Arkells w/ Rich Aucoin @ Commodore -- 11/11/11

When I first saw Arkells a couple years ago I was immediately won over by them, and they've since grown to one of my favourite live bands. So no way was I going to miss when they came through the town to the Commodore. There is also a [vaguely] interesting lineage (for lack of a better term) for the band; I saw them opening for Matt Mays & El Torpedo, who I first saw opening for The Trews, who I first saw opening for Big Sugar. Since then I had seen Arkells headlining a few times since, and none of the openers really blew me away, so I thought the streak was over. Turns out I was wrong.

While I had heard of Rich Aucoin, and probably heard a couple songs on Radio 3, I wasn't terribly familiar with his music and really had no idea what to expect. He first came out first to introduce himself, and say that his songs would be synced up to movies projected on the screens, but first he had the "opening credits", which consisted of flashes of names with funny facts, like "[Person's] phone never runs out because it runs on the power of Greyskull" with, judging by the pockets of cheers, names of people at the show; it even including Dan Mangan and Steph Macpherson, who were both also there.
As for the set itself, it started with a burst of confetti and the opening song "set" to clips from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and right off the bat it broke into a dance party with the Commodore floor bouncing. Aucoin had an unparalleled energy and enthusiasm, leading many singalongs throughout the set -- which were helped by the words being on the screen -- and jumping off the stage and through the crowd a few times, once even disappeared side stage only to reappear out the side door and run around the room, jumping on tables, going all the way to the back and working his way through the crowd to return to the stage. The set culminated with Aucoin bringing out an actual giant parachute (like from elementary school) for the crowd to dance with/under. And not only was it an incredible spectacle of a show, but the music more than lived up to it and matched the energy; insanely catchy and danceable pop, with a synthy edge.
At the end thanked everyone, and said if they wanted any of his music to just text him, leaving his number up on the screen with a note saying he would send anyone a zip file of his music (I did, receiving his EP, Public Publication).

It would be tough for a band to follow that, but if anyone could, it would be the Arkells. They came out swinging with the title track of the new album, Michigan Left, and right away I was reminded of why they are such an incredible live band. They have a raw energy and passion that in unmatched and an incredibly presence, having the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand the whole set. They keyboardist was especially good and jumping up and pumping up the crowd, and singer/guitarist Max Kerman just oozed charisma.
They focused mainly on the new album, with a few from Jackson Square, and highlights being the punchy "Where U Goin'", the raucous "Deadlines" and what has quickly become on of my favourite Arkells songs, "On Paper". Before they launched into "Agent Zero", they asked Rich Aucoin & his band to come out and help them, as well as the aforementioned Dan Mangan, to the surprise of the crowd, with Dan & Max sharing vocals by the end of the song.
The main set wrapped up with "Oh, The Boss Is Coming!", everyone shouting the eponymous line at the start, and singing along. But of course, there was the encore, with "Book Club" and an incredible cover of Hall & Oats' "You Make My Dreams" -- again joined by Aucoin & Mangan -- before ending with yet another sing-along, and my favourite of their songs, "John Lennon", somehow managing to top the energy of the night.

Michigan Left; Ballad of Hugo Chavez; Where U Goin; Pullin Punches; Bloodlines; One Foot Out The Door; Heart of the City; Whistleblower; On Paper; Deadlines; Kiss Cam; Agent Zero; Oh, The Boss Is Coming!
(encore) Book Club; You Make My Dreams (Hall & Oats cover); John Lennon.