Savvie Album Release @ Hindenburg -- 02/13/15

About four and a half years ago was the first time I saw Savannah Leigh Wellman performing live, under the moniker Redbird. It wasn't long after that when she released the EP We're All Friends and Lovers Until It Falls Apart, which I was quite taken by -- especially thanks to her strong voice and lyrics.
Flash forward a few years, and now Savannah has scrapped her folksy singer-songwriter sound in favour of a decidedly more rock & roll direction, with something that she has tongue-in-cheek dubbed "Sex Rock". Her brand new album, Night Eyes, was released just last week, and she took to one of Vancouver's newest venues, the Hindenburg, to celebrate.

Unfortunately, thanks to another show happening on the same night I missed both opening acts, Jody Glenham and Black River Killers, arriving just as the latter wrapped up.

Joining Savvie on stage was a band that consisted of a few familiar faces; Nick Petrowich (of Willhorse), Joseph Blood (of Bend Sinister), Jody Glenham (of, uh, Jody Glenham), and Brendan Krieg (who I believe was part of Savannah's old old band), and to celebrate the album's release, they played it in its entirety, front to back.

The tone was set right off the bat with "Break You In", which teases "I could be the one to break you... in" and the mood continued on with the crunchy guitars and reverb-drenched vocals of the first single "Without You", as Savannah owned the stage with a confidence and presence fitting to the term "sex rock".

Other highlights of the set included the catchy, gritty-pop of "Gravity" and the smoother "I Fall Again" which, like many of her songs, simultaneously makes you want to drown your sorrows in whiskey, and get right back out there -- or as Savannah put it between songs, lamenting on the fact that the next day was Valentine's Day: "don't sit at home feeling fucking sad, sit at home feeling fucking sexy"

But my favourite of the night (which is, unsurprisingly, a favourite from the album as well) came exactly halfway through with a heartwrenching and passionate song of a doomed romance called "Dreams of Surrender". Savannah's soaring voice wailing in the choruses literally gave me chills, as the song built to a huge ending with Jason Blood letting loose on guitar. 

They ended the set with "The Tower", the only song released as Redbird reworked for her new sound, with Savannah warning that "nostalgia is a fool's addiction", and which once more saw Blood shred on the guitar for its explosive climax.
But, seeing as they were playing the full album, Savannah came back out alone, guitar in hand, for the hidden track on the album as an encore. It was a beautiful, stripped down song that was a great ending to the set, both sonically and emotionally.

As someone that had stated before that the whole "folk singer-songwriter" thing is starting to wear out its welcome, I have been really digging the new direction Wellman has taken. I quite like the album, and this was a great debut show. If I'm not mistaken, it was only the second or third time the band had done a show together, and aside from a couple small things, they seemed to be working pretty well together.
Plus, it was my first time at the Hindenburg, and I really liked the venue. It had a nice layout, and sounded really good. Hopefully there will be more shows there worth checking out in the near future.

Break You In, Without You, Trust the In Between, Gravity, It's OK, Dreams of Surrender, Beautiful Pain, I Fall Again, Where We Wanna Be, A Blur and A Haze, The Tower.
(encore) [secret song]

Ma Petite CD release @ Prophouse Cafe -- 05/16/14

A couple years ago, Indiana Avent made the journey from her homeland of Australia to Canada to record her debut album in Vancouver. She had previously played violin for people like Bon Iver, Dan Mangan, Gotye, and Amanda Palmer, but decided it was time to put her own songs out into the world, and with loads of Vancouver's finest backing her she recorded The Road That Led Me To Fall.
The album was finally released it last month, and Indiana returned to her second home to celebrate its release.

Starting off the night was Savannah Leigh Wellman, frontwoman of Redbird playing solo. In contrast with Redbird's new hip-swaying rock, Savannah played some softer jams, her strong voice soaring over acoustic guitar, as she started with a newer song called "Wandering One".
Early on, she noted that most of her songs were a little more dour than Ma Petite's, so made sure to play a few happier songs, including a lovely song called "Morning Day and Night". There were also a few Redbird songs in the mix; "Some Birds" and "Oh Please My Heart".
She ended her set with what ended up being my favourite song of the night, an absolutely heartbreaking ghost-story-slash-breakup-song, called "The White Eagle", as Savannah poured everything into the song.

Next up was Twin Bandit, the pairing of Hannah Walker and Jamie Elliott. Also armed with only acoustic guitars, they had a country-ish sound with the two girls' voices intertwined into nice, soft harmonies, complimenting each other very well.
Standouts from the set were a cover of Ana Egge's "Hole in your Halo" and one of their own songs, which I didn't catch the name of, that was more fiery than the rest and introduced as a song about "the kind of love that makes you want to die"
They had gorgeous voices and a great presence, but I feel like they would make amazing scene-stealing backup singers -- the Ana Egge & Rose Cousins to someone's Joel Plaskett, or the Watson Twins to someone's Jenny Lewis -- as their own songs were just not quite strong enough.
They did mention near the end of their set that they would be playing the Media Club next weekend with a full band, so I would be interested to see how they are with a fleshed out sound.

And finally, it was time for Ma Petite to celebrate the release of her album. Completing the theme, Indiana took the stage alone with an acoustic guitar -- switching to ukulele halfway through -- with soft songs that were held aloft by her gentile, almost fragile voice.
She started with the sweet "Morning Song", and was incredibly charming on stage, introducing most every song with a little story; joking that a lot of the songs were about either birds or boys, before going into a song about both birds and boys.
Her storytelling extends through her music, with songs like "I Like That You Like Books" weaving through the narrative of working in a bookstore/coffeshop and flirting with customers (rather, a certain customer) or the longing of an ocean separating people in "Make Like A Bird".
As the set drew to a close, she led the crowd in a sing-along to a favourite "Man About Moon" before wrapping up the night with the upbeat "Two Big Thick Duffle Coats"

Often times it seems descriptors like "cute" can seem dismissive or condescending when it comes to music, but Indiana's soft and intimate songs -- even when they are about sad things -- are incredibly endearing and you can't help but smile while listening.

Morning Song, Lonesome, Winter Wind, I Like That You Like Books, Make Like A Bird, Sparrow, Words To Keep, Oh the Vampyre [AA Bondy cover], Man About Moon, Two Big Thick Duffle Coats. 

Steam Whistle Unsigned w/ JP Maurice, Rolla Olak, & Redbird @ Biltmore -- 04/03/14

The Steam Whistle Unsigned concert series was started by the Toronto microbrewery to promote local unsigned talent, and they have returned to Vancouver for the first show of the year. The ongoing concert series, which takes place in multiple cities across Canada, spotlights three local bands and partners with a charity that receives the proceeds of the show; this time it was Music Heals, an organization that promotes the healing power of music.

Starting off the night was a favourite around these parts, Redbird. It's been a while since any new music from the band, fronted by the lovely voiced Savannah Leigh Wellman, and recently she has been teasing a shift from her previous folksy-rock sound to what she described as "rock you can shake your hips to" -- or simply, Sex Rock. Which was a perfect description to the groovy jams of the new songs that made up the bulk of the set, like the sultry "Wandering One". Even the few old songs were bumped up a little, like "The West Wind" and the almost unrecognizable sexy bass groove given to "No Game".
My favourite of the set was the final song, which I didn't catch the name of; Savannah introduced it as a space rock song, and the slow beginning gradually swelled into a dizzying swirling of John Sponarski's amazing guitar and guest Andrew Rasmussen's keyboard for a great ending to the set. As someone that is maybe starting to think they are getting "over" the current folk movement, I really enjoyed the new sound, and I am very interested to hear the new album that Savannah teased.

Next up was Rolla Olak, who I have seen play a few times recently, ranging from solo to a full band. It's always the latter I enjoy more, and luckily that's exactly what this was, as Rolla was joined by his band (which included John Sponarski pulling double duty). His roots-y sound is a lot more upbeat and rocking with the full band, the energetic boot-stomping songs getting people moving. And while Rolla doesn't say much on stage, his passion is evident.
Part way through the set Savannah came out and helped sing on a slower jam, and as he was finishing up, Rolla got the weeknight crowd to sing along a little to a song called "It's Alright". He wrapped up with probably the best song of his set, a raging blues rocker where he was joined by Eric Larocque on harmonica.
Olak puts on a strong set, but I think is just missing that undefinable something to set him apart and above the others like him, to take him to that next level.

And finally, ending the night was JP Maurice. Joined by a stagefull of familiar faces, his nine-piece band included a host of local musicians; Stephanie Chatman on violin, Jer Breaks on guitar, Timmy "Boom Bap" Proznick on drums, Marcus Abramzik on bass, Andrew Rasmussen on keys, and a backing vocal trio of Alex Badger, Stephanie Mcmahon, and Savannah Wellman. There were a couple times when the nine-piece band felt a little too cumbersome, but the members rotated on and off stage, and for the most part they gelled well.
Starting off with a pair of songs that showcased the darker side of JP's pop-rock, "Poison Heart" and "Get Mad", the set was filled with raw emotions. Many of his songs are about love and/or loss, and the passion pours out of JP when her performs, leaving his heart on the stage every night.
Friend and collaborator David Newberry joined JP on stage for a song, "Pennies" and after the infinitely catchy "Mistake", JP and friends closed the set with the single from his most recent album The Arborist, "The Other One".
But even at a half past midnight, the remaining crowd cheered for more, and the band was back out for one final song, JP's cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams", which briefly morphed into "Teenage Dream" and back again.

Not only was this Unsigned show a great showcase for the local bands, but a great showcase of the local scene. Musicians were crossing bands the entire night, and even the crowd was filled with various members of other bands, there to watch. It's shows like this that show off the level of support that can exist in parts of the Vancouver music scene.

Then & Now @ Biltmore -- 08/20/13

The brainchild of Vancouver's beekeeper, Then and Now is a simple concept; take a handful of local artists, and get them to play a brand new song & an old song-- their newest, shiniest song, and one of the first songs they wrote, potentially embarrassing. 
The night was also a fundraiser for Megaphone Magazine, a local publication that is sold by the homeless or low income people, who get to keep the profits of their sales.

Starting off the night was Redbird, and Savannah Leigh Wellman really took the concept to heart, setting the bar for the rest of the night. Her "then" song was one written in high school, influenced by pop-stars, called "Make Your Move", that peaked when Savannah started rapping. It was exactly in the spirit of the show, and as amazing as it was cringe-worthy. Her "now" was a brand new song, thematically similar but decidedly more mature.

Buckman Coe was up next, his older song being a folky love song, while his new was more reggae influenced.

Victoria musician Katie Schaan, better known as Ciseaux took the stage next, starting with an acoustic guitar and the song "Close To Me" off of Katie's debut album, which was put out under her own name. 
Her new song was a love song about a boy, played on the ukulele. After wrestling with some technical problems, she ended up unplugged it and perched on the front of the stage, completely unamplified, her powerful voice still filling the room.

Devin Miller from Young Pacific was the first of the night to break from the acoustic, with his electric guitar. His first song was about friendship, or a lack thereof, and his newer one made use of his pedal board, for a song that was a bit more spacey and ethereal.

Wrapping up the first half of the night was the super secret surprise guest, Bed of Stars. Like many others throughout the night, his "then" song was a love song. His "now" was a pretty chill newer song.

After a brief intermezzo, Skye Wallace took the stage to start the second half. Joined by Alex the cellist, her first song was one written when she was a teenager. Her new song was one called "Monster" and built to some absolutely intense vocals.

There was a change of pace as spam poet Duncan Shields was up next, also joined by Alex the cellist. His nerd-themed pieces included a "then" which used video games as a metaphor for his ex-girlfriend, with great wordplay & puns, especially for video game lovers. His "now" was something he described as "filk music", which was taking folk songs and rewriting the words to make them nerdier. His was to the tune of "If You're Happy & You Know It" and was about Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Ford Pier. His "then" song had a very 90s-Canadian-vibe to it, and Pier took the concept of "now" to an extreme; he had only finished writing the new song at 6:30 that same morning, and it had never been performed out loud before.

And wrapping up the night, beekeeper themselves. The only full band electric set, Devon surprised his bandmated by choosing "Nice Lunch" for their "then", an old, rarely played song from their first album. They then wrapped up the night, with their newest, called "Arms Length". As with just about everyone throughout the night, it was an interesting juxtaposition between the then and the now, seeing how the songwriters have progressed.

The first time they did this show, last year, it ran a bit long, but this year did not drag at all. With a leaner lineup, the night zipped along at a fine clip, and I can only hope they plan on this again next year. It's a fantastic concept for a great cause.

Ma Petite Single Release @ Media Club -- 09/28/12

Australian musician Indiana Avent -- who has played violin with people like Bon Iver, Dan Mangan, Gotye, and many more -- has been living in Canada for the last year or so, making her debut album under her own band Ma Petite. With the help of some of Vancouver's finest, the album is almost ready to see the light of day, and to give it a little bit of a tease she took to the Media Club for the launch of the first single.

Opening the night was Garrett Kato, though unfortunately I got there a bit late and only caught his last song. The rootsy rock of Redbird was up next. Lead by Savannah Leigh Wellman's strong voice, she was joined by John Sponarski on guitar & Ben Appenheimer on bass, as usual, and brand new addition: Malcolm Holt from The Gay Nineties on drums.
Opening with "The Tower", the set was a mix of songs from last year's debut EP, We're All Friends and Lovers Until it Falls Apart, and new songs, including an absolute rocker, "I Fall Apart", my favourite of the set.
Redbird continues to get more and more polished in their live show, both musically and stage presence, with some good banter -- especially the joking (and teasing) between Savannah and Sponarski -- and I really can't wait to see how that translated to their next release.

Not long after, Ma Petite took the stage, with Indiana and a few familiar faces, including Olivier Cléments (one of Aidan Knight's Friendly Friends), Ben Appenheimer (once again) on stand up bass and Matt Kelly (of all the bands) on guitar and keys; Jordan Klassen even joined briefly by on guitar.
Indiana's great sense of storytelling shines through in the songs -- and her stage banter -- for some adorable folky tunes, which she admitted, "boys or birds", with one of my favourites being "I Like That You Like Books", a catchy song about having a crush on the customer while working as a barista.
After a few songs, the band took a break while Indiana did a couple on her own, then they were back for a cover of AA Bondy's "Oh The Vampire" and the song of the night, "Man About the Moon", which starts soft and explodes into a joyous ending. Both that and "Goodbye Sweetheart" following had bouts of group vocals, before the set came to an end -- sans fake-encore -- with a song about adjusting from Australian to Canadian climates, "Two Big Thick Ruffled Coats".

It was a lovely set, and the only problem wasn't with Indiana or the band, but rather the volume of the crowd. I don't know why it is, but the Media Club always seems to have the most talkative crowds, and while the front half of the room was rapt by Ma Petite, the back half (near the bar, of course) was getting almost disruptively noisy.