Articles posted under Shows

Shotgun Jimmie – Everything, Everything

Shotgun Jimmie - Everything Everything
Holy crap! I knew Shotgun Jimmie‘s new album, Everything, Everything, was great, but I had no idea if it would be any good live. He killed it at the Biltmore over the weekend, performing a great set that had him playing drums with his feet and guitar with his hands. On one memorable tune, he played guitar with one hand, hammering onto the fretboard while playing the ride with his free arm.

Everything, Everything is below. This one is a lock for my upcoming Polaris ballot.


 
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Prairie Cat @ Little Mountain Studios, 12/2/09

Prairie Cat @ Little Mountain Studios, 12/2/09
Yesterday, Cary Pratt released It Began/Ended with Sparks, his second album under the moniker Prairie Cat. To celebrate the occasion, the singer/keyboardist played an intimate set at Little Mountain Studios to a crowd of a few dozen friends and fans.

Pratt began the evening with an unreleased song, a heart-wrenching breakup ballad that he described as being about Scattergories. He was joined by backing musicians on cello and glockenspiel, their delicate arrangement perfectly suited to the poignant subject matter. For the rest of the set, Pratt was accompanied by a full band that included Bend Sinister‘s Dan Moxon on guitar and Said the Whale‘s Spencer Scnoening on drums. Pratt acted as conductor, shouting out cues (“Here it comes!”) and even turning around in his stool to give directions. The band sounded tight—an impressive feat considering that the players were assembled especially for the event—and the inclusion of a trumpet player meant that all the songs lived up to the lush studio versions.

Considering that the show was a CD release party, the set was surprisingly heavy on old material; Pratt played more songs from 2007′s Attacks! than he did the new disc, including a version of “Better Friends Than Lovers” during which he performed a syncopated cowbell solo. Of the new material, “Just Cuz” was the highlight, triumphant trumpet flourishes offsetting the sombre lyrics about a relationship past its expiration date.

Although the band had already played all the songs it rehearsed, Pratt & co. were called back for an encore, giving them the opportunity to perform the Attacks! favourite “Payin’ the Rent.” Despite the fact that the band hadn’t even planned on playing the song, it was still a remarkably clean version, its sudden build-ups and jazzy breakdowns all perfectly timed. If there had been any skeptics in attendance (which is unlikely, considering the crowd), it ensured that everyone went home knowing why Pratt is one of the city’s wittiest and most tuneful songwriters.
 
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Said the Whale @ St. James Hall, 11/25/09

Said the Whale @ St. James Hall, 11/25/09
Last Wednesday, Said the Whale held a hometown release party for their outstanding new album, Islands Disappear. I’ve already covered two of the group’s concerts this year (here and here), so I won’t be posting a detailed review of the show.

Of course, it is worth mentioning that the performance was more of the usual awesomeness from the Vancouver quintet. Standouts from the set included a barn-burning medley of “Holly, Ontario” and “Dear Elkhorn,” as well as an acoustic (sans-microphone) version of “Curse of the Currents” that was downright chilling. Another highlight occurred when singer/guitarist Ben Worcester tossed a dozen Tom Hortons donuts into the crowd, yelling, “All the tall people get donuts!”

Here’s a gallery of photos from the event, courtesy of Leigh Eldridge. Check out more of her work here.

Said the Whale Said the Whale Said the Whale
Said the Whale Said the Whale Said the Whale
Said the Whale Said the Whale Said the Whale

 
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Atlas Sound @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 10/30/09

Atlas Sound
Last night, Bradford Cox played an unaccompanied acoustic set at the Biltmore under his solo moniker Atlas Sound. The following quotes from Cox should give you a pretty good idea of how it went:

“I’m going to stand up, and maybe you guys can shut up.”

“You know what it’s like, playing in a concert in a grocery store…in the frozen section.”

“Am I a dick?”

“There’s been about 45 minutes of [music] that you’ve just fucking ruined.”

“This is a little awkward for me because, like I said, I’m short a band tonight. But I like making things happen.”

“Can I get less of the audience in my monitor?”

“Imagine working in a mall and being covered in fucking vomit. It seems real fucking pointless.”

“SHUT UP AUDIENCE MEMBERS IN THE BACK.”

“Your loud-ass fucking chatter is drowning me out.”

“WHY DON’T YOU COME UP HERE AND SUCK MY FUCKING DICK.”

“I don’t come to your work…I’ve been banned from 7-11.”

“Justice is coming for you, you fucking cunts.”

“Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou….”
 
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Shonen Knife @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 10/25/09

Shonen Knife @ Biltmore Cabaret, 10/25/09
Shonen Knife has a song called “Ramones Forever,” and that song alone tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the all-female pop-punk trio. On Sunday night at the Biltmore, the long-running Japanese band (now in its 19th year of existence) performed a set of bubblegum surf punk, with nearly every song sounding like a carbon copy of the Ramones. Take for example, the bouncy “Johnny Johnny Johnny,” which sounded near-identical to “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

None of this mattered, however, since the ladies of Shonen Knife were fucking adorable. “Banana Chips” featured a sugary chorus that consisted of the title repeated over and over, while “BBQ Party” was a ridiculous rocker with lyrics that mostly listed off types of food (something about squid, eggplant, sausages and marshmallows). In between songs, singer/guitarist Naoko Yamano regaled the crowd with charming banter in broken English, joking that she was so short that most of the audience couldn’t see her, but promising to jump a lot so that everyone could get a view.

Towards the end of the set, the trio began to venture into noisier territory, bashing out heavy, Sabbath-style riffs while Naoko posed with one arm raised above her head, Pete Townshend-style. It was simultaneously totally absurd and completely awesome, and I can say with absolute honesty that it was the first time I’ve ever thrown up the devil horns at a show.

Openers Apollo Ghosts put on an equally invigorating performance, racing through a too-short set of punkish college rock and gleefully slapdash jangle pop. Singer Adrian Teacher was a ball of nervous energy, scarcely waiting for one song to end before thanking the audience and counting in the next number. Behind him, Jay Oliver laid down his basslines stoically, while Amanda Panda was the smiley-est drummer I’ve encountered Kim Schifino (of Matt & Kim).

Much of the set was made up of new material, including a disco song about Bigfoot. But the band also dipped into its back catalogue with a series of cuts from Hastings Sunrise and the EP Forgotten Triangle. The highlight came during “Little Yokohama,” when professional wrestler the Divine Prophet performed a stage dive and was nearly dropped on his head. Occurring only a few minutes into the beginning of the performance, it was a moment of insanity that typified the night.
 
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Starfucker @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 10/10/09

Starfucker @ the Biltmore, 10/10/09
Who the hell left the heat on at the Biltmore? Last night I showed up at the venue an hour before Starfucker was scheduled to go on stage, and despite the fact that there were only a dozen or so people in the room, it felt like walking into a furnace. In fact, given that the bar is in the basement of the Biltmore Hotel, there’s a distinct possibility that there was indeed a furnace somewhere nearby.

As bad as it was for the audience, it must have been that much worse for the two dudes in opener Deelay Ceelay. A band consisting of a pair of drummers jamming to a electronic backing track, they spent the entire half-hour set hammering out floor-shaking dance beats, scarcely even pausing to wipe off the sweat that was pouring down their faces. Watching their tandem drumming was a bit like watching synchronized dancers (think of it as an electro version of Riverdance), and this hypnotic effect was intensified by the accompanying video, which was projected onto a white screen at the back of the stage. The group didn’t play structured songs, as the music functioned more as a soundtrack to the visual presentation. Still, the duo provide hooks in the form of samples—the Beach Boys‘ version of “Sloop John B.” and T.I.‘s “Whatever You Like” both worked their way into the mix.

Starfucker offered less eye candy than the opener, but the band’s no-nonsense performance was just as fun. From the joyous synths and disco beats of “Boy Toy,” which opened the set, to the trance-like refrain of closer “German Love,” good vibes were in plentiful supply. Even the punkish rock-outs of “Laadeedaa,” which on another night might have provoked moshing and headbanging, resulted in audience members doing the twist and performing campy lowrider dances.

Despite the upbeat tunes, the concert was given a slightly omninous atmosphere by the random snippets of talking that would play over the PA between songs. Frontman John Hughes also added to the weird-factor, spending much of the set staring blankly out over the audience with an absent expression in his eyes. Occasionally, however, he would break out in spastic fits of dancing, at one point spending several minutes in crowd.

The standout of the set was the bubblegum bounce of “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second,” during which circles of dancing opened up in the crowd and fans began play-boxing with complete strangers. (Full disclosure: those were my friends.) Still, the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the group’s cover of Cyndi Lauper‘s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which began with a sparse drum-and-bass arrangement before exploding into technicolor keyboards and breathy harmonies. It could have easily seemed gimmicky or cheap, but it was oddly sincere. Which is, of course, what makes Starfucker so good—the group is every bit as sugary as any prefab pop act, but it approaches every song with genuine sweetness and conviction.
 
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Pink Mountaintops @ the Rickshaw Theatre, 9/27/09

Pink Mountaintops @ the Rickshaw Theatre, 9/27/09
Fucking badass. That’s the only way to describe blues duo the Pack A.D., who opened up for fellow Vancouverites Pink Moutaintops last night at the Rickshaw Theatre. The pair might sound suspiciously similar to an all-female version of the White Stripes, but with the distortion cranked and energy dialed up to the maximum, it didn’t seem to matter.

“We’re gonna play something that’s a similar tempo and just as loud” joked drummer Maya Miller between songs. She and her bandmate, singer/guitarist Becky Black, didn’t disappoint, as every song was as vitriolic and noisy as the next. Black’s voice is impressive on record, but live, it’s stunning—she’s clearly in possession of vocal chords of steel, as she howled and screamed like a banshee without ever losing her tunefulness. Her jeans were so tight that they looked painted on, and as she stood on top of Miller’s kick drum during a particularly thundering crescendo, her tall, slender frame made her look every bit as intimidating as any male rock icon. Hollering her way through “Making Gestures,” it was a little hard to believe her when she sang the lines “I should strike up a conversation / But I’m too afraid.” With the entire room held in the palm of her hand, it was impossible to imagine her ever having cause to feel social anxiety.

The Pack A.D. clearly upstaged Pink Mountaintops, whose repetitive stoner rock jams seemed a little tame by comparison. This wasn’t entirely the band’s fault—the PA system wasn’t adequate for six musicians, meaning that the sound was a sludgy mess. It was difficult to discern any sounds other than the dull roar of bass and distortion, with the occasional deafening squeal of feedback cutting through the mix. Still, Pink Mountaintops had no one but themselves to blame for their mopey stage presence—compared to the charismatic and affable ladies of the Pack A.D., the headliners came off as curt and disinterested.

Despite the technical difficulties and weak stage presence, Pink Mountaintops’ performance wasn’t a complete bust. The group is coming off one of the year’s best albums, Outside Love, meaning that the songs that managed to emerge through the murky mix were excellent. “Vampire” and “Closer to Heaven” didn’t quite capture the lush grandeur of the studio cuts, but they were enough to remind listeners of just how good the album is. It was also a treat to hear some of Pink Mountaintops’ old material given the full-band treatment. While early recordings usually featured only frontman Stephen McBean playing along to lo-fi electro backing tracks, the six-piece transformed “I (F*ck) Mountains” into a hypnotic, psychedelic waltz with spacy guitar leads and droning violin.

Pink Mountaintops’ next show is at the Commodore Ballroom on November 10th, when they will open up for Dinosaur Jr. Presumably, that venue will be better suited to deal with the group’s dense sound.
 
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Arctic Monkeys @ the Malkin Bowl, 9/20/09

Arctic Monkeys
No matter what they do, Arctic Monkeys are probably doomed to be remembered for their first album and nothing else. Not to suggest that Humbug, the group’s latest, is bad—it isn’t. But it and its predecessor, 2007′s Favourite Worst Nightmare, lack the punkish fury and biting lyrical wit that made Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not the fastest-selling debut in British history (at the time—that record has since been beaten by Leona Lewis‘s Spirit).

During their Sunday evening show at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl, Arctic Monkeys seemed eager to escape being pigeonholed as one-album wonders. They only played three tracks off their debut—”Still Take You Home,” “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “The View from the Afternoon”—which was a shame, since they were the best three songs of the night, both in terms of performance and audience response. The band cut loose during these songs, firing off riffs and thundering fills that whipped up the crowd into a moshing, crowd-surfing frenzy.

The majority of the set was made up of material from the past two albums, plus the occasional B-side and cover (they played a version of “Red Right Hand” that sounded a lot closer to typical Monkeys than it did the Nick Cave original). The band had a fifth member in tow, who provided keyboards and guitar. This allowed the band to recreate Humbug‘s lush arrangements, and also offered frontman Alex Turner the opportunity to set aside his guitar for a few songs. Unfortunately, he looked uncomfortable without an instrument strapped to his chest, and wandered around awkwardly during a take on “Pretty Visitors.”

The newer songs seemed a little lifeless compared to the early cuts, and despite the impressive instrumentation—guitarist Jamie Cook used different effects pedals on seemingly every tune—they mostly just highlighted how much better Arctic Monkeys are when they keep it simple. The set ended with the slow-building, organ-drenched “505.” It was a strong finale, but I couldn’t help but wish they would have played “When the Sun Goes Down” or “A Certain Romance” instead.
 
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Rah Rah @ the WISE Hall, 9/17/09

Rah Rah
When Rah Rah is on top form, the group’s live show is a revelation. Unfortunately, last night at the WISE Hall, the six-piece battled muddy sound and a persistent, annoying feedback buzz from the PA. The band members seemed understandably thrown off by the technical difficulties, as the show didn’t have the same euphoric energy as when I saw the group a few months back.

Despite a lackluster start, the mood picked up a few songs in with the propulsive boroque rocker “Betrayal Pt. 1,” its thundering rhythm section and wailing violin evoking the swirling grandeur of Arcade Fire. A few songs later, multi-instrumentalist Erin Passmore took over lead vocals for “Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel,” a gorgeous, countrified tribute to the band’s hometown of Regina.

The set ended with a series of new songs, one of which featured a party canon wielded by violinist/accordionist Kristina Hedlund. As she sprayed confetti into the crowd, it was an instant of pure, unrestrained joy. Although such moments were in shorter supply than usual, the musicians still earned a chant of “Rah Rah! Rah Rah!” as they filed off the stage.

The show was stolen by the opener, psychedelic rock four-piece Yukon Blonde. The group recently relocated to Vancouver from Kelowna, and this performance was the band’s first on a six week cross-Canada tour. Clad in all white, the band members tore through a brief but memorable set of gritty dual guitar jams and melodic California folk rock (think CSNY or the Byrds). The guitars crunched and jangled in equal measure, and the three-part vocal harmonies were pure Summer of Love. With a brand new EP just released and a LP on the way next year, look for Yukon Blonde’s profile to rise over the next few months.

Also on the bill was Red Cedar, who delivered a solid set of southern-fried rock. Drawing on the whiskey-soaked jams of My Morning Jacket as well as Rust Never Sleeps-era Neil Young, the band delivered a satisfyingly raucous performance, although you had to ignore the bassist’s ridiculous facial expressions in order to enjoy it.
 

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Lightning Dust @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 8/27/09

Lightning Dust
Lightning Dust’s self-titled album from 2007 was so sparse that most of its arrangements were easily replicated live by the band’s two members, Amber Webber and Josh Wells. But the pair’s new album, the gorgeous Infinite Light, is significantly more elaborate than the debut, meaning that the group has now expanded to a four-piece touring lineup, including a drummer and Amber’s twin sister Ashley on bass and backup vocals.

Although the new album dropped over three weeks ago, Lightning Dust had not played a hometown release show until last night, when the newly expanded outfit appeared at the Biltmore. The venue was packed, with Black Mountain cohort Stephen McBean lurking conspicuously in the wings, suggesting that the group’s increased press coverage is starting to pay off.

Even with two additional musicians in the fold, many of the live arrangements were significantly pared down from the lush album cuts. Without its programmed beat, “I Knew” was a straightforward country gallop, only Wells’s synth arpeggios hinting at the electro-tinged studio version. “The Times” was similarly unadorned, lacking its “Sympathy for the Devil”-aping bongo/shaker percussion.

Given that this was a hometown show, Lightning Dust was also able to enlist some additional help from friends; during several songs, they were joined onstage by a cellist and a violinist, and these moments of six-piece grandeur were the highlights of the set. The marching beat and “Eleanor Rigby”-style strings of “Dreamer” were chilling, while the extended outro of “Take It Home” was cinematic in its sweeping grandeur.

Surprisingly, given that the show was a release party for Infinite Light, the band ended with a series of cuts from its self-titled album. The main set finished with the rollicking folk stomper “Wind Me Up,” while the encore consisted of the haunting ballads “Highway” and “Take Me Back.” It was a surprising choice to end a triumphant hometown show on such a bleak note. Still, given that they didn’t even play the new internet single “Never Seen,” Webber and Wells clearly weren’t interested in pandering to their newly-won Pitchfork fanbase.
 
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