Monday, June 24, 2013

Northcote w/ The Cracking @ Biltmore -- 06/22/13

It's not easy touring across Canada at the best of times, but as Victoria's Northcote came to Vancouver, they were probably glad this particular tour was coming to an end. Not only did they have to contend with the Alberta floods, but they rolled their van into a ditch on the 401 in Ontario, totalling the vehicle and damaging some of their equipment. Luckily, the four band members were all right, and while they still had to cancel a few shows, fortunately their show at the Biltmore Cabaret was not one of them.

I missed the first band of the night, Library, getting there just before The Crackling took the stage.
Fronted by Kenton Loewen, the Vancouver band is sometimes touted as "Dan Mangan's band", since not only does he play drums for Dan, but guitar virtuoso Gord Grdina plays in both, as well as keyboardist Tyson Naylor.

They started off the set with "Ashen" from the new album Mary Madeline, and played a short set of whiskey-soaked folk songs, many of which start off soft before building to a powerful ending. Kenton's vocals range from gruff and powerful to soft and haunting -- sometimes in the same song -- and Grdina gets to cut loose more, showing off his amazing talent.

The songs are filled with intensity which was proven when, during the second song of the set, both Kenton and Gord broke strings on their respective guitars. The intensity was also apparent in the raw emotion in Kenton's voice during the last couple songs of the set; "Keep Me Drunk", which also had Kenton pull of the feat of getting most of the chatty crowd to sing along to the chorus, and the rare self-titled song, "The Crackling" which brought the set to a climactic ending. 

The set had more than its fair share of technical problems, but Kenton covered nicely, his dry humour and sometimes acerbic stage banter filled the gaps between songs. They may get called "Dan Mangan's band" for now, but I doubt they will be for long.

Not long after that, Northcote hit the stage, a folk singer/songwriter with a definite rock & roll vibe. They started off the set with the first few songs off the new self-titled album, "How Can You Turn Around" kicking things off with a bang. A lot of the songs had the same fist-pumping energy, with not too much variation to them, but frontman Matt Goud's captivating voice and Blake Enemark's guitar skills (throwing a few psychedelic endings into a couple songs) drove the high energy and fun show.
"Burn Right Past Them All" started softer and burst into an Jack & Diane-esque nostalgic anthem, and the frantic pace of "A Thousand Nights" were a couple of the highlights.

Midway through the set, the band left the stage for Goud to do a couple songs solo, but after one song, Goud broke his rented guitar and the set ground to a halt. He jumped off stage to give the guitar to his bandmates backstage and it seemed like he had to play a few more on his own than he had planned. Goud did a great job covering, with a few slower, heartfelt songs, and the band was back out to pick the set back up for the end, but the set did lose a bit of its momentum.

But they did pick the energy right back up for the last few songs, ending with "Drive Me Home", for what was ultimately a strong, and fun, set. Add that to The Crackling's strong set, and it was a great -- if a little problematic -- night of music.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

!!! (Chk Chk Chk) @ Fortune -- 06/04/13

I've been lucky enough, in the last few years, to whittle down my List Of Bands I Need To See Live. And as the list shrank, one band rose to the top: the California dance-punk band !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk). I had heard nothing but good things, so when they announced they were coming back through town to promote their newest album, THRI!!!ER, I knew I couldn't miss it.
They were also playing a venue that I had somehow not been to before, Fortune Sound Club, which I was also interested in checking out for the first time.

The opening band was White Arrows, also from California. They had a dancey-rock sound, definitely appropriate to lead into !!!, but a lot of their songs had a bit of the same sound to them.
About mid-way through their set, they introduced one song -- perhaps redundantly -- as their "dance number", while the lead singer put on an electric blue wig and another member ran through the crowd, grabbing people to fill the empty gap at the front of the stage. I didn't catch the name of it, but it stuck out as one of the better ones, as well as one called "Fireworks of the Sea", which came at the end of the set, another bombastic dance-inducing tune. 
Ultimately they were not at all bad, but nothing that really made me want to hear more immediately. But they were fun in the moment, and sometimes that's all that matters. 

It wasn't long then before !!! came out, and from the moment they took the stage, singer Nic Offer was at the front with dance moves that would make anyone jealous. Throughout the entire show, he hardly stood still for a moment, strutting back and forth across the stage, hips thrusting & arms waving, with an unmatched energy and zest. Several times he was in the faces of the front row, getting them to sing along, and even jumping into the crowd to sing, going as far back to dance atop the bar. 
His obvious enthusiasm shone through with a big grin on his face between songs, and that was definitely infectious, as the crowd was going nuts, dancing and jumping along with wild abandon. Even the most uncoordinated bloggers people couldn't help but bop along.

But while Nic was definitely the most energetic, and the focal point, the band was definitely on top of their game, too. They started off with "Get That Rhythm Right" from their new album THRI!!!ER, and just kept ramping up the energy from there. An older song, the frantic "All My Heroes Are Weirdos" had the crowd moving, and the defiant "Californiyeah" rallied people with one of my favourite lyrics of the year so far: "Why would I live somewhere where the bars close at 2? That ain't right, that ain't right"

They suffered from some technical difficulties about half way through, and after trying for a couple minutes to fix it -- while Nic covered for it expertly, joking "this is why we're a dance-punk band, not a dance-rock band!" -- they decided not to lose any more momentum and go right into the next song. Some other highlights from the set included the funky "Slyd", the sexy "Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass", and the groovy "Heart of Hearts" which ended the main set. But of course, they came out for the requisite encore, Nic apologizing a little for some of the technical mistakes throughout the set before vowing to make up for it, as they launched into "Must Be The Moon" and ended with an older tune, "Yadnus" which ended the night off with one hell of a bang. 

I had heard quite a bit of hype before the show, and I would have to say they not only lived up to the hype, but surpassed it. It was one of the most purely fun shows I have been to all year, and I already can't wait to see them again.

Get That Rhythm Right; All My Heroes Are Weirdos; Jack Ruby; Californiyeah; Even When The Water's Cold; One Girl/One Boy; Except Death; Slyd; Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass; Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard; Heart of Hearts.
(encore) Must Be the Moon; Yadnus.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rykka @ Fan Club -- 06/01/13

First time I saw Rykka was a few years back; she was a part of the Peak Performance Project under her own name, Christina Maria. Since then she's eschewed the folk-pop, re-branded herself as Rykka, and embraced a dark, electro-pop sound. Splitting her time between Vancouver and Switzerland, she's ready to release her first album as Rykka, called Kodiak, and celebrate with a show at the Vancouver Fan Club.
This was also the first proper show I had seen at Fan Club, still a fairly new venue, and I was more or less impressed with the place.

Starting off the night was Rococode -- or more accurately, one half of Rococode. Andrew Braun promised some slow jams as he & Laura Smith took the stage, Braun on guitar and Smith on keys, their voices harmonizing and intertwining excellently.
They played a short set, a bit toned down and relaxed, but no less catchy. The usually punchy songs like "Empire" & "Blood" were more melodic, and the new songs they included sounded promising; I'll be interested to hear them with the full band.

Next up was Ryan Guldemond doing a solo set. The Mother Mother frontman has worked with both Rococode and Rykka, producing and playing on the new album, so he seemed a natural to support the show. His solo songs sounded much like you'd expect the Mother Mother member to sound -- catchy tunes with sharp lyrics -- but with more of a bluesy riff in the mix, giving Ryan an excellent chance to show off his great guitar chops.
Highlights included a brand new song called "Cut the String" and "I Go Hungry" as Ryan effortlessly went from songs full of literary references to love songs with a bit of a sinister undertone. He even threw in a newer Mother Mother song, "Happy", from their most recent album, The Sticks.

The curfewed show ran like clockwork and it wasn't long before Rykka hit the stage in a homemade outfit -- bodysuit with strategically placed spikes to give her a bit of a Mad Max look -- with a band that included some familiar faces to the Vancouver music scene, including Andrew Braun pulling double duty for the night on keys.
They started off the set with the album's opener, "With Love In Woe", and right from the get-go, Rykka's incredible energy and stage presence shone through. Her powerful voice carried songs like "The Brink" and her intensity giving weight to songs like "Showdown Lover". Other highlights included "Shotgun" and "Map Inside", both incredibly catchy songs.
The set included most of Kodiak, a few new songs, and even a cover of Whale Tooth's "Wolves" to wrap up the main set. But of course, Rykka was back out moments later for the encore, first joined only by Ryan Guldemond for a soft and beautiful song, "The Mirror", Ryan on guitar and their voices blending fantastically. The rest of the band then joined them the the last song of the night, definitely going out with a bang with probably the most high energy of the night, "Electric"

When I saw her perform as Christina Maria, I was quite impressed. She was confident and energetic on stage, and that's only been amplified in the few years since.
Vancouver has a wealth of musical talent, as this night was a perfect showcase of that.