Maurice with Ciseaux @ Media Club -- 11/25/11

It was an insanely busy night in shows last night, and I ended up at the Media Club for a bit of an island invasion, with a couple bands full of islanders descending upon Vancouver.

First up was Ciseaux, the newly named band of Katie Schaan. I had seen her a couple times this year under her own name and playing solo, but this was the first time with a full band, which included one of Aidan Knight's Friendly Friends, Olivier Clements on trumpet; and it was definitely the best I've seen from her. They opened with "The Ocean" and right off the bat I remembered how floored I was by her incredibly powerful voice, which was the focus of a lot of the songs.
When I saw her the first time, I [half] joked that all her songs seemed to be about boys she had crushes on, but judging by the new songs she was playing -- which made up the bulk of the set -- she's really spread her wings as a songwriter. And the new songs sounded pretty great, with the best being the final song, the dancey and disco'd up "Dance Card" which saw the incredibly bubbly Katie come out from behind the keys and out in front of the stage to dance, drawing the crowd up to the stage to do the same.
I really enjoyed the full band sound, and am definitely looking forward to the new album.

Next up was Stellar Radio Choir, who had a lot more of a rock sound, with a grunge or garage feel to it. That gave it a very 90s vibe, but without feeling rehashed or dated; I felt that they were kind of to the 90s what The Sheepdogs are to the 70s. The trio had a basic guitar/drums/bass setup, with some pretty great harmonies, which saw the drummer singing a lot of the time, and a decent stage presence, though not much banter. They had a pretty cool sound, and while nothing really jumped out at me, I enjoyed their set and wouldn't mind catching them again at some point.

And finally, rounding out the night was Maurice, who was joined by Mike Edel on bass and Vince Vaccaro on drums. Given the calibre of artists on stage, it was no surprised they meshed really well, and JP Maurice had great stage presence, full of raw emotion. Highlights of the well-crafted set were the insanely catchy "Mistake" and "Big Country", which saw the band jump into the crowd to sing; first unamplified, which didn't quite work since it was still a little loud in the venue, but once they grabbed a mic, it sounded great -- especially everyone joining in on the chorus.
After an awesome, intense song that I didn't catch the name of, he ended the set with his brilliant cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" -- which at one point hilariously segued into "Teenage Dream" -- inviting everyone to join him on stage, from members of the two previous bands to random other people.
I really enjoyed the set and am already looking forward to the next time he'll be playing.

Karkwa w/ Aidan Knight & The Belle Game @ Biltmore -- 09/20/11

Two and a half years ago, I went down to the Biltmore to hear this newfangled Vancouver band called Said The Whale. The show was some sort of pre-Olympics celebration, and as part of the "Cultural Olympiad", had a range of musicians, from Vancouver's STW to the Inuit Lucie Idlout to the band that played between the two, some French Canadian band I had vaguely heard of from CBC Radio 3. Turns out that night would be the beginning of my infatuation with Montréal's Karkwa. To this day I am still pretty sure that they blew out a speaker at the show, and from that night on I would rave about them to anyone that listened, and was definitely rooting for them for last year's Polaris Prize, and was thrilled when they won. And even though I had seen them once more since then, for a free show during the actual Olympics, I was more than ecstatic to see them in what was their first real Western Canadian tour. Especially because they had wrangled a couple opening acts that I would have seen on their own.

The first of which was The Belle Game, who I always enjoy seeing play, despite the fact that I've managed to see them four times in the last three months. Unfortunately I got in a couple songs late, but still caught the last half of their set, with "Shoulders & Turns" and their single, as part of the Peak Performance Project, the infectious "Sleep To Grow". They ended quite dynamically, as they are wont to do, with a newer song tentatively titled "We Left This Home", with Andrea pounding on the floor tom, front and centre, and guitarists Adam & Alex both almost getting right into the crowd for the finale.
There was also a neat moment where Katrina, who is originally from Montréal, addressed the crowd en français, to express how grateful they were to be sharing the stage with next two acts. (I think, at least. My French is limited to what I remember from Téléfrançais)

Second up was Aidan Knight, who is also a huge fan of Karkwa -- he even mentioned being at the same previous Biltmore show during his set -- and was visibly thrilled to be opening for them. It was a bit of a unique set for Aidan, as he had a bit of a different band backing him. Olivier and Julia were, as usual, on horns and keys, but they were only joined by Hannah Epperson on violin and Katie Schaan on cello. It gave the set a sound that was somehow both richer and more minimalistic.
Starting off with "Knitting Something Nice", the set also consisted of a few new songs, including one as-of-yet unnamed one with just Hannah (Aidan asked for suggestions as to the name, but I don't think he liked mine: "In Love With A Trumpet Major") and the heartbreakingly beautiful "Margaret Downe". And, of course, no Aidan Knight show is complete without his charmingly awkward stage banter. They ended, as per usual, with "Jasper", which had the crowd singing along, and some amazing strings to go along with it.

And then, it was time for Karkwa. Every once in a while I worry that I have psyched myself up for a show too much, and that the only possible outcome would be disappointment. But Karkwa hit the stage, double drummers and all, and my fears were immediately quashed when they launched into "Le Pyromane" to begin the set. The band has an absolutely incredible intensity as their wall of sound washes over you with driving guitars -- including some incredible solos -- and dual drummers who play off each other perfectly. Highlights of the set included the upbeat "Marie Tu Pleures", which had everyone clapping along, the somewhat dark "Le Bon Sens" and definitely "La Façade", which is up there as one of my favourite songs. After "Le Compteur" drove home their main set, they were back for another pair, ending the night with "Oublie Pas", and leaving the crowd drained, with faces melted off.

It was a show that will absolutely end up as one of my favourites of the year, and cemented Karkwa as one of my favourite bands; especially to see live. Connecting with an audience is hard enough without a language barrier, and it is a testament to the band, and Louis-Jean, that they were able to keep the crowd completely enthralled throughout the set. Earlier in the evening Aidan Knight mentioned that, cheesy as it sounded, Karkwa's music transcends the boundaries of language, and I couldn't agree more. I just hope that the packed venue (on a Tuesday night, no less) showed Karkwa that they have more then enough of fans in the west, and that they'll be back soon.

Le Pyromane, L'Acouphène, Échapper au sort, L'épaule Froide, Les Chemins De Verre, Dormir Le Jour, Le Bon Sens, La Façade, Marie Tu Pleures, Le Compteur.
[encore] Moi-léger, Oublie Pas.

Get Your Heart On @ Sitka -- 02/14/11

To be honest, usually I just let Valentine's Day slip by unnoticed. But thanks to David Vertesi and Vancouver Is Awesome, I had a destination for the night: Sitka Surf and Skate Shop (of all places). Vertesi had organized a free Valentine's Day show -- what with his album being titled Cardiography and all -- that was a who's who of Vancouver talent. With ten acts on the poster, and a couple surprises, it was a packed night. Each played a few acoustic songs, mostly love songs, with a few covers thrown in for good measure.
(And since there were so many, with short sets, I'll [try to] do short blurbs for each)

Starting off the night was Katie Schaan, out with her ukulele. Her strong voice (more or less) silenced the crowd right off the bat, as she played a song written specifically for VDay. She also called up Thom Kolb for a cover of "In Your Eyes", which they had not only done live before, and was one of the special duet videos for VIA (see them all here).

This led straight into 41st & Home, as Thom stayed on stage, with Katie, and recruited David Vertesi and Adaline to help on backup vocals on his song about Steveston. Adaline, who was not on the bill but pulled out of the crowd, was convinced to play a song, one that had an interesting crowd participation aspect. Instead of just clapping along, she had everyone jingle their keys. Then Thom popped back with his banjo for one more song.

Next up was Steph Macpherson. She opened with a cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Book of Love", before snagging Katie and third great voice, Redbird's Savannah Leigh out to help with vocals on "Best Of You". Katie stayed on stage for Steph's last song, "Summer Salute".

Following the trend of lovely ladies with great voices was Ali Milner. She took the keys for a set consisting of a duet with Vertesi (already the heardest working guy that night) and a cover of "Heard It Through The Grapevine" that had many people singing along.

Treelines, represented by Matt Lockhart, was next. He started off with a "cover" of their song "Calendar" before a proper cover, introduced as "Neil Fucking Diamond!", getting everyone to sing along to "Sweet Caroline", flubbed lyrics and all. He ended with the new VDay song "When I Get Grown", which you can download for free from their website.

Laura Smith and Andrew Braun of Rococode followed and they seemed to play the shortest set. I had only seen them once before, so an acoustic set was interesting, and pretty cool. The songs were no less catchy than with the full band, and I am still eagerly anticipating recorded material from them.

David Vertesi needed no introduction, as he had already been on stage several times throughout the night. Dan Klenner helped out on keytar for "Gentlemen Say". At the show Friday, I mentioned I was vaguely disappointed a certain someone wasn't out to help with backup vocals... so I was thrilled when he pulled surprise guest on stage for "Mountainside". David (and the loud cheers) then convinced Hannah Georgas to play a song of her own, and she complied, singing "The Deep End"

Up next was Shad, laying down rhymes over some back tracks. Ashleigh Ball and Hannah Georgas were out to help out for "Rose Garden", and he ended with some a capella rapping. To be honest, I hadn't heard too much of him outside the singles on the radio, but he was quite impressive live.

Follow that was one of the best band names ever, Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party. Their first song had Ali Milner on organ and some strings, which the most "elaborate" setup of the night. The next couple songs were more stripped down, though, with guitar and keytar. Oh, and there were sparkles eveywhere.

And the night drew to an end with Hey Ocean!, Vertesi back on stage with Ashleigh Ball. "Beatboxer (Who Broke My Heart)" segued into Beck's "Where It's At" and the whole night was brought to an end with another cover, The Ronettes' "Be My Baby". By the end of it, the stage was full of some of the nights performers and the whole crowd was singing along.

By the end of the night, the store was absolutely packed to the door with people, and the atmosphere was more like a group of friends getting together to have some fun -- which is pretty much what it was. I don't how feasible it would be to plan this type of thing every Valentine's Day... but a great night full of awesome talent and covers and collaborations would certainly be a great way to celebrate again next year.