2011 Grey Cup Festival @ PlayNow.com Stage -- 11/26/11

I'm no football fan, so for me the best thing about Vancouver hosting the Grey Cup is definitely the free outdoor music. Over the weekend there has been a ridiculous amount of great local bands playing at a free outdoor stage just outside BC Place. Friday saw Rococode, Bend Sinister, Kyprios and The Dudes, among others, but the lineup Saturday night was just stellar. Sponsored by The Peak, it started with TV Heart Attack and The Boom Booms, both of which I missed, and then just ramped up from there.

The first band I caught was The Belle Game, getting there a song or two into their set. As per usual, they had a great stage presence, with members, including sometimes-member Andrew Lee on trumpet, dancing and even braving the rain and coming right out to the front of the stage a few times -- at their own risk of falling. Highlights included "I Wish You Weren't Like A Dead Lover (Sometimes)" and "Shoulders and Turns", which saw tour-mates Hey Ocean! joined them for the cacophonous ending (and also guitarist Alex Andrew's random dance break).

Next up was The MatinĂ©e, fresh off their big Peak Performance Project show and BCCMA appearance. Kicking things off with "L'Absinthe", they immediately won over the gathering crowd with their collective charisma, getting everyone to forget about the cold and rain, if only for a moment, while clapping & stomping along to "Sweet Water" and singing to "Rocking and Rolling", one of the highlights of the set.
"The Road" was another highlight, especially with the amazing drum breakdown, and it was fun to see them slip in little bits of covers to their songs, including Neil Young's "Old Man" in "Let Her Go".

The last time I saw The Zolas, a month ago, the band was comprised of Zach Gray backed by The Liptonians, but they were back to the usual lineup with Tom Dobrzanski on keys, Henry Alcock-White on bass and Niko Friesen on drums.
Starting with "You're Too Cool", they were as energetic as ever, with some great banter from Gray; at one point someone threw on Oh Henry bar on stage, so Zach responded by tossing out some chocolate he had in his pocket... and then some carrots that were in the other pocket. The set included a couple new[ish] songs, "Guest" "Cultured Man" of their recent 7" and "Strange Girl", which had short, kinda-rapping verse from Gray, and they brought their portion of the evening to an end with a bang, with "Marlaina Kamikaze".

As the cold picked up and the rain died down a little, Hey Ocean! hit the stage next. Their newest single "Big Blue Wave" started the set, which consisted mostly of their new material from their as-yet-unreleased album -- unless you happened to be at a show on their recent tour, or there last night, where they were more than happy to hand out copies.
Among the new songs, "Make A New Dance Up" was definitely the most catchy, and there were a few older ones as well, including "Fish" with the adorable Ashleigh Ball dancing out at the front of the stage, as well as their great cover of "Be My Baby" -- which had everyone, including the entire Belle Game out huddled around drums at the end. After a couple slower songs, one of which dedicated to the memory of Randy Ponzio, they wrapped up the set with "A Song About California".

And finally, wrapping up the night was Said The Whale just as the rain was letting up -- which had Tyler slightly sad, since they went out and bought 50 ponchos for people and wanted to toss them into the crowd.
They started off with an older, rarely played song "Wanting like Veruca", and had a few other older tunes throughout the set, including "Live Off Lamb" which Tyler said they hadn't played in four years. But as well as the old, there was new, with a few songs from their recent EP and upcoming album; the insanely catchy "Lines" and the intense "Big Sky Montana" being two highlights.
There was also a funny moment during "BC Orienteering" when Ben forget some lines, first asking the audience to help, then trying to catch up until Jacelyn stepped up like a champ to finish the verse; which wasn't the only time the keyboardist stepped up for a larger vocal roll, including one of the newer songs.
There was also lots of singing along throughout the set, especially for the closing pair of songs, "Camilo (The Magician)" and "The City's a Mess"

Any one of these five bands I would see on their own without hesitation, and putting them all together -- for free, at that -- was absolutely worth braving the elements to see.