Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bend Sinister & Gay Nineties @ Imperial -- 12/27/14

Just when you were getting sick of holiday parties, along comes "Relax, It's Not Another Christmas Party, Party!" A trio of Vancouver favourites teamed up for a show to benefit the Blanket BC Society for one last show of the year (in my calendar, anyway).

And it was a show that I was especially excited for, as not only are Bend Sinister one of the first "Vancouver Indie" bands I really got into years ago, but Gay Nineties are also one of my favourite [relatively] newer local bands.

Unfortunately I missed the first band of the night, The Tourist Company, who recently placed third in the Peak Performance Project (in fact, all three band this night had gone through the competition), getting there shortly before Gay Nineties hit the stage.

They were teasing their new EP, Liberal Guilt, which is out in a couple of weeks (but was on the merch table for people to pick up early) and started off with the appropriately named first track, "Intro", a slow burning build that burst into "Hold Your Fire".
The set ranged from sultry slow jams to high energy rockers; from the "shoop shoops" of "Good Times" to the driving pulse of "Turn Me On", they blended sounds from the last six or seven decades, but never in a way that felt derivative. Their sound is both familiar and fresh, taking those older influences and creating something new and interesting. The entire band also has a great stage presence, but especially frontman Parker Bossley, who has an effortless charm, looking like he would be ready to rock venues of every size.
Aside from their own songs, they slipped in their usual cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl" and the set drew to a close in the most explosive way, a psychedelic segue into their smash hit "Letterman".

Bend Sinister was out not long after, starting off with the aptly named "Thunder and Lightning" before launching into the incendiary "Hot Blooded Man" for a set that spanned just about their entire career. From their self titled 2007 EP to this year's new album and everything in between, songs ranged from the comparatively soft and slow "Through The Week" to the uplifting anthem "Things Will Get Better" to the absolutely balls-out rockers "Teacher".
Dan Moxon's voice went from raw intensity to soaring bursts as he pounded away on the keyboard with a huge energy, and the rest of the band were no slouches either. Especially Matt Rhode, who is one of the most fun bass players to watch live, the complete opposite of the cliché "bored bass face".

Part way through the set they brought out special guest Kristy-Lee Audette on trumpet to help with a few songs from the new album Animals, including the jaunty and ridiculously catchy "Fancy Pants", and my favourite from the new album, "I Got Love" a furious and almost gospel-esque song featuring a phenomenal breakdown. Other highlights included the haunting "Black Magic Woman", and an old favourite "Time Breaks Down".

The main set came to a close with the first track off Animals, the eight minute long "Best Of You" which twists and turns that pretty much encapsulates every aspect of their sound. And of course they were back out for an encore, the low-tempo "Don't Let Us Bring You Down" and then finally ending the night by inviting everyone from Gay Nineties and Kristy back on stage for a fun cover of Dan's favourite piano man, Elton John's Bennie and the Jets.

I always love when bands do that, end the night by inviting everyone back on stage for a cover that everyone can play or sing along to. It just makes the show seem more fun.

My only minor quibble with the set was that there were a couple times where the backing vocals felt a bit too loud, the harmonies overpowering  Dan's main vocals, but that wasn't nearly enough to ruin a fantastic set. Bend Sinister puts on such an amazing and high energy show, and I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing them leave it all on stage.
Combined with a great set from Gay Nineties, who I like more and more every time I see them, and it was a pretty strong musical ending to the year.

Thunder and Lightning, Hot Blooded Man, Don't You Know, Man of Faith and Virtue, We Know Better, Fancy Pants, I Got Love, Better Things To Do, Teacher, Black Magic Woman, Through The Week, It Will Never End, Things Will Get Better, Time Breaks Down, Best of You. 
(encore) Don't Let Us Bring You Down, Bennie & The Jets [Elton John cover].

Friday, December 12, 2014

The New Pornographers @ WISE Hall -- 12/11/14

To promote Google Play Music, Google Canada hosted a series of Home for the Holiday shows around the country this month. Last week Toronto got City & Colour, next week Montreal gets Coeur de Pirate, and last night Vancouver got their very own New Pornographers. The "secret" intimate show took place at Wise Hall, quite the change of scene from the last few times I saw them; at a sold out Commodore and in front of thousands of people in Stanley Park.

(And not to sound like a pitchman, but I've always been an Android guy and have been using Google Play -- not the streaming service, but the app itself -- on my phone since before it was available in Canada. It's pretty great.)

But on to the show. I had caught The New Pornographers at the start of their tour, a few months back, and I was actually a little disappointed by it, so I was eager to see them again, especially in a venue so intimate. It was the first time the Vancouver group had ever played the Wise Hall, and the venue sounded great. They started off with all seven members present -- minus Neko Case -- with the title track to the new album Brill Bruisers and into one of my favourites, the Bejar-fronted "Myriad Harbour". From there the set ran the gamut from the old, going back to their first album for the eponymous "Mass Romantic" to the the frantic "War on the East Coast", and all the hits in between.

Dan was on and off stage, there when he was needed, in a trench coat and often with a glass of red wine in hand, in a way that only Dan Bejar can pull off. And Carl Newman was in fine form joking between songs, thanking their Google sponsors (then being shocked that no one could name the inventor of Google) and ringing in every holiday until the end of the year, since it was their last show of 2014.

Other highlights included the softer "A Drug Deal of the Heart", "Testament To Youth in Verse" with its chorus of nos at the end, and a couple songs that really showed off Kathryn Calder's powerful vocals, "The Laws Have Changed" and "Born With A Sound".
After a good hour, they came to a close with one of my absolute favourites -- not just of New Pornos -- "The Bleeding Heart Show", a perfect song, building to a chest-busting ending of intertwined vocals and powerful drums. Though it may have been the only song of the set where their new drummer, Joe Seiders, wasn't quite up to par with Kurt Dahle. But that's not a knock on Joe, he just had some big shoes to fill.
And of course, they were back out for one more, Carl jokingly insisting that the word "encore" came from the Latin for "more", not from the French, before wrapping the night up by singing us Spanish Techno.

With their previous show this year, I couldn't quite place what was "off" about it. But whatever it was, was gone for this show. Maybe it was because they are wrapping up a tour, having just got home from Europe, but they were on top of their game and put on a strong show in a great, intimate venue. And I hope this is going to turn into an ongoing series from Google Canada.

Brill Bruisers; Myriad Harbour; Moves; Dancehall Domine; War on the East Coast; Use It; All The Old Showstoppers; Jackie, Dressed in Cobras; A Drug Deal of the Heart; The Laws Have Changed; Fantasy Fools; Testament to Youth in Verse; Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk; Backstairs; Silver Jenny Dollar; Champions of Red Wine; Born With A Sound; Mass Romantic; Ballad of a Comeback Kid; The Bleeding Heart Show. 
(encore) Sing Me Spanish Techno.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Steam Whistle Unsigned w/ Skye Wallace, Miss Quincy & The Showdown, and Dead Soft @ Biltmore -- 12/05/14

Steam Whistle Unsigned is a concert series started by the Toronto microbrewery to promote local unsigned talent, and they returned to Vancouver last week to spotlight three more bands. The ongoing series, which takes place in multiple cities across Canada, also partners with a charity or non-profit that receives 100% of the proceeds of the show. This time it was Music BC, a non-profit society helping support, develop and nurture the BC Music community. (Who was also having their annual holiday party & "SchMusic" event right before the show!)

Kicking things off was Skye Wallace, her three piece band joined by a couple members of the Four on the Floor String Quartet on cello and violin to add mood to Skye's dark, alt-country sound -- her music would be perfect for the theme and score if someone decided to make a Canadian Deadwood.
Starting off with "Carry Our Son", the first song on her latest album Living Parts, her voice swirling around the haunting strings, setting the tone for the set. Highlights included the intense "Monster" as well as a version of Timber Timbre's "Lay Down In the Tall Grass", definitely a fitting choice for a cover song.
Skye invited Jody Peck (aka Miss Quincy) on stage -- the two just finished a tour of Europe together -- to perform a couple songs to end off, including a new one called "Guiltiest Hymn" which I quite liked, their voices blending together really well.

Not long after that, Miss Quincy & The Showdown started their set with just Jody Peck and Skye Wallace on stage doing an a cappella song, their powerful voices supported only by their handclaps, before the members of The Showdown joined the fray. The trio filled the room with their badass rockin' blues sound, which had feet stomping and hips swaying to songs like "What Is Life If It Ain't Strange" and "Making Money".
Skye came out one last time for a song that showed off Miss Quincy's "soft and sensitive side" (though I don't think her mic was on for half of the song) before they kicked the energy right back up with a great one-two punch of closing songs two of my favourites off her latest album Roadside Recovery; the sultry soundtrack to a great night out, "Bad Love", and the gritty & unapologetic "Wild Fucking West".

The three-piece Dead Soft finished out the night, with their grungy, pop-punk a bit of a departure from the previous two acts. They opened their set with the single "Phase", which didn't quite seem as polished live as the recorded versions. They had a rambunctious energy, but a lot of the set sounded pretty similar, the only songs that stood out from the rest was when bassist Keeley Rochon took over on vocals. It was by no means a bad, but the crowd had thinned by the time they finished their short set, capping it off with their other single, "Never Forever".

This was the sixth Unsigned in Vancouver, and having been to almost all of them, they're always a great time. It's an excellent way to promote local music, and help local charities, and I only hope it runs here for as long as it's been running in Toronto (we are on show #6, they just had show #29).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Sixty: Birds

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general as best chill out songs, but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Bands Who Haven’t Put Out A New Album in Way Too Long. 

This week the topic was suggested by my good pal Jessica over at Vancouver Music Review, it’s the Top Six Songs For The Birds!

Peep these:

"One Crow Calling" by Jess Hill
"Blue Bird" by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
"Cicadas And Gulls" by Feist
"Blackbird Bakey Pie Blues" by Sit Down, Servant!!
"Hummingbird" by Jenn Grant
"Birds" by Wintermitts

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

 Subscribe in a reader (Feedburner) | Listen on StitcherDirect Download

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Trews @ Commodore -- 11/29/14

Hot off the heels of their latest album, Nova Scotia's The Trews embarked on a cross-country tour. Some lucky stops got acoustic and electric performances, which unfortunately we did not as they hit Vancouver at the legendary Commodore Ballroom. Which, interestingly enough, was the very first place I saw them play ten years & a month ago, opening for Big Sugar.

I got to the venue just to catch the last couple songs from The Glorious Sons. The Kingston five-piece had a pretty straight-forward hard rock sound -- maybe a little too "rawk" for my tastes -- but had a great energy. And the crowd was definitely reciprocating, as a clearly strong fanbase for the band sang along with "Mama", the charismatic lead singer Brett Emmons thrashing and headbanging about the stage.
I definitely wouldn't be surprised if, in a few years, they're headlining the Commodore on their own.

Not long after that, the screens lit up and The Trews took the stage to a canned intro, before John-Angus MacDonald picked up the guitar for the intro of the first song off their new self-titled album -- and namesake of the tour -- "Rise in the Wake".
The Antigonish rockers has always had a great raw energy live, and this show was no different. Lead singer Colin MacDonald had the crowd in his palm from the get go, leading the packed venue to sing their hearts out as the set spanned their five albums (and more). From drinking songs like the aptly named "The Power of Positive Drinking" to songs for the troops (but not the war) "Highway of Heroes"; from all-out rockers like "Age of Miracles" to softer songs, like the sweet "In The Morning" (which was sadly lacking Serena Ryder, as Colin performed her verse as well).
They cheekily dedicated "Paranoid Freak" to Russel Brand and wished him "good luck with his revolution", I assuming a result of his new webseries called The Trews. And as they usually do, the band slipped little bits of others songs into theirs, normally just a few lines of a chorus. Rolling Stones' "She's So Cold" got the nod in "So She's Leaving", and they showed some Nova Scotian love to Joel Plaskett by adding a little of "Nowhere With You" during their self-proclaimed east coast drinking song, "Can't Stop Laughing".

The set came to an end with not one, but two showstoppers. After a phenomenal drum intro from Sean Dalton, "Poor Ol' Broken Hearted Me" burst into a huge singalong, with the band inviting Glorious Sons back on stage to play with them -- and even letting Brett Emmons do a little bit of their song "Mama" in the middle. And after that they wrapped up the main set with another fiery old favourite, "Hold Me In Your Arms" during which the band slipped offstage to leave John-Angus shredding front and centre before he too disappeared from stage, only to come out the side door, walk to the back of the venue, into the sound booth, then back to the stage through the other side... all while maintaining the solo. THEN getting back on stage and accompanying himself on kick drum, before the rest of the band came back to finish.

If they hadn't come back, it would have been a great ending to the show, but they returned for the obligatory encore; an acoustic singalong to another drinking song -- and one of my favourites -- "Ishmael and Maggie" before a cover of Roger Miller's "King of the Road", and finally ending the night night off on one last rocking note, a one-two punch of their first hit "Not Ready to Go" and "New King" from the new album.

Having seen them a number of times now in the last ten years, I am never disappointed by a Trews live show. Their talent and passion, and raw energy, culminate to make them one of the finest live performers this country has to offer.

Rise in the Wake, Fair is Fair, The Power of Positive Drinking, So She's Leaving (w/ She's So Cold [Rolling Stones]), Age of Miracles, Paranoid Freak, Sing Your Heart Out, Hope & Ruin, Oblivion, Where There's Love, Tired of Waiting, In The Morning, Can't Stop Laughing (w/ Nowhere With You [Joel Plaskett]), Permanent Love, Highway of Heroes, Poor Ol' Broken Hearted Me (w/ Mama [Glorious Sons]), Hold Me in Your Arms. 
(encore) Ishmael & Maggie, King of the Road [Roger Miller cover], Not Ready To Go, New King.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Matthew Good @ Rio Theatre -- 11/27/14

When the ticket website StubHub announced that their "Next Stage" concert series would include an acoustic Matthew Good at the Rio Theatre, I knew there was no way I could miss it. Good has long been a favourite of mine, and his solo acoustic shows are among the best shows I have seen, especially when in a relatively intimate venue.

Toronto's Dani Jean (also of Mickey Loves Mallory) started things off for the night, behind the keys with a stripped down, soulful pop sound. Her breathy vocals drove haunting songs, many of which seemed to be about various stages of love.
Mid-way through her short set she swapped to an acoustic guitar for a song called "Broken Angels"
and a cover of "Habits" by Tove Lo (which I had never actually heard before, but from the lyrics could tell it was more of a pop song than her gentle interpretation) before going back to hey keyboard for one last one, a song called "Hurts Like Hell".
She put on an enjoyable set, and I would be interested to hear what she's like with a full band, or as part of the Mickey Loves Mallory project.

Matthew Good took the stage armed with his guitar, launching right into "Strange Days" from one of my favourite albums of all time, Beautiful Midnight for a two-hour set that spanned nearly his entire career. He reached as far back as the hidden track on his debut Last of the Ghetto Astronauts -- and what may have been the first popular use of the phrase "first world problems" -- "Omissions of the Omen" where he broke a string on his guitar; had the entire crowd singing along in a hushed choir for "Symbolistic White Walls"; played a few older favourites like "So Long Ms Smith" and a re-worked "Truffle Pigs" all from the Matt Good Band days.

The set also included a few personal favourites, like "Prime Time Deliverance" a powerful song that never fails to give me chills; the intense "A Boy And His Machine Gun", which I don't think I had ever heard live before; and the usually-symphonic "While We Were Hunting Rabbits" simplified to a cool acoustic version while Good's voice soared and filled the theatre.

There were a few songs that were completely re-worked to fit the acoustic format. The frantic and thumping "Load Me Up" was turned into a slower, almost alt-country flavoured song. "Alert Status Red" into a classic protest song. He even mentioned that more songs would probably be given acoustic versions, as he will be embarking on an acoustic tour next April, following his new album in March.

As is the case with most of his acoustic shows, the atmosphere was very relaxed and candid. There were a few small flubs during songs, but when he admitted to screwing something up, or not remembering lyrics to songs he hadn't played in 15 years, it didn't come across as "bad". His proclivity to banter with the crowd between songs made it feel less like a show, and more like some friends sitting around someone's living room. He even occasionally chatted to people one-on-one as he recognised longtime fans in the crowd, or people from his past.

During the set he talked about everything from behind-the-scenes jokes, and why he changed some songs and couldn't play others -- at one point he just let people yell song titled and explaining why he couldn't play each (sometimes sincerely, sometimes glibly). He went from the absurd (don't get into music, get into washroom fixtures) to political (who exactly declares that there is a "war" on Christmas?) and everything in between (Lamb's Rum) as the show was about three quarters music and one quarter storytelling.

After a sold hour and a half, he brought the main set to an end with "Apparitions" -- which, when someone yelled it out earlier he joked of course he was going to play it, they day that he didn't would be the day he was beaten to death by fans -- before he was obviously back out for a few more including a song that his record label deemed "too country", "Hopeless", and the absolutely gorgeous and heartwrenching "Sort of a Protest Song", before finally ending the night on a positive note, his fantastic cover of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You In The End".

I've said countless times before on this very blog that Matthew Good ranks among my all time favourite musicians, and it's shows like this that cements that position. How he can effortlessly shift from light-hearted banter to heavy, dark songs. His powerful voice that, even if it can't still hit the highs, can blast you right in the chest and rip open your heart. He played for two hours, and I probably still could have stayed for more. 

Strange Days, Tripoli, Born Losers, A Boy And His Machine Gun,  99% Of Us is Failure, Truffle Pigs, Symbolistic White Walls, Prime Time Deliverance, So Long Ms. Smith, Metal Airplanes, While We Were Hunting Rabbits, Omissions of the Omen, Load Me Up, Apparitions. 
(encore) Alert Status Red, Silent Army in the Trees, Empty Road, Hopeless, Sort of a Protest Song, True Love Will Find You In The End.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Nine: Space!

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general as most perfect songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs To Play While Punching and Kicking The Air To Get Your Frustrations On Life Out.

And this week is going to be a little topical. Inspired by something that happened last week, it's the Top Six Interstellar Songs!

Space out to:

"The Universe Expanded by Franz Ferdinand
"What If I Can't See The Stars Mildred? by Matthew Good
"Go Go Space Man by Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party
"Cosmic Destroyer by Chad VanGaalen
"Cold Moon by The Zolas
"Space Oddity by David Bowie

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

 Subscribe in a reader (Feedburner) | Listen on StitcherDirect Download

Monday, November 17, 2014

Paper Lions @ Media Club -- 11/14/14

Flashback to two years ago -- almost to the day. I was at the Media Club to see PEI's Paper Lions as they came through town, and I remember looking around at the modest crowd and being so angry. This is a band that way more people need to see live! I thought. Cut to this past weekend, as they rolled through town again, still touring strong on their 2013 album My Friends, this time to a packed and sold out club.

Opening the night was Djavin Bowen and the Uproar. Maybe. Despite the promo material saying Lonesome North, lead singer Djavin Bowen introduced themselves as such, and even hinted it was a temporary name. Whatever they are called, the seven-piece included members of Young Pacific and other local bands, and even a trumpeteer -- whose tuxedo was in contrast to the rest of the bands' t-shirts and denim -- to fill out their sound.
With a high energy, their songs were filled with an indie pop vibe, occasionally sauntered into folk territory, and had some catchy songs; a few that were definitely made to sing along to, and an ambitious cover of Arcade Fire's "Sprawl II" that broke down into some folksy harmonies at the end.
The set was a little rough, perhaps because they are a fairly new band, but is was not bad. Not great either, but someone to keep an ear out for in the future (if you can figure out what they're called).

Not long after it was time for Paper Lions, starting with lead singer John MacPhee taking the stage alone, with a drum machine pumping out the beats to "Bodies In Winter" as the rest of the band burst in mid-song. From there they hit the gas on their incredibly infectious indie rock, spanning from old favourites like "Sweat It Out", that had the crowd appropriately yelling along with the chorus, "I'll sweat it out from nine to five, to sweat it out on Friday night", to a rockin' song from their newest EP, Acquaintances, called "Do You Wanna".
Songs ranged from the softer, harmony-laden "Ghostwriters" to the all-out-rocket "Strawberry Man", which goes all the way back to their time as the Chucky Danger Band. The latter they may have even broke some strings -- or worse -- as the band had to quickly duck off stage to fix it while John told the story about the video for their next song, "Travellin'".
After one of my favourites, the ferociously catchy "Lost The War", they wrapped up the main set with "My Friend", John jumping into the crowd at the end to proclaim each person in the crowd his friend, doling out hugs and high fives while singing.
But of course, they were not quite done as the encore began with drummer David Cyrus MacDonald exploding into a drum roll that would make "Wipeout" blush, as the band joined him for the fierce "So Lonely", and wrapped up the night with one of my favourites from the new album, "Sandcastles", leaving the crowd with the sentiment "We build sandcastles, knowing that they'd wash away"

Paper Lions are such a strong live band, the four members having incredible chemistry together on stage, with near-perfect harmonies, and put on one hell of a fun show. I'm already looking forward to the next time they're through town.

Bodies In Winter, Stay Here For Awhile, Sweat It Out, Philadelphia, Don't Touch That Dial, Ghostwriters, Do You Wanna, Little Liar, Strawberry Man, Travellin', Lost the War, My Friend.
(encore) So Lonely, Sandcastles. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer @ Commodore -- 10/09/14

Two years ago was the first time I saw The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer, as part of the Peak Performance Project, And since then, I have had the worst luck seeing them again; every single time they played, I was cursed to miss it for one reason or another.
But finally, I broke that "streak" earlier this year at the Burnaby Blues & Roots Fest when they played a short set, and now I finally got to see them headlining a show of their own. And not just any show, their first headlining show at the legendary Commodore Ballroom, in front of a sold out crowd.

Unfortunately, I missed the openers Petunia & The Vipers, arriving at the venue a couple minutes before The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer hit the stage, adorned with over a dozen bare lightbulbs. The duo of Shawn "The Harpoonist" Hall on harmonica & vocals, and Matt "The Axe Murderer" Rogers on guitar and kickdrum were joined by a pair of lovely & powerful backup vocalists, Dawn Pemberton and Jody "Miss Quincy" Peck, and later on "Major" Tom Heuckendorff on organ to fill out the sound.

Starting off by teasing a verse of their song "Roll With the Punches" -- which was reprised a few times throughout the set, but for some reason never paid off with the full song -- they launched into an hour-plus set that focused on songs from their new album A Real Fine Mess. Their gritty, swampy blues sound drives straight into your soul, with songs like "Mama's In The Back Seat" with its frantic rhythm; the rollicking "Act Your Age", letting both Pemberton and Peck shine on backup vocals; and the Big Sugar-ish funk of the almost-title-track "A Real Fine Noise".

Part way through the set, the pair let the rest of the band take a break -- as Shawn joked they wanted to hog the spotlight -- for a pair of songs that included a bit of a slower song, "In The End", and one written by Matt's brother, Ben Rogers, "Love Me 'fore Ya Leave Me".
After a few more, they wrapped up the set by somehow taking things up another notch, with a one-two punch of "Wake Up" and the explosive "Get Out", both from their previous act "Checkered Past". And of course, they were back out for a couple more, enlisting in the aid of Miss Quincy & The Showdown drummer Jen Foster, for the aptly titled "Shake It", and wrapped everything up with "In And Out Of Love".

You wouldn't think that a show where the two main band members sit on stools all night would be dynamic, but in this case, you would be wrong. Even though both stayed seated for the set, they drew the crowd in with plenty of opportunities to clap, stomp, & sing along, and had energy to spare. Proof could easily be found on Shawn's shirt, which was soaked with sweat by the end (probably Matt's too, but his was darker to begin with). The duo was also vocally and visibly honoured to wrap up their tour with a packed hometown show, at the Commodore.

When they first announced they would be playing there, I was a little surprised, as I didn't realise that they had become a "Commodore band". But what didn't surprise me was watching them tear it up. They put on a great show, and I only hope this means my luck has turned, and I am able to catch them again next time.

Roll With the Punches (pt I), Cry a Little, Do Whatcha, Act Your Age, Don't Make 'em Like They Used To, A Real Fine Noise, Roll With the Punches (pt II), Mama's In the Backseat, Tea for Two, In the End, Love Me 'fore Ya Leave Me, Feel Me Now, Are You Listening Lord, Sweat This Pain, Roll With the Punches (pt III), Wake Up, Get Out.
(encore) Shake It, In and Out of Love.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Eight: Rainy Nights

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like like best winter songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Arbour Day Songs.

And now that we're in the rainy season -- in Vancouver, anyway -- why not take a look at the Top Six Rainy Night Songs!

Hear the drops of:

"Crushed Pleats" by Dralms
"If Only" by T. Nile
"Banks" by Rococode
"Make You Better" by The Decemberists
"Loud Talker" by David Vertesi
"Movin' Away" by My Morning Jacket

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

 Subscribe in a reader (Feedburner) | Listen on StitcherDirect Download

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Strumbellas @ Imperial -- 10/30/14

I've said a few times before on this blog, there's a certain ubiquitous folk sound that I have just "gotten over". Maybe it was the over saturation, maybe I've just moved past it, but I find myself thinking it less and less interesting.
That being said, there are still some bands that prove there's still some good folk out there, and The Strumbellas is one of them. Which the Toronto band did last week as they took to The Imperial, as part of their Ride On North America Tour.

First up was Edmonton's The Provincial Archive. The four-piece had a poppy, folsky sound reminiscent of early Decemberists, as they played songs from their recent album It's All Shaken Wonder. 
Starting with the lead off track from the album, "Daisy Garden", lead singer Craig Schram introduced every song with a brief story, occasionally switching off between guitar and banjo, and even taking one song solo as the rest of the band took a break for "Land Machines".
The crowd stadily grew, and made their way towards the stage, as the set went on thanks to catchy songs like "Common Cards", and "Weight and Sea" from their previous album,  Maybe We Could Be Holy, which got some clapping along,
Their set ran for about 45 minutes -- maybe a little long for an opener -- but it was a solid set nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to the next time they're back.

The six members of The Strumbellas packed the stage launching immediately into "Home Sweet Home" from their Juno winning album We Still Move On Dance Floors, getting the crowd doing just that.

The entire band had a great energy and presence on stage -- especially David Ritter on keys and lead singer Simon Ward -- and a very loose vibe; they joked around with the crowd, and never wasted an opportunity to needle each other. They made even a packed Imperial feel like an intimate hangout in someone's living room.

Musically, their "folk popgrass" sound had songs ranging from a slower, country jams to a fiery rocking  and everything inbetween -- with plenty of stompin' and clappin' and singing along to their deceptively upbeat songs, a lot of which about death. Highlights included the anthemic "End of an Era", the explosive energy of "Sheriff", and a new song that they "weren't finished fighting about".
There was also a great moment where Simon said he was going to try a song off-mic, unplugging his guitar and stepping to the front of the stage for a beautiful song "The Fire", as the rest of the band joined him off-mic and the crowd shushed each other into silence.

They wrapped up the main set with "Sailing", but of course were back for more -- one member joking that the whole encore concept was "More awkward than sleeping with your wife's sister" -- and they wrapped up with a couple more, including the raucous "Did I Die" that even included a harmonized rap from Simon & David.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Rural Alberta Advantage w/ July Talk @ Commodore -- 10/23/14

Celebrating the release of their new album Mended With Gold, The Rural Alberta Advantage hit Vancouver for the first time in about two years. And if that wasn't reason enough to fill the Commodore on a Thursday night, they had fellow Toronto band July Talk along with them; a pairing that was bound to tear down the proverbial house.

I got to the venue just as the Toronto five-piece July Talk took the stage, fronted by the pairing of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. Their whiskey-soaked blues-tinged rock & roll mixes Peter's rough growl and Leah's sweet (yet no less powerful) voice, and the two have a great energy and playfulness on stage. They would be constantly teasing and getting in each others faces, and frequently strutting up to the front of the stage. Especially Leah, who spent most of the set perched on the monitors. Part way through the set, Peter even leapt into the crowd to surf, while still playing guitar, which inspired guitarist Ian Docherty to do the same at the end of the set.

And the crowd was definitely on their side, singing along to many songs -- Leah giving the crowd the mic to join in on the frantic "Guns + Ammunition" -- and when they announced it was the last Canadian show on their current tour and joked they should sing "O Canada", the crowd not only complied, but couldn't be stopped. 
Other highlights of the set included the great vocal-interplay of "Headsick", and "Paper Girl", which somehow managed to top all the energy they had throughout the set for a fiery finale.

It's not hard to see why they won (mere hours before their set) a Casby Award for Best New Band, and I hope they're back soon enough, with a show of their own.

That was going to be a hard act to top, but The Rural Alberta Advantage were up to the task, the trio consisting of the distinct voice of lead singer and guitarist Nils Edenloff, Paul Banwatt's frantic and incredible drumming, and multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole playing about four or five instruments, sometimes simultaneously.

Starting off with the explosive "Stamp", they created a folk rock (emphasis on the rock) sound much greater than you would expect from just three people. From their newest songs like "To Be Scared" and "Terrified" off the new album Mended With Gold -- both of which written about the Evil-Dead-like cabin Nils wrote the album in -- to the moody "Don't Haunt This Place" from their first album Hometowns, they tore through their whole arsenal of songs. And even though the trio is from Toronto, they had plenty of songs about Alberta, the fan favourite and chaotic"Tornado '87" and the newer, intense and heartbreaking "Vulcan, AB" being standouts.
With a fantastic energy, the band had the crowd whipped into a frenzy, people furiously clapping, singing, and even crowdsurfing -- impressively, even during their slower and calmer songs.

After about an hour, they ended the set with "Drain the Blood" before Nils came back on stage alone for the encore, starting with "The Build" as the band slowly joined him and closed out the night with a few older songs. The eerie "Barnes' Yard" bringing the energy back up, and they ended off with one last rager, fan favourite, and Alberta-inspired song "The Dethbridge In Lethbridge" with the crowd singing along to the last note.

Stamp; Muscle Relaxants; Don't Haunt This Place; Our Love...; Runners in the Night; Tornado '87; Vulcan, AB; Luciana; On the Rocks; Two Lovers; 45/33; To Be Scared; Terrified; Four Night Rider; Edmonton; Frank, AB; Drain the Blood.
(encore) The Build; Barnes' Yard; In The Summertime; The Dethbridge in Lethbridge.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

David Vertesi @ Anza Club -- 10/22/14

It's been a while since David Vertesi -- tall bass player of Hey Ocean! -- has done a solo show in Vancouver. But earlier this month he released a brand new song, to tease his upcoming second solo album which should be released sometime next year, and a quick jaunt of western tour dates, wrapping up in him home of Vancouver.

Starting off the night at the Anza Club was Windmills from Kelowna. The one-man-band of Cory Myraas took the stage alone armed with his guitar and a looping station, building layers of his ambient-pop (or maybe post-folk) sound, with almost haunting vocals.
He combined it with awkwardly charming stage banter between songs, even going so far as to tell a couple purposefully terrible puns, or joking he was going to "kick it up to 7", as he wrapped up the set with a couple of the more high energy songs of the set.
It's always fun to watch loopers perform live, and he was no exception.

Next up was Rosie June joined only by Andrew Rassmussen on keys and synth, with more of a minimalistic pop sound. The focus was definitely on her lofty and breathy vocals for the show, but unfortunately much of the set it was either too low, or not clear at all, at times hard to make out what exactly she was singing. In fact, she didn't have very much stage presence, hardly moving through the entire set. Even Andrew behind the keys was more animated than she was.
Aside from her own songs she included a cover of Sugar Ray's "When It's Over", and the synth beats were definitely catchy. But I can't help but feel if she just had a bit more behind her vocals, it would have been a much more enjoyable set.

And finally, finishing the pattern of adding a band member, David Vertesi hit the stage with Andrew once again on keys, and Johnny Andrews on drums. They started with a slow-boiling instrumental before going into "Soft Skin" from Vertesi's first album Cardiography, joking that his genre of music was "sad dad cruise ship" (a phrase plastered on the shirts he had for sale).
His songs are simple, yet effective, many of them are about love, or the lack thereof, but it's the emotion he brings to the songs with his smooth baritone that really sells it and sucks you in. The best example of that came later in the set with the heart-wrenching song "Learn To Run" as it built to an intensely emotional release.
As well as the new songs -- like the catchy "Loud Talker" -- Vertesi also threw in a couple cover songs; first an almost lounge-y version of GOB's punk hit "I Hear You Calling" which was a really cool reinterpretation, and later a pretty straight up and dancey cover of "Say You'll be There" by Spice Girls. He wrapped up the set, without bothering with the whole faux-encore business, with his most upbeat (musically, anyway) song "Mountainside", leaving the floor dancing.

Vertesi left the crowd with only a little taste of his new album, but from the sounds of it, I am already looking forward to it.

[intro]; Soft Skin; Gentlemen Say; [new song]; I Hear You Calling [Gob cover]; Loud Talker; All Night, All Night, All Night; Learn To Run; [new song]; Say You'll Be There [Spice Girls cover]; Mountainside.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Seven: Questions?

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like best rainy day songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs That Have Been Parodied On The Simpsons.

This week is all about the songs that ask tge tough questions, the Top Six Inquisitive Songs?

Query these:

You Man? Human?? by The Flaming Lips (feat. Nick Cave)
Are We Gonna Die? by MeatDraw
I Am, Are You? by We Are The City
Who Are You? by Kathryn Calder
What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way) by Wolf Parade
Question Mark? by Ryan Dahle

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

 Subscribe in a reader (Feedburner) | Listen on StitcherDirect Download

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bahamas @ Vogue -- 10/17/14

Somehow it has been two years since I last saw Bahamas play live. The last time, it was at the Biltmore Cabaret, so to take a jump from there to a sold out Vogue Theatre was pretty indicative of how big he's become, and how well his latest album, Bahamas is Afie is doing.

Opening the night was Toronto's The Weather Station, and much like Bahamas is Afie, The Weather Station is Tamara Lindeman. She took the stage alone armed only with her guitar and breathy but powerful vocals as she wooed the packed theatre with her folky, alt-country sound.
She had a good stage presence -- not shy, but hushed, as if to urge you closer -- and she joking with the crowd, even a few times even answering single questions yelled in the direction of the stage, and was pretty captivating while playing.
Near the end of her set, she invited Afie -- who produced her upcoming album -- on stage to play the drums for the last couple songs, switching to an electric guitar.
I enjoyed her set, but I get the feeling that her live shows are the kind that are exponentially better when you know the music, and so I'll definitely have to check out her new album before she's back.

Soon after that, Bahamas himself, Afie Jurvanen, came out joined by Felicity Williams, Christine Bougie, and Jason Tait as his backing band. As they kicked off with "Never Again", Afie looked visibly glad to be there, to be playing for a packed house. He played and strut around the stage with an effortless cool and charisma, even bantering with the crowd, with his dry sense of humour.
The set began with some older songs, including the ridiculously catchy "Caught Me Thinking" before he delved into his new album. Highlights from included the gorgeous and heartbreaking "Can't Take You With Me", and the pairing of "I Had It All" and "Nothing To Me" as Afie pointed out the juxtaposition of the two song titles.

Part way through the set the band took a break as Bahamas pulled out the guitar his first album was named after, his pink strat, for "Lonely Loves" off that album, as Afie showed off his considerable talent on guitar. The band came back to end off the main set, as they were joined by Tamara Lindeman to help out on vocals for the beautiful "Lost In The Light" before leaving.
But of course, they would be back, with Jason Tait utilizing the vibraphone for the first and only time throughout the set on "Montreal" and Lindeman returning to help out with vocals. After a cover of a Bobby Womack song and newly fan-favourite "All The Time" off the new album, the crowd took to their feet for the third standing ovation of the night, and Bahamas ended things off with another beautiful song,"Snow Plow", and Afie one more time showing how grateful he was to be there.

From even the very first time seeing Bahamas, as an opening act at the Biltmore (five years ago this month, actually), I could tell he had ridiculous amounts of charisma and charm. Even in a sold out theatre venue, he still managed to make it seem small and intimate, and is such a good performer. It's no wonder, after many years of backing up bands like Feist, Jason Collet, Zeus, and more, that he went out on his own, and no wonder that he can sell out venues like the Vogue.

Never Again, I Got You Babe, Caught Me Thinking, Already Yours, Like A Wind, Can't Take You With Me, Waves, I Had It All, Nothing To Me Now, Lonely Loves, Sobering Love, Overjoyed, Okay Alright I'm Alive, Your Sweet Touch, Lost In The Light.
(encore) Montreal, Bitter Memories, Please Forgive My Heart (Bobby Womack cover), All The Time, Snow Plow.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

WiL @ Vancouver Fanclub -- 10/16/14

Americana North is a series of shows at Vancouver Fanclub that focuses on "amazing music that fits under the broad 'Americana' description and consisting of Roots, Folk, Bluegrass, Alt Country, Gospel and Blues..!". 
And while I hadn't managed to catch any of their previous shows, with artists like Neil Osbourne and Lindi Ortega, when one of my favourite guitarists to watch live popped up in their lineup, I knew I couldn't miss it.

The openers of the night were Old Mare, from Abbottsford, with a bit of an alt-folk/alt-rock sound. They wore their influences pretty heavily on their sleeves, and while they were all fine musicians, it was not really all that memorable either. A Perfectly Acceptable Opening Band.

It wasn't long after them that Wil took the stage, and I think it was the first time I had seen him with more than just a drummer; in addition to Keith Gallant on drums, they were joined by Lena Birtwistle on keyboard and sometimes backup vocals.
Wil started the show with "Hold Me On", the lead off track from the new album El Paseo, and immediately said that was it, show was over, just one song. But of course, he was joking as he launched into a two-hour set that spanned all the way from the first song he ever wrote, and still a crowd-pleaser, "Both Hands", to more off his new album, like the insanely catchy "Make Make" and "Roam", written for Travel Alberta, which almost gives you the sense of soaring over Albertan landscapes (in a good way).

"Roam" was also the first song of the set where Wil lived up to his "I Break Strings" moniker, breaking a string in the outro. But while that may be one of the things he's known for, it never feels gimmicky -- he even admitted that he doesn't necessarily want to break strings -- just a byproduct from his intense, blurry-handed strumming. (Also, fun fact: his wife Caroline makes jewelry from the recycled broken strings.) And so after changing the string in under a minute, he was back on track, his frantic strumming going to precise picking, and even slide guitar, while emotion poured out of his soulful vocals.

As the main set came to a close, he built in energy and intensity until it all came bursting out on the explosive "Honey Pie", before ending on a slightly calmer note, the slow and heartfelt "Dance With The Devil". And of course he was back for one more, the intense "Look Around", where he snapped not one, but two more strings from his guitar, leaving everyone in the room spent.

It's a testament to his on-stage performance that a singer/songwriter with a guitar and only a couple backing musicians could play for two straight hours, and it never seemed to drag on.

Hold Me On, Wedding Dress, El Paseo, Oak Tree, Make Make, Both Hands, Morning Sun, Ride, Roam, Brother, Hey Now, If You Want Me To, Here We Go, Honey Pie, Dance With The Devil.
(encore) Look Around.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Darcys @ Media Club -- 10/15/14

The Last couple times that Toronto band The Darcys were through town, it was in the opening slot for someone else. And both times, I felt the set was criminally short. So lucky for everyone, they hit the Media Club as they came back around on their most recent tour, on the rainy Wednesday night.

I only caught the end of the first band Hollow Twin, who seemed interesting, before the next band, The Lion The Bear The Fox, featuring Christopher Arruda (the lion) on keys and Cory Woodward (the bear) & Ryan McMahon (the fox) on guitars. All three of the musicians had solo careers, to various degrees of success, but joined together for something more than the sum of its parts. Arruda even admitted he was close to quitting music before joining up with the other two, in the introduction to a song that he wrote for his two friends & bandmates. Another highlight of the set was the final song, an incendiary stomper of a song, that transitioned a little into Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall".
Solo artists coming together can always have mixed results, but the three of them meshed so well that you would think they've been a band all their lives, their three voices intertwined for some great alt-folk harmonies.

And finally, it was time for The Darcys. They started off with the dark and moody "Close to Me", the first track from Warring, as they were celebrating the (just over) one year anniversary of the album's release.
Most of the set focused on the dense and atmospheric art-rock of the album, with songs like the more upbeat and driving "Pretty Girls" and "Itchy Blood", with its slow-simmering intensity. Singer Jason Couse has a great stage presence to him, with a voice that ranges from haunting whispers to soaring heights, and even up into the falsetto.
They reached beyond the album a few times, for some older ones like "Don't Bleed Me" from their self-titled, as well as a couple new ones; near the end of the set they prefaced a song with the fact that they were going to rock & roll now, before playing a new song called "LA Jesus", a huge rocker that I immediately wished I could play on repeat (the only thing I had in my "show notes" for that song was "fucking killer")
The set came to an end, appropriately enough, with the final song off Warring, "Lost Dogfights", seeing Couse coming up to the very front of the stage and just pour his soul through the microphone, before the band brought the song to a swirling ending. But as they went to leave the stage for the faux-encore, they realised there wasn't really anywhere to go in the Media Club, so just stayed there and proclaimed it was now the encore. Jason teased a cover, saying it was only the third time they played the song live, before getting everyone remaining to put on their red shoes and dance the blues with David Bowie's "Let's Dance".

I can't remember the last time The Media Club sounded so good, and this is going to be a show to remember, especially as The Darcys inevitably move to bigger and bigger venues.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Five: Opposites

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like best songs over 15 minutes. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Parenthetical Songs.

This week is pretty simple, it's the Top Six Opposites! What do I mean by opposites? Well, you'll just have to listen to find out. Or I suppose you could also just read the song names...

How about some:

"In The Beginning" by The Stills
"End Of An Era" by The Strumbellas
"Hold On, Hold On" by Neko Case
"Let Her Go" by The Matinée
"We Won't Last The Winter" by Small Sins
"Summersong" by Treelines

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

 Subscribe in a reader (Feedburner) | Listen on StitcherDirect Download

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Then & Now @ Wise Hall -- 10/10/14

Now in its third year, Then and Now is a simple concept; take a handful of local artists, and get them to play a brand new song & an old song -- their newest, shiniest song, and one of their first songs -- and tell stories about both. Put on by Altered By Mom's Devon Lougheed, and Leigh Eldridge, the night was also a fundraiser for Megaphone Magazine, a local publication that is sold by the homeless or low income people, who get to keep the profits of their sales.

Even though Devon was absent from the event, the night was hosted by Caitlin Howden (The Sunday Service) and Stu Popp (SADCAST, Fat Kids On Basketball), who kept things rolling along and even started an impromptu auction of things they took out of the musicians pockets. Such wondrous items included a guitar pick, an unused bus pass, an american $10 bill, and a partially used Earl's gift card, all of which helped earn over $40 more for Megaphone.

Each of the eight acts was slotted two songs, so even with a little bit of setup in-between a few of them, the night never seemed to drag on.

The night started with the husband & wife duo The Wild Romantics and the first song they sang together, a cover of "Valley of Decision" by The Horse Thieves. Their 'now' was a new one called "Memphis, TN", fitting of the duo's alt-country twang, as they ended the song forehead-to-forehead, sharing the microphone, their voices blending together beautifully.

Badgerchild made some of the crowd feel old as she told the story about her then-song, the first song she put up on YouTube as a teenager, Vince Vaccaro's "Costa Rica" after being inspired to pick up the guitar after a breakup. She followed that up with breathy vocals on a new song called "Out of my Head".

Next was CityReal, supported by Tonye Aganaba on guitar, for some acoustic hip hop. He said it was the first time he had ever performed his songs acoustically, as he played on a djembe with Tonye's voice mixing quite well with his rapping.

The first half of the night wrapped up with Hot Panda. Lead singer Chris Connely came out alone on guitar, singing a cover of the first song he ever performed live, "Steak For Chicken" by The Moldy Peaches. Their 'now' turned into a hilarious performance art piece, after Chris claimed guitars were done, and technology was the future. First he pulled out his phone to get Siri to play the sick beat they made, then once that failed, he went to the tablet... which was out of power. And finally just went to the laptop for some (acceptable) backing tracks and brought out the other two band members in their DJ personas, on "synth" and "instagram video". No text description can live up to the performance, but the song itself was ridiculously catchy.

After the intermission, the second half began with CAST, a really interesting and unique performance by the jazzy drum & vocal duo, with Ben Brown on drums, who were accompanied by a tap dancer.

Tonye Aganaba returned to the stage next, taking the concept to heart with her first song being how she felt about love then -- raw and unbridled emotions -- and her now being how she more currently felt, her amazingly impressive voice silencing the hall.

Going to the very extremes of "then and now" Wide Mouth Mason singer Shaun Verreault -- like a few others during the night -- played the very first song he ever performed in front of people, Black Crowes' "She Talks to Angels" while his 'now' was the most 'now' he could have gotten, a brand new song which he had just finished writing while at the show itself, as he silenced the hall with his effortless and amazing guitar playing.

And finally, after one more short break to set up her gear, the night came to a close with Chersea. The singer/songwriter/looper went back to the very first song she wrote on a loop station, a gorgeous a capella song called "Classy" that showed off her own incredible voice, and her new was also the newest song she had in her arsenal, an upbeat and high energy dancy song.

Like the first two iterations, the night was fun and eclectic, zipping through genres with stories about why each performer chose the songs they did. It's always interesting hearing the change in artists over time, or seeing some of the influences of their work, and I hop it'll be back again for a fourth year.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Peak Performance Project Showcase #3 @ Fortune -- 10/09/14

Can you believe it's already the sixth year of the Peak Performance Project? This year they've changed the project up a little. 102.7 The Peak and Music BC have pared it down from a Top 20 to a Top 12, but that was only to make room for a Top 12 of Alberta bands through the newly launched 95.3 The Peak, and Alberta Music.

Part one of the project was a "rock & roll boot camp" where the musicians went on a week long retreat to get lectures and advice from industry pros, to help them refine their craft, and team up with an Albertan band for a collaboration song. Phase two is a series of shows at Fortune Sound Club; three artists a night for four weeks, showing off what they learned to not only an audience, but a panel of judges. They've also been assigned to learn a "Classic Canadian Cover" to play during their set. I always love hearing bands play cover songs, and it's always interesting to see who each act chooses, if it's someone obvious to their style, or something way outside the box. (And yes, I do have a running tally of bands that chose Neil Young)

They took a week off showcases last week, so everyone could celebrate Break Out West and the Western Canadian Music Awards in Winnipeg, but they were back last night for showcase number three.

Jodi Pederson: The Vernon BC native started the night off with a few small sound issues; in fact, the sound the whole night wasn't the greatest, but Jodi's set seemed hit hardest with a muddy mix. But that aside, a good stage presence and great voice drove her set, with a smokey and soulful pop sound. But while she was a great performer, I don't think her songwriting was quite on the same level. From what I could tell, a lot of her songs were about the same thing -- love -- and certainly none of the songs were really bad, few stuck out. One that did, though, was a darker song called "Boys" that really let her voice soar.
She brought things down in the middle of the set for a couple slower jams, including her classic Canadian cover, "Born To Be Wild" (as I found out, while Steppenwolf is still American, the song was written by a Canadian Mars Bonfire) which was a really interesting, almost jazzy, take on the song.
Jodi wrapped up her set with the single, "City Lights", with what I thought was a slightly out-of-place drum breakdown in the middle, and ended with a number of her fans in the crowd holding up and spinning glowsticks.
She's definitely got the performance aspect down, and I think given a little more experience writing, she'll take off.

The Tourist Company: No stranger to radio competitions, the self described experimental folk-rock band was the Vancouver finalist in this year's CBC Music Searchlight contest. The took the stage joined on & off by some familiar faces, Michelle Faehrmann and Stephanie Chatman from Four on the Floor String Quartet (every year it seems at least one band makes use of members of the talented Quartet, and this year it was The Tourist Company).
I've said a few times before on this blog there's a certain type of prevalent folk sound that I just no longer care about, and while they are not the worst offender, they fit in to that category. Which isn't to say they are not objectively good, with solid harmonies, and tight, catchy songs, all greater than what you would expect from just four members. Stand-out songs were the driving drums and jangling glockenspiel on "Irrepressible Future", and "One Giant Leap" with Jillian Levey on lead vocals, instead of main singer Taylor Swindells.
Their set hit a lot of the expected beats of a folk-rock set, including breaking out the floor toms, and their cover was, a little predictably, a soaring folksy version of "Wake Up", closer to the acoustic version Arcade Fire did recently. They ended off with a big, high energy song that I didn't catch the name of, leaving a good chunk of the crowd cheering for more.
While I can not deny they are very good at what they do, what they do is just not for me.

Shred Kelly: On the other side of the "folk coin" is the Fernie BC stoke folk band. They were the one of three bands I was rooting for going into the project, having been a fan of them for a couple years now.
The five-piece started off with a newer song that encapsulates the band perfectly; Tim Newton starting the song slowly plucking his banjo until he picked up the pace to a blurry hand, joined by Sage McBride's lovely voice, the song building to an explosive crescendo. From there they kept up the energy, getting the crowd clapping and stomping along, before it came to a head with another new song, a bit of a darker song for them and my favourite of the set, and "Tornado Alley", culminating in a frantic storm of instruments worthy of the title.
They brought the set down for a moment, for a couple of their (relatively) softer songs, and then wrapped up with the perennial singalong, "I Hate Work", letting the Thursday night crowd blow off steam. That then segued nicely into their Canadian cover, Loverboy's "Working For The Weekend", during which they not only got a surprising number of people to "get low" and crouch down, but also split the room for the singalong: one side singing along with Sage "Everybody's working for the weekend" and the other with Tim, chanting "I Hate Work", to wrap up a set that reinforced my desire to see them in the top three.

And with that, there was only one more showcase to go, spotlighting the last three of the Top Twelve. Next week will be The Wild Romantic, Dearrival, and Damn Fools.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Five: What's In A Name?

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like best video game songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs To Listen To While Reading Horror Stories,

And they say you should never judge a book by its cover, but what about judging a book by its title? Because this week is the Top Six Band Names!

How about some:

"Terraform Mars" by Carbon Dating Service
"We're So DIY!" by Math and Physics Club
"Nightwater-Girlfriend" by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
"The Ghost Within" by ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
"Mama's in the Backseat" by The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer

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

 Subscribe in a reader (Feedburner) | Listen on StitcherDirect Download

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The New Pornographers @ Commodore -- 10/04/14

Fresh off the release of their sixth album Brill Bruisers, The New Pornographers kicked off their tour with a pair of hometown shows at the Commodore Ballroom.
I caught the second of the two, but for some reason, I was not as excited as I should have been. Maybe it was the recent news that Kurt Dahle (one of my favourite drummers) had left the band. Or maybe it was the lack of the promised Neko Case who, due to issues at the border, was not able to get into the country.
But I was intrigued by the announcement that Amber Webber, of Black Mountain and Lightning Dust, would be filling in, and excluding free outdoor shows, it was the first time seeing the band in a proper venue in over four years.

Unfortunately I missed the first two bands, Cool TV and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, getting to the venue just as The New Pornographers hit the stage with the first song, and title track, "Brill Bruisers" and as soon as Dan Bejar joined them for one of my favourites, "Myriad Harbour", a lot of my misgivings had faded. The set dug heavily into their back catalogue, with lots of deep cuts throughout the night, showing off the bands 14 years of crafting some of the best power pop songs out there, from "Champions of Red Wine" all the way back to "Execution Day" off their debut album.

Frontman Carl Newman occasionally chatted with the crowd a few times, joking that in revisiting some of the older songs he found some were "pretty good" -- specifically "The New Face of Zero and One" -- and looked happy to be home, asking if anyone else went to school in White Rock. Bejar was on and off stage, joining only when he was needed, as he usually does, and while the absence of Neko Case was felt, Kathryn Calder unsurprisingly stepped in with her own fantastic voice. Guest Amber Webber was mostly on backup and harmonies, and there were only a couple times that her voice really soaring above the rest, the best example being "Born With a Sound", which featured her on the album. I actually ended up wishing they utilized her more; I would have loved to see how her haunting voice fit with songs like "Challengers" or even "Letter From An Occupant", neither of which ended up in the set.

After over an hour, they ended the main set with my two favourites from the new album, Dan Bejar's frantic "War on the East Coast", and the impressive vocals of Calder shining on "Dancehall Domine" before thy were back out for a few more. Bejar returned one last time for "Spyder", before they went all the way back and wrapped up with the with the first song, and title track to their debut, "Mass Romantic", a nearly perfect song, with Calder once again filling the room with her powerful pipes.

In the end, it was definitely a good show. There was too much raw talent on stage for it not to be, but something about it just felt... off. I have seen the band perform without Case a few times, and I think it all came down to the new drummer. He was a fine drummer, don't get me wrong, but the absence of Kurt Dahle left some pretty big kickdrums to fill.

Brill Bruisers; Myriad Harbour; Sing Me Spanish Techno; Born With a Sound; The End of Medicine; Twin Cinema; Execution Day; All The Old Showstoppers; The Moves; Silver Jenny Dollar; You Tell Me Where; The Spirit of Giving; The New Face of Zero and One; Champions Of Red Wine; Ballad of a Comeback Kid; Backstairs; Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk; War on the East Coast; Dancehall Domine.
(encore) Spyder; The Laws Have Changed; Mass Romantic.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Fifty Four: Sickness

Each week on the 3am Mixtapes podcast, I will share with you the Top Six Songs of a certain subject. The topics can be as general like Top Six Juno Winners. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs I Would Put In A Movie If I Had That Power.

You may have noticed a lack of episode last week, and that's because I was sick. Spent some time watching cartoons, passed out on the sofa, and of course, listening to music. Which is why this week is the Top Six To Listen To While Immobile On The Couch Because You're Sick!

For your earballs this week:

"The Key" by Crissi Cochrane
"The Healing" by Bloc Party
"Time (On Your Own)" by Alexandria Maillot
"Heaven" by Louise Burns
"Sparks" by Boreal Sons
"World Sick" by Broken Social Scene

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

 Subscribe in a reader (Feedburner) | Listen on StitcherDirect Download

Friday, September 26, 2014

Peak Performance Project Showcase #2 @ Fortune -- 09/25/14

Can you believe it's already the sixth year of the Peak Performance Project? This year they've changed the project up a little. 102.7 The Peak and Music BC have pared it down from a Top 20 to a Top 12, but that was only to make room for a Top 12 of Alberta bands through the newly launched 95.3 The Peak, and Alberta Music.

Part one of the project was a "rock & roll boot camp" where the musicians went on a week long retreat to get lectures and advice from industry pros, to help them refine their craft, and team up with an Albertan band for a collaboration song. Phase two is a series of shows at Fortune Sound Club; three artists a night for four weeks, showing off what they learned to not only an audience, but a panel of judges. They've also been assigned to learn a "Classic Canadian Cover" to play during their set. I always love hearing bands play cover songs, and it's always interesting to see who each act chooses, if it's someone obvious to their style, or something way outside the box. (And yes, I do have a running tally of bands that chose Neil Young)

While the first showcase was more of a folksy affair, this one was a little more rockin'.

Altered By Mom: This is the second year in the project for Devon Lougheed. His previous band beekeeper competed a couple years ago, but have since broke up, leading the way for this new band with an unabashed 90s alt-rock influenced sound, who were one of my early favourites this year.
With a stage adorned in balloons -- including a large A, B, and M -- the band started as Devon made his way through the crowd, pumping people up, before jumping on stage. And then jumping around the stage. Devon has always had an unlimited reserve of energy on stage, and this was no different. At one point he even brought Peak DJ Carly Walde up on stage for a faux proposal during "Small Joys", and later ran through the crowd to hand out Altered By Mom cootie catchers/fortune tellers.
Their cover was a grunged out version of "Old Man" by Neil Young, which they had in their pocket from before the project, and they closed the set with some of their strongest songs; a slower, more heartfelt song called "Larger Than The Ribs" dedicated to all of the bands' moms, before doing a 180 music- and lyric-wise into the very cheeky "Cup Of Coffee, Babe". They brought up a couple guests for their last song, their first-place-winning Bootcamp Collaboration song, Kevvy Mental from Fake Shark Real Zombie and Jasmin Parkin of Mother Mother, the set ended with a giant singalong, Devon splitting the crowd for duelling vocals, for an amazing finish to their set.

Miss Quincy & The Showdown: Another one of my favourites going into the project this year is the all-girl blues rock band from up north. Miss Quincy's raw, powerful voice drove the set as they started with "What Is Life If It Ain't Strange" off their recent album Roadside Recovery (produced by PPP alumni Matthew Rogers of The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer). They didn't say too much through the set, mostly letting the music speak for itself, from badass & sultry songs like "Bad Love" to the almost hymnal "Take It To The Well", which had the crowd stomping and clapping along -- and singing by the end.
Miss Quincy teased a few old standbys for her cover, someone you might expect a rock band to play, before subverting expectations and launching into "Boys Wanna Be Her" by Peaches. I never would have guessed a Peaches cover, but as soon as they started, it made the most sense in the world. It was a great cover, and unexpected, which made it my favourite of the night.
(side note: the other two covers of the night were the third time each song has been covered by PPP bands over the years)
And finally, they wrapped up the set with the my favourite of the set, "Wild Fucking West", a gritty garage blues rocker that was the perfect way to cap off the set.

Goodwood Atoms: The final band of the night, they were a bit of an anticlimax compared to the first two. From Vancouver, the band was the only one of the night I wasn't familiar with, and had a pretty generic folk rock sound. They started with lead singer Francis Hooper out alone, moody back lighting casting him in silhouette, before the rest of the band joined him for what was a pretty by-the-numbers folk set, shaky harmonies and all. I wouldn't say it was bad, but just did nothing to grab my attention.
Their Classic Canadian Cover was a pretty obvious choice as they did a pretty straightforward version of "The Weight" by The Band, trading off verses, joined by fellow PPP'er David Newberry.
They also had an inexplicable and superfluous belly dancer come out intermittently throughout their set to dance back and forth at the front of the stage. I'm not against backup dancers in general, but they have to make sense in context, and be backup dancers. She was neither, out in front of the band, and there did not seem to be any reason for her to be there other than boobs. It didn't feel like part of the show, it just felt exploitative.

Aside from that, it was a good showcase with two of my three favourites from this month's project. They're taking a break next week, but will be back at Fortune in two weeks with a showcase that includes my third favourite, Shred Kelly, The Tourist Company, and Jodi Pederson.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rich Aucoin @ Fortune -- 09/16/14

Regular readers of the blog (all twenty six of you) will know how much I rave about Rich Aucoin, especially his live shows experiences, and that one of my favourite new discoveries of the year has been Chersea. So when I found out that they would be doing a show together, you could say I was pretty excited. And with the addition of Lowell -- who is, much like Hansel, so hot right now -- that seemed like a pretty damn strong lineup.

Starting things off was Chersea, normally a solo looper, this time she was out with a gentleman friend, drummer Drew McKay. It was the first time I had seen Chersea without Chelsea Laing on (literally) every instrument, and while a couple brief times it felt like McKay was just playing alongside her instead of with her, for the most part he provided a good backbone to the songs without being overpowering; a nice supplement, since the focus was (and should be) on Chersea's loops and powerful voice.
Armed with a mountain of keys and synth, a drum pad, and even a trumpet, her songs ranged from the dark synth of "Grey Matter" to the more upbeat and catchy, danceable "I Could Lost It All". It's always amazing watching someone working loops, building layer upon layer, and "Mind Porn" as it grew to an explosive ending.

Oh, and the two of them were also joined by a third person on stage, but not playing any instruments: a girl with a light-up LED hula-hoop dancing just off to the side the entire set.

After draping the stage with white fabric, Lowell was out behind the keys, backed by guy on guitar and a laptop, celebrating her new album, We Loved Her Dearly, out on the same day.
Early technical problems slowed things down right after the first song, but "Cloud 69"got the crowd right back into it, as Lowell came out from behind the keys, dancing at the front of the stage in her very mesh shirt, name emblazoned across the front Wonder Woman-style, very strategically placed.
She's a very strong songwriter with ridiculously catchy alt-pop songs, the anthemic "I Love You Money", and "LGBT" -- the chorus proclaiming "don't hate our love" -- but her live show didn't quite live up to the songs I had heard off the album. I'm not sure if her voice wasn't quite as good, or if it would be better with a bigger backing band, but her live set just fell a little short.

And finally, one day removed from his birthday, Rich Aucoin came out to introduce his usual show opening. He orchestrated a sing along to the 20th Century Fox fanfare before a recorded monologue which can be summed up with "we're all so lucky to be alive" and "Be Awesome", then the usual "opening credits", picking out people Rich knew was going to be at the show and giving them amusing and heroic attributes.

As the intro came to a climax, they burst into "Meaning of Life", the first song off the new album Ephemeral, right away uniting everyone in yelling along. Over the next hour Rich controlled the show from his pedal board and sampler, hardly standing still for a single moment, with his partner in crime Tony Dallas crashing on the drums. Aucoin was all about the stage, in and out of the crowd, getting everyone to form a giant circle before rushing into the middle to dance, blasting confetti cannons, and of course, bringing out the famed giant rainbow parachute (like from gym class) which everyone danced under to "Are You Experiencing?", a physical and emotional manifestation of the lyrics "When you give it all up, you get it back".

His shows are always set to visuals as well, many times movie clips or internet videos to go along with the songs, like introducing "I Am Sorry" with a montage of famous movie apologies, and "Want To Believe" having the appropriate X-Files accompaniment.

It seemed far too short when he brought the set to an end with "It", making everyone vow not to "leave it all in our heads", before gathering everyone in the venue at the stage for a giant group picture. He also, as usual, left his name and phone number on the big screen, promising that if you text him, he'll send you some music.

I always say, it's nearly impossible to simply describe the full scope of a Rich Aucoin show, or even show someone in photos. It's something you have to experience. Every single person in the room is on the same page, and looking around the venue you see nothing but giant smiles. Rich Aucoin can bring everyone together like no one I have ever seen.

Meaning of Life, Undead, Four More Years, Yelling In Sleep, They Say Obey, I Am Sorry, Let It Go, Want To Believe, Are You Experiencing?, It.