Bend Sinister @ Biltmore Cabaret -- 04/22/16

Almost exactly ten years ago, in March of ought-six, a young Kirk who was just starting to get more into the local Vancouver music scene made his way to Red Room to check out Victoria band Hot Hot Heat on a bit of a whim. But what really stuck out that night was one of* the opening bands, Bend Sinister. I really liked the set, but kind of forgot about them until about a year/year and a half later when I heard them pop up on CBC Radio 3, and found their self-titled EP. Since then, they have remained one of my favourite -- not just local, but Canadian -- bands, particularly live. So I sure wasn't going to miss their first proper show in a while, at the Biltmore Cabaret this weekend. 

Especially since opening this night was Calgary band Boreal Sons, who I had been meaning to catch live for some time now. (Dante Hadden was the other opening act, but unfortunately I missed his set). 
I arrived as the three piece was starting their set, their piano-driven art-rock filling the room with songs like the simmering "Refrain" and the sweeping "Quietly Awake" from their latest album Threadbare. Along with that they teased some new tracks, and even pulled out a cool cover of Feist's "The Bad In Each Other", keeping the original's hurt emotions, and adding their own spin musically. 
Lead singer and keys player Evan Acheson chatted with the crowd between songs, expressing excitement about their upcoming tour -- their first in a while -- and asking for questions or comments (joking he never actually got any when asking that). 
They ended off with "Sparks", probably my favourite of the set, their harmonies building to a strong finish, and I am glad I finally got the chance to see them. 

With a quick turnaround, thanks to the early show schedule, Bend Sinister hit the stage soon after, the familiar faces of Dan Moxon on vocals & keys, with Joseph Blood on guitar, Matt Rhode on bass, Dicky Neptune on drums, and Kristy-Lee Audette on trumpet, synth, and tambourine. I think this was my first time seeing the band with Kristy-Lee as a full time member -- previously she had just joined for a song or two on trumpet -- and she was a great addition. 

They started the set off with a couple new tunes, cranking up the energy and barely let up for a little over an hour, with a great flow of songs. Early on, the bouncy groove of "Fancy Pants" got people moving, and the roaring "I Got Love" showed just how much band can rock. I've always said said Dan Moxon is a monster on the keys, and the rest of the band can absolutely keep up with his energy. 
Other highlights included perennial favourite, the uplifting "Things Will Get Better", and a deep cut from Stories Of Brothers, Tales of Lovers, "Dr. Lee" with Dan dedicating it to the fans that have been with them for a while. They also previewed more new material, from the album they're working on. One called "Foolish Games" which saw JP Maurice joining them on cowbell, and another called "Gang of Wolves" which absolutely blew me away, and I can't wait to hear it recorded. 

They drew the main set to a close with the Moxon's powerful voice soaring over eight-minute winding epic "Best Of You", but of course were back out for more, pushing right up against the curfew before the Friday night DJ dance party started. First they went back to that aforementioned self-titled EP for a song that is still one of my favourites, the explosive "Time Breaks Down", and then a very appropriate new song extolling the virtues of rock 'n' roll, as Dan slyly yelled "Fuck the DJs!" off the top, culminating with friends joining them on stage for a anthemic powerhouse of a closer. 

The show proved why, after all these years, I still love seeing the band live, and I am really excited to hear what new music they have for us coming up. 

*Fun fact footnote: the other opening band was You Say Party.