Constellation Festival: Day One -- 07/26/19


The first ever Constellation Festival kicked off last night, rising from the ashes of Live @ Squamish and the Squamish Valley Music Festival. The inaugural edition took place at on the same grounds, at Hendrickson Field, with a beautiful mountainous backdrop, especially over the main stage.

Christine and I arrived to scout the grounds as Sarah Macdougall sang a cover of "Ramble On" by Zeppelin, as I took in the setup; a large field with two stages at either end --- bands alternated so there was no bleed in music, and you were never too far from the next act. There was also a selection of food carts, and a nice row of local vendors in the middle of the grounds.

The Boom Booms - Christine McAvoy Photography

The Boom Booms - Christine McAvoy Photography

The first full act I saw was The Boom Booms (evidently the rumours of their demise were somewhat exaggerated). Their upbeat and fun soulful sound was a great way to get the day rocking as the crowd flowed through the gates.

Parker Bossley - Christine McAvoy Photography

Parker Bossley - Christine McAvoy Photography

Next on the side stage was Parker Bossley, former frontman for the Gay Nineties. His solo material was similar to the band, with a bit more of a pop bent, like the synth-fuelled "LIfted". Parker has always had a captivating energy on stage, and this was no different as he oozed charisma throughout the set.

Fast Romantics were next over on the main stage, starting hot with a broken string on the very first song, "Why We Fight". Six members large, they had a big, boisterous indie pop sound, blasting through songs ranging from the slower ballad "Mexico" to the blaring fun of "Julia".

Fast Romantics - Christine McAvoy Photography

Fast Romantics - Christine McAvoy Photography

I caught a bit of Daysormay from Vernon while getting a bite to eat, with their eclectic alternative indie sound, before Dear Rouge took to the main stage. They hit the stage mostly dressed in all black, with Danielle McTaggart also adorned in a flowing black & white robe and giant silver spaceboots. With said robe flowing in the wind, they immediately launched into "Modern Shakedown" from their most recent album Phases.
Every time I see them, I feel like they've levelled up, and this time was no different, as Danielle stalked the stage with incredible swagger, her voice ringing through the valley. And of course not forgetting Drew McTaggart ripping it up on guitar, and the rest of the band holding their own.
They went through their catalogue of hits, including "Boys and Blondes" and "Best Look Lately", as well as "Black to Gold" which had a pyrotechnic element, as Danielle brought out a purple smoke flare.
After an incredible cover of "North American Scum" by LCD Soundsystem, they transitioned into "I Heard I Had" with Danielle jumping into the crowd, literally in the faces of the people in the first few rows, before running back on stage. And somehow after that, they still had one song in them, finishing off with "Live Through The Night"

Scenic Route To Alaska - Christine McAvoy Photography

Scenic Route To Alaska - Christine McAvoy Photography

They put on a set that proved they shouldn't be doing anything except closing out the night on festivals like this, because when they were done, I was spent and practically ready to go. Which might be part of the reason I only caught bits and pieces of the last two acts, getting tied up in a conversation while Scenic Route to Alaska played the second stage — through a few times their catchy indie rock pulled my attention, including songs like the driving "Paris".

Serena Ryder - Christine McAvoy Photography

Serena Ryder - Christine McAvoy Photography

And finally, it was Serena Ryder closing out the night. She started off hot with "Stompa", her powerful voice carrying to the mountains. But thanks to a bit of rain and a lot of bugs, I decided to save my skin for the next day, and let the sounds of Serena serenade the walk back to the hotel.

Day two of the festival features Fred Penner, Foxwarren, Shad, Peach Pit, A Tribe Called Red, and loads more, and keep an eye out for Christine's daily photo recaps!

Sing It Forward @ Vogue -- 12/21/11

Name your three favourite Vancouver bands. Chances are pretty strong that at least one of them was at the Vogue last night for Sing It Forward, an evening benefiting the kids of the St James Music Academy. Organized by David Vertesi and Ambrosia Humphrey, they brought together some of Vancouver's finest for a night of music.

Leading up to the night, there was also a series of videos posted on Vancouver is Awesome of the bands joined by the kids of SJMA for a song (see them all on their Vimeo channel), and these were shows throughout the night between sets.

As there were almost a dozen acts, each had a short set of three acoustic songs, so I won't linger too long on each act.

Arriving just in time for the last song by Aaron Nazrul of The Boom Booms, he was joined by just about the whole band for a song about East Van, where they're from. It sounded pretty much what you'd expect from The Boom Booms; upbeat and energetic.

Next up was The Belle Game, starting off with "Sleep To Grow", including a fantastic ending with Andrew Lee on trumpet. Even stripped down acoustically, the band had a lush, rich sound that seemed to fit perfectly for a theatre venue like the Vogue; I would love to see them do a full set there sometime. They wrapped up their set with "Shoulders and Turns" with a good number of the other musicians coming out for percussion to end with a bang.

Rococode was next, their raucous sound translating acoustically very nicely (the use of the xylophone definitely helped out with that). The songs -- "Empire" especially -- were no less catchy, and "Dreams" possibly worked even better as an acoustic song, being much more haunting stripped down, and getting the crowd to sing along for the end of it. 

Up next was the man of the night, David Vertesi himself. With just Andrew Rasmussen joining him on keys, he played some of the softer songs from his album; "All Night, All Night, All Night" and "Learn To Run", the latter building to an intensely emotional ending. He ended the set with a surprise guest, calling out Hannah Georgas to sing backups on "Mountainside", bringing up the energy a bit more to wrap up his set.

Ben, Tyler and Jacelyn of Said The Whale were up next, with Ben taking care of the vocals, since Tyler was still recovering from having his tonsils removed (seriously). Every year the band puts out a Christmas song or EP, and their set consisted solely of some of these Christmas songs, with the dreary "Puddleglum" being one of my favourites of the night. Even in a post-surgery haze, Tyler had pretty good energy, and Ben's great voice effortlessly filled the venue.

Wrapping up the first half of the night was Aidan Knight who started off with the most heartbreakingly beautiful song, "Margaret Downe", and even managed to break a string. At an acoustic show. After some of his usual hilarious banter -- a story about how his guitar got the name Burnt Reynolds -- and some deliberation, he played a brand new song and ended, of course, with "Jasper", bringing up all the kids on stage to sing with him.

At this point there was a short intermission, and then Adaline kicking off the second half. She had a bit of a auspicious start, as the keyboard she rented wasn't working, and the one they had been using all night wasn't ready. But she handled it like a champ, first encouraging the kids to continue on with music, then ready to sing a capella, with Robbie Driscoll on bass. Just as she started, though, they got the keyboard fixed and she was able to launch into her somewhat dark, sexy sound, starting with "The Noise" and then bringing out Laura Smith to help with background vocals for "Keep Me High", ending with her own Christmas song from the Light Organ compilation.

Next, Vince Vaccaro was out solo, armed with just his guitar. I've always found Vaccaro's music kind of hit or miss, personally, but I rather enjoyed his acoustic set, and I can't deny he is a pretty great performer. After his first song, he invited all the St James kids back on stage, and they helped out -- along with Ash from Hey Ocean and everyone's drummer Johnny Andrews -- for "Costa Rica" to wrap up his portion of the night.

Another surprise guest popped up between sets when Shad came out to fill the time before the next act with a couple freestyle verses, including his soliloquy from the end of "Live Forever"

Then it was the only non-Vancouver act, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald coming in from Calgary. After a new song, and teasing an upcoming album, he launched into "Movie Life", with a little but of "The Thong Song" (cleaned up a little, for the kids) slipped in at the end, and another new one with Vertesi -- and the kids back up on stage out to help out with singing. MBF is always incredibly fun to watch live, as he just exudes charisma, and you can't help but be charmed by him.

Zach Gray of The Zolas was the penultimate act, coming out with a couple new songs; "Strange Girl" and, after taking a survey of his own (which went about as conclusive as Aidan's) a brand new one called "Ancient Mars", which Zach described as a nerdy love song that he never played all the way through before. It had me at the first line, "I want to believe in time travel". He ended the set with everyone getting into "You're Too Cool", and some great singing along from the crowd.

And finally, wrapping up the night was Hey Ocean starting with a really cool version of "Big Blue Wave" -- which I may have liked even more than the full band version. They threw in their new Christmas song, which had the best intro; first Vertesi introduced in each instrument as they came in (including everyone's favourite holiday instrument: the keytar) and then brought out the awkward dancers, with the greatest dance moves of the year from Aidan Knight and Alex Andrew from the Belle Game. They wrapped it all up with the St James kids back on stage, and all other musicians as well, for a giant singalong to "Alley Ways", for a pretty great moment to end the night on.

It ended up being a four hour long night, but it hardly felt like it, as there was never a dull moment or a lull in the show. All the performers were top notch, and they kept the changeover times to a minimum, with the videos or the lovely emcees from The Peak keeping things running smoothly.

It would be cliché to call it a magical night, but there is hardly any better description, and I hope some variation of this turns into a yearly event.