North by North East: Wednesday

My first time ever at North By North East started off last night, and it began with the ending of Tracks on Tracks. For those who haven't been following along, Tracks on Tracks is a project put together by Vancouver's Green Couch, with some help from CBC Radio 3 and VIA Rail. The event took ten bands from Vancouver to Toronto by train, with bands playing every night, some acoustic sets throughout the day, and even a few shows at stops along the way.

All the bands that were on the train -- save the duo of Zach Gray and Adrian Glynn, who were last minute additions, played about a half hour each for a long, but amazing, night of spotlighting BC's finest music.

Chris Ho started off the night, and was a good choice to open, easing the gathering crowd into the night with his upbeat, folk rock. His catchy songs had people stomping and clapping along, and while I wasn't as wowed by his stuff as some other bands on the train, I think he definitely has a great potential as he grows as an artist. (But that isn't to diminish Chris in any way, but rather a note on the sheer talent the Tracks on Tracks train held)

I hadn't heard much of Shred Kelly before the train trip, and they definitely won me over on the train with their self-described "Stoke Folk". And which I got a sense of it from their shows on the train, I didn't get the full scope of how amazing Sage McBride's voice is until seeing them in a proper venue. They've got a great energy, especially Tim Newton, whose fingers are a blur when playing the banjo, and had everyone singing along to the all-too-relatable "I Hate Work" and ended off with "Tornado Alley", which sweeps up into an intense ending.

Portage & Main kept the folk/roots rock going, backed by The Matinee's Peter Lemon and Mike Young on drums & bass. John Sponarski and Harold Donnelly, both on guitar and vocals, mesh together so well, and even though they've only been a band for a year, the fact that they've played together on and off for years is a definite credit. Their train themed, absolute rocking "Sweet Darling" filled the room with energy and they ended, as they usually do, with the giant sing along "Oh Carolina" -- even pulling Grant Lawrence on stage with them to belt out the chorus.

And it would only make sense for the folk rocking The Matinee to be up next. The first time I saw them, I was impressed and an instant fan, and they have somehow managed to get even better; with an unparalleled energy and amazing charisma from the whole band, especially frontman Matt Layzell, and the brilliant guitar work from Matt Rose, I think this show may have been the best I've seen them play. They were on top of their game with new song "Young and Lazy" - and if this song doesn't become a huge hit for them, something is wrong in the world -- and ended off with "The Road", that at one point had each member surrounding Peter Lemon on the drum kit for a great drum breakdown.

That could have already been a stellar show, but we were not even half way done, with Maurice up next. He brought the mood down a little, but not in a bad way, with his alt-pop singer/songwriter vibe. In the spirit of Tracks on Tracks collaboration, Maurice had Marcus from the Belle Game on bass and TLGLTP's drummer filling out his lineup. The set was full of JP Maurice's heartfelt songs, as he oozed raw emotion, with songs like "All I Ever Wanted" and the undeniably catchy "Mistake".

Next we transitioned to the "dancey" part of the night, with the electro-pop of Adaline. The driving beat of "Wasted Time" got everyone moving, as did her amazing and seductive voice. Her set seemed a little short, as she got the five minute warning only three songs in, but managed to fit in a couple more; "Stereo" and ended off with "Rebels of Love"

Then was time for the grand sounds of The Belle Game. Their set also felt a bit short, but they still filled the room with their orchestral pop. The set featured mostly new songs from the band, which sounded amazing, and they also brought up Zach from The Zolas to help out on vocals for a song. They ended with the majestic "Sleep to Grow" building to a huge, climactic ending.

Sidney York almost wasn't going to be able to play the showcase, due to another show that night, but they were able to come back for a quick set. They always put on a fun show, and even with only three songs they packed them with enough energy for a full set. Getting people to sing along to "Roll With Me" and the insanely catchy "Mile High Love" ended off the set.
And it should be noted that Mike Young from The Matinee was filling in for their sick bass player, so in one night he ended up playing fours sets with three bands in two venues.

And then, it was a Topless Gay Love Tekno Party. Dressed up in giant silver shoulderpads and covered head to toe in glitter, the band made their way through the crowd, glittering people as they went by, throwing handfuls in the air. They took the stage and launched into their brand of insanely fun, self-deprecating tongue in cheek dance pop. With songs that had ridiculously catchy and easily sing-along-able songs, the entire crowd was singing along -- even those hiding from the glitter in the back. They had balloons and glitter flying through the air the entire set, as well as a large inflatable... phallus... that was kept up through half the set, and they ended off with the self titled "Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party", again getting the whole crowd to sing along.

And yet again, that would be a great ending, but there was still one more band to go, side project from TLGLTP's bass player Ian Bevis, Bear Mountain. The trio was joined by Luke Cyca on drums, and keep the dance party going with some synth looping and catchy beats. At this point half the crowd was filtering out, as it was around 2am, and half the crowd still dancing, as well as some heartfelt goodbyes from all the people on the train saying goodbye. Since Friday night, it felt like the party would never end, but this was the last hurrah.

And what a hurrah it was.

Tracks on Tracks: The Fourth Day

Sioux Lookout was the site of the beginning of day four, the final full day on the train. Chris Ho performed a "Sunrise" Platform show, which I missed due to sleep.

The day seemed a bit slower as people were, I'm sure, nursing the cinematic aftereffects of alcohol, and the acoustic shows of the day started with Emperor of the North, the combination of Zachary Gray and Adrian Glynn. They traded off songs, playing a couple of Glynn's songs and a couple new Zolas songs before ending on a Leonard Cohen cover, "Show Me The Place" off his new album.

The Belle Game was next up, in the very last car, the Park Car. Their set wasn't quite as acoustic as a couple days before, when they blew a fuse. The played some old and new stuff, brought up Sheryl and Krista from Sidney York to back them up on oboe and bassoon for "Sleep to Grow" and they ended off with their brand new song, "Wasted Light"

Maurice and Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party were both supposed to play acoustic sets as well, but the timing didn't work out, and everyone packed the Green Couch car for one last all night party. Emperor of the North (aka Murder on the Canadian) started it off with a similar set to earlier in the day. "Oh My World" was a great song, with the two of them percussing by hitting their guitars and clapping, and the dynamic and banter between the two was amazing, and I'm a little sad that it looks like their collaborating is going to be a one-off thing for the train.

Adaline was next and, aside from some technical problems throughout the set, rocked a dance party in the car. She seduced everyone with her sexy electro-pop sounds and sultry voice, and enlisting in the help of Mike and Pete from The Matinee (two of the hardest working musicians on the train) for a couple songs too. 

Then after some time for setting up, The Belle Game played their first full on electric show. Joined again Krista and Sheryl from Sidney York to fill out a few of their songs, their grand sound filled the car and kept the dance party going. They played a few new songs, and ended off with the huge "Sleep to Grow"

And finally, the last "official" show on the train was Bear Mountain -- the side project from Ian Bevis from TLGLTP-- wrapped up the night for some more dancing, but people were already starting to be strewn out the cars. There was an acoustic jam session with members of Shred Kelly and Portage and Main in one direction, and in the other The Matinee managed to get Grant Lawrence up for a rendition of The Smugglers' "Rosie" (which I regrettably missed!)

It sounds cheesy and cliché to say, but this train ride really was The Trip Of A Lifetime. There were a few hitches that they hit along the way; staff and other passengers not fully aware of what was going on being a big one, and there was the occasional miscommunication, and scheduling issues. But those are all first year glitches that hardly spoiled the experience, and will be smoothed out now that they know what the whole trip entails. And I sincerely hope that it is something that will happen on a yearly basis. I know I'm already saving up for next year.

Tracks on Tracks: The Second Day

Day two began somewhere in the middle of BC, with some people decorating the Green Couch car and interviews aplenty as the Green Couch people and Grant Lawrence from CBC Radio 3 talked to a few of the bands.

The first performance of the day was in the afternoon,

Chris Ho

in one of the train cars as we were pulling in to Jasper. Chris was joined by Kiana Brasset and a couple other bandmates for a stripped down, but upbeat folksy set. After a few catchy songs, he wrapped up with an appropriate cover of a certain Aidan Knight song as the train pulled into the station.

The stop in Jasper featured a couple more platform shows as they got the green couch off the train for The Matinee and Sidney York to play a pair of acoustic songs each in the rain.

The Matinee

went with “L'Absinthe “ and “Sweet Water”, getting a lot of the passengers in the station stomping, and

Sidney York

got people bopping along to “Mile High Love” and “Dick & Jane”

Back on the train, car shows started back up with


. Due to some technical problems, she didn't have a keyboard this time, but an acoustic guitar. She was a little nervous to just be playing on guitar, but soldiered on like a pro. Part way through her first song, a voice from the back of the car joined in, a voice belonging to

Adrian Glynn

, who joined her for the rest of the set. They harmonized on some of the songs they had worked on in the past, some of Adaline's and even one of Glynn's, and for “Whiter/Straighter” they went a capella and got those with rhythm in the car to snap and clap along.

With the intimate space of the last car on the train, and the beautiful scenery disappearing into the distance right behind them, it was a pretty amazing set, and definitely one of my favourites so far.

After some (delicious) dinner, Sidney York and The Belle Game were playing in a different car – they had four cars total set up for live shows; three smaller and more acoustic and one main Green Couch Car.

Sidney York

had the full band set up, and a lot of the folks who were on the train not knowing about the project happened by, and it seemed like a good number of them were won over by their enthusiastic and infectious indie pop. Even in a confined space, Brandi was bouncing up and down behind her keyboard and the band was rocking the train.

The Belle Game

was next, but as they were literally two notes in they blew the fuse, rendering half their equipment powerless. But they rolled with the punches and played an


stripped down set instead. “Sleep To Grow” started the set, and they were joined by the lovely ladies of Sidney York to add bassoon, oboe and french horn to the grandiose ending of the song. They were only able to play a few songs, due to the power issue taking up most of their time, but it was really cool to see them that basic. So far two of the best performances were born from equipment failures.

Later on in the night was a full set from


 in the Green Couch car. People packed in, sitting on the floor for more of a rocking set from JP and his band, as opposed to the platform show from the day before. He played for about a half hour and ended with his cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams", slipping in a couple fun top 40 songs; "Teenage Dream" and "Moves Like Jagger", all of which had everyone singing along as the train pulled into Edmonton and picked up the last of the bands, Shred Kelly.

And the day wrapped up, music-wise, in the best way it could have; a

Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party

. It's nearly impossible to describe the events of the set, but the Green Couch car was absolutely packed with people -- many of which were, in fact, topless by the end of the set -- and everyone jumping and dancing, shaking the car to the bands incredibly fun dancey pop sounds. There was a lot of singing and clapping along to songs, like their self titled "Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party", and they were even called back for one more song, a slower, quieter one to wrap up the night.

Tomorrow is another packed day with shows on the train from Shred Kelly, The Matinee, Portage and Main, a stop in Melville, SK and the big free show tonight at Winnipeg at the Forks; the only actual-venue show of the trip!

Tracks on Tracks: The First Day

After months of build up and hype, Tracks on Tracks is finally upon us. The brain child of Green Couch Sessions, with a lot of help from both VIA Rail and CBC Radio 3, sees eleven musical acts hop aboard The Canadian, with a whole bunch of music fans, heading from Vancouver to Toronto and rolling in to the city just in time for North by North East

The first night was simple enough, starting at the Pacific Central station as bands slowly filtered in, with a couple platform shows. 

Adaline was up first, performing solo but still managed to keep her electro-pop energy. Playing keys, she also had her drum and bass backtracks present, giving her a full sound. Her strong voice filled the platform, and even though she was a bit quiet, she still . And she ended up winning over a lot of the, er, older folks... that had no idea what they were in store for on the train.

Next was Maurice, who was joined by fellow Victoria musician Lindsay Bryan and Kiana Brasset joined him of violin for a couple songs. His more relaxed, acoustic set suffered a little more that Adaline’s from the low volume, especially with the bustle of more and more people showing up. But songs like the insanely catchy “Mistake” and “All I Ever Wanted” still grabbed people's attention.

And then finally, everyone boarded the train and it pulled away from the station, slowly taking us from Vancouver to Toronto. The first night was a little subdued, likely due to the fact that we left at 8:30, and everyone was still settling in for the night. But today we'll see shows from Chris Ho, Adaline, Sidney York, The Matinee, and The Belle Game, as well as a stop in Jasper, AB.