Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mother Mother with Hannah Georgas @ Orpheum -- 12/19/12

Vancouver's Mother Mother had a pretty triumphant return home, ending their current tour with a sold out show at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre. I wasn't as enamoured with their new album, The Sticks, as I was with last year's Eureka, but they've always put on one hell of a live show -- as evidenced with their recent win at the CBC Radio 3 Bucky Awards for "Best Reason to Buy a Concert Ticket" (Best Live Act) -- and after I had somehow missed every other Vancouver show this year, there was no chance I was going to pass this up. Especially since another favourite, and another hometown hero, the gorgeous Hannah Georgas was their opening act. 

Hannah Georgas -- also a recent Bucky Award winner, for "Hottest Pipes" (best vocals) -- was joined by a backing band of some familiar faces; Luke Renshaw (Jets Overhead), Rob Tornroos (Elias & In Medias Res), and Andrew Rasmussen (Hey Ocean). She focused mostly on her new, self-titled album, starting off the set with the lead track, "Elephant", the offering a little more electro-pop than her debut. Her fantastic voice still drove the songs, though, as witnessed on "Robotic" and her sharp (and sometimes acerbic) songwriting is still intact, with "Somebody", a unrequited love song.
My favourite of the set was also my favourite from the new album, "Millions" an upbeat and rocking song, and after the beautiful "Ode to Mom", she wrapped up her set with "Waiting Game" 
It's always great seeing Hannah -- even for a short opening spot -- but it seems like forever since I've seen her do a proper show of her own, so hopefully she'll be back sometime soon for a full show. 

Elephant, Enemies, Robotic, Chit Chat, Lovers Breakdown, Fantasize, Millions, Somebody, Ode to Mom, Waiting Game. 

The stage filled with smoke as 
Mother Mother took the stage, back lit to show only silhouettes against the smoke. Most of the set, actually, was deep in the fog with lights blazing through from the back of the stage, making the band occasionally hard to see (from my seats, anyway), but that didn't slow them down any. 
The five-piece is so incredibly tight and full of energy, with their off-beat indie-pop-rock full of quirky, occasionally tongue-in-cheek and usually dark songs, relying on the great harmonies between Jasmin Parkins and Ryan & Molly Guldemond, each with their own unique voice, somehow managing to blend together so well. Started off the set with the title track from the new album The Sticks, the band bounced from songs like the soft and haunting "Ghosting" to the almost hip-hop-sounding "Verbatim" from their debut album, to more bouncy songs like "My Baby Don't Dance", to their chaotic single "The Stand" that had everyone singing along, yelling "Everybody's fucked and they don't even know". 
Other highlights included my favourite song of theirs, the frantic and infectious "Hayloft", and "Little Pistol", where Ryan got serious for a moment, dedicating the song to the Amanda Todds of the world; everyone whose flame had been snuffed out too soon, a genuinely touching moment.
After a little over an hour, they brought the set to an end with "Let's Fall In Love" before coming back for the encore with Hannah to help on vocals for "Love It Dissipates", and finally ending the night with Ryan strapping on the banjo for the destructive "Wrecking Ball".

As you would expect from a venue like the Orpheum, the sound was excellent the whole night, and the sold out crowd was more than excited for the show. It was quite the homecoming for the band, wrapping up their tour with a bang, and proved why they are worthy for being the "Best Reason to Buy a Concert Ticket".

The Sticks, Body of Years, The Stand, Business Man, Verbatim, The Cry Forum, Infinitesimal, Ghosting, Hayloft, Simply Simple, Bit by Bit, Little Pistol, Dread in My Heart, My Baby Don't Dance, O My Heart, Let's Fall in Love. 
[encore] Love It Dissipates, Wrecking Ball. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Said the Whale @ Rio Theatre -- 12/16/12

It was a Christmas extravaganza at the Rio Theatre this weekend for a pair of sold out Said the Whale shows. I was at the second night, Sunday, where the stage was set to Maximum Christmas, with a yule log burning on the Rio's big screen before the show and light snowfall during; the bands were flanked by giant inflatable Santa & Frosty; strings of lights cross-crossing the stage; and a wreath hung on the kick drum. All it was missing was stockings hung with care.

Opening the night was Rococode with their dark yet catchy alt-pop. It was the first time I've seen them since their minor personnel change (a new drummer), but they were as good as ever, with songs like the soaring "Empire", which always gets stuck in my head, and "Ejay", that breaks down into an chaotic and cacophonous ending. After the haunting "Ghost I & II" (a song in dire need of a theremin) they wrapped up their opening spot with a new song, the holiday themed "Winter Revival".
They always put on an enjoyable show, with a high energy and the great harmonies with the vocals of Andrew & Laura intertwining, and this was no different.

Weapon, Run Run Run Run, Empire, Dreams, Blood, Ejay, The Riot, Ghost I & II, Winter Revival. 

Not long after that, the lights dimmed for Said the Whale and Ben came out and took a seat at the stand up piano on stage, first breaking out the recorder for some Little Drummer Boy, then starting the show with the Christmasy "The Bones of Winter". The rest of the band joined him -- all clad in Christmas sweaters -- for "Wanting Like Veruca" and getting the sold out theatre to clap along to "This City's A Mess".
They played a good mix of old and new, with some of their Christmas songs sprinkled in. For the past few years, they would put out a Christmas EP, and this year they released them as a collection. And while I've never been a big fan of Christmas music, there are a few songs -- like "Puddleglum", a depressing look at last minute shopping -- that I can get behind. There was also a new song thrown in, a Ben-fronted bass driven slow jam called "Okay Okay Okay", that was quite an interesting departure for the band.
Other highlights included "Love is Art/Sleep Through Fire", one of my favourites of theirs that is puzzlingly relegated to an EP, "Black Day in December" (the weekend marked the 6th anniversary of the Stanley Park windstorm that the song is about) and of course, the insanely infectious "Camilo (The Magician)". They wrapped up the main set with "Goodnight Moon", starting with Tyler sweetly strumming his ukulele then exploding into sheer joy.
And of course they were back for an encore, first Ben and Spencer came out for "Weight of the Season" before the exuberant "Emerald Lake, AB", and they wrapped up the whole night by puling Rococode on stage, and with Jacelyn at the piano, leading a sing along to "Christmas Time is Here", the lyrics up on the screen for people to sing loud, for all to hear.

Said the Whale is always a fun band to watch live; the interaction between the band -- especially Ben and Tyler -- shows just how much the band enjoys playing, and how appreciative they are to their Vancouver fans. And that energy pours out of them

The Bones of Winter, Wanting Like Veruca, This City's a Mess, Love is Art/Sleep Through Fire, Black Day in December, [mystery song]*, The Light is You, The Reason, Out on the Shield, Puddleglum, Big Sky MT, Lines, Okay Okay Okay, Howe Sounds, Loveless, 24 Days of Xmas, Camilo (The Magician), The Gift of a Black Heart, Goodnight Moon.
[encore] The Weight of the Season, Emerald Lake AB, Christmas Time is Here. 

*possibly another Christmas song I didn't catch the name of. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pink Mountaintops @ Waldorf -- 12/15/12

Most people know Steve McBean as the frontman of  Black Mountain, but he's also got a solo project that's been a little quiet for the past few years, Pink Mountaintops. The first -- and only -- time I saw them was a few years ago at my least favourite local venue, whose terrible sound put a damper on the show. So I was a little more than excited to see them again, especially at a much better venue, the Waldorf.

I missed the first band, Ford Pier Vengeance Trio due to a holiday party, arriving between sets and just in time to see Sex Church. Which I didn't actually realise until after, thanks to them only mumbling their name noncommittally once (maybe twice). They were a good fit for an opening band, a psychedelic rock sound with fuzzy guitars, which I was really liking, up until the lead singer joined in. The vocals wasn't very coherent, mumbled into the microphone, and I swear at one point he was just muttering random syllables. The band was full of really good musicians, and I really wanted to like them, but the vocals just didn't land for me.

Not too long after, Steve McBean took the stage alone and Pink Mountaintops began. The first song, "Comas" was just McBean and his guitar, but then a drum machine kicked in for "I (Fuck) Mountains" and the rest of the set to flesh out the sound. It was a contrast to the last time I saw them, a half dozen members large, this time more focusing mostly on McBean and his psychedelic guitar work, which was mind boggling at times. I also wasn't sure how McBean would fare on his own, as he's never really been one to interact with the crowd -- and for the most part he was silent -- but his presence while playing more than made up for it, especially evident in songs like "The Gayest of Sunbeams" with its upbeat, driving guitar.
Mid-way through the set he enlisted in the help of a couple friends, one on a floor tom and percussion and Ashley Webber on backup vocals, who were on and off stage for the rest of the night. (There was also a third guy who joined them for a song who was not playing any instruments, but rather handing out slices of cake to the crowd)
Other highlights from the night included "While We Were Dreaming" with the graphic but strangely moving line "
And if I could find your heart / 
I would pull it from your chest / 
And smash you with my fist / 
Til it was beating" 
and the heartbreaking "Tourist In Your Town" which ended the main set. McBean was, of course, back out for an encore of a couple more, the haunting "Vampire" and "Can You Do That Dance?" ending off the night with another high energy song.

When he first came out alone, I was a bit trepidation, but I should have known better to question Steve McBean. It ended up being a strong show, and I can only hope that this means more Pink Mountaintops is on its way soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wil @ Media Club -- 12/14/12

It was eight years ago that I went to see Wide Mouth Mason at the Commodore Ballroom, and was transfixed by the opening act, an acoustic roots-rocker who simply went by the name of Wil. I've seen him at least a dozen times since, and I am continually impressed, each time I see him play.

Unfortunately I missed the opening act Ryan McMahon. There were conflicting reports on show times before the night, and I got there thinking I was just in time to see him, but it turns out he had just finished his set. 

It wasn't long after I arrived that Wil took the stage, joined only by Kevin Haughton on drums, at the sold out Media Club, visibly appreciative of the support. You can always tell when an artist is going through the motions thanking the crowd and when they are genuinely touched, and Wil was definitely the latter. His roots-rock sound and rough, soulful voice filled the room, the raw emotion pouring out and his passion for playing immediately apparent, as he candidly hoped for the opportunity to continue playing for many years to come. 

Wil opened the first set of the night with "Rain On" and after a few songs, he went off the setlist and started soliciting requests from the crowd, playing a few older songs, "Mama" and "Dance With The Devil". He also lived up to his "I Break Strings" moniker snapping a string during "Tell You Twice". And as many strings as I've seen him break, he never seems to be trying to do it to live up to a gimmick, but rather just from the sheer intensity of his playing -- his hands are often a blur flying across the body of the guitar. 
And the strings aren't wasted; his wife takes the discarded strings and makes jewelry from them, selling them online and at shows.

After about an hour, Wil ended the first half of the night with a crowd favourite (and mine) "Honey Pie", an incredibly catchy and fast paced, slide guitar driven song. He was back out soon after for the second half of the night, kicking off with the building energy of "Cooder Mountain" and playing a few more songs, including the darker "The Deal" and wrapping up the night with another amazing showcase of his quick hands on the guitar with a song I didn't catch the name of. 

As if it isn't already apparent, Wil is one of my favourite performers to watch live, and as long as he keeps playing shows, I will always be there. 

Rain On, Gold, Hold Me On, Both Hands, Wedding Dress, Roam, Mama, Dance With The Devil, Tell You Twice, Honey Pie.
Cooder Mountain, Always With Love, Hey Now, The Deal, [mystery song].

Saturday, December 15, 2012

String Fling w/ Four on the Floor String Quartet @ Rio Theatre -- 12/13/12

Even if you don't know them by name, there's a good chance you've seen some members of the Four on the Floor String Quartet playing live. As a group or individually, they've been a part of the Vancouver music scene for a while, playing with local artists like Adaline, The Belle Game, Kyprios, The Matinee, and many others, as well as having members of the quartet taking place in every Peak Performance Project as a part of various backing bands.
But they've decided to step into the spotlight and put on the first (of what I hope is many) String Fling, which saw members Hannah Epperson, Michelle Faehrmann, Tony Kastelic and Dougal McLean inviting some local acts to the Rio Theatre to play some of their own songs, with string accompaniment. And as someone who has always had a soft spot for strings in music, I was definitely interested to see how they came together with some of Vancouver's finest.

The show was broken into two halves, with each the performers playing a few songs and a steady flow of music with Four on the Floor performing between acts, with songs from their members or spoken word poetry over top of some strings arrangements. They opened the show with a songs before being joined by the first performer of the night, Ali Milner. With her gorgeous voice and jazzy piano, the strings blended really well with upbeat songs like the catchy "Waiting" and the dynamic "Fly".

After a spoken word interlude, they showcased a couple of their own solo projects, first Dougal Bain McLean with a could laid back, singer-songwriter-type songs, followed by the looping violin and lovely voice of Hannah Epperson, joined by Ajay Bhattacharyya on a drum machine for the aptly named "We Will Host A Party".

Ajay stayed on stage, joined by his bandmate Amy Kirkpatrick as Data Romance was up next. There was a bit of technical difficulties before they started, but Hannah covered fairly smoothly and they soon launched into their dark and moody, synth-infused electronic vibes. They played a couple new songs, teasing a new album in February, but I think they meshed with the string quartet least well -- which isn't to say it was bad in the slightest, just a clash of styles. That is, until their last song which was a bit more low key with Amy's ethereal voice soaring with the strings to close out the first half of the show.

After a short break, the second half opened with a spoken word piece from the quartet before Dominique Fricot took the stage. He is definitely no stranger to playing with Four on the Floor -- they helped him land third place in this year's Peak Performance Project -- and so he meshed the best with the quartet of all the performers. The acerbically charming Fricot talked and joked with the crowd, taking advantage of their relaxed atmosphere to play a couple slower, quieter songs from his repertoire, including the title track to his recent EP If Baby Could Walk. 

The next interlude, featured another spoken word piece, this time it segueing into the quartet playing the epic Game of Thrones theme, which was as fantastic as it sounds.

Of all the acts of the night, I was most interested to see how Shaun Verreault's bluesy sound mixed with the strings, and he introduced his first song as one least likely to be backed by a string quartet; Wide Mouth Mason's "Love Not Loving You". Originally a raw, distorted blues-rock song, it was turned into an absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking number that ended up being my favourite of the night. His next couple songs were from his own solo albums, both a little more suited for the strings accompaniment, giving his amazing guitar playing and powerful voice an extra kick.

After one last Four on the Floor interlude, The Gay Nineties hit the stage to close out the night with their energetic and infectious rock. The first song had guest vocals from the powerful Colleen Rennison of No Sinner, and their raw energy was enough to get people up and dancing at the front of the stage. They sounded pretty much exactly like themselves, but with the addition of strings, which wasn't a bad thing at all, and they were definitely a good choice in closing out the night.

The pacing of the show was fantastic, with it never dragging on or seeming long, and for the most part everything ran like clockwork. It was a great night of music with a fantastic premise, and at the end of the show, they hinted at already planning a second one, and I already can't wait to see who Four on the Floor will be collaborating with for another.