The Cracking CD Release @ Media Club -- 05/25/11

Many familiar faces to the Vancouver music scene were at the Media Club last night for the CD release party, and homecoming, of Kenton Loewen's solo project, The Crackling. Loewen has played drums for a good number of local bands, most notably Dan Mangan, so it was no surprise to see a decent sized crowd (for a week day at the media club) out to support him.

First up was White Knife, playing their first ever show. Well, sort of, as the band consisted of Colin Cowan, Chris Kelly and Nick Fabin, formerly known as Analog Bell Service. The set was in the same vein as the last few times I've seen ABS, with the same style of infectious pop songs, crazy energy and good chemistry between the three. There was the usual "Sunglasses at Night" cover, slowing it down and giving it an almost creepy feel, and their own songs ranged in influence from 60s pop rock, to grunge, to straight up rock, but never felt disjointed. One of the highlights was a song that I didn't catch the name of, but started with a bit of an evil whisper/demonic voice from Colin, into slow and almost eerie vibe, before building to an absolutely explosive climax. They ended the set with an older ABS song, "Left The Park", featuring a "Mangan Moment" when Dan joined them for backup vocals, giving a bit of a Punk Mangan performance screaming out the lyrics.
I am not actually sure the reason for the name change of the band, perhaps it was because they streamlined to just three members, but I can't wait to hear what happens next.

Next up was Singing Adams, from the UK. Or rather, just the lead singer Steven Adams. He took the stage alone for a couple acoustic, folky songs before being joined first by Kenton on drums for a song, and then Colin on bass. The two of them played for the rest of the set, and if it's true that they had never met before the day of the show -- with only a half hour practice earlier in the day -- it was pretty impressive. They meshed together quite well, especially by the end; as the set went on, the songs grew in energy and intensity, and it was just fascinating to watch them become more and more comfortable with each other on stage. It ended up being a really fun set, and Adams had a really good stage presence, with more than a few of the songs being really catchy, like "Spit in the Sea".
For the last couple songs Gord Grdina joined them on stage, and they ended with a "Mangan Moment" of their own.

And seeing as most of his band was already on stage, this lead right into the "surprise" of the night (had you not seen it on twitter), a short set from Dan Mangan himself. He played a few songs from his upcoming album, Oh Fortune (due out September 27th) and pretty much blew away the entire room. The title track was pretty much what you'd expect from Dan, but "Post War Blues" was incredibly intense, and a lot more rocking and with more of an edge than anything on the last album, leading up to an absolutely insane ending. "Rows of Houses" was also a bit harder, and hearing them definitely had me eager for the new album.
After the last few times of seeing Dan in sold out, thousand-person-seated-venues it was amazing to watch him play in a venue like the Media Club, even for a few songs.

And with Kenton joking that it would be the only time Dan opened for him, it was time for The Crackling. Also playing with Gord and Colin (who had a really long night!), they had a very folk sound, with many songs following the formula of starting soft and working up to a big finish, but it was a formula that worked so well for them. Loewen had  a voice that went from the a low gravel  to heartfelt highs, sometimes within the same song, and a great charisma and presence on stage -- introducing each song with a story, or just generally joking around.
Highlights included the thematically dark "I Am Your Rogue/Ode to a Woman"; "Keep Me Drunk", which had the last "Mangan Moment", with not only Dan, but the entire crowd helping out on the backing vocals; and "Reticence", a perfect song to end the night on, with the finish seeing every member of the band going balls-out, resulting in a broken string or two.
I don't think there are many bands that would be able to successfully follow Dan Mangan, but Loewen and co. more than held their own, putting on a great set.

I am going to go ahead and call it now, there is a very strong chance that this show will end up on my best of the year list. Four (well, three and a half) great sets of music, and just an incredible vibe of friendship and community the whole night for a show that was just flat out fun.

The Three of You, A Joke, The Crackling, Of Deceit, I Am Your Rogue/Ode to the Woman, That's The Harm, Keep me Drunk (Dan), Geppetto, Reticence.