Skye Wallace w/ David Newberry @ Rickshaw Theatre -- 06/26/16

Sometimes you just have to go to a venue you don't like to see a couple musicians you do. Skye Wallace and David Newberry just finished touring the country, bringing things back to Vancouver for a show at the Rickshaw. 

I missed the first set of the night, from Wishkicker, arriving shortly before David Newberry hit the stage. He opened with "We Were Honest Once", the first song off his latest album Replacement Things. His folk-bent indie rock filled the theatre, with highlights of the set included the driving rock and pleading chorus of "Coyote", and the upbeat "Aftermath".
Part way through the set, most of the band took a break as David was accompanied only by Nathan Shubert on keyboard, as he perched on the edge of the stage, pouring his heart out for the beautiful "Freddie Murcury". It wasn't long after that before he closed with an older song, "Easter", from his cheerfully named album No One Will Remember You.

Joined by a solid backing band including Wynston Minckler, Alex Hauka, and Kenton Loewen (who was also drumming for Newberry), Skye Wallace rocked the set open with "Guiltiest Hymn" which I think (hope) is on her upcoming album Something Wicked due out in the fall. The uproarious song, along with the next one "Ain't It Hell", gave credence to Skye's nickname as the Queen of Dark Folk
Skye also brought up a couple special guests during the set; first Jody "Miss Quincy" Peck on guitar for a couple of songs, including my favourite of the set, the frantic bluesy "Blood Moon". And then later in the set, violinist Devon Kroeger hopped on stage to add some strings to songs like the haunting cover of Timber Timbre's "Lay Down In The Tall Grass". 
As the set drew to an end, Skye closed with "Klondike" a song that built to a soaring ending, followed by "Scarlet Fever", which she prefaced as being "part two" to the song. It was a nice one-two punch to end off the night. 

I've been to a few shows recently with a strong pairing of musicians, and I can't think of many better ways to spend a Sunday evening than watching Skye Wallace and David Newberry performing. 

Destroyer w/ Blackout Beach @ Rickshaw Theatre -- 06/12/14

I've never really been a fan of the Rickshaw Theatre as a venue. The first time I was there the poor sound ruined what should have been an otherwise great show, and the few shows I saw after were not much better. It got to the point where I just avoided going to shows there.
So when Dan Bejar announced a solo Destroyer show -- with Blackout Beach opening as well -- I was conflicted. But I decided to give the Rickshaw another chance, figuring it would be hard to mess up the sound for a single guy with an acoustic guitar. And you know what? It sounded pretty good.

It had been a while since I've seen Carey Mercer in any incarnation, so I was very glad that the Frog Eyes frontman (and Bejar's bandmate in Swan Lake) was opening under his solo alter-ego Blackout Beach. He took the stage with an acoustic guitar, and a bag of tricks in the form of looped beats and plenty of distortion pedals. His incredibly powerful voice drove most of the songs -- a couple times he even stepped off the mic and belted out the words -- with an almost frantic intensity. Never more apparent than in "Three Men Drowned In The River" from his Skin of Evil album.

In contrast to the intensity of the songs, though, his stage banter was light and funny. Part off-the-cuff, with a dash of self-effacing humour, Mercer joked with the crowd between each song, asking things like if the beats were "too techno, or not techno enough?" (they were somewhere in the middle).
He wrapped up the set with a pair of Frog Eyes songs from his most recent album Carey's Cold Spring; "Claxxon's Lament" provided unparalleled emotion, and he wrapped up with the advice "Don't Give Up Your Dreams", his distorted guitar wailing to an ending.

The last time I saw Destroyer, it was the full band at the Vogue Theatre, with the band filling out the rich and lustrous sound of their last couple albums. But this time it was only Dan Bejar, armed with his acoustic guitar, and speaking a word he silenced the din of the crowd just by launching into his first song, "My Favourite Year". In fact, other than some recognition applause and cheers at the start of most songs, the crowd was in an awed silence the entire night, as long as Bejar was playing -- the one memorable occasion being when half the packed show shouted "the fucking maniac" at the appropriate part of "European Oils"

Bejar played a packed set, just shy of an hour and a half which spanned his illustrious career, going back to almost twenty years for the song "Streets of Fire" from We'll Build Them a Golden Bridge all the way up to "Bye Bye" from his newest Five Spanish Songs EP.
Other highlights included the gorgeous and fragile songs like "Chinatown" and "Foam Hands" as well as dramatically stripped down versions of more upbeat tunes, "Your Blood" and "Savage Night At The Opera", and also the aforementioned "European Oils", a personal favourite.

In contrast to Mercer's humour, Bejar didn't say too much between songs (as you would expect) but as the set went on he loosened up and a few times his dry sense of humour came through; joking that a few of his songs were suspiciously similar when stripped down to the acoustic, and proclaiming the last song of the night would be the best (and them promptly feigning a complete loss of self-confidence) before launching into a stunning rendition of "Don't Become The Thing You Hated".
But of course the packed theatre was not done yet, cheering for more as Dan came back out with another couple songs to cap off the night with "Virgin With a Memory" from 2001's Streethawk: A Seduction

And with that he bowed one last time, leaving the audience with one of the better shows I've seen so far this year.

My Favourite Year; Your Blood; The Chosen Few; Bye Bye; Foam Hands; Light Travels Down The Catwalk; Downtown; Helena; European Oils; Self Portrait With Thing (Tonight Is Not Your Night); Chinatown; Streets of Fire; To the Heart of the Sun on the Back of the Vulture, I'll Go; Farrar, Straus And Giroux (Sea Of Tears); Savage Night at the Opera; Don't Become The Thing You Hated.
(encore) What Road; Virgin With a Memory.

Plants & Animals @ Rickshaw -- 03/21/12

Don't ever let it be said that I don't give second chances. A couple years ago, I went to one of the first shows at the then-new Rickshaw Theatre, and came away utterly disappointed. The reason was because of the terrible sound -- the venue is more or less a giant cement box -- and I have all but avoided it since, even passing on some good bands there. But when Montreal's Plants & Animals announced that would be their Vancouver date, I had to put aside my trepidations, because there was no way I was missing them.

The opening band was another from Montreal, Little Scream, which is not the name of the band, but the stage name for Laurel Sprengelmeyer. She was, however, joined by a band (which including one member on bass flute) for some dark and moody music, occasionally a little haunting and ethereal. My favourite song of their set was "Cannons", as well as some great covering for a broken string; while her guitarist went off stage to restring it, she showed off her powerful voice with an a capella song.
I quite enjoyed the set, and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.

Not too long after, the Plants & Animals kicked off their set, the trio of Warren Spicer, Matthew Woodley, and Nicolas Basque were joined by a fourth member on bass, starting a bit soft with "Song for Love", but immediately exploded into "Feedback in the Field". The sound for the set was... okay. Not as bad as I had feared, and certainly not so bad as to ruin the show, but the reverberations of the sound off the concrete walls was still very much noticeable. Despite this, the band put on a fantastic set; they had a good rapport with the crowd, bantering between songs, and each member had a great energy. And most importantly, they are all fantastic musicians, making everything they did on stage seem utterly effortless.
Highlights of the set included the bluesy swagger of "Crisis", one of my favourites off the new album, and "Undone Melody", a show burner that build to a huge ending. After about an hour, they "ended" with a bit of a sing along to "Bye Bye Bye", before coming back out to a chanting crowd for a couple more; the raucous "Why & Why" and what they more or less admitted was their own favourite song to play, "Faerie Dance", starting off slow and light and then exploding into a phenomenal climax with the band just jamming.

In the end, I was a little disappointed they didn't play the title track from the new album, The End of That, which has quickly become one of my favourite of theirs, and especially disappointed that they didn't play "Mercy", one of my favourite songs period, but despite that -- and despite the sound -- it was still a great set, and I am definitely glad I gave the venue another shot, because I would not liked to have missed this show.

Song For Love, Feedback in the Field, Crisis, Before,  Runaways, Lola Who?, The Mama Papa, Control Me, Game Shows, No Ideas, Undone Melody, Light Show, Bye Bye Bye.
(encore) Why & Why, Faerie Dance.