Arts & Crafts Road Trip w/ Reuben & The Dark, The Darcys, and NO @ Biltmore -- 04/05/14

Toronto independent music company Arts & Crafts has had a long history of fostering collaboration and community among their bands, and the latest effort is a tour that includes Toronto's The Darcys, LA's NO, and Calgary's Reuben & The Dark. The three bands rotated slots throughout the tour, headlining in their own regions, giving a chance for the bands, each with new or upcoming albums, to shine.

Starting the night off was NO. The six-piece had recently released their first full length album El Prado and was in Vancouver for the very first time. Bradley Hanan Carter's deep baritone vocals backed by soaring guitars are sure to draw many comparisons to The National, but they were not quite as... depressing.
Carter also had a compelling stage presence, using the space on the stage, and even coming down into the crowd a couple times, singing directly to individual members or still brandishing his whiskey glass.
I also really liked the way the set was structured. They started off with a slower paced, almost shoegazey tune, and the songs gradually increased in tempo and intensity (and volume), before winding back down a little for the ending. The highlight was the single from the album, "Leave The Door Wide Open", and I would be interested to see them again next time they're through town.

The second band up was the one I was most excited to see, The Darcys. They played exclusively from their recent Juno nominated album Warring, with moody backlighting matching their sound. Starting off with "Hunting", the song immediately showcased the band's atmospheric dense rock, as well as lead singer Jason Couse's powerful voice, which ranged from anguished whispers to soaring heights, and even up to the falsettos.
Members frequently switching from guitar to keys, creating a layered soundscape for the bubbling intensity of "Itchy Blood", and the fast paced, driving "Pretty Girls", and they brought the set to a close with the slower, almost haunting, final track from the album, "Lost Dogfights".
Both times I've seen The Darcys has been as a supporting act, with sets that felt far too short, so hopefully they're back soon enough headlining their own shows.

And finally, wrapping things up was Reuben & The Dark -- an apt name for the band, as their folk sound was darker than most. Imagine if the copycat folk band de jour actually played interesting music.
Tight harmonies and atmospheric guitars (and a drummer who was standing the entire set) drove songs like "Rolling Stone", and despite their sleepy stage presence, the crowd was definitely into it.
The last few songs built in intensity before they ended with a few members grabbing floor toms and a powerful percussion breakdown, lights going crazy for dynamic ending to the set. There were even chants for an encore, but the band had to come back out and sheepishly indicate they could not play any more, due to the Biltmore's club night starting (the DJ had already started spinning the moment their set ended).

While label-based tours aren't anything new, it was still a cool concept to show off some of the newer Arts & Crafts talent, and I hope there are more tours like this in the future. Though I do wish there was a little more on-stage collaboration with the bands -- perhaps one last song where all three bands jam together, or a cover.