We Are The City @ Biltmore -- 08/12/17

If you’ve noticed East Vancouver looking a little more colourful in the last little while, that would be thanks to the Vancouver Mural Festival. Over the last week, there have been over 50 new murals going up throughout Mount Pleasant by a variety of artists. And since it was spearheaded by David & Ambrosia Vertesi, you know there’s going to be a musical component as well. Louise Burns & Yukon Blonde played a free outdoor show in the afternoon, and in the evening was the Underplay concert series (with a tough decision of where to be).

Opening the night was The Tourist Company, though I only caught the last few songs. The band seems to have undergone some changes since I last saw them, with a slimmed down lineup and a bit of a different sound. Last I knew, they were more of a folk band, but they've replaced that with a more of an alt-pop, space-y and ethereal sound; perhaps fitting with their latest album being named Apollo, mentioning it was inspired by the space program.
The new album was released last year, and I hadn't checked it out yet (to be completely honest, I was never into their 'folk sound') but based on the couple songs I heard, I will have to give them another shot. 

On the days leading up to the show, We Are The City was promising a “loud and trashy” set, and as the trio kicked off with "Baptism" it quickly became clear they were not exaggerating. They played fast & loose through favourites like the frenetic "That's It, That's All", and the raucous "King David", while songs from the latest album Above Club, like "Sign My Name Like ƪƲƐƐƝ" sounded more raw than their album versions. 
To go along with the vibe of the songs, the band had an unparalleled energy; Cayne frantically hitting the keys between yelps, David rocking out on the guitar, and especially Andy wailing on his drums. I have seen very few drummers who play with more energy and intensity, and who are more animated than him. 
Matching the band's energy was the jam-packed Biltmore, who were singing along -- even when unprompted and to deeper cuts. Near the end of the set, after admitting he blew out his voice, Cayne enlisted in the help of everyone to fill in on the high parts of "Kiss Me Honey", and the crowd more than stepped up to the challenge. After that there was one more left, as they ended off the night with "Friends Hurt", complete with Andy diving into the crowd to surf, and the band leaving the stage one at a time before Cayne made it quite clear there would be no encore, by literally smashing his keyboard onto the stage.

It’s been a while since We Are The City played in Vancouver, especially a venue as intimate as the Biltmore, and everyone involved was glad to have them back. Word is they're finishing off a new album, and while they didn't preview it this night, if it has even half the energy that they shared, it'll be a good one. 

Keep on Dancing
Bottom of the Lake
Legs Give Out
King David
That's It, That's All
Sign My Name Like ƪƲƐƐƝ
Dark/Warm Air
Cheque Room
Everything Changes
Happy New Year
Heavy as a Brick
Kiss Me Honey
Friends Hurt

Lisa LeBlanc @ Biltmore -- 03/25/17

Vancouver Folk Fest, 2016. I was waiting for The New Pornographers to take the main stage when the tweener came out. Sometimes those between-main-set acts can be forgettable, or just there to kill time, but that night Lisa LeBlanc immediately caught my attention. So much so that I made it a point to see her full set the next day. And later in the year, her album Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? became one of my favourites of '016. So I was pretty glad when she announced her return to our city, and the chance to see her at a "proper" venue like the Biltmore. 

First up was local singer Alexandria Maillot, in her last Vancouver show before heading out on tour (not with Lisa). She began the set joined only by guitarist Daniel Baxter for a sultry cover of a song from The Civil Wars, before being joined by the rest of the band. Her short set featured songs from her latest album Time, including the bouncy "Time (On Your Own)", and "Smitten", her strong voice carrying the smooth "bedroom folkpop". Alexandria chatted with the crowd between sets, appreciative of the audience, and slipped in a few new songs, including the final song of the night she played alone. 

Leading up to the show, I was worried what the turnout was going to be like with so much going on in Vancouver that night (there were at least two other shows I was sad to be missing). But I was worried over nothing, as not only was the venue packed, but the crowd was just a little eager, chanting "Lisa! Lisa!" before Lisa LeBlanc even got on stage. Starting with "(Self-Proclaimed) Voodoo Woman" its bluesy riff erupted into a raucous energy that was matched throughout the set. 
Early on there was a little bit of guitar troubles, but Lisa's charm -- and the band playing smooth jazz -- saved the momentum, as she called an audible by skipping the song, picking up the acoustic, and (I think) fielding a request for "J'pas Un Cowboy" to keep the show moving. Her set was in "franglais", as she joked, the Acadian singer from New Brunswick going from the two languages seamlessly, both in song and chatting between them. She also switched between guitars both acoustic and electric, banjo, and even triangle throughout the set. LeBlanc was a ball of electricity on stage, hardly still while rocking out with her folk-rock (that leans much more toward the latter).
She eventually did get the guitar working for "City Slickers & Country Boys", and part way through the set the band took a break for Lisa to play an acoustic song. The latter half of the set featured what she called the "Banjo 'till you drop" portion of the show, with the incendiary "You Look Like Trouble (But I Guess I Do Too)" ramping up the intensity until her cover of Motörhead's "Ace of Spades". On a banjo. And it was incredible. 
She ended the main set with "Why Does It Feel So Lonely (When You Are Around)?" but slyly mentioned "You know how these things go..." surely hinting at the usual encore. But even if it was built into the show, it was earned, as the crowd was once more chanting her name. The encore included one of my favourites of the night, the acerbic "Could You Wait 'Til I've Had My Coffee?" -- the best breakup song since "You Oughta Know" -- as well as a big singalong with the intent of teaching the Anglophones in the crowd cursing en français: "Aujourd'hui, ma vie c'est d'la marde". Finally, she finished off the night alone on stage, with her acoustic, and the song about "the dumbest idea I’ve ever had", a long distance relationship between New Brunswick & Vancouver, "5,748 km".
It was a perfect way to end, as LeBlanc was visibly overwhelmed and appreciative of the support the city was giving her.