Metric @ Commodore -- 06/23/12

I am not too sure the circumstances behind this show, as I think it came about as I was away, but for some reason Rogers Wireless was putting on a free, win-to-get-in Metric show at the Commodore. I was able to snag free tickets by simply being on the internet at the right time -- and being a Rogers customer -- and I am always happy to see Metric, especially in a venue like the Commodore, so I can't complain.
There were also cameras filming the entire thing, so I don't know if it'll be released at some point or not.

As it was a "private" Metric show there was no opener for the night, and as the stage filled with smoke, bathed in blue lights, Emily Haines and James Shaw came out to open with the first song off Synthetica, "Artificial Nocturne", joined by Jules and Josh on drums and bass mid way through the song. The first half dozen tracks of the set were off the new album, and lived up to the albums title with electronic elements blended with Metric's usual dance-pop sound. The frantic "Speed the Collapse" is one of my early favourites and sounded great live, and after the chunk of new songs, "Empty" got everyone jumping, bouncing the Commodore's dance floor, and nearly the entire venue joined in for the chorus of "Dead Disco".

There wasn't too much banter from the band, but they had, as usual, an incredible stage presence; Haines was an electric ball of energy, strutting across of the front of the stage and dancing along, and Jimmy Shaw melted more than a few faces with some amazing guitar work and solos.

They wrapped up with another couple older singles, "Help I'm Alive" and "Stadium Love" before "leaving". But the inevitable encore was obvious, given the stage lights flashing and guitar reverberating, and they were back out with a few more older songs, "Monster Hospital", "Gold Guns Girls" -- which saw Haines pick up a guitar instead of being behind the keys -- and an acoustic "Gimme Sympathy" which ended with all four members of the band standing at the edge of the stage leading the packed Commodore in a sing along.

Metric always puts on high energy and fun shows, and this was no exception. And given that Metric's new tour will have them play in arenas and stadiums, seeing them in a venue like the Commodore was quite a treat.

Artificial Nocturne, Youth Without Youth, Speed The Collapse, Dreams So Real, Lost Kitten, The Void, Empty, Synthetica, Dead Disco, Clone, Breathing Underwater, Nothing But Time, Help I'm Alive, Stadium Love.
(encore) Monster Hospital, Gold Guns Girls, Gimme Sympathy.

Live at Squamish: Day Two -- 08/21/11

The first day was down and a huge success, but second day of Live at Squamish was the one I was most looking forward to, packed with excellent bands all around. But before I get to it, I just wanted to make note that I love how the festival booked local bands. A good chunk of the people playing during the day were local independent artists, and when you have a festival that boasts 9000 people a day, that's some great exposure for people who deserve it.

The first act I was excited to see was Brasstronaut, playing the Stawamus Stage. They played a fairly short set, starting with "Slow Knots" and with a few new songs in there; one named "JT", which had a phenomenal and spacey instrumental ending, was dedicated to John Wah's year old kid, who was attending his first festival. They ended with an energetic "Lo Hi Hopes", giving the day a good start.

Panda Watch. And by Panda Watch, I mean Said the Whale
Bend Sinister was up next on the main stage, but I sadly missed them to head to the Giribaldi Stage to catch first Shane Koyczan doing some slam poetry – he was doing short in-between sets at various times all weekend – and then the enigmatic Panda Watch. For the weeks leading up to the festival the question Who Is Panda Watch? was on people's lips, and while there was some who figured it out, others had no idea that it was actually Said The Whale (I knew a month or so ago, and it was a tough secret to keep).
After setting up and coming out with creepy looking panda masks, they played an instrumental intro before ripping off the masks and revealing themselves to play a set of all new songs, which sounded pretty great.
A couple really stuck out, including the closing song which was a love letter to their fans, a "Ben-song" which may may or may not be called "True Love", and the aptly named "Hurricane Adele", as it was a complete force of nature. One of my favourite sets of the weekend, and I am definitely looking forward to the album.

The Zolas, with guest Ashleigh Ball
After the Whales, it was back to the Stawamus Stage for another Vancouver band, The Zolas – who actually started early (which was frustrating since I ended up missing half the set). They were as energetic as ever and looked like they felt right at home up on the main stage. Before they went into "Pyramid Scheme", Zach called up Hey Ocean's Ashleigh Ball for vocals, who was then seen sprinting through the field to leap (almost literally) on stage. "You're Too Cool" had a good sized sing-a-long going, and for the closing song, "Cab Driver", they brought their parents out for some backup vocals and dancing.

The Dudes were up next, though I only saw part of their set to recharge in the media tent and wander around to look at some of the other exhibits, like the artisans market and silent disco. The Dudes are a fun band live, no doubt, but I wouldn't say I'm too big a fan of them; a lot of their songs sounds kinda... samey.

Black Mountain did not run our hearts around.
It's weird to admit, but I almost forgot to be excited for Black Mountain; there was just so much going on. But as soon as "Old Fangs" hit, I remembered how absolutely amazing the band is live; Amber Weber's hauntingly powerful voice, and Steve McBean's incredible shredding – especially on "Tyrant" – which could only be described as "face-meltingly astonishing". From the fast and frantic "Let Spirits Ride" to the relatively mellow "Roller Coaster" and the building intensity of "Queens Will Play", Black Mountain was without a doubt my favourite set of the festival.

Though there was a strange and awkward moment near the end of their set. As they were wrapping up with "Don't Run Our Hearts Around", an overzealous stagehand walked in front of the band, mid-song, to tell them it was time to wrap it up. Definitely an unnecessary and unprofessional touch.

Soon enough it was time for a second dose of Metric, after their acoustic set the previous day. And it was definitely quite a contrast to that, especially in the level of intensity from Haines; she was back and forth and dancing, a ball of energy that hardly stood still for a minute. They kicked off with "Black Sheep" (which had me momentarily thinking "Envy Adams??") and blasted through a good chunk of their catalogue. Older songs were spiced up a bit, with "Empty" featured a few lines of Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)". "Sick Muse" and "Dead Disco" were a couple more highlights before they ended with "Stadium Love"

Shake your head it's Metric
And wrapping up the festival on the main stage was Weezer. I am not going to lie, I have never been that big of a fan of Weezer, so as far as I was concerned the festival ended with Metric. But I stayed to catch a few of their songs before heading out to beat the rush down the Sea to Sky. They started with "Surf Wax America" and a couple songs in played a cover of Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks". They certainly have their fans, but to me they seemed to be going through the motions a bit, and there wasn't much that compelled me to stay.

All in all, I would say it was a fantastic weekend. They streamlined a lot from the first year, and I love that they included the Green Couch stage, even though I didn't get a chance to see as much as I would have liked on it. And while I liked the headliners better last year, I think they had a stronger all-around lineup this year. One thing I did like better about last year that it was on the long weekend, giving people more time to decompress after, but aside from that, I would say the second year of Live at Squamish was a triumph, and I already can't wait to see what is in store for next year.

Live at Squamish: Day One -- 08/20/11

Yeah, I guess the view is pretty good. (Haines & Shaw)
What a weekend. For a second year, Squamish was filled with music and love for the Live at Squamish music festival. Last year was incredible, and it would be hard to top, but the weather held and the gorgeous backdrop of the mountains made it a perfect setting for a festival.

The weekend started for me with a surprise Hey Ocean! set at the Green Couch Sessions stage. They played a few songs that would not be in their set on the main stage later, including a cover of "Be My Baby". After them was Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party, who are always a lot of fun. They ended their quick set with their eponymous song that had singer/guitarist Michael Shindler out in the crowd and playing on a picnic table.
I wish I had caught more of the Green Couch stage, as they brought up some other great local acts, like Redbird, Portage & Main, Rococode and The Matinee, but there was just too much going on. It was a great addition to the festival, though, and I hope they can do it again next year.

Hey Ocean! makes me want to make a new dance up.
From there it was to the Girabaldi Stage, the second stage, for a little acoustic Metric with Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw. I am not sure the reasoning behind the last minute lineup shuffle -- Metric was supposed to headline the first night, but got moved to Sunday and the acoustic set added -- but more Metric is always welcome. They played a few Metric songs, but also threw in some covers; The Strokes, Buffalo Springfield, Shaw taking over vocals on a Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain". The set was good, but I think their acoustic show works better in a smaller, intimate setting as opposed to a big outdoor stage.

At the main stage, the Stawamus Stage, was Hey Ocean!, who always put on a fun show that is insanely upbeat and filled with catchy. Plus, Ashleigh Ball is just adorable. The set included old favourites like "Fish", which had bubbles being blown into the crowd and the set-ending "Song About California" as well as some new ones, like "Make A New Dance Up", which is one of the catchiest songs I had heard all weekend. With a great energy, you could tell each and every member of the band loved being up there and getting to play for everyone.

Stars Take Squamish to the Riot.
Following them was Stars, which was my favourite set of the day. Hitting the stage with their usual incredible energy and musicianship, they played a good mix of old and new, with highlights being "We Don't Want Your Body", the anthemic "Take Me To The Riot", and "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead", which Torquil prefaced by saying asking us to "take a minute to think of the ones we hate most" -- but was also sure to point out the breathtaking scenery and setting sun, too. They closed out the set with their hit "Elevator Love Letter" to a captivated crowd, and even though I have seen them live, multiple times and I am never disappointed and will never tire of seeing them play.

It was back to the Giribaldi stage where the plan was to catch the tail end of Shad, who was scheduled to start shortly after Stars. But the stage had been running late all day, so I got there at the second song -- which was "Rose Garden" with Ashleigh Ball from Hey Ocean! helping out on vocals. To be honest, I have never been that huge fan of Shad's music, but I absolutely respect what he does, and he puts on a hell of a live show. "Ya, I Get It" and "The Old Prince Still Lives at Home" were a couple of the highlights, the latter finished with him rapping just to everyone clapping out a beat.

I caught some of John Butler Trio next, listening from the media tent. What I heard sounded great, with amazing guitar playing skills throughout the set, and while I hadn't really heard too much of their music before the weekend, I was going to have to change that.

Explosive dancing and confetti for Girl Talk
And finally, closing out the night on the Stawamus Stage was Girl Talk, who threw one hell of a dance party. I am not sure if he was mixing live or just hit "play" on his laptop, but the entire field was turned into a huge dancing throng -- even those that don't normally dance (read: me). With a stage full of dancers (not professional dancers mind you, but people pulled up from the crowd), balloons, confetti and streaming toilet paper, and music ranging from Lady Gaga to Radiohead, he wrapped up the first night with a bang.
I am not normally a fan of dance music, but his mashups were tight and I liked that he used an eclectic selection of songs. Where else would you be able to hear Nirvana, Modest Mouse and Modern English mashed up with Kylie Minogue, Tag Team and Blackstreet?

Stay tuned (or, the interwebs equivalent of "tuned") for day two of the festival, which was stacked with the mysterious Panda Watch, more Metric and the face melting epicness of Black Mountain, among others.