I got to the venue just after the first band, Foxes in Fiction, had started. Normally one of those 'single-guy-with-a-band-name' acts, Warren Hildebrand (guitar and vocals) was joined by Emily Reo on keyboards, sampler, omnichord, looping pedals, backup vocals as well as Owen Pallett himself for most of the set, on violin.
They had a very lofty and shoegaze-y sound, with something about their songs sounding almost comforting, like a musical hug.
I really enjoyed the set, and I am going to have to check out their upcoming album, Ontario Gothic, which comes out later this month.
Next up was Avi Buffalo. In contrast to Foxes in Fiction, they were a 'person's-name-but-actually-a-band" act, a four-piece from Long Beach, California. They were a little more indie-sounding, with a hint of twee-pop, definitely influenced by the early-mid 00s and bands like The Shins. Lead singer Avi Zahner-Isenberg's vocals often raising into a falsetto -- which sometimes didn't quite work out so well.
Early on in the set, they had to come to a screeching halt mid-song for Avi to fix his guitar, and the quick-thinking keyboardist started noodling, playing some music from Zelda to quash the potentially awkward silence. But that aside, the sound of the band was strong, but in the end, it didn't really feel like a cohesive set; Avi even apologised for the technical difficulties when they left the stage, so I think I may have just caught them on an off-night.
It wasn't long after that Owen Pallett took the stage alone with his violin. He launched right into "That's When The Audience Died", which is almost what happened watching him carve away with his bow, or watching his frantic fingers pluck away at the strings, all while masterfully looping everything with his amazing voice soaring over everything. Pallett added some keys and even percussion -- by thumping the violin with his thumb -- for a few songs, including one of my favourites off the He Poos Clouds album "Song Song Song", before he was joined by his rhythm section, Rob Gordon and Matt Smith on drums and bass, respectively. They made for a fuller sound, but the focus was still very much on Owen and his looping.
Pallett was also in good spirits, chatting with the crowd a little between songs, and even at one point asking if anyone had questions (which he may have instantly regretted when a guy in the front row started rambling, likely inebriated). He introduced songs with a hint of self-awareness, calling "The Passions" kind of a downer, or admitting that he had been screwing up "Scandal at the Parkade" lately, before flubbing a loop, which just added to the comfort of his set.
Other highlights included the soaring "Tryst With Mephistopheles", the gorgeous ode to his Arcade Fire bandmates, "This Is the Dream of Win & Regine", and the absolutely intense "The Riverbed" -- a song that has quickly become one my favourites of his -- which ended the main set.
But of course, he was back for a few more; another favourite, the frantic "Many Lives → 49 MP" before ending with a pair from his last album Heartland, " Lewis Takes Action" and "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt"
It was a very good audience, too. Lots of cheers and recognition applause from the sold out crowd, but respectfully silent while he was playing. That, combined the great sound in the Imperial, made for a show that won't soon be forgotten.
Now, hopefully it's not another four years til next time.
That's When The Audience Died, The Arctic Circle, Song for 5 & 6, The Passions, Song Song Song, Midnight Directives, Keep the Dog Quiet, Soldiers Rock, Tryst With Mephistopheles, The Secret Seven, The Great Elsewhere, Infernal Fantasy, This Is the Dream of Win & Regine, Scandal at the Parkade, The Riverbed.
(encore) Many Lives -> 49 MP, Lewis Takes Action, Lewis Takes Off His Shirt