Whenever a musical "supergroup" is put together, there is always a certain amount of caution. Are they going to just going to sound like a lame mashup of the participating bands (Audioslave)? Or are they going to come together to make an interesting new band (Monsters of Folk)?
When Mounties first formed, I had the same amount of trepidation.
I was a fan of Ryan Dahle and all of his work, from Limblifter to Age of Electric to his solo album; I always liked Hawksley Workman, but for some reason never delved too far into his catalogue; and, to be perfectly honest, I never really cared for Steve Bays' band Hot Hot Heat.
But their first single "Headphones" was catchy as hell, and any lingering doubt was eradicated on the first spin of their debut album Thrash Rock Legacy. So when they announced their first ever tour, it was a no-brainer, especially since they would be paired with one of my favourite live acts.
Opening the night was Light Organ
label mates JPNSGRLS
(pronounced "Japanese Girls"). The four-piece from Vancouver was visibly excited and amazed to be playing the legendary Commodore Ballroom, and turned that into an incredibly energetic live show -- especially lead singer Charlie Kerr who could hardly stand still. With a collection of songs that sounded influenced by early 00's post-punk, they delivered fast and raw rock, getting the gathering crowd excited.
The young band is still fairly new, with only a debut EP to their credits, and while some of their songs sounded a bit too much like a patchwork of other bands, I think once they hone their sound
Next up was a trip to the opposite side of the country for Halifax's Rich Aucoin
, and anyone who regularly reads the blog (or follows my twitter) knows how much I love Aucoin, especially his live shows.
Rich syncs up videos to his music, projected onto a bedsheet behind him, and the set stared with the "coming attractions", including an inspirational speech cobbled together from various movies, and the "opening credits" featuring names of audience members with heroic attributes.
From there, the dancey pop-rock burst forth and the raw energy and intensity didn't slow down for a second. With the music streaming from his effects board and the intense rapid-fire drumming of Joel Waddell providing the backbone, Rich was off the stage as often as he was on it. Giving Commodore's bouncy floor a workout, Aucoin was frequently among the audience with an illuminated light bulb, to dance with the crowd, bring everyone together for huddles, and even unfurling his giant parachute which spanned the entire area of the Ballroom's dance floor.
Few people can rally a crowd like Rich Aucoin, and the ridiculously catchy songs definitely help, with lyrics easy to
sing yell along to. From "We are not dead yet, we are undead" of the appropriately titled "Undead" to "This heart is all that keeps us up, this heart is beating", he gives the crowd a strong message that can be summed up with two words from the opening: BE AWESOME.
After about a half-dozen songs, the set ended with "It" making the crowd to vow not to "leave it all in our heads", as he rose back onto the stage, dripping with sweat and covered in confetti.
It's hard to explain, but Rich Aucoin's music and live shows leave you with a sense of pure joy, and a grin plastered across your face a mile wide. Seeing Rich Aucoin live is something that everyone needs to do at least once in their life.
I don't envy any band that has to follow Aucoin, but as a remixed "Headphones" played over the speakers, Mounties
took the stage for their first ever Vancouver show -- and only their fourth as a band.
Hawksley took a seat behind the drums with Ryan on guitar and Steve on keys, and they were joined by Parker Bossley (of The Gay Nineties
, and both Fur Trade & Hot Hot Heat with Bays) on bass and Carey Pratt (Prairie Cat
) on percussion to round out the band.
With Workman behind the drums, and a low-key Dahle content to shred on guitar, Bays was almost the de facto frontman, moving around and getting right up to the edge of the crowd when not behind the keyboard. But all three members shared vocals, and had equal time in the spotlight as they kicked off the set with "Pretty Respectable", the opening track of the album (and no doubt source of puns for many album reviews) and played nearly the entire Thrash Rock Legacy over the next hour-and-a-bit.
Their songs spanned from the frantic groove of "Made Up My Mind" to the bouncy "Hall & Oats" to "The Twig & The Tree", which saw Parker came up from the back of the stage to help on vocals.
"If This Dance Catches On", swirled into a psychedelic jam ending with crunchy guitar from Dahle and Bossley playing his bass with a bow, and they wrapped up the set, as you would expect, with the massive "Headphones" as they ending the main set with a huge jam.
But of course, they were not done as the three came out for the encore with the soft "Latch Key Kids" intertwining Workman & Bays' voices, before exploding into the instrumental "Guaranteed Blonde Enough"
and finally ending the night with the mellow "Tokyo Summer".
When talking about their origins, all three members will say they just wanted to do something to get together to jam & have fun, and the album is the results of that. Hawksley particularly has said he wanted to just do something where he got to sit behind the drums, which is exactly what he got to do. That passion, that sense that they are doing this because they love it, more than came through in their live show, spreading their enthusiasm into the crowd.
After seeing the show, it was incredibly to realise these three guys have not been playing together for the last twenty years, and with a start this strong, I can't wait to see where they go next.
Pretty Respectable, Feeling Low, Made Up My Mind, Hall & Oats, The Twig & The Tree, Waking Up On Time, Minimum Effort, If This Dance Catches On, Headphones.
Latch Key Kids, Guaranteed Blonde Enough, Tokyo Summer.