Saturday, November 30, 2013

Matthew Good @ Orpheum -- 11/28/13

I've said it before (more than once) but one of my favourite artists, for many years now, is Matthew Good. And I have been able to see him live at least once a year for the last six years or so; from huge, outdoor events to intimate acoustic shows.
Promoting his newest release, Arrows of Desire -- which is raw, rocking album recorded live-off-the-floor -- Matthew Good finished off the tour with a hometown show, at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre.

Opening the show was Gentleman Husbands. it was the first time in Vancouver for the Ontario four piece, and their rootsy-rock type stuff that wasn't quite good enough to like, but neither bad enough to be snarky about.
They had some catchy songs, but a lot of them ended up bleeding together and sounding alike, even the partial cover of The Wallflowers' "Difference" that the slipped into a song. For an opening band, it was Perfectly Acceptable Music and they had an obvious passion for what they were doing.

Soon after, at 9:30 sharp, Matthew Good took the stage. His band coming out first and launching into the opening notes of "Garden of Knives" from the new album before Good came on and stepped up to the mic. The nearly two-hour set focused on the new album, but reached back through his long career, hitting songs from his solo and Matthew Good Band days.

Older hits like "Everything is Automatic" and "Load Me Up" got the entire theatre on their feet and singing & clapping along, as Good poured all his energy into the set. His voice going from rough & gritty, to soft, to soaring -- sometimes within the same song -- and was always full of passion and emotion.

Good eschewed his usual dry and humourous banter, due to the show being curfewed and wanting to play as much music as possible, but did joke around a few times between songs, including spontaneously launching in to a cover of "Walk Hard" from the John C. Reilly movie of the same name.

Other highlights included the beautiful "While We Were Hunting Rabbits" from Avalanche, which was transformed from a symphonic, strings-filled number to an almost alt-country number that soared; the vicious & frantic "Via Dolorosa" finished with a huge swirling of guitars & pounding of drums; and "Shallow's Low", which starting dark and moody before exploding into a chaotic climax.

It's also worth noting the lighting, which is rarely gets its own spotlight; little touches really added to the experience, like when various members had solos, they were illuminated as the rest of the stage dark; and in one of the neatest stage lighting things I've seen in a while, the lights rapidly illuminated each individual drum as it was struck during one of the drummer's solos.

The main set wrapped up with the haunting "Letters in Wartime" the final track on the new album, before the obligatory encore. The band returning to stage with the familiar cheer piping through the theatre, and launching into "Giant", followed by another pair of huge singalongs, "Hello, Time Bomb" and "Apparitions".
They finally ended the night, and the tour, with the epic "Champions of Nothing", as Good thanked his band, his crew, and especially everyone for showing up.

Garden of Knives, Last Parade, Load Me Up, Arrows of Desire, Non Populus, Born Losers, So Close, Everything is Automatic, Shallow's Low, While We Were Hunting Rabbits, Walk Hard [Dewey Cox cover], Had It Coming, We're Long Gone, Weapon, Alert Status Red, Via Dolorosa, Letters in Wartime.
(encore) Giant, Hello Time Bomb, Apparitions, Champions of Nothing. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fourteen: Famous People

Hey look, it's another episode of 3am Revelations' very own podcast!

Each week on 3am Mixtapes, I will present to you, in my dulcet tones, the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like Top Six Drinking Songsor they can be as obscure and specific as Top Six Songs to Help Nurse a Hangover.

This week we take a look at songs written about people. Songs written about particular people. Songs written about, for, or in relation to specific people. The Top Six Songs Named for Famous People!
Whether they're about the person, written with them as a backdrop, or not about them at all, these are all songs named after people you might have heard of.

Featured on this week's podcast is:

"The National" by Hannah Georgas
"Meg White" by Ray Lamontagne
"Harrison Ford" by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
"John Lennon" by Arkells
"Daft Punk is Playing at My House" by LCD Soundsystem
"What Would Jay-Z Do?" by Ben Lee

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Peak Performance Project Finale @ Commodore -- 11/21/13

It was a night that would change the lives of three bands. It was, of course, the Peak Performance Project finale concert, with over $227,000 in money being awarded; $102,700 for first place, $75,000 for second and $50,000 for third. The three bands vying for the prize were Hannah Epperson, Rykka, and BESTiE, picked as the top three from the twenty bands competing in this fifth year of the promotion. All twenty bands took part in a week long rock & roll bootcamp, and were judged on their showcase at Fortune, a business report, online voting, and a few other challenges and projects.
Everything had been tallied up and the placement determined long before the show, but the finale was a chance for the top three to show off at one of the best and most revered venues in town, the Commodore Ballroom.

This year was probably my favourite top three since the very first year, with both Epperson and Rykka being my top two picks from the very start. While other years I have been somewhat... disappointed in the top three or the winners, this year I was looking forward to the whole show.

The night started with Hannah Epperson, taking the stage alone with her violin, barefoot, and hardly able to contain the smile on her face. She launched into a couple instrumental songs showing off her incredible talent and making great use of the looping pedal.
She added her soft vocals, fitting the beautiful "Murder of Crows" perfectly, and after a few songs was joined by the drum pad, adding a sexy bassy dancey vibe to "Shadowless". Near the end of the set, she dedicated a song to her brother who could not be there, and asked everybody to hug the person next to them, getting a video of the hugging crowd.
The set came to an end with the apocalyptic "Host a Party" before she invited the boys in Oh No! Yoko to come out and perform their bootcamp collaboration, "Soft Shoulder".
I admit, even though she was my favourite, I never thought a solo violin looper would make the top three of the Peak Performance Project; but Hannah's incredible talent broke that barrier, and that was one instance where I was thrilled to be proven wrong.

Up next was Rykka, coming out in an outfit that can only be described as The Road Warrior meets Cher (in the best way) very fitting of her dark, synthy electro-rock sound. The band exploded out of the gate with the first song, "Map Inside", and from the first song, Rykka hardly stood still on stage. She danced and bobbed back and forth, exuding energy.
Playing mostly from her recent album, Kodiak -- in which all of the songs are written from the perspective of various animals -- Rykka also threw in a couple new songs. Part way through the set she was joined by friend and producer of her record, Ryan Guldemond to play guitar for a couple songs, including the driving and intense "Down in the Depths".
She brought the tone down for a moment, with the softer "Grassland" before getting it right back up for "Shotgun", and ended with the aptly titled "Electric", getting Ryan back out once more, and the sold out crowd clapping along.

And finally, BESTiE took the stage to round out the night, and end off the fifth year of the project. Admittedly, they were not among my initial choices for the top three, and while there isn't a lot of variation in their songs, they put on a really fun live show. With beach balls (and later an inflatable palm tree) thrown into the audience, songs like the upbeat "Pineapple" got the crowd grooving to their fun tropical pop-rock, the band's energy infectious.
They brought a horn section out for a few songs, including the classic Canadian cover they learned for the project, a pretty solid version of The Payola$' "Eyes of a Stranger", and invited Rykka back out on stage to play their Bootcamp collaboration, "Together", before ending off the night by upping the energy even more with "Sriracha", joined by hula dancers on stage.

Fun way to end the show, but of course the night was not done; there was still the unveiling of the top three and the awarding of the giant novelty cheques. Third place went to BESTiE, second place to Hannah Epperson, and the winner of $102,700 to put towards her career, was Rykka. An outcome that I was very satisfied with.

Major kudos is deserved to both The Peak and Music BC and all the people involved in this incredible yearly contest, especially for their support and nurturing of local music. I hope the bands involved go on to keep doing what they're doing, and I hope The Peak continues to support them, even (or especially) the ones that didn't make the top five.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Phildel @ CBC Vancouver Studio 700 -- 11/18/13

One of my favourite musical discoveries this year came from the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. On the last day, I went to see a workshop with Justin Rutledge, Del Barber, Cold Specks, and a singer from the UK that I had never heard of, Phildel. Her handful of stripped down songs impressed me so much that I immediately picked up her album, The Disappearance Of The Girl, and it has been in heavy rotation ever since.
I was sad to have missed her actual performances that weekend, so when the Folk Fest announced they would be presenting a show in Studio 700 at CBC Vancouver with her headlining, I knew I couldn't miss it.

As an added bonus, opening up the show was Vancouver's own Jasper Sloan Yip. Joined only by Alex Hauka on cello and Stephanie Chatman on violin (and sometimes vocals), Jasper played more of a stripped down, acoustic set for the attentive crowd.
From "Athens", which was about a particularly bad day in Greece (and was also, as he introduced it, played as part of a "sad song competition") to the more upbeat and catchy "Show Your Teeth", Jasper wove through a series of ups and downs, with songs mostly about love and/or heartbreak.
He wrapped up the set with the title track to his newest album, Foxtrot, a beautiful duet with Chatman, her soft voice blending nicely with his.

Her band -- drums, bass, and synth -- took the stage and started the opening notes of the title track to her album, "The Disappearance of the Girl" before Phildel emerged from the back. The dark, ethereal pop was punctuated by Phildel's amazing, hauntingly beautiful voice, dipped in just the right amount of reverb, and the music all clearly came from deeply personal places. She gave backstory to many of her songs; the sinister song "The Wolf" was written in response to her extremely religious step-father who banned music when she was a child; "Holes In Your Coffin" is something of a revenge song after a betrayal; and the emotionally devastating "Funeral Bell" -- which I am sure caused more than a few teary eyes -- was written during a nervous breakdown.
She also had a very engaging stage presence, the intensity of her performance contrasting with her almost soft-spoken nature while telling stories between songs.
After her last song, "The Glass Ghost", the title track to her upcoming EP, the crowd gave a much warranted standing ovation. She was clearly moved by the response, and sat down at the keys for one last song, the beautiful "Comfort Me".

It was a perfect setting as well, a nice intimate studio with a very captivate and quiet crowd. The show marked the end of her current North American tour, but I am already hoping that the singer manages to make her way back here sooner rather than later.

The Disappearance of the Girl, Storm Song, Mistakes, Union Stone, Afraid of the Dark, Beside You, Celestial, The Wolf, Holes In Your Coffin, Moonsea, Funeral Bell, The Glass Ghost.
(encore) Comfort Me.

3am Mixtapes: Episode Thirteen: Musical Couples

Hey look, it's another episode of 3am Revelations' very own podcast!

Each week on 3am Mixtapes, I will present to you, in my dulcet tones, the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like Top Six Dancey Songsor they can be as obscure and specific as Top Six Songs to Play at My Funeral.

This week we take a look at the age old tradition of musical couples. Those bands featuring married musicians who make sweet music together, in the Top Six Musical Couples!

Featured on this week's podcast is:

"Devil’s Got A Gun" by Whitehorse
"Beach Dream" by Jets Overhead
"#6" by AroarA
"Pretty Boy" by Young Galaxy
"I Heard I Had" by Dear Rouge
"22: The Death of All the Romance" by The Dears

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Paper Lions & Jordan Klassen @ Media Club -- 11/16/13

It seemed like the universe was against Paper Lions playing Saturday night at the Media Club. Three quarters of the PEI band had to make the drive from Edmonton to Vancouver the day of the show -- lead singer John McPhee had arrived early by plane -- and while they left Alberta with plenty of time, blizzard conditions, traffic accidents, highway reroutes, and Vancouver's infamous year-round 24/7 road construction caused them more than a little grief getting to their headlining set at the sold out Media Club.

In fact, their co-headliner, Jordan Klassen almost ran into the same problems, only arriving at the venue when the opening act was supposed to go on. A quick line check delayed the show by a little while, before Emilie Mover took the stage alone for her opening set. She had kind of a jazzy vibe, and her set included a couple covers, including a Townes Van Zandt song, and one in French which was probably the best song of the set. I feel she would have been a lot better with a full band behind her, but with just her, it wasn't necessarily bad, just not very memorable.

After a little bit of stalling, and some more quick sound checking, Jordan Klassen was up next with his newly slimmed down band. Now a four piece, the band consists of old members Jocelyn Price on keys & backup vocals and Simon Bridgefoot on drums, as well as newcomer Mike Noble. They managed to capture most of the same scope of the larger band, and had just as much energy. Especially Jordan, who is always bounding around the stage while switching from guitar to banjo to ukulele.
With a set featuring songs off his recently released Repentance album, Klassen started with "Call and Answer", starting quiet and growing to a rambunctious ending. His rich folk-pop ran from the big and intense "The Scribe of Doorposts" to the much quieter  "Goodhart's Law" which almost got the Media Club silent (no easy task).
He wrapped up the set with the whistley "Go To Me", another song that builds to a big ending, and the more mellow "You Are The Branches"

Call and Answer, Anatomical Literacy, Ranchero, Balcony, Strengthen Me With Raisins, The Horses Are Stuck, The Scribe of Doorposts, Piano Brother, Goodhart's Law, Sweet Chariot, Go To Me, You Are The Branches.

At this point in the night, the remaining Paper Lions were still a little over a hundred kilometres away, but since John was there and ready to go, he took the stage for a short solo acoustic set. Explaining the situation, he started with a song about their previous tour van's unfortunate run-in with a moose, and played a really strong set. Keeping it loose, John told stories between songs, and getting everyone to sing along to his acoustic jams, including a nice cover of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill".

Had worse come to worst, that would have been a pretty good show, but not long after John finished, the rest of the band showed up from their 16 hour drive, and immediately set up & started their set -- hitting the stage at 12:30, two hours after their scheduled time.

The stunning harmonies of "Philadelphia" kicked off the set as they channelled all their pent up energy and frustration into high energy rockers like "Don't Touch That Dial" and "Sweat it Out", the chorus proclaiming "I'll sweat it out from 9 to 5, to sweat it out on Friday night". The set spanned from new and old, from the ridiculously catchy "Pull me In" off of the new album My Friends, to the explosive "Strawberry Man" that goes all the way back to when they were known as the Chucky Danger Band.
They got everyone singing once more for "Little Liar" and "Lost The War", and wrapped up the set with "My Friend", John jumping into the crowd to tell individual members of the remaining audience "I know you are my friend".
Despite that it was almost 1:30 when they wrapped up, the crowd still clamoured for more, and they obliged with one last song, "Sandcastles" for an energetic and emotional ending to a long day.

The potential for disaster was all there, and I would not have blamed the band at all if they had just decided on a shorter set. But the fact that immediately after driving for 16 hours, they put on a top notch set was incredibly impressive.

John solo: The Night That We Survived, Polly Hill, Solsbury Hill [Peter Gabriel cover], Ghostwriters, Trouble, I'm On Fire, Travelling. 

Band: Philadelphia, Don't Touch That Dial, Sweat It Out, Pull Me In, The Sheriff, Bodies in the Winter, Little Liar, Strawberry Man, Stay Here For A While, Travelling, Lost The War, My Friend.
(encore) Sandcastles. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Aidan Knight & Justin Rutledge @ Rio Theatre -- 11/15/13

It's been a little over a year since Aidan Knight's Small Reveal was released, and he's been touring almost non-stop in support of it. But the Victoria singer/songwriter is finally coming home for a rest, and the penultimate stop on the tour was a venue he was familiar with, Vancouver's Rio Theatre.

With him was Justin Rutledge, who was on stage armed only with his guitar. Luckily, it was a "listening crowd", as he put it, and Rutledge's strong voice & songwriting had the crowd hushed. Taking the opportunity to play some slower and quieter songs, the soft spoken singer/songwriter also joked around with the crowd between sets (I, for one, would go see a movie called "Twentysomething Santa").
Highlights from the set included "Out of the Woods", from his new album Valleyheart, and "Be A Man", which even acoustically built to a strong and passionate ending.
Sadly, he did not play his big, rousing sing along song "Jellybean", but it was still a strong set, and no doubt the Toronto troubadour won over more than a few fans.

Then at 9:15 sharp, Aidan Knight took the stage with his Friendly Friends. "You Will See The Good In Everyone" started off the set, beginning soft and building to a huge climax, a trait shared by a few of Aidan's songs. A few of the older songs had variations on then, different arrangements or slight adjustments; nothing to make the songs unrecognizable, but just a natural progression, and punching them up a little.
Part way through the set the band took a break for Aidan Knight Story Time; in true Aidan fashion a bit of a rambling, but entertaining tale of their current tour, and flipping their van, to past tours and Dan Mangan and car sickness. 
He then followed the story with the utterly devastating and heartbreaking "Margaret Downe", before the band came back for a few more including the lesser known "Lambics", building to an intense ending, and "Knitting Something Nice", which ended the set with a cacophony of swirling guitars and crashing drums.
They came back out shortly after for a couple more, including "Skip" from the new album, which Aidan mentioned had never been played in Vancouver before, and of course wrapping up with the big group sing along to "Jasper".

Aidan & his Friendly Friends always put on a great show, and a lot of the songs in the set sounded bigger, more grandiose; as if Knight was stretching his sonic wings more and more. If that was the case, then I am very interested to see what comes next.

You Will See The Good In Everyone, A Mirror, Land's End, Singer/Songwriter, Margaret Downe, Dream Team, Lambics, Altar Boys, Knitting Something Nice.
(encore) Skip, Jasper.

The Zolas & Hollerado @ Commodore -- 11/14/13

Despite The Zolas' steady rise to power in Vancouver, they had never played one of its most iconic venues, the Commodore Ballroom. Not even in an opening slot or anything. Well, not only did they pop their Commodore cherry, but they did it in one of the best ways possible; in front of a sold out crowd with the pride of Manotick, Ontario, Hollerado.

I got to the venue with just a few songs left from PUP. It was the first time in Vancovuer for the Toronto band, and if the lead singer's joking was any indication -- "I've never seen a girl at our show before" -- it was the biggest crowd they had played to. The four-piece has been gaining lots of buzz recently for their debut self-titled album, and their live show proved it was all worthy. They were very tight for such a young band, and while their indie punk rock may have been a little too on the punk side for my taste, I couldn't deny how good they were. They wrapped up their set with their current single, "Reservoir", and I would not be surprised to see them back at the Commodore to headline in a few years.

As the lights dimmed and A Tribe Called Red's "Electric Powwow" blasted over the speakers, the four members Hollerado took the stage, launching in to "Don't Think" from their most recent album White Paint. And while that album didn't quite grab me in the same way that Record In A Bag did, I was still excited to see them. With their insanely catchy power pop Hollerado is a ridiculously fun live band, not only with their incredible energy, but with a great stage show too, with blasts of confetti leaving streamers dangling from the ceiling, faux snow machines, and black lights illuminating not only the banner behind them but their instruments and equipment as well.
The set started with the mix a little off, the vocals seemed a bit buried, but evened out a few songs into it and everything really seemed to click. The four-piece is incredibly tight, and Menno Versteeg is a great frontman, but on more than one occasion drummer Jake Boyd stole the show. Standing on top of his drum kit for the anthemic "Got To Lose", and especially his insanely intense drum solo during the set-closing "Do The Doot Da Doot Do". Other highlights included the powerful sing yell-along "Juliette" and "So It Goes", a true story about Menno's Dutch grandfather, Nazis, and forgiveness.
It was a super fun set, and I hope it's not another two years before the next chance I get to see them live.

Don't Think, Pick Me Up, Good Day At The Races, Too Much To Handle, Fresno Chunk (Digging With You), Juliette, Fake Drugs, Desire 126, So It Goes, Got To Lose, Americanarama, Thank You (For Sticking Around), Do The Doot Da Doot Do.

In contrast to Hollerado's big, bright show, The Zolas hit the stage bathed in shadows and deep blue lights, for their occasionally darker and moodier alt-pop. They opened with the first track off of Ancient Mars, "In Heaven", and their brand new single, the incredibly dancey "Invisible".
While most of the set focused on the new album, there were a few older songs slipped into the set as well, the chaotic breakup song "Marlaina Kamikaze" and the post-apocalyptic "The Great Collapse".
Other highlights included the quirky "Observatory" and the catchy "Strange Girl" (which Zach gleefully praised the hometown crowd for picking up on the irregular clapping beat).
Zach's obvious enthusiasm and gratitude was evident throughout the night; first requesting everyone in the crowd kiss each other to change the mood after a small scuffle broke out near the stage, and later admitting that the band didn't always get lucky or catch many breaks, but rather "our only luck is you guys". And Zach embraced that love when he went into the middle of the crowd with his keyboard for the final song of the main set, "Escape Artist".
But of course, they were back out for a couple more; first Zach starting alone with "Cold Moon" as the band slowly joined him, and ending with the entire room singing along to "You're Too Cool".

In Heaven, Invisible, Observatory, Euphrates and Tigris, Ancient Mars, The Great Collapse, Marlaina Kamikaze, Local Swan, Cultured Man, Strange Girl, Knot In My Heart, Escape Artist.
(encore) Cold Moon, You're Too Cool. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Matt Mays @ Imperial -- 11/12/13

Relentlessly touring his latest album, 2012's Coyote, Matt Mays wrapped up his solo acoustic tour at a fairly new Vancouver venue, the Imperial. The last time he was here, Mays sold out the Commodore, so seeing him in a room with less than half the capacity was certainly a treat.

Starting the night was Adam Baldwin, a longtime friend and bandmate of Mays. Baldwin played a short set of about half a dozen songs from his newly recorded EP. It was pretty standard singer/songwriter fare, but Baldwin is a great musician, and his funny and charming banter between his heartfelt songs helped sell it.

Soon after that, Matt Mays slowly took the stage, aided by a pair of crutches, with his only explanation a bit later in the show with a succinct "hot tub party".
Taking a seat, he pulled out his acoustic guitar and harmonica and launched into "Plan" from the self titled Matt Mays & El Torpedo album. He played the first couple of songs alone, the heartbreaking "Loveless" and "Season to Leave" from his old band The Guthries, flubbing a bit of the lyrics on the latter. Any other show it would have been detrimental, but the very loose and laid back atmosphere of the show was forgiving. He jokingly blamed his codeine and T3s, and as the set went on, it just got more and more relaxed. Mays joked with both the crowd and with Adam Baldwin, who came out to join him for the rest of the set. The two needled each other like only old friends could, making the show feel less like a sold out venue, and more like a friend's living room.
Baldwin backed up Mays, going between guitar for songs like a nice rendition of the usually dark "The Past" and keys, for the more upbeat "Digital Eyes". Other highlights included "Queen of Portland Street" and the final song of the main set, "Terminal Romance"; usually an intense and passionate song, the acoustic version really emphasised the heartache of the lyrics.
But after a standing ovation, Mays hobbled back on stage for a few more; starting with a very moving performance of "Chase the Light", essentially dedicated to Jay Smith, that ended in a beautiful sing along.  He brought Baldwin back on stage so he could take over vocals on a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm Going Down", and they wrapped up the night with a quintessential campfire song, "On The Hood".

Mays has long been one of my favourite performers; his full band shows are raw and emotional and intense, and while the acoustic show was a lot more toned down, it was much more intimate, and no less emotional.

The Plan, Loveless, Season to Leave [The Guthries], The Past, Indio, Take It On Faith, [unknown song], Digital Eyes, Spoonful of Sugar, Tall Trees, Queen of Portland Street, City of Lakes, Terminal Romance.
(encore) Chase the Light, I'm Going Down [Bruce Springsteen cover], On The Hood.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

3am Mixtapes: Episode Twelve: Autumn Blanket Forts

Hey look, it's another episode of 3am Revelations' very own podcast!

Each week on 3am Mixtapes, I will present to you, in my dulcet tones, the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like Top Six Song Titlesor they can be as obscure and specific as Top Six Violin Loopers.

As autumn descends upon us, and things get a little chiller, sometimes you want nothing more than to stay at home, pour yourself a nice glass of tea, or wine, or whiskey, and curl up in the blanket fort that you just made. Yes, this week is the Top Six Songs To Make A Blanket Fort To!

Featured on this week's podcast is:

"Steal Away" by Jill Barber
"Something In You" by Steph Macpherson
"One Evening" by Feist
"Off The Main Drag" by Leif Vollebekk
"twentysomething" by Jamie Cullum
"Last Song For The Summer Hideaway" by Brendan Canning

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Belle Game & Bear Mountain @ Vogue -- 11/09/13

It was a homecoming celebration as a couple of Vancouver bands wrapped up their tour by co-headlining a sold out Vogue Theatre. Both Bear Mountain and The Belle Game have been picking up momentum as of late; Bear Mountain getting some choice touring partners and festival gigs, and The Belle Game just finishing a residency at the the Banff Centre for the Arts, where they got to spend time with Broken Social Scenesters Kevin Drew & Charles Spearing.
While they may seem like an odd pairing to tour together, their different styles and genres managed to compliment each other, rather than clash.

I got to the Vogue in time to catch the last couple songs from Dralms. The band is the new/renamed project of Christopher Smith, with all of the same band members. While the songs were still dark and moody, they were quite a bit heavier and more reliant on distortion than when he was performing under his own name.

Second up was The Darcys from Toronto, who I had been wanting to see live for a while now. Their moody, dense rock, combined with the tight performance drew me in right away.
Their all-too-short set included some from the new album, the driving "Pretty Girls", the twitchiness of the appropriately titled "Itchy Blood", and the rocking "747s" which showed off lead singer Jason Couse's strong, soaring voice.
A very impressive set, and I am looking forward to the next time they come through town.

Then it was time for the dance floor to fill up as Bear Mountain took the stage, and they immediately got people moving with their electro-dancey-pop. While the four piece does use samples, they play a lot of the songs live; Ian Bevis on bass, synth, and vocals, with his brother Greg on drums, Kyle Statham on guitar, and Kenji Rodriguez on visuals. Which sounds strange, but the visual aspect was treated as important as the music. With a geometrical shaped projection screen behind them, and large triangles of lights, the visuals added a unique layer to their performance.
As for the music itself, there was a great flow to the set, each song transitioning into the next with barely a change for the packed dance floor to catch their breath. Confetti cannons burst, people were crowdsurfing and up on shoulders for highlights like "Two Step" and "Faded", and a fun cover of Tears for Fears' classic "Everybody Wants To Rule The World".
And as much fun as the crowd was having, it was apparent that the band was having more fun; a couple times Kyle leaped off the stage to crowdsurf, and Ian was noticeably moved by the reception from the hometown crowd. They were even called back for an encore, which they obliged.
Admittedly, I am not always a fan of electro-dance type stuff, but Bear Mountain is an exception. Their live show is something to behold, packed with high energy, fun, and infectious songs.

That right there would have been a worthwhile show, but there was still The Belle Game. They kicked off their set with one of the title tracks from their debut album Ritual Tradidtion Habit, "Tradition" as the tone completely shifted with their dark pop and dense sound filling the room. Guitars and synth swirling, and Andrea's powerful voice giving chills, especially in "Little Wars" but especially in "River".
Other highlights included the soaring "Blame Fiction", the sexy slow jam "Bruises To Ash", and a new song written during their residency in Banff, with Ian Bevis coming out to help on vocals. I didn't catch its name, but it was quite possibly the best of the set; still very much a "Belle Game" song -- rich and layered -- but showed huge leaps in their songwriting.
They wrapped up the set with the hugely upbeat "Wait Up For You", with more Bear Mountaineers joining them, first Greg out on the floor tom, then the rest of the band with shakers and backup vocals to wrap it up for a grand ending. But of course, they were back for the encore, a pretty amazing cover of  Nirvana's "All Apologies" wrapping up the night by getting a bit of a sing along going to bring everyone together.
I've been saying for months now that The Vogue would be a great venue for the band -- and while they had played there before, opening for We Are The City and at Petchakutcha -- the headlining spot proved that the theatre venue was a perfect fit for their sound.

Tradition, Wasted Light, Blame Fiction, Little Wars (Causing You Trouble), Keeps Me Up At Night, Bruises To Ash, Ritual, [new song], River, Wait Up For You. 
(encore) All Apologies [Nirvana cover]

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Strumbellas @ Biltmore -- 11/05/13

Hot off the heels of the release of We Still Move On Dance Floors, their follow up to the Juno Nominated My Father and The Hunter, The Strumbellas hit the Biltmore Cabaret this Tuesday. The last time I saw them was at the tiny Railway Club and they nearly tore the place down, so I was excited to see them again live.
And as an added bonus, they were joined by a couple of strong local acts to round out the show.

Starting off the night was John Sponarski. One half of Portage & Main, John has recently been playing more solo shows, and he took the stage armed with little more than an acoustic guitar & a harmonica, accompanied by Savannah Leigh Wellman of Redbird to lend her voice to backup vocals.
I saw Sponarski fairly recently, opening for Elliott BROOD, and he seemed much less nervous and more comfortable this time. His solo material was a little more on the country side than Portage & Main, with songs being clearly personal. From "Corn Whiskey" -- based off the traditional "Rye Whiskey" -- written after someone questioned his alcohol intake, to one written after visiting his grandmother in a resting home, the emotion put into the songs really drove them home.
He ended with a great closer; a bit of a sing along, a rousing song both lamenting and celebrating a broken up band. I mentioned it last time, but that song was my favourite of the set, and would be killer with a full band behind it.

Next up was Rolla Olak. Keeping it stripped down, he only had John Sponarski with him on pedal steel, and also kept the same mellow, folk-country vibe throughout most of his set. He had a clear passion while playing, but was lacking a bit in stage presence. I saw him recently as a part of the Peak Performance Project and liked his full band set, but couldn't quite connect to his more acoustic set; maybe it was just a bit too laid back. Which is why my favourite was the last song of the set, as he invited The Strumbellas on stage to pick up instruments and sing along to his final song, a rousing and passionate song, "It's Alright" for a strong finish.

It wasn't long before the stage filled with The Strumbellas, in stark contrast to the previous, two-piece acts. The six piece from Lindsay, Ontario started off the set with "Home Sweet Home", wasting no time showing off their tight harmonies and raucous alt-country roots rock. The whole band was full of energy, but especially keyboardist David Ritter and frontman Simon Ward, who started the show a little shy, by his own admission, but by the end of it he had opened up & was more chatty between songs, even talking directly to crowd members yelling things at the stage.
The set focused mostly on their new album, We Still Move On Dance Floors, with highlights being
the anthemic "End of an Era" and the building intensity of "Ride On". They rounded out the set with some older ones, the explosive "Lakes", and even a great cover of Modest Mouse's "Float On", with Ward getting the crowd to sing along to the chorus, a warm up for another sing along to "The Sheriff", an incredibly catchy tune.
After "ending" the set with "Rhinestone", they didn't even do the fake-leave, rather ended the night by inviting everyone up on stage to dance along with the big closing number, "Pistol"

The Strumbellas put on an incredibly fun live show, and I would not be at all surprised to see them tearing up larger venues like the Commodore in years to come.

Home Sweet Home, Lakes, Ride On, In This Life, Run, The Fire, End of an Era, Sailor's Blues, Float On [Modest Mouse cover], The Sheriff , Sailing, [mystery song], Rhinestone, Pistol. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

3am Mixtapes: Episode Eleven: Sing alongs

Hey look, it's another episode of 3am Revelations' very own podcast!

Each week on 3am Mixtapes, I will present to you, in my dulcet tones, the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like Top Six Cover Songsor they can be as obscure and specific as Top Six Cover Songs That Are Not Hurt by Johnny Cash.

This week the audience becomes part of the show with the Top Six Sing Along Songs! Those songs that, when played live, turn into a giant, big group sing along, that gets the crowd involved.

Featured on this week's podcast is:

"Robots" by Dan Mangan
"Jasper" by Aidan Knight
"Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" by The Flaming Lips
"Write It All Down For You" by Elliott BROOD
"O Carolina" by Portage & Main
"Don't Be So Mean, Jellybean" by Justin Rutledge

Any questions or comments or waffles or criticisms or suggestions for future themes are welcome!

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

beekeeper @ Science World -- 11/01/13

photo: Leigh Eldridge
"It's not an ending, it's an evolution", is something Devon Lougheed said to me in regards to beekeeper's final show. After a strong couple of years, the trio of Devon, Luke Cyca, and Brandi Sidoryk are going their separate ways, leaving the future of beekeeper uncertain. Devon, always a schemer, has hinted that the band may continue in some form, but after last night's show beekeeper as we know them are done.

The show was at Science World as a part of the Amped exhibit, with beekeeper headlining the first of four Teen Band Nights. Each night will see three bands with members between the ages of 14-19, followed by a Peak Performance Project alumni headlining. The three bands this night were ADOB, a ska band; The Specifics, a jazz-rock band; and Strip the Silence, a punk band, and all three were pretty typical high school bands -- loads of potential, but still very young and green.

beekeeper took the stage to their usual prerecorded phone message offering bad advice, and started the set with "Good News". They've always been an energetic bunch, but all three were in fine form for their final outing, with Devon was cracking wise with the crowd, mindful of the younger turnout.

Highlights of the math-rock-y set included the genre-shifting "Oh Hi" complete with kazoo solo, the jokingly renamed "I Don't Need Hope, I Need Whiskey Homework", and "Pinwheel Revolution" which is a rare showcase of Brandi's operatic voice.
They ended the show with the last traditional beekeeper fans-on-stage, as they invited the crowd up for the final song, "Believe, Believe", and took one last bow.

Good News; Table and Bed; Oh Hi!; Sudden Cuckoo; Pets Eat Their Masters; Drownings; Pinwheel Revolution; I Don't Need Hope, I Need Whiskey; Believe, Believe.