CBC Music Festival @ Deer Lake Park -- 06/14/14

Last year the inaugural CBC Music Festival took place at Echo Beach far away in time in Toronto, but this year they decided to take the show to Vancouver -- or more specifically, Burnaby's Deer Lake Park. And a little bit of rain couldn't keep people away for a day included dozens of musicians and CBC personalities, from Radio 3's Grant Lawrence, to Radio 2's Tom Power and Rich Terfry (aka Buck 65, who also performed a DJ set), Radio 1's Jian Ghomeshi, and more.
The Irrelevant Show was also there to do a live taping, and the music was spread across two stages, the main stage by the lake and a smaller "garden" stage off to the side.

Some of the early music in the day included local up & coming Wake Owl and the winner of the CBC Music Searchlight competition for "best new band", Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk, but the first act that I caught was Vancouver's own Hannah Georgas on the main stage. The half-hour set ranged from "Shortie" which got people moving in the misty rain (one girl in the audience loudly proclaiming it was her jam) to the other end of the spectrum, the softer and touching "Ode to Mom". And as the set came to a close with "Waiting Game", Hannah's voice single-handedly beat back the clouds, and held off the precipitation for the majority of the day.

Next up on the main stage was the pride of Hamilton, with the well-earned reputation as one of the countries best live band, Arkells.
They teased their upcoming new album by leading off with a brand new song, "Come To Light", but aside from that and the slow-burning jam "Never Thought That This Would Happen" they stuck to older material.
"Oh, The Boss is Coming" had Max whip the crowd up with a singalong, and "Pulling Punches" featured an aces piano solo from Anthony Carone on keys.
And as is Arkells way, they slipped in some brief covers; a dash of Al Green in "Michigan Left", and part of Shad's "Rose Garden" during "Book Club" (specifically, the hook reminded Max of the weekend's weather: "There's gotta be some rain sometimes"). They invited a special guest on stage for a full-blown cover, Talking Head's "Psycho Killer" with Arkells fronted by Jian Ghomeshi.
Early on, lead singer Max Kerman mentioned it was their job, as an opening band, to pump the crowd up and that is exactly what they did, ending their explosive set with "Whistleblower"

The festival ran like clockwork, and almost immediately after Arkells ended, The Belle Game started on the Garden Stage. It was a change of pace from Arkells' high-tilt rock to their darker and moodier indiepop, but they still got people moving, starting off with the groovin' "Wasted Light".
The all-too short set included a new song, possibly called "Mess Around", which they have played a few times before and it has always amazed me, and of course Andrea Lo's powerful voice filled the park on songs like "River". They ended off as they usually do, getting people dancing with "Wait Up For You" building into a fantastic ending of duelling guitars.

Back again on the main stage, Searchlight winner Lauren Mann (who had "never played for this many people") was briefly out to perform her Searchlight winning song "I Lost Myself", before what was was essentially the debut of Dan Mangan + Blacksmith. Aside from a small UBC show, Dan hadn't played in his hometown in about a year and a half, and this was the unveiling of his new band, Blacksmith. The members were largely the same; the usual faces of Gord Grdina, Kenton Loewen, John Walsh, among others, but the new name signalled a new direction in his music, with the writing process being more collaborative.
And based on the new songs -- "Mouthpiece" and one I didn't catch the name of -- it is a great new direction. Both new songs were very intense, dense and layered, but still felt very "Mangan". It seemed like the natural progression for Dan, judging by the last couple albums.
While there were only couple brand new songs, the "new sound" was very much spread across their entire set, through the older songs. "Post-War Blues" started with a swell of instruments before the passionate song swelled to its explosive climax, and "Sold" was slowed to a calmer pace.
Part way through the set the band took a break for Dan to perform the heartbreaking "Basket" alone, and during the usual massive singalong to "Robots", he spotted a couple of girls with cardboard robot heads in the crowd and invited them on stage.
They wrapped up the set with "Rows of Houses" which built to a chaotic display that, once again, got me really excited about the sum of Dan Mangan + Blacksmith.

As his set wrapped up, Dan urged everyone to head over and see Chad VanGaalen, who was headlining the Garden Stage for the day. Of all the bands playing, I was most excited to see CVG, as I hadn't seen him live in a couple of years (and also I was interested to see how he would be in a big festival setting).
As Rich Terfry made his introduction, Chad played drums behind him before being joined by his two bandmates for the first song of the set, "Cut Off Your Hands" -- also the lead-off track to his new album Shrink Dust. "Where Are You?" was a little more bass-y than the album, and ended with CVG pulling out his saxophone for a jazz-influenced jam ending, before picking things up with a couple of more punk-ish songs. "Poisonous Heads" ending with Chad shushing the crowd and indicating for a bass solo... only for his bass player to decline and Chad take the bass and perform the solo himself.
Once again feeling way too short, he came to a close with "Hangman's Son" for yet another excellent set.

I could have left right there and it would have been a day to remember, but there were still a couple acts left. While I have have never really gotten in to Spoon, I had heard nothing but good things, so I made sure to stick around for them. And despite only knowing a couple songs -- "Don't You Evah" and the fun and bouncy "Underdog" -- they put on a very enjoyable set. Lead singer Britt Daniel had a great presence, and the whole band was incredibly tight. It definitely made me want to delve into their six-album history.

After a DJ set from Buck 65, Tegan & Sara took the stage, but I've never been much of a fan, and the rain had come back with a vengeance, so I decided to beat the inevitable rush of leaving traffic and take off early.

In all it was a fantastic festival -- I can't remember the last time I saw so many excellent sets in a row -- and I really hope CBC gets enough support to continue the festival every year, be it in Toronto, Vancouver, or if they decide to move it around the country.


Hannah Georgas
Robotic, Somebody, Shortie, Enemies, The Deep End, Ode To Mom, Waiting Game. 

Come To Light; Ballad of Hugo Chavez; Michigan Left; Never Thought That This Would Happen; Book Club; Oh, The Boss is Coming!; Kiss Cam; Pulling Punches; Psycho Killer [Talking Heads cover]; Whistleblower.

The Belle Game
Wasted Light, Keeps Me Up At Night, Little Wars (Causing Your Trouble), [new song], River, Wait Up For You. 

Dan Mangan
Oh Fortune; About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All; Mouthpiece; [new song]; Post-War Blues; Basket; Leaves, Trees, Forest; Robots; Sold; Rows of Houses.

Chad VanGaalen
Cut Off My Hands, Where Are You?, Burning Photographs, Poisonous Heads, Peace on the Rise, Hangman's Son.

Toque Sessions: Hannah Georgas & Ryan Guldemond @ CBC Vancouver -- 02/28/14

For a fifth year, the CBC Toque Sessions return to CBC Vancouver. The sessions are a series of free shows featuring some great local talent, running through the end of February, and are recorded for later broadcast of CBC Radio 2, and streaming on CBC Music.

The final toque session of this year was hosted by Radio 3's Grant Lawrence, and featured the musical union of Hannah Georgas and Ryan Guldemond. The two friends are frequent collaborators, and recently recorded a handful of songs for CBC Music titled the Love Motel Sessions, appropriately titled for a collection of songs about love recorded in a... "charming" motel.

They were joined onstage by Ryan's Mother Mother bandmate Ali Siadat on drums, for an intimate and spontaneous hour of music; partially due to the small and attentive crowd, partly due to Hannah returning from European tour the previous day, as Ryan admitted they hadn't rehearsed much but wanted to capture the moment live. He was also taking the opportunity of the intimate show to pontificating on life between songs; on doing what you want as opposed to what you should, why not to retell stories, and needing to point out the elephant in the room (and "make a piano out of its tusks"). Every time I've seen Ryan perform -- especially solo shows -- he is very weird enigmatic with seemingly stream-of-consciousness stage banter, but always interesting nonetheless.

They started off with Hannah's "Robotic" and "Fantasize" and traded off throughout the set. Ryan's songs were about various stages of love, from his own lovelorn "Academe", to Mother Mother's deceptively charming "Love It Dissipates". He also dazzled with his amazing guitar chops, effortlessly throwing in jazz or blues riffs to songs.
Hannah's amazing voice lent power to the simplified songs, hers going from the gorgeous and heartbreaking "Ode to Mom" to the vitriolic "Millions", that didn't lose an ounce of attitude when stripped down.
A cover of The Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love" wrapped up the set, but the pair was coaxed back on stage by Grant for one last song, a beautiful version of "I Melt With You" by Modern English.

One of my favourite things about the Toque Sessions is when they do more unique shows, more than just "here's a band, watch them play". Things like putting together two musicians that play off each other, and this was a perfect example of that. It was a captivating show and all three musicians on stage had great chemistry together, especially Hannah & Ryan.

Robotic, Fantasize, Academe. Love It Dissipates, Enemy, Happy, Ode to Mom, Millions, Alone And Sublime, I Go Hungry, Bye Bye Love [Everly Brothers cover]
(encore) I Melt With You [Modern English cover]

Toque Sessions: Said The Whale Remixed @ CBC Vancouver -- 02/20/14

For a fifth year, the CBC Toque Sessions return to CBC Vancouver. The sessions are a series of free shows featuring some great local talent, running through the end of February, and are recorded for later broadcast of CBC Radio 2, and streaming on CBC Music.

A lot of times the powers that be at the Toque Sessions try to bring something different to the shows, and this was perhaps the most unique one I have seen so far.

Said the Whale bass player Nathan Shaw -- who also makes electronic beats under the name Elkali -- remixed nine of the songs from their most recent album hawaiii, turning their indie-pop jams into electronic soundscapes, and the band performed them live.
Flanked by two screens alternately showing CBC stock footage of Vancouver and soundwaves of the live music, the band took the stage with no guitars, no drums; just keyboards and synth, with Nathan in the middle of it all, orchestrating the whole thing from his laptop and sampler.
Admittedly, I am not always a fan of electronic music, but after seeing the Whales several times live over the years, I was definitely intrigued by this one-time event.

With a variety of electro-sounds, from house and trance, to club bangers, to dubsteppy bass drops, tracks flowed into one another for a seamless half-hour set. "On The Ropes" had a dreamy quality, and could have been the music for an underwater Mario level; "Resolutions" sounded closest to its hawaiiian counterpart to start, but soon morphed into twitchy vocal samples; "Oh K, Okay" was filled with a stuttering drum beat; and probably the most different of the songs, "I Love You" ended the set, starting a little ethereal before ending with more of a dubstep beat.

A lot of musicians say stripping down their songs down to an acoustic version is a good exercise, but I think the same thing could be said for remixing and performing them in this fashion. It was a completely different take on the songs, and even talking to a couple band members after the show, they said they had an absolute blast figuring it out.
So while I'm not sure this is something I would want to see Said the Whale do more than once, it was a really cool show and an interesting experiment.

More Than This, On The Ropes, Resolutions, Safe To Say, Mother, Oh K Okay, I Could Smoke, The Weight of the Season, I Love You. 

Toque Sessions: The Belle Game @ CBC Vancouver -- 01/24/14

For a fifth year, the CBC Toque Sessions return to CBC Vancouver. The sessions are a series of free shows featuring some great local talent, running through the end of February, and are recorded for later broadcast of CBC Radio 2, and streaming on CBC Music.

The second session of this year (and the first I saw) was hosted by Radio 3's Lana Gay, and was one of my favourite new bands from the last few years, The Belle Game. The last time I saw them was a few months ago at a sold out Vogue Theatre, so going from that to a room with less than 200 people was a nice treat.

They kicked off the set with the haunting "Traditional", one of the tree title tracks for their recent album Ritual Tradition Habit, before launching into "Wasted Light", their lush, atmospheric pop swirling around the room. The seated audience was soon on their feet for the more energetic "Blame Fiction", and Andrea Lo's always powerful voice floored the room on songs like the dark "River".

The highlight of the set was a new, as yet untitled song, that absolutely blew me away. It started slow and haunting before building to a gorgeous and soaring climax. The song had something of a Broken Social Scene vibe to it (the bend recently completed a residency at the the Banff Centre for the Arts with Kevin Drew & Charles Spearing) and if it is any indication of their new stuff, I can't wait to hear more.

Near the end of the set the band was joined by Louise Burns for a couple of songs; a pretty cool cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and the final song, ending the set as they usually do with the raucous "Wait up For You". Burns' voice blend in perfectly with the bands' sound, for a great ending to a pretty fantastic Toque Session.

Tradition, Wasted Light, Keeps Me Up At Night, Blame Fiction, Little Wars (Causing You Trouble), [Untitled New Song], Bruise to Ash, River, Love Will Tear Us Apart [Joy Division cover], Wait Up For You.