Funderwear Benefit w/ Meatdraw, Kathryn Calder, David Vertesi & Rococode @ Biltmore -- 12/17/10

Last night the Biltmore hosted the 5th annual Funderwear Benefit, to help raise money, and also socks & underwear, for the Salvation Army Harbour Light Vancouver. It was also a stellar lineup of local talent (if "local" includes the island), with a couple of the acts being responsible for two of my favourite albums this year.

Starting the night off was a new band with some familiar musicians, Rococode. The new project from Laura Smith and Andrew Braun also included Ryan Guldemond (Mother Mother), Shaun Huberts and Johnny Andrews (both of Tegan & Sara) helping out. It was their first show in Vancouver, and I was quite impressed with what I heard. They had a really upbeat, indie-pop sound, that vaguely reminded me of Mother Mother, especially with Smith's strong voice. She and Braun shared vocal duties, as well as keys for a set of really catchy songs. They teased an album coming out early next year, and I am looking forward to checking it out, and seeing them play again.

Next was David Vertesi. When I first saw him live, I wrote "I would be really interested to hear them with a backing band", and each time I saw him since, it was more or less an acoustic set. Well, this time I got my wish. He was joined again by David Joseph on bass, but also had Cayne & Andy from We Are The City helping on keys & drums. As much as I liked his acoustic sets, I think I liked the full band a bit better; The core of the songs were still the same, none were radically different, but they were just much richer (as you would expect) and allowed Vertesi -- and the rest -- to rock out on a couple occasions. "Soft Skin" and "Broadcasting" especially benefited from the full band sound. He brought the set to an end with "Hearts Don't Break, People Do", which I think has become one of my favourite songs of the year. While I am sure that this incarnation of a band may not be seen again - with Andy & Cayne busy with their own upcoming EP -- I hope to be able to see Vertesi with a full band next time he plays.

Kathryn Calder, who I was very much looking forward to seeing, was up third. Last time I saw her performing her own material was at last years Mint Records X-Mas party, well before the album came out.
After being used to seeing her behind a keyboard for a few years now, it was a bit odd to see her playing a guitar, but she was back and forth between that and the keys throughout the set, and with her backing band -- which included a couple members of MeatDraw --she definitely captured the energy of the album. There was one new song, but the rest were from the album -- most of which were insanely upbeat and catchy, but she also brought the tempo down a couple times with some of her slower ones. "A Day Long Past It's Prime" and "So Easily" were on either end of the spectrum, and both were highlights of the set. I know she has been busy with her New Pornographers duties the last while, but hopefully she'll be touring on her own soon enough, and back here with another show of her ow.

And finally was MeatDraw, who I had also not seen live in some time. I had kind of forgotten how fun the band is to watch live, even with the occasionally dark lyrics hidden by the bombastically upbeat songs. The enthusiasm for being on stage definitely bled through, not just in their joking around between songs, but in their playing, too. Their almost folky pop sound was rounded out by a small, two person horn section -- and even a saw for a couple of songs. Despite it being well past midnight by the time they went on, they definitely had enough energy to spare, and had the remaining crowd into it. The only downside was that the set seemed to be a bit short, but they mentioned a few new songs thrown into the set, so I am hoping that means a new album soon, as well as a tour to go along with it. Like Calder, I don't want to have to wait another year before seeing them play again.

I should also mention that the night was presented by File Under: Music, who put out Cardiography and Are You My Mother?, Vertesi and Calder's albums -- the aforementioned favourites of the year. They also released a few albums for a guy you may have heard of... Dan Mangan?