I couldn't think of a better way to start of 2016, concert-wise, than an "East Van badass babe revue". Miss Quincy returned to Vancouver for the first of The Cobalt's Thursday night "Fuck Fridays" in the new year, and bought along some pretty killer rock 'n' roll.
First up was a bit of self-described "sex rock" from Savvie. Savannah Wellman was joined by a talented bunch of locals as her backing band -- though noted it was the first time that particular combination played together -- to highlight songs from last year's Night Eyes album.
Starting off with "It's Okay", songs ranging from the coy lyrics "Break You In", the grittier "Gravity", and "The Tower" about looking forward, not back. My favourite of the set, "Dreams of Surrender", was an intense heartbreaker with Savannah's voice soaring over the chorus and a wicked guitar solo from Connor John Tkach.
And though the sound seemed a little bit off for the set, it was still enjoyable and a great prelude for what was to come.
Next up was the bluesy rockin' Cobra Ramone, consisting of Cobra on guitar & vocals, Trevor Snakedust on organs & guitar, and one of my favourite drummers, Pat Steward (who I think needs a serpentine pseudonym when drumming with the band; Python Steward, or something).
At any rate, they kicked off with some high energy rock and barely slowed down until the end. A song Cobra introduced as "about breakup sex", the ferocious "Bang Bang" and the slow-burning "I'm A Mess" stood out to me, as the set built towards a frenzied ending. I had only seen Cobra Ramone once before, a couple years ago, but really dug the set and I am looking forward to hearing more in the future.
And finally, as the lead singer urged everyone to cozy up to someone because it was "just dark enough, and just late enough..." Miss Quincy & The Showdown hit the stage with the appropriately seductive bass groove of "Making Money" to start off the set, which included a bit of the blues standard "Good Morning, School Girl".
Highlights of the set included the dark and moody "Damn You" which just launched a new video, Miss Quincy telling the "Fuck Friday" crowd to repent in advance with the hymnal "Take It To The Well", and aside from songs from their most recent album Roadside Recovery, the trio slipped in some new ones, including a sexy slow jam which I think was called "You Remind Me Of Myself".
Near the end of the set they brought a guest on stage, Shawn "The Harpoonist" Hall, to play a little harmonica on the raucous "Wild Fucking West" before the set concluded with a pair of explosive songs. I think they may have blown out a speaker during the badass and sultry "Bad Love", which would have been a great ending, but they somehow managed to top the energy for an all-out rocking cover of "Boys Wanna Be Her" by Peaches.
Thursday night marked the end of a seven year journey that put millions of dollars into supporting locals bands and talent. I am talking, of course, about The Peak Performance Project. As usual, everything wrapped up with this year's top three playing the grand finale at the Commodore, and the reveal of the winner. First place would take home $102,700, $75,000 went to second place, and $50,000 for third. The winner had been long decided, known only to a select few, and the night was just a celebration for the top three, to play at the legendary Commodore Ballroom.
Starting off the night was Kamloops' Van Damsel who were, from the beginning, my prediction to take it (though I'm more often than not wrong when it comes to predictions). I have seen them a few times recently, and I think they were on top of their game Thursday night. The band was obviously happy to be playing the Commodore, in front of friends and family that had flown in just for the show. And that joy bled through into their bouncy and upbeat upbeat indie-pop. Especially lead singer Sebastien Ste Marie who hardly stood still, getting everyone to clap along several times, and even leaning into the crowd, arm outstretched, with the apropos lyrics "I just wanna reach you" during "Sophia".
Other highlights included the swirling intro to "Something Gold", and their big single "Best of Everything", which saw them invite out Conan Karpinski from follow Top 12 band Little India, and had the dancefloor singing along.
I thought that would have been the perfect ending, but they had one last song, an instrumental intro spotlighting bass player Matt “Renny” Rennehan building to a bit more of a mellow song.
Second up on the night was Bed of Stars, Evan Konrad and his band taking the stage to moody lighting and smoke, starting with the soaring single "Nothing Left to Lose". From there, they filled the room with alt-pop songs that matched the mood of the lightshow.
I had missed their showcase set and it was hyped to me as one of the best, which may be part of the reason I was surprised that the set this night seemed flat. Which isn't to say it was bad; from a technical standpoint it was a good, Evan and his band were on point, and his vocals strong. But there was just something about it felt like it just didn't connect.
There were a couple songs I really liked, though, one that came midway through that I didn't catch the name of, but was a lot heavier and more rocking than the rest of the set, and near the end when he brought some of Smash Boom Pow on stage to help with a very unexpected cover, "Larger Than Life" by Backstreet Boys. It seemed like at that point in the set just getting into it, but it came just a bit too late, as there were only two songs left, ending with a with some bone-rattling bass.
And finally, I couldn't think of anyone better to end off the night than the man that feels like the unofficial poster boy of the Peak Performance Project, JP Maurice. It was his third time through the program (not counting the couple times he was a hired gun for other bands) but clearly his most successful.
With a band comprised of some familiar faces (members of Fields of Green, Willhorse, and Bend Sinister) he started with a bit of a slow and moody overture of "The Other One" before ramping up the energy. The set was full of JP's emotion-filled, heart-on-his-sleeve songs like "Get Some" and the unabashed "The Other One". One of my favourites, "Mistake" even saw large balloons bounce around the crowd until they popped, showering everyone below with confetti.
Midway through his set he started an almost nonstop parade of special guests, first packing the stage with even more members of Willhorse and Bend Sinister, as well as some of The Boom Booms, Benjamin James Caldwell, and Savvie, for a song about touring the vast country of Canada. Some of which stayed onstage for the rest of the night, as he then brought out a horn section for a straight up throwback pop song, Evan Konrad for his bootcamp collaboration, and Roderick Campbell of Mindil Beach for the huge finale to the set, "Big Change" ... at a certain point it was almost easier to list who wasn't on stage.
And then, of course, came the big announcement. Third place going to Van Damsel, and second to JP Maurice, which meant Bed of Stars took the grand prize of $102,700 in money for artist development.
And of course, none of this would not have happened without all the hard working people at The Peak and MusicBC. They did an amazing job in their seven year run, and while -- if I'm being honest -- I disagreed with the some of their choices more often than not (for bands in the Top 20/12/3), I can't deny that the last seven late summer/early autumns have been a great time. A great time for musicians. A great time for music fans. A great time for the local music scene in general. I have discovered so many amazing bands and musicians through the project, even made some friends along the way, and I will be more than a little sad when this time next year rolls around, and it feels a little empty.
It was four years ago, almost to the day, that I first saw Rich Aucoin perform live. He was opening for Arkells at the Commodore (on 11/11/11, appropriately enough) and I knew right then, I never wanted to not see him play. Since then I have made sure to see catch his shows every time he's back, and have never been disappointed. So of course I wasn't going to miss when his latest tour, dubbed the Karaoke Carnival Tour, hit the Fox Cabaret this weekend.
Starting off the night, though, was The Elwins from Keswick, Ontario. The alt-pop foursome came out fast with "Off The Wall" from their new album Play For Keeps, and barely slowed down. Focusing mostly on the new album, they played high energy, upbeat songs like "It Ain't Over Til It's Over", which had lead singer Matthew Sweeney hop into the crowd and get people singing along, and "Bringing Out The Shoulders" where bassist Frankie Figliomeni took over lead vocals. Other highlights included the bouncy "Away Too Long" and the quirky "Is There Something", as well as mustachioed keys/guitar player Feurd Moore at the front of the stage, tambourine in hand, getting the crowd clapping along to "Forgetful Assistance", before spotting a familiar face in the crowd and pulling Spencer Schoening of Said the Whale on stage. They drew things to a close with their single "So Down Low", for a really fun and tight set. I have seen them play a few times now, and I enjoy them more and more each time.
After a quick turnaround and setup, Rich Aucoin took the stage for what can only be described as a multimedia experience. Before anything else, he usually starts the crowd with a crowd vocal warmup, this time it was singing Happy Birthday to someone in the crowd. That was followed by the usual 20th Century Fox fanfare and THX introduction, before a motivational speech, and finally the "opening credits" featuring people from the crowd given amusing attributes (like this nice shoutout).
Most of that was scored by an instrumental of "Meaning in Life" the first song off the latest album Ephemeral, before launching right into the singalong with "Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E.", words flashing on the projection screen behind him, with videos or movie clips synched up to the songs.
With the insane drumming of Tony Dallas as the backbone, Rich played samples and loops and keys from his station, though more often than not he was along the front of the stage, or even in the crowd. During "Four More Years" Rich create a large hole in the middle of the dance floor, as he ran around the rim singing to people before everyone came in to dance.
Not only can few people control a crowd like Aucoin, but there's always something special about those crowds at his shows. All pretentiousness is thrown out the window as people are more than happy to dance, jump, sing, yell, throw their arms around total strangers, and do all of the above under a giant parachute.
Which, of course made its appearance during "Are You Experiencing?", the rainbow parachute extending from the stage to the bar, encompassing the entire dance floor, Aucoin leading the crowd underneath, everyone singing along with what almost feels like a mantra for Rich Aucoin, and his live shows: "When you give it all up, you get it back"
And as fun as the live show experience is, it would be nothing without his anthemic, electro-pop songs. You don't just sing along with songs like "Want To Believe" or "Let It Go" (not that "Let It Go") because the words are there, you do it because they are catchy songs with poignant lyrics that remind us we are, as the album says, ephemeral. Which was proven with the set-closing "It" as the crowd chanted "We won't leave it all in our heads" well after the song was done.
The set ended spot on the curfew, with Rich putting his actual phone number up on the screen, with a promise of free music if you text him, and that's usually where the show would end... but after some crowd clamouring, Aucoin came back out, admitting he isn't much of an encore guy. Instead, he lived up to the "karaoke" part of the tour by piping in the karaoke version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and leading the whole room to a giant singalong, a pretty great way to end the show.
I've said it before, but you don't just watch Rich Aucoin play live. You experience it. There are a few bands that I have seen that give you that warm feeling and giant grin plastered over your face after the show -- or even days later just thinking about it -- and Rich Aucoin is up there as one of the best at it.
Meaning in Life, Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E., P:U:S:H, Four More Years, Undead, Let It Go, Want to Believe, Are You Experiencing?, It.
(encore) Bohemian Rhapsody Karaoke.
Every once in a while, a couple bands tours together that you would never have expected, but end up working quite well together. That was the case with the pan-Canadian pairing of Vancouver's Yukon Blonde opening for Hey Rosetta! from St John's, who I never would have thought to see together. They had been touring down through the states, and came up through The Vogue Theatre for the first Canadian date of the tour.
The five members of Yukon Blonde spread out across the front of the stage, kicking off with the first few songs from the new album On Blonde, "Confused" showing off their stellar harmonies (well, when Brandon Scott's microphone was working). There were a bit more mic issues in the second song, this time Jeff Innes' mic going in and out, but they were quick to fix it between songs, as Jeff didn't need it to chat with the crowd, yelling from the edge of the stage.
After the high energy opening, they chilled out for a moment with an older beauty "Wind Blows", and an ode to Hannah Georgas in "Hannah", perhaps the lyrics unintentionally bittersweet now that she's moved to Toronto. But they quickly got the energy right back up, and the crowd moving, with a string of favourites; the undeniably catchy "Radio" from Tiger Talk, and from the new album, the glammed out "Saturday Night" and "I Wanna Be Your Man", a sexy jam if there ever was one.
Aside from the minor troubles at the beginning, the band was firing on all cylinders, and wrapped up their first (but surely not last) show at the Vogue with the crowd singing along to "Stairway".
Confused, Make You Mine, Como, Wind Blows, Hannah, Radio, Saturday Night, I Wanna Be Your Man, Favourite People, Stairway.
Not long after that, in front of a gold foil background (a nod to kintsukuroi , perhaps) and a couple dozen light bulbs on stage, Hey Rosetta! came out in darkness, the bulbs slowly lighting up for the opening song "Promise", before bursting with brightness.
The bulbs were actually a really nice touch of lighting, as they were independent from each other, occasionally only on near the members playing in the song, or shining full when the current song hit a crescendo. A nice touch to give atmosphere to the show.
As for the set itself, the band weaved through their three albums, focusing mostly on the new Second Sight, with songs like the explosive "Soft Offering (For The Oft Suffering)" and "Trish's Song", which brought the band in for a bit of intimacy, as they attempted to hush the room for the soft and beautiful song.
Other highlights included the gorgeous "Red Heart" -- Tim taking a second to remember the words at the beginning -- which flawlessly segued into a little bit of "Black Heart", the breathtaking "Bandages" with the crowd perfectly singing along, and an oft-requested song, bringing some early holiday cheer with one of the the few Christmas songs that works year-round, "Carry Me Home".
They ended the set with another burst of intensity, with "Welcome", before coming back out with Yukon Blonde for their political protest song, released right before the last election, called "Land You Love". They then wrapped up with one of my absolute favourites, "New Goodbye" which on a night full of chill-inducing songs, gave me the most chills. From the slow and soft intro, bursting into a wall of sound, I couldn't think of a better way to end the night.
Ever since the first time I heard Hey Rosetta!, I was hooked. Grand, swelling songs with strings and horns, songs that build to epic climaxes, and poignant lyrics. And everything about that comes out tenfold in their live show. Just about every member of the seven-piece band is a multi-instrumentalist, switching out between songs, and frontman Tim Baker's effortless charisma, going between keys and guitar, his heartfelt vocals drive the songs home. All that together makes them one of my favourite bands to see live.
Promise, Young Glass, Harriet, Kid Gloves, Handshake the Gangster, Alcatraz, Trish's Song, Soft Offering (For The Oft Suffering), Gold Teeth, Red Heart / Black Heart, Bandages, Carry Me Home, Welcome.
(encore) Land You Love (w/ Yukon Blonde), New Goodbye.