Steam Whistle Unsigned w/ Treelines, The Ruffled Feathers & Sidney York @ Biltmore -- 01/26/12

For a while now, the Toronto microbrewery Steam Whistle has been hosting its Unsigned events in various Canadian cities, and now it's finally come to Vancouver. Each concert in the series features three Canadian artists with all of the ticket sales going back to the arts community; in this case to Music BC. And the three acts chosen to launch the series in Vancouver? Well, three favourites around these parts.

First up was Sidney York, who I've seen a few times in the last little while and each time the whole band, but especially "Sidney York" herself Brandi Sidoryk, seems to have more and more pure energy, to match their insanely catchy indie pop. Hardly contained behind the keyboard, she was out to the front of the stage a few times, to get the packed crowd into it, leading sing along to "Roll With Me" and later getting everyone clapping and singing (and likely whistling) along to "Dick & Jane". Brandi also broke out the ukulele and french horn at times, and combined with Sheryl Reindhardt and Krista Wodelet on oboe and bassoon, respectively, the unusual instruments gave the insanely catchy indie pop a touch of eclectic depth. They also threw in a cover in the middle of the set, a really cool version of Savage Garden's "I Want You", and brought the set to an end with my favourite, "Mile High Love", which somehow managed to top the energy of the entire set.

The Ruffled Feathers were up next, with their grand, chamber pop sound. They're new album Oracles is due soon (spoiler: it's good), and their set consisted mostly of songs off that, with the bulk of the vocals handled by Gina Loes, who also played guitar, and trumpetite Andrew Lee and Charley Wu -- mandolin & keyboard -- also contributing. The whole band has a very bubbly and upbeat stage presence, with their sense of sheer joy spreading through the crowd, definitely helped by Gina's adorableness.
Highlights of the set were the ear-worm-y "Blueprints for Our Failed Revolution" and "Home", and definitely "Lead Me To Destruction", which started a little 50s do-wop, with Charley Wu taking over lead vocals -- backed by Gina and Andrew -- before building to a chaotic breakdown and explosive climax.
They ended the set with the mood brought down a bit, and Lee urging everyone to slow dance (and/or make out) for the slow and romantic closer. They are another band that just keep getting better, and more polished, every time I see them, and this was the best yet.

And finally, rounding out the night was Treelines, and even though they hit the stage at nearly midnight (on a school night, no less) their straight up high energy rock had the crowd still into it. With a set ranging from the new EP, back to their self-titled debut, they burst forth right off the bat with "Summer Song" and hardly took their collective foots off the gas through the set; even during the slower songs, like the title track from their newest EP, Courage, which builds to a soaring chorus. Another highlight was the very Canadian, and very catchy, "Ode to the Prairies" which ended the main set before they were back for one more song. Orinially planning on "When I Get Grown", they spontaneously decided on the title track from their Young Man EP thanks to a request called from the crowd, with Matt Lockhart making sure everyone was ready to help out on vocals, since his voice was going (there were a couple tell-tale cracks near the end of the set). And the crowd definitely complied, commandeering the microphone for the chorus of whoa-oh-oh-oh-ooh's to end off the night.

As always, Treelines is a tremendously fun band to watch live, with all four members having an unbridled energy and enthusiasm on stage. And all in all, it was a fantastic way to kick of Vancouver's Unsigned series, with three bands that all had different sounds, but meshed really well together. I can't wait until the next one, and if it's even half as good as this, it'll still be a hell of a show.


Sidney York
Tea As It Should Be, Roll With Me, Math & Fractions, Apocalyptic Radio Cynic, Cold In Here, I Want You [Savage Garden cover], Dick & Jane, Doctor Doctor, Mile High Love.

The Ruffled Feathers
Canals of Suzhou, All My Cities, Home, Our Beautiful Hearts, Mockingbird, Lead Me To Destruction, Paloma, Blueprints for Our Failed Revolution, Your Embrace.

Summer Song, The Vancouver Song, Birds, Burned Up Hands, Statuette, Ghost Towns, Linked Arms, Courage, Cowboys, Ode to the Prairies. encore) Young Man.