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!

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