The Never Surprise CD Release w/ Portage & Main @ Railway -- 05/05/11

Maybe it's because I keep seeing these types of shows there, but the Railway Club is becoming more and more synonymous with good folk and roots music, for me. Last night was a pretty good example with three Vancouver bands out for The Never Surprise CD Release.

First up was The Geese -- or rather two fifths of the band. An acoustic, folky sound driven by guitar and keys, the pair had good chemistry when talking to each other, but it didn't really extend off the stage. They had songs about a variety of things, from robots to death to a cover of "Little Arguments With Myself" by Low, but they all seemed to blend together; none of the songs really stood out. Well, except for the lyrics of the last song, which was the hierarchy of Rock, Paper, Scissors... but that stood out for the wrong reasons. They were by no means bad, they were just kind of... there.

Next up was the band celebrating the release of their CD, The Never Surprise, who were joined by a couple familiar faces, Niko Friesen on drums and Robbie Driscoll on bass. They also had a more folky sound going on, but were a bit too mellow. The songs were good, and there were definitely some talented musicians on stage, they just lacked a punch, or a draw. I fully admit, though, it could have just been because I was tired, so that could have tainted my perspective. I wouldn't mind seeing them again when in a better mindset, maybe be able to fully get into it.
After they wrapped up their set, they were back for an encore with a cover of Cohen's "Suzanne" which was... okay. At least it wasn't "Hallelujah".

And rounding out the night was Portage & Main. Both front men for the band, John Sponarski and Harold Donnelly, were a bit under the weather, but while it was a little noticeable (even if they hadn't kept talking about it) it wasn't detrimental to the set; they still put on a really fun show. Even if the vocals were a bit off, which really only happened a couple times, they were still an incredibly tight band. With more of a roots-y edge than the previous two bands, highlights were the rambunctious "Tonight pt 2", the slower, more country-bent "The Morning After" and "I'd Never Climbed a Mountain" which starts slow, then builds to a great climax.
They ended the night with Savannah Wellman of Redbird joining them on vocals for a second time, and "Carolina", a great sing-along song to end the set with, which even saw a broken string from John.

Nothing (Take What You Need), What Have I Done, The Morning After, Rocky Mountain Wanderer, When You're Gone, Tonight pt 2, I'd Never Climbed a Mountain, Follow Me My Love, Carolina.