Friday, January 30, 2015

String Fling III @ Biltmore -- 01/28/15

For the third year running, members of Vancouver's Four on the Floor String Quartet have stepped into the spolight for a show called String Fling. The event sees the quartet -- who have backed up about 87% of all Vancouver bands -- front & centre for the night, to be joined by various local musicians to fuse indie rock with classical strings. Previous years have been at the Rio Theatre, but this year they took over the Biltmore Cabaret for two nights of stringy goodness.

The members of the quartet for the night were Michelle Faehrmann on cello, Elliott Vaughan on viola, and violinists Stephanie Chatman & Emily Bach, and they were occasionally joined by Sean Bayntun on piano. Each musician joining them had a quick set of a couple songs, with the quartet playing their own pieces between each set, usually of songs written by members.

After the quartet started the show, the first performer to join them was frequent collaborator, Dominique Fricot. He took stage with his acoustic guitar and a few heartfelt songs, the strings giving them added emotional weight, especially on "Strange Lady". He also got the crowd participating in a stomp-stomp-clap along to "Those Eyes", before proceeding to act as emcee the entire night, wine glass in hand.

Hannah Epperson was also no stranger to the quartet, being a rotating member herself. Normally a looper, she eschewed her pedal for the first show in a long while, as she had actual humans backing her this time. Her soft and beautiful voice lilted over the strings, and I really liked her second song, a brand new, heavy hitting song, which included Daniel Ruiz on drums (the first of his frequent appearances throughout the night).

The tone shifted a little as Dustin Bentall got up with a bit more of a rockin' sound. As much as the softer songs fit with the string quartet, I always like how seeing things a bit rougher sound. Which was pretty darn good in this case. His first song, "I Have Not Been Sleeping" was just him with the strings, but they were joined by Ruiz on drums again and Ryan Guldemond out on backing vocals for the title track to his latest album You Are An Island.

Wrapping up the first half of the evening was legendary bluesman Jim Byrnes, just putting on a clinic. He dazzled the crowd from his stool with one of his own songs, which he joked was one of the oldest of the night, and then a cover of what was definitely the oldest of the night, "Saint Louis Blues", originally recorded in 1914 by WC Handy. It would have been hard for anyone to directly follow that, so they took a brief intermission at that point.

After the intermission the quartet was accompanied by an interpretive dancer for their song, before it was time for Mother Mother Member Ryan Guldemond. In true Ryan fashion, he challenged the audience with a song about death and attending your own funeral (or not) in his first song "End of Me" and seemed genuinely humbled and honoured to be playing with the quartet, asking them questions and even engaging Elliott in a slight guitar/viola duel at the end of a song.

There was a few repeat acts from previous years, and the next performer Tonye Aganaba was one of them. With her guitar in hand, she jokingly assured the crowd that it was in fact working, after a bit of a technical glitch from last year. Her incredible, soulful voice filling the room for one of her own songs, as well as a powerful cover of Thom Yorke's "Black Swan".

And finally, Bend Sinister's Dan Moxon was the last to play. Taking a seat behind the piano, he played a couple of the band's slower ballady songs, ending with "Careless", but first playing an absolutely gorgeous rendition of "Don't Let Us Bring You Down" -- which may have ruined the song for me, since now I only ever want to hear it with strings.

But that wasn't quite the end, as the quartet was drawn back on stage for one last song, as they were once more joined by Dom Fricot, for a fun cover of INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart".

The only downside this year was the venue. I feel The Rio was a much better place for this kind of show, as while the Biltmore was seated, it was still more of a "club" venue than a "soft seater", and from where I was sitting I could hear incessant talking and chatter all throughout the night. It detracted a little from the show, especially when the quartet was playing beautiful instrumentals.
But that is hardly the musicians' fault, and aside from that it was a great night. String Fling has continually been one of the most unique events in Vancouver, giving these amazingly talented string players, who are usually backing up other bands or off in the wings, the chance to take centre stage and shine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Sixty Four: Sex Rock w/ Savvie

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 female-fronted bands , but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs to Listen to While Hungover on a Sunday Morning. 

This week I am joined by a special guest co-host, Savannah Leigh Wellman, who will tell me all about her new band Savvie, and her new favourite sound with the Top Six Sex Rock Songs!

Shake your hips to:

"Get Some" by Lykke Li
"Boo Hoo Hoo" by No Sinner
"Do I Wanna Know" by Arctic Monkeys
"Make It Wit Chu" by Queens of the Stone Age
"First One In" by Zeus
"Without You" by Savvie

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

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Sixty Three: Rage!

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 bands from Vancouver, but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs About Vancovuer. 

And this week, is a collection of songs when you’re just feeling mad. Sometimes you just need some loud and fast songs that you can just use to kick out the motherfucking jams, and so this week is the Top Six Songs To Get Your Frustrations Out!

Punch and kick the air furiously while listening to:

"Bad Love Song" by Mobina Galore
"Gemini" by Death From Above 1979
"Battering Ram" by The Pack AD
"Boys and Girls" by The Balconies
"Smalls" by JPNSGRLS
"Lie Without A Liar by" ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

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

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Yukon Blonde @ Biltmore -- 01/15/15

A little over seven years ago, in December of Ought-Seven, The Stills were in Vancouver recording their album that would become Oceans Will Rise. While they were here, they played a one-off show at some brand new venue I hadn't heard of at the time. It was in a weird location and was impossible to find, but I remember liking it right away.

That wasn't quite the first show The Biltmore ever hosted (it was close) but it was the first time I was there, and certainly not the last. Over the last seven years, I've probably been to the Biltmore over a hundred times. Heck, when I was moving to East Van, one of the things I had in mind was "can I walk to the Biltmore?"

This is all a preamble to say that over the last month or so, The Biltmore has been celebrating their seventh birthday, which has culminated by a show from none other than Yukon Blonde. Who I was very excited to see, because other than a couple songs at Keloha last summer, it had been two and a half years since I saw the band play live.

Unfortunately I was running late and get there for the last half of the last song from Fountain, which is a shame because I only found out after that the lineup includes former members from the old Kelowna band Kingdom Cloud.

It wasn't long before Yukon Blonde hit the stage, the band returning for their first show in Vancouver from their year long break with a whole new lineup; frontman Jeff Innes and guitarist Brandon Scott were joined by some new (but familiar) faces; the drummer from Fountain, Rebecca Gray on keys, and James Younger on bass & helping out with harmonies & vocals.

They immediately got the crowd into it starting off with their hit single "My Girl" and one of my favourites from their last album Tiger Talk, "Radio", before launching into a whole host of brand new songs, giving the packed crowd a sneak peek at the album they finished recording. A few of the new songs were a bit more synth-tinged than the usual Yukon Blonde fare -- perhaps a result of Innes' solo project High Ends while they were on break -- but the two that stood out to me were an 80s-sounding rocker that I think was called "Saturday Night", and an incredibly sexy jam called (I think) "I Wanna Be Your Man" that is guaranteed to be on every makeout mixtape once the new album is released.

They finished off the main set with a few more Tiger Talk songs, "Breathing Tigers" building to a ferocious climax, and wrapping up the main set with "Stairway". The encore went back even further, for a few more fan favourites. Everyone was singing and clapping along to "Babies Don't Like Blue Anymore" from their self-titled album, and they went all the way back to their debut EP Everything in Everyway for "Nico Canmore", starting with a cool, space-y instrumental jam and slowly building to an intense and breathless ending, the perfect song to cap off the night.

The night was a great return for the band, the new lineup is pretty solid, and their harmonies as spot-on as ever. You could just tell that they were thrilled to be back on stage in Vancouver, as well.
And based on the few new songs, I am really looking forward to the new album; it sounds like a great progression of their sound.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Sixty Two: Name Changes

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 sex rock songs, but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs that Start with the Letter K. 

This week it's all about the ch-ch-ch-changes, with the  Top Six Bands Who Have Changed Their Name! What were they all named before? Listen to find out!

Put these in your earballs:

"Do You Wanna" by Paper Lions
"Reservoir" by PUP
"The Price You Pay" by Thomas D'Arcy
"Stay The Night" by Willa
"Electric" by Rykka
"Postcard from 1952" by Explosions in the Sky

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

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sing It Forward @ Vogue -- 01/09/15

Now in its fourth year Sing It Forward (or #SingItFwd) has returned to the Vogue Theatre for yet another sold out show. The annual charity event, put on by David Vertesi and Ambrosia Humphrey Vertesi raises awareness, community connection, and much needed funds for Vancouver's Saint James Music Academy, and over the last three years they've has raised over $100,000 for the music school.
And aside from the show itself, each year the musicians playing will go to the SJMA, hang out with the kids, teach them things, and record some videos performing with the kids.

The evening was hosted by Tamara Stanners (of The Peak) and Cory Ashworth (formerly of the Peak) and featured some video interstitials -- including a great mockumentary about Jordan Klassen with the kids done by by Johnny Jansen. Each band got about 15 minutes, three songs a piece, and the evening went along at a nice clip; rarely did it drag or did people have to wait too long between sets. Some bands chose go to acoustic, or more stripped down sets, and others had a full band setup.

Bend Sinister kicked off the night with the SJMA kids joining them for "Fancy Pants", a super fun and upbeat songs from their new album, which included a few of the kids forming a horn section. The prog-pop band were an energetic opening for the show, and anthemic songs like "Things Will Get Better" filled the theatre.

Jordan Klassen and his band took the stage next. Jordan was, as usual, a barely contained ball of energy, opening with his newest song "Firing Squad". He went backwards from there, with "Go To Me" and a great version of an older song, "Call and Answer", exploding into an intense ending that was a little more raw & aggressive than I had seen from him in the past, which I liked.

Dear Rouge did a bit of a stripped down set, Danielle and Drew were joined only by their drummer on a drum pad, and the Four on the Floor string quartet. Their fun, dancey pop got the room moving, and they invited Jordan Klassen back on stage for a song they wrote together called "Your Ghost" before finishing off with their big single, "I Heard I Had".

Between bands, a very small girl from the SJMA came out to sing "Reflections" from Mulan, melting a lot of hearts in the venue.

Bear Mountain was definitely the most changed act of the night, from their regular sound. With an acoustic guitar in hand, Ian Bevis joked that they were nervously trying things out "sans laptops", and their normally upbeat and dancey songs like "Faded" were mellowed out a lot. But I really liked the acoustic interpretations, especially when they brought up all the kids to be a choir, mimicking the synths in "Congo", in what was one of my favourite performances of the night.

The surprise guest of the night Hannah Georgas closed out the first half of the show, joined only by Rob Tornroos on guitar. She played a couple songs, which felt all-too-short, her gorgeous voice soaring for "Enemies", followed by a cover of Rihanna's "Stay" that had many of the younger kids in the all-ages crowd singing along.

After an intermission, a few of the kids from the SJMA were back out for a little bit of bluegrass, and The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer blew up the energy for the second half of the show. The duo was joined by Jody "Miss Quincy" Peck, and proved that in a sold out, 1,200+ person venue, two guys sitting on stools can bring down the house. They played songs from their new album A Real Fine Mess, including "Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To" and the raucous "Act Your Age"

July Talk was the band I was most looking forward to, and of course ended up being my favourite of the night. Coming all the way from Toronto for the show, they played a full band set, and did not hold back. The entire band has an amazing stage presence, but especially lead singers Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis. They're playful and outgoing and unfiltered, and that energy flows though their songs. "Guns + Ammunition" had the crowd singing (or whoo-hoo-oo'ing) along, and for "Paper Girl", they invited all the little kids on stage, Leah leading the kids in a giant dance party.

After a bit of a lull with everyone setting up his gear, k-os was out for some acoustic hip hop, with a band that included his old guitar teacher playing alongside him. Perched on a stool at the front of the stage, k-os focused on some older songs, the first three tracks from his sophomore album Joyful Rebellion. He was also the most interactive with the crowd, making sure everyone was warmed up before starting, and getting everyone to sing along to the "Man I Used To Be". At one point, he even stopping the band short just so the crowd could sing the chorus alone.

Hey Ocean!, as usual, wrapped things up. Joking that they were running out of old songs to play at the event, they promised a few newer songs, not even recorded yet. Starting off with "Loud Talker", a song that Vertesi recently released as a solo song, they then brought the SJMA kids out for their collaboration from last year, "Smile Like The Sun" before ending with another new song, "Sleepwalker".

But that wasn't quite it. They still had one more tradition, and that was to bring everyone back out on stage -- all the kids, all the musicians, everyone -- for one last cover song. This year was Queen's "Somebody To Love", and while everyone had their turns singing, they were smart in giving Dan Moxon most of the vocals as he just channelled the spirit of Freddie Mercury. I even saw other musicians on stage react with astonished awe when he nailed that impossibly high note at the end.

Like previous years, everyone from the musicians to the venue donated their time and effort, so all the proceeds could go towards the SJMA. And each year, there is something just a little bit special in the air. Maybe it's the community spirit, or all the talent under one roof, but it is one of the most unique nights in Vancouver. And this year was no different.

If you missed it (first of all, what's wrong with you?!) they were streaming the entire thing and have it archived to view by donation over at Or you can find recordings from previous years up on their Bandcamp, where I can only assume you'll be able to find this year's soon enough.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Sixty One: Twenty-Fourteen

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 karaoke songs, but some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs with the Number Six in the Title. 

I'm back! After a break for the Decembertime holidays, I have returned with the Top Six Albums of 2014! Or at the very least, six really cool ones you should hear.

With songs from:

"Weird For You" by Sidney York (from the album <3s)
"Want to Believe" by Rich Aucoin (from the album Ephemeral)
"Minimum Effort" by Mounties (from the album Thrash Rock Legacy)
"Candle" by Lydia Ainsworth (from the album Right from Real)
"I Could Lose It All" by Chersea (from the EP Grey Matter)
"11:11" by Arkells (from the album High Noon)

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

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