Tuesday, April 29, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Thirty Five: Car Chases

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 fictional bands. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs That Sound Like They Should Be In a Gritty Western.

This week, picture yourself careening around corners, speeding down alleyways, and crashing through those giant panes of glass that are always being carried across the street, because it is the Top Six Songs To Play While in a Car Chase!


"Chase Scene" by Broken Social Scene
"Prytania" by Mutemath
"Trembling Hands" by Explosions in the Sky
"La Piqûre" by Karkwa
"Rooibos/Palm Wine Drinkard" by The Stills
"Made Up My Mind" by Mounties

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

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Franz Ferdinand @ Commodore -- 04/26/14

A year and a half ago, Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand teased new material at a show at the Commodore Ballroom. It had been some time since their '09 album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, and that tease soon payed off with the release of Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions last year. And now they were back in their full glory to show off the rest of the new album.

Starting off the night was Welsh singer Cate Le Bon. Her set started with some smoky folk songs, but as the set went on, the songs grew denser and more intense. "I Can't Help You" brought up the energy, and she showed off some of her guitar chops on "Falcon Eyed". The set climaxed with a huge rock-out song, which I didn't catch the name of, that was definitely the most impressive.
She put on a strong set, and had a great energy when playing, but a bit of a sleepy stage presence otherwise. She didn't say much besides thanking the crowd a couple times, and I don't think she even mentioned her name once on stage.

The lights dimmed and Caribou played over the loudspeakers as a test pattern was projected on the screen, and Franz Ferdinand took the stage. They spared no energy as they launched right in to their latest single "Bullet", and played an amazing set that spanned all four albums.
They included personal favourites like the cheeky "The Dark of the Matinée" of their self-titled debut, the chaotic "The Fallen", and my favourite from the new album, "Stand on the Horizon" with its swanky, hip-swaying ending.

With over a decade under their belts as a band, the four members are incredibly tight together and are all incredible performers. Especially Nick McCarthy went back and forth between guitar and keys, even lending vocals to "Tell Her Tonight", but especially Alex Kapranos, who strut around stage, dancing when not playing his guitar, jumpkicking, and generally had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. There are few frontmen who manage to simultaneously look effortlessly cool, while still showing that they care about what they are doing and are having fun.

Part way through the set, Kapranos spotted a request held up in the front row, asking the fan if that's what they wanted to hear. He then grabbed the sign, briefly showed it to the band, and without hesitation they launched into the requested "Darts of Pleasure". And naturally, there were massive singalongs as Kapranos offered the audience the mic to songs like "Walk Away", "Do You Want To" and, of course, "Take Me Out", the entire sold out crowd yelling the eponymous phrase as loud as they could.

They ended the main set with perhaps the best percussion breakdown in live music, all four members crowded around the drum kit for the explosive ending to "Outsiders". Obviously, though, they were back for more, and after "Right Actions" they burst into "This Fire", bathed in red lights, as Kapranos led the crowd in the biggest singalong of the night, like a minister leading his flock, even leaping into the crowd to surf while still playing guitar.
The wrapped up the night, an hour and a half after they started, with the most appropriate ending song, "Goodbye Lovers and Friends", leaving us with the parting lines, "Goodbye lovers and friends / you can laugh as if / we're still together / but this really is the end"

Bullet, Tell Her Tonight, No You Girls, Jacqueline, Walk Away, Stand on the Horizon, Can't Stop Feeling, Auf Achse, Fresh Strawberries, The Dark of the Matinée, Evil Eye, Darts of Pleasure, Do You Want To, Michael, Brief Encounters, Lucid Dreams, Take Me Out, Love Illumination, The Fallen, Ulysses, Outsiders.
(encore) Right Actions, This Fire, Goodbye Lovers & Friends.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Thirty Four: Loopers

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 Australian bands. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Bands that have "Young" in their name.

This week it's all about those musicians who single-handedly build up layer upon layers to make a song, the Top Six Loopers!

Getting loopy this week is:

"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" by KT Tunstall
"The Riverbed" by Owen Pallett
"Shadowless" by Hannah Epperson
"I Just Want To" by Reggie Watts
"Jane" by Whitehorse
"Chemical Polarity" by Chersea

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

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chersea EP release @ Fortune -- 04/19/14

When I saw Chersea for the first time earlier this year, I noted that she might just be someone to watch out for this year. Well, at least a few other people seem to agree with me, because since then she has made it all the way to the regional finals in the CBC Music Searchlight competition, being one of the top ten artists in the Vancouver region of voting (you can vote here, until Monday at noon PST, if you are so inclined). And that was even before the release of her debut EP, Grey Matter, which she celebrated with a release show at Fortune Sound Club this weekend.

Opening the night was Coquitlam band Community Trees, a four-piece with an alt-folk sound and coed vocals. The mix sounded a bit muddy and off for the first couple songs, but they soon settled into it. They had some interesting and catchy songs, but maybe a little scattered, like they just need to tighten things up a little bit. That aside, they were a fine band to open the night.

After a quick turnaround, Chersea hit the stage behind a complex setup of instruments. Looping everything from keyboard to synth to drum pads to trumpets to bass guitar, as well as a vocal harmonizer, everything on stage came live from one person (with the exception of a couple more complex loops, which she admitted were built between sets, for the sake of brevity due to the curfewed show).
Chersea started with the title track "Grey Matter", the moody backlighting matching the tone of the song, and from there the set ranged from dark ambient-pop to the summery and upbeat "Chemical Polarity", to the straight up danceable and electro-tinged "Requiem" (which was one of three songs to feature backup dancers up on stage). She even kept the dance-party portion of the set going with a cover of Love Inc's "Broken Bones".
She harmonized with herself, showing off her strong voice, for the "last" song of the set, the single from the EP, "I Could Lose It All", but had time for one last song before the curfew. Not bothering to leave the stage, she encored with a new song called "Mr. Cullum", a poppy jazz tune named after and inspired by Jamie Cullum.

For years now, I've loved watching loopers play live; watching them single-handedly build layer upon layer to create rich soundscapes in real time, and Chersea does a fantastic job at that. I wouldn't be surprised if this is just the beginning for her.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gay Nineties @ Fox Cabaret -- 04/18/14

Vancouver's historic Fox Theatre (up until recently more known for showing films of the adult variety) has recently undergone renovations and reopened as the Fox Cabaret, touting live music every weekend.
They've had a few shows there so far, but this was the first chance I had to see one there, and it was a pretty nice venue; a welcome addition to the city.
Though I will say, in a very aggravating turn of events, despite the advertised "Doors 8, Show 9" the first band did not go on until just after 10:30. I know Vancouver is not a punctual city, especially for shows, but having the show start an hour and a half after the listed time is ridiculous.

But I digress. After a couple of hours of DJs Owen Ellis and Louise Burns spinning vinyl, James Younger took the stage. Formerly in the Vancouver group Sun Wizard, when they disbanded, he struck out on his own (as well as playing backup in The Zolas).
Younger's sound had a throwback feeling to it, definitely influenced by the 70s. Songs like the bouncy "Sleeping Alone" had a high energy and upbeat rock, getting the crowd moving.
There was nothing about the set that made me dislike it, but not much that made it particularly stand out either. Younger and his bandmates -- which included Andy Bishop, who plays in about 37% of all Vancouver bands -- were all unarguably strong musicians, but there wasn't much variety to the songs. It was Perfectly Acceptable Music, and a good opening act.

After a fairly short turnaround, it was time for Gay Nineties. The band took advantage of the old movie screen behind them, projecting things from flat colours and patters, to scenes from the gay 90's (the 1890s, that is) and other animations.
They opened with a softer song, building into the rocking "Hold Your Fire", taken from their new album they are currently working on. With charismatic frontman Parker Bossley clad in a golden chainmail shirt, the set ranged from sultry slow jams to high energy rockers, blending hints of 60s psych-rock, 90s grunge, and 00s dance-rock. They even slipped in a cover of an Ambrosia song.
One incredibly danceable song was introduced with Bossley asking people to slow dance like they were in middle school, and their current explosive single "Letterman" got a huge response.
They wrapped up the set with slow-burner, starting calm and erupting to a big finish, but of course they were back for the obligatory encore, inviting up James Younger for a pretty solid cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl".

The Gay Nineties burst onto the scene a couple years ago in the Peak Performance Project, and they have been on an upward trajectory ever since. Every time I see them play, they get better and tighter, and I am definitely interested to see what they have up their collective sleeves for the new album.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Thirty Three: The Nineties (with Devon Lougheed)

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 Instrumentals. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs For Insomniacs.

And this week is kind of special. Not only is it the first ever 3am Mixtapes recorded outdoors, but I've got a special guest for you. Devon Lougheed from beekeeper and Altered by Mom joins me as we share our love of 90s CanCon AltRock. This songs are Big. These songs are Shiny. These songs are Tunes. It's the Top Six Large Glimmering Songs!

Flashing back to:

"Freeway" by SalmonBlaster
"Generation X-Wing" by Matthew Good Band
"Someone Who Is Cool" by Odds
"Today I Hate Everyone" by The Killjoys
"Brian Wilson" by Barenaked Ladies
"Enya" by Age of Electric

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

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Thirty Two: Breakups

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 Winnipeg bands. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs To Use as Your WWE Entrance Music.

Sixteen weeks ago, I did a Crush Mixtape, songs you might want to play for... someone. Eight weeks ago, it was the makeout podcast, for necking. So, to take things to take things to their logical (if cynical) conclusion, it's breakup songs. Yup, this week it is the Top Six Songs For the Broken Hearted!

Breaking hearts this week are:

"Marlaina Kamikaze" by The Zolas
"Anytime" by My Morning Jacket
"Love it Dissipates" by Mother Mother
"Holes in Your Coffin" by Phildel
"Mama's Boy" by Hannah Georgas
"Cheers Darlin'" by Damien Rice

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

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Monday, April 7, 2014

WIL w/ Shaun Verreault @ Railway -- 04/06/14

Two of my favourite guitar players, especially to watch live, are William Mimnaugh and Shaun Verreault. And some of my favourite shows over the last ten years have been when those two shared the stage.
In fact, I first discovered WIL when he opened for Wide Mouth Mason at the Commodore many moons ago, and I've seen the pair do solo acoustic shows together a few times.
They wrapped up a very short, four date mini-tour at the Railway Club, where I've seen both play before, individually.

The Wide Mouth Mason frontman Shaun Verreault started the show going straight from his line check right into the set. He had a little bit of technical issues during the first song, his distortion pedal deciding it didn't feel like working ("that just goes to show, where there's a will, there's a won't") but it hardly phased him as he finished the song, even with electric guitar unamplified at one point. But it was a hurdle that was somewhat fitting with Shaun's "motto" for the brief tour, to try out the new and untested. Relying just on his electric guitar -- no acoustic -- Shaun included a brand new song he had never played before, one written for David Gogo, and he revamped a newer WMM song "The Night Fell", with some help from his looping pedal.
And of course, throughout the entire set he melted faces off with his phenomenal guitar work. Playing slide with his pinky, hands moving over the strings almost faster than you can follow, he is mesmerising to watch. One of the best showcases of his skills was "Catch My Death", a song from his Two Steel Strings solo album, recorded on a train speeding across the country. After a short while he wrapped up the set with a cover of Sam Cooke's oft-covered "Bring It On Home to Me", looking a little sad to be done such a short tour with his friend.

After a bit of a break, WIL took the stage joined only by his drummer Keith Gallant. His acoustic guitar looked like it had taken a beating for fifty years, but was likely not nearly that old, just showing the signs of WIL's intense guitar playing. But even though WIL may be known for his frantic, blurry-handed guitar playing, he's also got an amazing, soulful voice. And not only does he blend those two aspects together perfectly, sometimes it's even on the same song.
Started the set with "Long Kiss Goodnight", he played songs ranging from the brand new "El Paseo" to "Dance With The Devil" from his first album. Highlights included "Hey Now", which gradually built before exploding into chaos at the end, nearly silencing the Railway Club (no easy feat) and the first songs he ever wrote, and still a crowd favourite, "Both Hands". And after about an hour, he wrapped up with "Wedding Dress", but not before promising he would be back for more after a brief intermission, for people to grab a beer (or a cranberry juice and soda).
The second half of the set was a little shorter, taking a request for the incendiary "Honey Pie" and a couple songs he wrote for Alberta, where he grew up; "Ride" written for the Calgary Stampede, and "Roam" written for Travel Alberta.
And of course, it wouldn't be a WIL show without some broken strings. He snapped one during the final song of the set, "Tell You Twice", and after some prompting from the crowd, hopped back on stage for one last one, an incredible instrumental appropriately titled "4 String Song".

I could watch either of these gentlemen play guitar all night, so it's always great seeing the two of them together. And even though they didn't join one another, as they have in past shows, they always seem to bring out the best of each other. In fact, my only complaint of the night wasn't even anything to do with on stage, but rather the overly-excited guy in the crowd who thought he was part of WIL's band, playing the shrill-whistle and the off-beat-clap.

Long Kiss Goodnight, El Paseo, Hold Me On, Dance With The Devil, Hey Now, Oak Tree, Both Hands, Wedding Dress.
Baby Baby, Honey Pie, Ride, Roam, Tell You Twice.
(encore) 4 String Song.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Arts & Crafts Road Trip w/ Reuben & The Dark, The Darcys, and NO @ Biltmore -- 04/05/14

Toronto independent music company Arts & Crafts has had a long history of fostering collaboration and community among their bands, and the latest effort is a tour that includes Toronto's The Darcys, LA's NO, and Calgary's Reuben & The Dark. The three bands rotated slots throughout the tour, headlining in their own regions, giving a chance for the bands, each with new or upcoming albums, to shine.

Starting the night off was NO. The six-piece had recently released their first full length album El Prado and was in Vancouver for the very first time. Bradley Hanan Carter's deep baritone vocals backed by soaring guitars are sure to draw many comparisons to The National, but they were not quite as... depressing.
Carter also had a compelling stage presence, using the space on the stage, and even coming down into the crowd a couple times, singing directly to individual members or still brandishing his whiskey glass.
I also really liked the way the set was structured. They started off with a slower paced, almost shoegazey tune, and the songs gradually increased in tempo and intensity (and volume), before winding back down a little for the ending. The highlight was the single from the album, "Leave The Door Wide Open", and I would be interested to see them again next time they're through town.

The second band up was the one I was most excited to see, The Darcys. They played exclusively from their recent Juno nominated album Warring, with moody backlighting matching their sound. Starting off with "Hunting", the song immediately showcased the band's atmospheric dense rock, as well as lead singer Jason Couse's powerful voice, which ranged from anguished whispers to soaring heights, and even up to the falsettos.
Members frequently switching from guitar to keys, creating a layered soundscape for the bubbling intensity of "Itchy Blood", and the fast paced, driving "Pretty Girls", and they brought the set to a close with the slower, almost haunting, final track from the album, "Lost Dogfights".
Both times I've seen The Darcys has been as a supporting act, with sets that felt far too short, so hopefully they're back soon enough headlining their own shows.

And finally, wrapping things up was Reuben & The Dark -- an apt name for the band, as their folk sound was darker than most. Imagine if the copycat folk band de jour actually played interesting music.
Tight harmonies and atmospheric guitars (and a drummer who was standing the entire set) drove songs like "Rolling Stone", and despite their sleepy stage presence, the crowd was definitely into it.
The last few songs built in intensity before they ended with a few members grabbing floor toms and a powerful percussion breakdown, lights going crazy for dynamic ending to the set. There were even chants for an encore, but the band had to come back out and sheepishly indicate they could not play any more, due to the Biltmore's club night starting (the DJ had already started spinning the moment their set ended).

While label-based tours aren't anything new, it was still a cool concept to show off some of the newer Arts & Crafts talent, and I hope there are more tours like this in the future. Though I do wish there was a little more on-stage collaboration with the bands -- perhaps one last song where all three bands jam together, or a cover.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Steam Whistle Unsigned w/ JP Maurice, Rolla Olak, & Redbird @ Biltmore -- 04/03/14

The Steam Whistle Unsigned concert series was started by the Toronto microbrewery to promote local unsigned talent, and they have returned to Vancouver for the first show of the year. The ongoing concert series, which takes place in multiple cities across Canada, spotlights three local bands and partners with a charity that receives the proceeds of the show; this time it was Music Heals, an organization that promotes the healing power of music.

Starting off the night was a favourite around these parts, Redbird. It's been a while since any new music from the band, fronted by the lovely voiced Savannah Leigh Wellman, and recently she has been teasing a shift from her previous folksy-rock sound to what she described as "rock you can shake your hips to" -- or simply, Sex Rock. Which was a perfect description to the groovy jams of the new songs that made up the bulk of the set, like the sultry "Wandering One". Even the few old songs were bumped up a little, like "The West Wind" and the almost unrecognizable sexy bass groove given to "No Game".
My favourite of the set was the final song, which I didn't catch the name of; Savannah introduced it as a space rock song, and the slow beginning gradually swelled into a dizzying swirling of John Sponarski's amazing guitar and guest Andrew Rasmussen's keyboard for a great ending to the set. As someone that is maybe starting to think they are getting "over" the current folk movement, I really enjoyed the new sound, and I am very interested to hear the new album that Savannah teased.

Next up was Rolla Olak, who I have seen play a few times recently, ranging from solo to a full band. It's always the latter I enjoy more, and luckily that's exactly what this was, as Rolla was joined by his band (which included John Sponarski pulling double duty). His roots-y sound is a lot more upbeat and rocking with the full band, the energetic boot-stomping songs getting people moving. And while Rolla doesn't say much on stage, his passion is evident.
Part way through the set Savannah came out and helped sing on a slower jam, and as he was finishing up, Rolla got the weeknight crowd to sing along a little to a song called "It's Alright". He wrapped up with probably the best song of his set, a raging blues rocker where he was joined by Eric Larocque on harmonica.
Olak puts on a strong set, but I think is just missing that undefinable something to set him apart and above the others like him, to take him to that next level.

And finally, ending the night was JP Maurice. Joined by a stagefull of familiar faces, his nine-piece band included a host of local musicians; Stephanie Chatman on violin, Jer Breaks on guitar, Timmy "Boom Bap" Proznick on drums, Marcus Abramzik on bass, Andrew Rasmussen on keys, and a backing vocal trio of Alex Badger, Stephanie Mcmahon, and Savannah Wellman. There were a couple times when the nine-piece band felt a little too cumbersome, but the members rotated on and off stage, and for the most part they gelled well.
Starting off with a pair of songs that showcased the darker side of JP's pop-rock, "Poison Heart" and "Get Mad", the set was filled with raw emotions. Many of his songs are about love and/or loss, and the passion pours out of JP when her performs, leaving his heart on the stage every night.
Friend and collaborator David Newberry joined JP on stage for a song, "Pennies" and after the infinitely catchy "Mistake", JP and friends closed the set with the single from his most recent album The Arborist, "The Other One".
But even at a half past midnight, the remaining crowd cheered for more, and the band was back out for one final song, JP's cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams", which briefly morphed into "Teenage Dream" and back again.

Not only was this Unsigned show a great showcase for the local bands, but a great showcase of the local scene. Musicians were crossing bands the entire night, and even the crowd was filled with various members of other bands, there to watch. It's shows like this that show off the level of support that can exist in parts of the Vancouver music scene.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

3am Mixtapes: Episode Thirty One: Falsetto

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 biog shiny tunes. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs To Play During a High Speed Chase.

And this week, you better get out your tight pants because it's all about the high notes with the Top Six Falsettos!

Hitting those highs are:

"Fashionable People" by Joel Plaskett Emergency
"My Friend" by Paper Lions
"Holding on for Life" by Broken Bells
"747s" by The Darcys
"Million Miles" by TV On The Radio
"Tornado" by Jónsi

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

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