Monday, February 25, 2013

Bend Sinister w/ Dominique Fricot @ Performance Works -- 02/23/13

For eight years now, Vancouver Coastal Jazz has been putting on the Winterruption festival on Granville Island, a celebration filled with food and performance and arts and dance and music. This year, one of the featured shows was one of the first Vancouver "indie" bands I got into, Bend Sinister. And joining them was another Peak Performance Project veteran.

Performance Works was busy early as just as many people were there to see Dominique Fricot, who had an all star band of of familiar faces backing him up: Hilary Grist on backup vocals (and keys for a couple songs), Mike Young on bass, Niko Friesen on drums, and members of the Four on the Floor String Quartet for a few songs.

With a full band, Dom's singer/songwriter sound was rich and grandiose, especially the few songs that included strings. He played some familiar, like the catchy "Burn And Start Over" as well as a few new songs throughout the set, including one called "Mother's Day", a funky and soulful tune.

At the end of the set we got the rare opening-act-encore as Dom came back for one last song, joined by his string section for the title track to his latest EP If Baby Could Walk. 

Fricot is full of charisma and charm on stage, with a good sense of humour when bantering with the crowd, and his songs are full of emotion. But while he is definitely talented, I still think he just needs a bit more of an edge -- some extra kick -- to really set him apart.

Seashore, Those Eyes, Burn and Start Over, Mother's Day, East Coast Girls, Time is Limited, Haunted by Love, Strange Lady, Our Last Song, Out of the Scenery.
(encore) If Baby Could Walk.

It wasn't long after that when the night was kicked into high gear, with the psychedelic prog-rock-pop of Bend Sinister as they exploded with energy right off the bat with "She Don't Give it Up", the first song from the new album Small Fame. They hardly let up throughout the set with great intensity from all four members; Dan Moxon is a monster on the keys, and he was flanked by guitarist Joseph Blood and Matt Rhode on bass, both of which had rock star energy with their power stances, standing on or straddling the amps, and engaging the crowd to join in.

Highlights from the set included Jason Dana's insane drumming on "CT", the anthemic and uplifting "Things Will Get Better", and the great combo of "Hot Blooded Man" and "Black Magic Woman", an explosive rocker followed by a more sultry jam, complimenting each other perfectly.

After a cover of Billie Joel's "Movin Out" before ending the main set with the older favourite "Time Breaks Down". But of course, they were back out for a few more, including their regular cover of Supertramp's "The Logical Song" -- a band who they've drawn comparisons to -- and finishing it off with the huge and epic "Quest For Love", Moxon's showing off the raw power of his voice for a perfect ending to the set.

As mentioned above, Bend Sinister is one of the first local bands I really got into, and they still remain a favourite. Their songs are amazingly catchy and there are not many other bands that can match their energy and intensity on stage.

She Don't Give it Up, Man of Faith and Virtue, CT, Jimmy Brown, Got You On My Mind, One Shot, Don't You Know, Don't Let Us Bring You Down, Things Will Get Better, Dr. Lee, Hot Blooded Man, Black Magic Woman, Movin Out [Billie Joel cover], Time Breaks Down.
(encore) We Know Better, The Logical Song [Supertramp cover], Quest for Love. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Toque Sessions: Odds @ CBC Vancouver -- 02/21/13

Now in their fourth year, the CBC Toque Sessions is a series of free shows at the CBC Vancouver building, featuring some great local talent, and recorded for later broadcast on CBC Radio 2 and CBC Music.

Celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, Vancouver's own Odds took to the stage in Studio 1 on the eve of the release of their new EP.

The set had a bit of a false start -- after they kicked off with "It Falls Apart" they had to pause for a moment to figure out some power issues -- but they were right back into it with "Make You Mad" and a couple other older songs before debuting the new EP, The Most Beautiful Place On Earth. 
The first of three planned releases this year, the new songs proved they haven't lost a step; amazingly catchy power-pop-rock with clever lyrics and a little bit of darkness hidden behind sweet melodies. The title track, poking fun at BC's licence plate motto a little, and the slightly cynical but rocking "Took A Long Time (To Get To I Don't Care)" were a highlights from the five new songs. 

Craig Northey, Doug Elliott, Pat Steward, and Murray Atkinson all had a great stage presence, the four members chiming in with jokes and stories between songs, and a fun energy while playing. Aside from the solid harmonies on songs like "Satisfied", on a couple songs Craig handed off lead vocals, with Murray singing "Eat My Brain" and Doug taking over on "The Truth Untold".

They ended the set with the infinitely catchy favourite "Someone Who Is Cool", but didn't even have a chance to leave the stage before the encore. After some more joking around, they replayed "It Falls Apart", due to it not being recorded earlier and finished off with a couple older tunes, capping off the evening with "Fingerprints" from their second album Bedbugs.

They are a really fun band and put on a great live show, as you might expect from a veteran band, but it was made even more impressive when they admitted Craig was just getting over laryngitis -- though it was hardly noticeable, mostly just when he was chatting between songs. They did tease more new material this year and I, for one, am definitely looking forward to it, and hope they do some more touring as well.

It Falls Apart, Make You Mad, Satisfied, Write It In Lightning, Anything You Want, Most Beautiful Place On Earth, High, Took A Long Time (To Get To I Don't Care), Cardboard Box of Dust, Nothing Beautiful, Not A Lot Going OnMercy To Go, Eat My Brains, Someone Who Is Cool.
(encore) It Falls Apart, The Truth Untold, Fingerprints.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jeremy Fisher @ Electric Owl -- 02/16/13

It was a busy night in Vancouver last night, concert-wise, but there was only one I had my eye on: Jeremy Fisher at the Electric Owl. It's been a while since Fisher was last in town, and the was the last stop on a short West Coast tour in support of his latest album, Mint Julep.

Vancouver's own Hilary Grist opened the show, but unfortunately I arrived too late, getting to the packed venue moments before Jeremy Fisher took the stage. Armed with just an acoustic guitar, and occasionally a harmonica, Fisher mentioned early on that the setlist was curated from requests taken earlier that day on his Facebook page -- and even a couple songs yelled at him mid-set -- so it consisted of songs new and old, and a few he had rarely played live.

He started with "On My Mind", his most recent single, and went for a little over an hour, playing old hits like "Cigarette" and "Shine A Light", which had the captivated crowd singing and clapping along, and more new songs, like "Tetris Song", a love song that borders between sweet and corny (in a good way).

Other highlights of the set were the ridiculously catchy "Scar That Never Heals" and a "dead bride wedding song", as Jeremy introduced it, called "The Bride is Dead", which is exactly what the title implies. It is a sad & darkly hilarious song, and while it's not yet recorded, I've seen him play it live a few times, and it may be one of my favourite songs of his.

He wrapped up the main set with "High School", eliciting a huge ovation, and came back with time for one more before the curfew; a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" with Hilary Grist helping out on vocals, and the crowd singing along to the "lie la lie" chorus.

Fisher is a fantastic live performer; he talks and jokes with the crowd (sometimes individually) and effortlessly weaves stories into the songs themselves, whether they're directly related to the song or random non-sequiturs. Few artists have that ability to totally engage the crowd like he does -- especially if it's just a guy with a guitar on stage -- and even if it's venue brimming with people, he makes it seem like an intimate show in someone's living room.

On My Mind, Shine A Little Light, Laissez Faire, Scar That Never Heals, Left Behind, The Bride Is Dead, Remind Me, Cigarette, Ain't Got Nothin' But Plenty Of Time, Built To Last, Tetris Song, Canned Goods, Sula, Lay Down (Ballad Of Rigoberto Alpizar), Lemon Meringue Pie, High School.
(encore) The Boxer [Simon & Garfunkel cover].

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Toque Sessions: We Are The City @ CBC Vancouver -- 02/15/13

Now in their fourth year, the CBC Toque Sessions is a series of free shows at the CBC Vancouver building, featuring some great local talent, and recorded for later broadcast on CBC Radio 2 and CBC Music.

One of the Sessions I was most looking forward to this season was We Are The City. Andy, Cayne, and David (back after a brief sabbatical front the band) have just put the finishing touches on their new album, and they decided to debut it for the crowd in Studio 1 of CBC Vancouver. Rolling out the new album front-to-back, it was the first time most of these songs were being performed for an audience.

Bursting to life with a chaotic cacophony of drums, the album was far more rich and layered than you would expect from just three musicians, with the intricate songs ranging from soft and slow to energetic and rocking -- sometimes even within the same song. It was as far a leap ahead of the High School EP as that was from their debut, In A Quiet World.

Some songs that stood out were a spacey and nostalgic (lyrically, not musically) song possibly called "Home Videos" and another possibly called "Shooting Star" which saw Cayne on a grand piano. But the last couple songs were my favourites; first "Baptism" which wove from great three part harmonies to dense and breathtaking guitar riffs, and then the final song, "Punch My Face" which starts with just Cayne on the piano -- absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking -- before building to an intense wall of sound to close out the album.

For the most part, the band stuck to playing, but they paused a couple times to chat with the crowd. In true WATC fashion, they rambled on entertainingly, interrupting and interjecting into each others stories. Their banter has never felt like practiced "stage banter", rather a couple friends just telling stories and joking around, making you feel that these are a bunch of guys you want to hang around and talk to about celebrity spottings or Community.

The first time I saw them a few years ago I was impressed, and they've only grown exponentially. If this performance was any indication (and why wouldn't it be?) their new album is going to be incredible, and it is definitely one of my most anticipated albums of the spring.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shred Kelly @ Railway -- 02/13/13

This past spring I had the pleasure of taking a cross country train ride, from Vancouver to Toronto, with a handful of bands, as part of Tracks on Tracks. Of the many great things to come of that trip, one of them was my discovery of Shred Kelly from Fernie BC. They were one of the three bands voted on the train by the listeners of CBC Radio 3, and  from their first night on the train, I was instantly won over by their unique brand of "Stoke Folk". So I was glad to have caught them in the middle of their short Western Canadian tour for their new album, In The Hills -- especially since I hadn't seen them live since the train experience.

I arrived at the Railway just as Carolyn Butula was starting, the first band of the night. Carolyn is most commonly known as part of So Charlotte Spun a Web, but was doing a solo show, backed only by a guy on ukulele. She had a nice voice, and her songs were all right -- one or two maybe being a little cheesy or unoriginal -- but there wasn't much to distinguish her from the myriad of other folk/singer-songwriters.

It wasn't long after that the five members of Shred Kelly filled the small stage of the Railway, and it was immediately apparent that the venue was too small for them; both size-wise and sound-wise. They burst out of the gates with the lead track to In The Hills, "New Black", showcasing co-lead-singer Tim Newton's incredible banjo skills; and it wasn't long before the beautiful voice of the other lead singer, keyboardist Sage McBride, was showcased on "Leaving Town".

They kept up the incredible energy and pace on songs like the anthem for job dissatisfaction "I Hate Work" and "The Cold", a chaotic and gritty number. The upbeat and rollicking "Time is Passing" segued into one of the softer songs of the night, the gorgeous "Rowed Away", driven by Sage's strong vocals, and they invited people to waltz for "Fossils & Tin", which starts slow, growing to a grandiose ending.
After about an hour, they brought the set to an end with "Tornado Alley", a song that matches the intensity of the titular storm, Tim's fingers a blur flying over the banjo strings, as it building to a frantic and crashing finale, perfect for the ending of a set.

Going into the show, a small part of me was afraid that my infatuation with the band -- especially their live show -- was part of my glamourising the memories of Tracks on Tracks. But they were even better than I remembered, and proved to a packed Railway Club that they have no intention of slowing down.

New Black, Cabin Fever, Leaving Town, Ghost Inside My Head, I Hate Work, Time is Passing, Rowed Away, White River, Fossils & Tin, The Cold, The Bear, Tornado Alley.

Monday, February 11, 2013

beekeeper EP release @ Biltmore -- 02/09/13

One thing I really enjoy is watching new or young bands grow and evolve as they go.
The first time I saw beekeeper, I certainly didn't dislike them; Devon Lougheed and Luke Cyca had a great energy and obvious passion, but they were a bit... all over the place.
However, in the last couple years they have been joined by Brandi Sidoryk (the brains behind Sidney York) on bass, have a few tours under their collective belts, and have been through the latest Peak Performance Project. And having seen them a few times since that initial show, I can say all that has definitely helped them tighten up as a band and become a bit more focused -- or as focused as beekeeper can be.
That work and improvement definitely shows in their latest EP, Shout At People, the release of which they were celebrating at the Biltmore.

Kicking off the night was The SSRIs, who were definitely a good fit to be opening the show. With a loud and frantic rock sound that was a little psychedelic, a little noise-pop, they started the night off with a bang. They were high energy, if a little too chaotic or schizophrenic at times, but they seemed to grab the growing crowd's attention with their set.

Second up on the night was Young Liars with a ubiquitous synth-pop sound that seems to be popular in the local scene right now. I have seen them a few times before, opening for other bands, and their sets have always struck me as just "okay". Many of the songs blend together, and they don't have much of a stage presence, but I don't necessarily think it was bad. The upbeat pop got lots of people into it and moving, and they put on a decent -- if forgettable -- show.

And finally, as a pre-recorded "phone message" filled the room, beekeeper took the stage and launched into "Table and Bed" from their debut album BE KEPT. They started strong and hardly let up for a set full of frantic, poppy math-rock full of mid-song-changes in time signature, key and tempo. You never know where any given beekeeper song is going to go once it starts -- for example, one of my favourites of the night (and off the new EP) was "Oh Hi!" which starts off as a rock song, but takes a left turn with a country breakdown, and even includes a kazoo solo.

Other highlights of the set were "Drownings" which was the most sincere and calm moment of the night, with just Devon on guitar and Brandi & Luke coming to the front of the stage to sing backups; "Pinwheel Revolution" which, for a brief moment, took advantage of Brandi's opera background; the awesomely titled "I Don't Need Hope, I Need Whiskey"; and the "Classic Canadian Cover" they learned for the Peak Performance Project where they tease a bit of Rush, but then swerve into Alanis Morissette's "You Learn", Brandi and Devon sharing vocals for an interesting and cool version of the song.

The aforementioned energy and passion has multiplied exponentially, and the trio has great chemistry -- Luke and Devon both occasionally back up Sidney York, so they are no strangers to sharing the stage -- and Devon isn't shy of chatting with the crowd, giving shout outs, continually asking if everyone wanted to "do something weird", and inviting everyone up for their now-traditional "family photo", the stage packed with fans who danced their way through the last song, "Believe, Believe".

beekeeper may not be for everyone -- their songs are anything but traditional and many can definitely be called "weird" -- but you can't deny the talent of the three musicians and the enthusiasm they pour into the band, and you can't help but be stung by the amount of fun they have on stage.

Table & Bed; Good News; Sudden Cuckoo; You Learn [Alanis Morissette cover]; Oh Hi!; It's The Blood; Pets Eat Their Masters; Drownings; Pinwheel Revolution; I Don't Need Hope, I Need Whiskey; Believe, Believe.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Toque Sessions: The Matinée @ CBC Vancouver -- 02/01/13

Now in their fourth year, the CBC Toque Sessions is a series of free shows at the CBC Vancouver building, featuring some great local talent, and recorded for later broadcast on CBC Radio 2 and On Demand.

There have already been a few so far, but the first one I attended this season was The Matinée, which is pretty darn good way to kick the series off.

Playing down in Studio 1, it was a seated event which made for a bit more of a relaxed, laid back atmosphere for the band, and they were able to play some lighter songs that they may not have worked as well in a noisy venue. They started the set with one such song, "The Sinking Of The Greenhill Park", but they didn't keep the whole set mellow, breaking out out their anthemic single "Young & Lazy" early on, and they had the crowd clapping and stomping along to songs like "Sweetwater" and the drum breakdown in "The Road", which ended the set.

They previewed almost the entirety of their upcoming album, We Swore We'd See The Sunrise, which is out later this month, with songs like "Who Stoned the Roses" and "This Town" being among the highlights; the former showing off the band's harmonies, and latter their encore song which built up to an explosive and intense ending.

As usual, there was a great energy from the band. Lead singer Matt Layzell has fantastic charisma, but also the ability to melt into the background and give focus to the rest of the band, be it Pete Lemon's drumming,  Geoff Petrie breaking guitar strings, Mike Young who was simultaneously playing bass and keys at one point, or Matt Rose's guitar shredding.

The show was a great teaser for the album, which has been one of my most anticipated albums for the beginning of the year, and I can't wait to hear it.

The Toque Session are running throughout the month, and there are some great looking shows: a Light Organ Records showcase, Jill Barber, We Are The City (playing their new album front-to-back), Odds, a beekeeper + Sidney York mashup, and Dear Rouge. They are all "fully booked", but there is always a rush line, so if you show up early enough there is a good show (but no guarantee) you'll get in.

The Sinking Of The Greenhill Park, Let Her Go, Young & Lazy, L’Absinthe, On Our Own, Losers, Let it Ride [Ryan Adams cover], Sweetwater, Who Stoned The Roses, December Slumber, The Road.
(encore) This Town