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.

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