of the best shows this past spring -- was on the bill too? Well, this was going to be one hell of a show.

Though there was a bit of confusion surrounding the show. There was a big mix-up with the set times of the show, so not even the bands knew what time they were going on until the last minute, and even earlier in the same day I had seen conflicting reports about whether it was Krief or Royal Canoe headlining the night.

One thing that was for sure, the opening band was Lost Lander, from Portland. It was the first show of a small tour of the Pacific Northwest with Royal Canoe, and they were an good choice for an opener. Strong, dark indie pop with some nice boy/girl harmonies between the guitarist & lead singer John Gnorski and Sarah Fennell on keyboard, they put on a very enjoyable set, with a good stage presence. Though there was a bit of chatting with the growing crowd a little between songs, there was also a few awkward pauses, and they wrapped up with the two best songs of the set, "Cold Feet" and "Belly of the Bird / Valentina" from their debut album DRRT.
They were nothing too mind-blowing, but put on an entertaining set, and I wouldn't mind checking them out more int he future.

Next up was Krief, whose set started a bit slow, as they had to chance the mic cable after the first song. But from the second song on, they filled the room with a blues inspired indie-rock sound, and deep & cinematic, beautifully textured songs. Krief didn't say much during the set, just letting the music speak for itself, and did it ever; the lush songs not only evoked emotion from the lyrics, but the musical arrangements as well. Highlights included "Simple Lives", with its soaring chorus, and the catchy "Perfect Bodies".
After the rocking "What We Wanted", an older Black Diamond Bay song, they closed out with the title track from the recent album, Hundred Thousand Pieces, starting soft then exploded with intensity, and featuring an extended, amazing, face-melting solo from Krief.
It was a pretty fantastic set, and hopefully it won't be another three years until I get the chance to see Patrick Krief playing his solo material live again.

That right there would have been a show worth seeing, but there was still Royal Canoe to wrap up the night. As with the other times I've seen them, they almost had more bodies and equipment than the stage could fit, the six members with an assortments of keyboards, synth, effects pedals, dual drums and more. There was one point where, to get to the other side of the stage, Matt Schellenberg had to hop off and walk around.
They started the set with "Hold On To The Metal", a great example of their complex, yet catchy wall-of-synth rock sound. Their live so is so tight and refined, with densely layered songs that still remain accessible. Highlights of the set were a couple new songs from their recent 7" Purple and Gold, a sexy slow jam called "Summer Sweat" & the crunchy "Show Me Your Eyes", and the bombastic "Bathtubs".
The set seemed way too short as they played right up to the curfew, not bothering with the encore fake-out, ending the set with the incredible "Nightcrawlin'", featuring Matt Peters again using the effects mic to run his voice through what I dubbed the "demonic processor", to give his vocals a deep and electronic quality.

I've said it several times before -- and I'm sure I will again -- but Royal Canoe is one of the best, and most unique, live bands in Canada right now, and I will be there without hesitation next time they're in town. And with Krief on the bill as well, for another excellent set, this was an amazing all-around show.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peak Performance Project Showcase #1 @ Red Room -- 09/13/12

The Peak Performance Project is a multi-year contest in which The Peak, along with Music BC, picks 20 BC musicians/bands a year and makes them stars. Past winners are We Are The City, Kyprios, and Current Swell with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.
Part one of the project was a rock & roll boot camp where they went on a week long retreat to get lectures and advice from industry pros to help them refine their craft. Phase two is a series of shows at The Red Room, four artists a night for five weeks, each playing a 45 minute set. The bands are rated by a panel of judges, which will go toward their final score in the project, and they've also been tasked to learn a "Classic Canadian Cover" to play during their set. I always love hearing bands play cover songs, and I am definitely looking forward to see who each act chooses (and, as in the past, I am going to keep a running tally on how many Arcade Fire, Neil Young or Leonard Cohen songs we get).

And going in to this, I'm not going to pretend I don't have biases; there are bands this year I am familiar with and bands that I am already a big fan of, and this showcase was, at first glance, the one I was looking forward to the most. 

Ali Milner: The jazzy-pop sounds of Ali Milner started off not only the night, but the showcase series. Her backing band included some familiar faces; Erik P.H. Nielsen on bass and Rob Tornroos on guitar. I've seen Ali play a few times in recent months, and I would have to say this is the best set I've seen her play. Behind the keys with her gorgeous voice, her bubbly personality is infectious, and it translated into a fun and upbeat set, with dynamic songs like "Fly". 
Ali is no stranger to covering Canadian singers, and her cover wasn't new, rather a song that she's had in her repertoire for a few years, "After the Gold Rush" by Neil Young. It was a good cover, but I was hoping she would do something new.
The set ended with "Waiting", which saw Ali take out a box of egg shakers part way through the song and jump into the crowd to distribute them for people to play along -- and they all had numbers on them, with one lucky person winning some merch. 

I genuinely hope that Ali makes the top three -- which would make her the first female to crack the top three -- but I have a feeling this is going to be the hardest year to predict the outcome.

beekeeperWith the lights dimmed, and a robotic voice introducing them, the trio of Devon Lougheed, Luke Cyca and Brandi Sidoryk hit the stage with a high energy and did not looking back. Their genre-bending "math rock" may be hard to keep up with due to the frantic arrangements and seemingly constantly changing time signatures, but drummer Luke anchors them magnificently, and they put on one hell of a live show, which is either absolutely brilliant or incomprehensibly weird. Or both.
Devon was more focused on stage than I've seen him, especially between songs, still showing his manic energy and goofy sense of humour but not going overboard. He even took the set down for a moment with a sincere story and almost mellow (or, as mellow as beekeeper can get) song called "Drownings". 
For their cover, they teased playing Rush, but then launched in to "You Learn" from Alanis Morissette, which was definitely the most interesting cover of the night, giving it a "beekeeper twist", and even had Devon going into the crowd.
"Pinwheel Revolution" took a moment to show off Brandi's operatic past and her glass-shattering voice, and they brought the set to an end with a "family photo", pulling up as many fans as they could fit on the stage for a big group picture, and then letting everyone stay and dance for the last song, "Believe, Believe". 

Probably the most high energy and genuinely fun set of the night, beekeeper is another band that I really hope makes the top five, but I can see them maybe being just a little too "weird".

Redgy BlackoutThe members of Redgy Blackout hit the stage looking slick, adorned in dress shirts and ties, with Scott also sporting a vest and top hat. They were immediately fun and energetic, with their unique mix of indie rock, folk and pop. Both Scott Perrie and Jeremy Breaks have a good live energy and play off each other really well, getting everyone moving to songs like "Coming Alive" and "Bottom of the Sea".
After what I thought was going to be an introduction into a Matthew Good Band song for their cover, they ended up going with Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)", giving a more up-tempo version, and getting the crowd to yell along with the "LIES!" 
Their final song they brought out Brandi from beekeeper to help out on backup vocals, enlisting the crowd as well, and scores of balloons being tossed throughout the crowd to wrap up their set. 

While I enjoy watching Redgy Blackout live -- they are tight, have great harmonies and write catchy songs -- I think they are just missing something, some ineffable quality to really push them over the edge.

Jordan KlassenOne of the more well known acts -- with a little bit of Peak airplay before the competition started -- Klassen ended off the first showcase. The first thing you notice about Jordan is his incredible energy on stage. He oozes enthusiasm, jumping and leaping around the stage; rarely will you see a more enthusiastic tambourine player. That energy definitely rubs off on his five bandmates, and even into the crowd. 
Klassen's rich, folk-pop sound gives way to grand songs that start slow and build to a soaring finish. Like the alternating slow burn and explosiveness of "Piano Brother", the lush "The Horses Are Stuck" and "Go To Me", which had a couple members mingle in the crowd with tambourines, creating a surround-sound feel for the song.
His cover was the 90s pop hit "Love Song" by Sky, which was not at all ironic, but endearing and appropriately cheesy. It was probably my second favourite cover of the night, as it was both a unique and interesting take on the song. The set, and the night, was brought to an end with "Call & Answer", which is probably my favourite song of his; another one that starts soft and grows to an energetic and huge ending.

I would not at all be surprised if Klassen makes the top three of the contest; he has almost everything they're looking for, and would definitely be deserving. 

And with that, the first showcase was done. Join me next week at the Red Room where we'll have the chance to see The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer, The Fugitives, The River & The Road and The Headwater. It's bound to be a good one. 
And hopefully the sound in the Red Room is better next week.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Christopher Smith CD Release w/ Snowblink & The Belle Game @ Waldorf -- 09/12/12

Last night was the CD release party for Christopher Smith's latest offering, Earning Keep. He was joined at the Waldorf by fellow Vancouverites The Belle Game and, a last minute addition to the show, Toronto's Snowblink. They were supposed to have a show at the Rickshaw on the same night, but I guess something happened and they were added to this bill.

Starting off the night was The Belle Game, the six of them (seven when Andrew Lee was out to play trumpet) packing the stage of the Waldorf. They filled the room with their indie-rock-slash-chamber-pop sounds and Andrea Lo's powerful voice -- even though they admitted she was feeling under the weather -- with songs from their upcoming album Ritual Tradition Habit.
Highlights included "Wasted Light" and the powerful "River", and the whole set was brought to an explosive climax with the first single from the new album, "Wait Up For You"; which, despite featuring the ever-prevalent singer-on-a-floor-tom for the intro, had an amazing energy & soared to an ending with Alex Andrew hopping off stage to finish off his frantic solo in the crowd.

Next up was Christopher Smith, joined by a few familiar faces; including Peter Carruthers on bass and Michelle Faehrmann out for a few songs on cello. He had a folksy, yet lush, rock sound, though a lot of the set was about the same tempo. It picking up slightly towards the end, with the last song, "No Light Could Pass Though Me so I Have a Shadow", being the highlight of the set, and definitely having highest energy, building to a grand crescendo of the band rocking out.
There wasn't much interaction through the set, a couple "thanks", here and there, but he preferred to let the music speak for itself. 
It was a perfectly enjoyable set, but he was overshadowed by the other two acts of the night.

And finally, Snowblink took the stage to round out the night. I'm not sure if it was because it was pushing midnight on a Wednesday, or that they were a last minute addition, but sadly a lot of the crowd had dispersed, leaving only a couple dozen people. But that was their loss, as from the moment they hit stage, the duo of  Daniela Gesundheit -- whose guitar had antlers mounted on it -- and Dan Goldman -- also on guitar -- were amazing.  Daniela had a great presence and charisma on stage, as well as a stunning voice, and their ethereal dream-pop was captivating.
Even though the set wasn't technically "perfect" -- they had a couple issues throughout the night -- it felt very natural and loose, with them playing off the glitches perfectly and connecting with the small audience; at one point handing out bells so they could ring them on cue during one of their songs, and almost chatting one-to-one with people.
Highlights of the set included current single, the infectiously catchy "Black and White Mountains", which had  Daniela on a drum pad, and a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper", which was introduced with  Daniela simultaneously apologizing and saying "you're welcome".

All in all, it was a great night of music, with the acts being different enough, but still working perfectly together. I would see any one of the three again, especially Snowblink, who I hope is back soon for a longer show.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Shows of September

Well, I haven't done this in a while, but after a bit of a summer lull, the concert season is back with a vengeance in the next few months, with September packed full of top notch shows. So here are a few I'm looking forward to...

September 15th: Rich Aucoin at the Biltmore
Regular readers (all seventeen of you) will understand why this is my most anticipated show of the month. Rich Aucoin's live shows are unparalleled; incredible energy, great audience participation, and more fun than you can possibly imagine.

September 29th: Bloc Party at the Vogue
After a bit of a hiatus, Bloc Party has finally returned with a new album, and accompanying tour. It's been three and a half years since I last saw them live, so I'm a little anxious -- both to see them, and to see if they live up to how great they were live previously (which, I'm sure they will be)

September 14th: Royal Canoe & Patrick Krief at the Waldorf
Royal Canoe is another favourite live band, and when you add Patrick Krief -- formerly Black Diamond Bay, Dears member and one of Canada's best guitarists -- to the bill, this is one show not to miss.

September 27th: Limblifter with Acres of Lions at Venue
Confession time: I've never seen Limblifter live. Or even Ryan Dahle when he struck of into his own solo career. I am fairly certain this isn't going to be the original lineup, but I'm sure it'll still be a blast of good ol' 90s CanCon Alt Rock. Plus, Acres of Lions is opening, and they're always fun to see live.

Thursdays starting September 13th: Peak Performance Project Showcases at the Red Room
The Peak Performance Project is back this year with an all new (well, mostly) group of bands. The showcases, which run for five Thursdays (skipping the 27th) are not just to introduce the public to this year's crop, but the bands will be judged on their live shows as one of the criteria to determine the winner.

There are a bunch more shows, too (check the sidebar), but these are the five I am most looking forward to. See you there?