The Tom Fun Orchestra w/ Treelines & Redbird @ The Media Club -- 08/11/10

A year and a half ago, I saw The Tom Fun Orchestra live at Pub 340, a dive pub with mediocre sound, a terrible setup and two crap opening bands. It was a testament to how good the band is live that they still put on a fantastic show, one I have been itching to see live again. When they were added at the last minute to the bill of the Treelines show at the Media Club, I was more than intrigued, since Treelines was a band I had heard nothing but praise for, so I was interested in seeing them live. Throw in local acts Redbird and Garrett Kato, all for only $8, and how can you go wrong?

Sadly I missed Garrett Kato, arriving just in time for Redbird to hit the stage, the new musical project from Vancouver's Savannah Leigh. They had a bit of an alt-country sound to them, but not crossing that line into too twangy. Almost similar to Neko Case or Jenny Lewis' solo work, but not quite as strong a voice -- which isn't a slight to Savannah, as she does have a very nice voice, but those two are hard to match. For the last song, the band was joined by Debra Jean Creelman (formerly of Mother Mother, currently in the Peak Performance Project) for a cover of a Bob Dylan & The Band song (which one, I am blanking on), and I'm always happy to hear cover songs live. Her songs were quite catchy, and I would very much like to see the band again, especially on a show where the following bands didn't completely overshadow everything that came before them.

Next up, in prompt fashion, was Kelowna's Treelines. After all the good things I had heard I was on my toes a little, thinking they might not live up to the hype... but they more than proved to be worthy of the buzz. They had a fantastic energy and stage presence to them, absolutely rocking out for most of their songs. The lead singer (Matt, with his "giant eyebrow") especially, who had kind of an understated charisma to him, and was a great storyteller -- regaling us with the story of their drive down from Kelowna that day, which included a guy in a van, with a machete and a 4L jug of milk.
They started big with "Ghost Towns" and didn't look back, playing mostly from their new EP, but throwing in a few songs from their first disk, too.
The set came to a close with "Lions" and "Cowboys", both songs that close out their two albums. Again, I can not wait to see them live again, and that right there would have been a perfect night of music... but there was more!

Finally was The Tom Fun Orchestra. Seeing as they were kind of added to the bill at the last minute, were going on at 12, and being a weeknight, people were slowly trickling out, leaving the place about half full by the time they started. But they thanked everyone for staying out late and launched into a set that those there will not soon forget. Taking the stage eight members strong, no two members with the same instrument -- drums, accordion, banjo, acoustic & electric guitars, violin, trumpet & bass -- creating their amazing and incredibly unique sound, with the lead singer (who I have seen go by pseudonyms Johnny Turbo, Animal Houston and Bob Dilemma) and his Tom Waits-ian rasp, complimented perfectly by Carmen Townsend's smooth vocals.
They kicked off the set with a brand new song, from their forthcoming album (I think he said next year) and playing a good mix of new and older, from their first album, You Will Land With A Thud. As incredible the energy was for Treelines, TFO not only matched it, but beat it, almost making you forget any other band had played that night, no matter how good they were. "Highway Siren Song" and "Watchmaker" were two songs that got everyone rocking, and "Last of the Curious Thieves" brought the house down. Among the new songs was the one they recently released on the interwebs, "Miles Davis", which was absolutely stunning live. They didn't bother with the clich├ęd encore (yay!) and brought the set to a close with another new one, after a good hour and a half of playing. By the end, seeing as it was 1:30, there were maybe two dozen people remaining, but those left were in awe.
I managed to obtain a setlist, and while this seems about accurate for the most part, the ending was changed up a little.

This year, I have had the good fortune of seeing a whole bunch of shows where every single band playing is a band I would pay to see on their own. I can say, without a doubt, that this can be added to the ranks of those shows, and I can't wait to see any of the above three again.