Saturday, May 30, 2015

Owen Pallett @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 05/28/15

The Road to Bestival ran through the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver the other night. The UK festival stretched its legs this year and will touch down in Toronto June 12th & 13th, and to drum up some hype they put on a series of free shows across the country, presented by Fido Mobile, with bands from the lineup. Vancouver was lucky enough to get Owen Pallett, and of course, there's no way I would miss seeing his immense talents at a venue like the Biltmore.

Hometown electronic band Gang Signs started the night out, beginning with a dark and percussive synth sound, the vocals split between Matea Sarenac and Peter Ricq (one half of Humans).
They spent most of the first song gazing downwards (perhaps at their shoes) for a darker and moody song, and I was a little weary that the whole set was going to be like that. But they slowly built the energy up as their set went on, building to more dancey and uptempo songs.
There were a couple in particular that I liked -- though didn't get the name of either -- but overall I thought it was just a good set, with some solid electro-pop. They were a perfectly good opening band.

To begin his set, Owen Pallett took the stage alone to start with some violin looping, but was quickly foiled by a faulty midi cable. However, after a quick anecdote of how he felt about playing a show for a cell phone company (in the end, he was okay with it) he got going with a few older songs from his Final Fantasy days, "That's When The Audience Died" and "This Lamb Sells Condos", putting on a clinic as he pieced each song together layer by layer.

The rest of the band, Rob Gordon and Matt Smith on drums and bass, came out after that, as they went into some newer material, starting off with the title track to his latest album In Conflict. Pallett danced back and forth between violin and keyboard, or both with his masterful looping, as his amazing voice soared over everything.
That is, until it came to an abrupt pause. As Chekhov knows, you can't introduce a broken cable in act one without it ruining the show later on, and about halfway through, "Soldier's Rock" came to a screeching halt. Owen explained the cable had been acting up all night, and while barely noticeable to the audience, he had to fix it to continue. This slowed the momentum a but while Matt vamped by awkwardly talking about some current events, but soon after they were right back into it, picking the energy right back up as "Tryst With Mephistopheles" built to a furious ending.

Owen played a few more songs alone before being rejoined by the band, and climaxing the main set with a song that has become one of my absolute favourites, the incredible "The Riverbed" driving with intensity and leaving everyone in the room breathless, before they closed with one last one, "The Great Elsewhere" from his Heartland album.

There wasn't even a pretense of an ending, though, as Owen left some reverb going, and he was soon back out alone for a few more songs. He once more engaged the audience, asking some questions and responding with his dry humour before going into a cover of Tori Amos' "Pretty Good Year". He finally decided on just two more songs, a pair of insane fan favourites, both getting huge reactions; "Many Lives → 49 MP" which had people singing/shouting along, and the ode to his Arcade Fire bandmates, "This Is the Dream of Win & Regine". Both songs, one again, gorgeously showing off his frantic bowing, and plucking of the violin's strings, for the perfect ending to the night.

That's When The Audience Died, This Lamb Sells Condos, In Conflict, Scandal at the Parkade, Keep the Dog Quiet, Soldier's Rock [attempt #1], Soldier's Rock [attempt #2], Tryst with Mephistopheles, The Passions, Song for Five & Six, The Secret Seven, Infernal Fantasy, The Riverbed, The Great Elsewhere.
(encore) Pretty Good Year [Tori Amos cover], Many Lives → 49 MP, This Is the Dream of Win & Regine.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Peak Performance Project Year Seven Launch Party with Good For Grapes & The Wet Secrets @ Fortune -- 05/27/15

The seventh (and final???) year of the Peak Performance Project kicked off last night, in style, at Fortune Sound Club.
Starting with the announcement of the Top 12 (cut back from a Top 20 last year, to accommodate the newly launched Alberta version of the Project), the bands chosen will take part in a week-long bootcamp learning everything that can about the industry, play a series of showcase shows, and take part in other challenges, all to have a shot at the giant novelty cheque for $102,700 presented to them by Music BC and 102.7 The Peak.

This year kicked off with a "Victory Tour" of last year's winner Good for Grapes, and the first PPP Alberta winner The Wet Secrets, after the live announcement of the top 12. They started here in Vancouver and will tour across BC and Alberta, finishing off in Calgary for their Top 12 launch party.

It has been something like eight years since The Wet Secrets last played Vancouver (one of their members was only 14 at the time!) and thanks to that, I had never had the seen them play live. So I was very much looking forward to it, having heard nothing but great things.

When they six-piece band from Edmonton hit the stage, the first thing you notice -- okay, the second thing you notice, after their matching marching band uniforms -- is their unique instrument composition. No guitar, just lead singer Lyle Bell on bass, and a strong horn section with Kim Rackel & Emma Frazier on trumpet & trombone, respectively (as well as backing vocals, and some sweet choreographed backup dancing) and Christan Maslyk rocking the sax. Drummer Trevor Anderson and Paul Arnusch on keys (and congas) rounded out the band.

But of course the spectacle of their outfits wouldn't mean a thing if they didn't back it up with their music, and they certainly did with a fun and catchy alt-pop sound. They started off with "I Can Swing A Hammer", the first song from their upcoming album, before ramping up the energy for the raucous marching song "Secret March", one of my favourites, and a song that will be stuck in your head for days.

Other highlights included "If I Was a Camera", which asked the crowd to take off their clothes, as the band went first, doffing their marching band jackets during the song, and "Get Your Shit Together", a song to listen to "when experiencing technical difficulties with the people of Earth."

And as fun as The Wet Secrets' music sounds, it often hides some darker (and, more often than not clever) lyrics. Lyle introduced one song as the happiest song about murder/suicide, and another favourite "Sunshine" is a cheery song about wanting to escape a dreary city (Edmonton) and "die in the sunlight"

Lyle was also quick to give advice to any of the top 12 bands in the crowd, and tell tales about the fun times they had in the competition last year, especially at the bootcamp, before they finished off their set with a cover of The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry".

It was a really fun set that absolutely lived up to my expectations, and proved that they are definitely worthy of having been the first Peak Performance Project Alberta winner.

It was getting late on a school night and the crowd started to thin, but as soon as Good For Grapes took the stage, their loyal fanbase rushed up to dance along with their folky sounds. The seven members filled the stage with energy and their rich sound filled the room, a set with songs that burst to life with a hint of brass and strings, and spot-on harmonies.

Their biggest song, "Skipping Stone", had people singing and clapping along, and they also included a very interesting version of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" -- which was a little amusing, since one of the challenges in the Project is to learn a "Classic Canadian cover" and yet neither cover in the night was Canadian. They wrapped up the set with another grandiose song that included the obligatory floor tom breakdown, as the crowd chanted for an encore as they left.

To be completely honest, I haven't really been much of a fan of the band over the last couple years, but I can not deny they are very good at what they do. It's just a certain sound that I have grown a little weary of over the last couple years, and I feel that while the band has certainly improved since I first saw them, they haven't really evolved much. But they did mention they just finished a new album, so it'll be interesting to hear the new material.

As for the Top 12 itself, here is the list in order of announcement:

Little India – Langley
Chersea – Port Coquitlam
Smash Boom Pow – Vancouver
Jesse Roper – Victoria
Find the Others – Bowen Island
Mindil Beach – Vancouver
Bed of Stars – Abbotsford
Mike Edel – Victoria
Windmills – Vernon
JP Maurice – Victoria
Joy District – Comox Valley
Van Damsel – Kamloops

Regular readers will/should already know how much I like Chersea, so I was happy (but not at all surprised) when she made it in. She's also the sole female artist this year, but surprisingly not the only looper. Windmills, who I have seen before and like okay, also made it in. Perhaps they'll take after Hannah Epperson, who places second a couple years ago.

Three of the twelve bands are returning; Mike Edel, Van Damsel, and JP Maurice. Honestly, I am not sure that I like returning bands with a smaller pool, especially since JP and Mike also previously placed 4th and 5th (respectively) in 2012 AND it's JP's third time in the project (not even counting his backing up other bands). Van Damsel, at least, has changed their sound a bit since they were in it two years ago, and have been getting a push recently on The Peak; I think they are the early favourites to win.

Most of the other bands I either know in passing; Bed of Stars, or have only seen their names around town; Little IndiaMindil Beach and Smash Boom Pow. The rest of them I am not familiar with at all, and look forward to hearing them.

And the first chance to see them all live will be at the Khatsahlano Street Party, on July 11th, where all 12 bands will play short sets throughout the day on the Peak Stage. See you there!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Seventy Nine: Robo-Songs

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 banjo songs. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs About The Senses.

And, well, it finally happened. What we feared the most. The machines have risen up and overthrown humanity. So to appease out mechanical masters, this week is the Top Six Robotic Songs!

Turn these on:

"Robotic" by Hannah Georgas
"Robot Heart" by Hawksley Workman
"Electrolove" by Sidney York
"Is a Robot" by dEUS
"You're a Woman, I'm A Machine" by Death From Above 1979

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

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Seventy Eight: Video Games

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 songs for Spring. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs About Video Games. 

This week, I combine two of my loves in life with the Top Six Songs That Should Be In A Video Game!

Press start to hear:

"The Shade" by Metric
"Castlevania" by Black Hat Brigade
"Crystal Fortress Over the Sea of Trees" by Yamantaka//Sonic Titan
"Hope Rides Alone" by The Protomen
"Meow" by Anamanaguchi
"Sail Away" by Synthcake

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

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

3am Mixtapes: Episode Seventy Seven: Aquatic

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 songs for Spring. Some might be a little more... specific. Top Six Songs About Video Games. 

This week, it's a bunch of bodies of water with the Top Six Aquatic Songs!

Dive in to:

"Lake Song" by The Decemberists
"The City With No Rivers" by Basia Bulat
"Like A River" by My Morning Jacket
"Bottom of the Lake" by We Are The City
"Ocean Song" by High Ends
"Pacific Blue" by Jason Collett

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

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