The Mocking Bird @ The Media Club -- 05/18/12

One of the first shows I saw this year was the CD release show from The Mocking Bird, the new project from Vancouver's Bob Kemmis, and turned out to be an excellent show. So given the opportunity to not only see them again, but also a redhead with an amazing voice as one of the opening acts, I had to take it.

The lovely Ali Milner was started off the night, with just herself behind the keys for "According to the New York Times", before the rest of the band kicked in half way through the song. Her upbeat, jazzy sound was driven by her incredible & soulful voice, and Ali was a natural performing, with an effortless charm and great stage presence.
Highlights included "Don't Forget To Call Me" and "I Want To Be Loved By You", as well as a few brand new songs, one of which, the high energy "Waiting", was my favourite of the set, and a couple covers; Shania Twain's "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under" and the final song, a fantastic version of the Rolling Stones' "Gimmer Shelter", which ending with each member leaving the stage one by one until only drummer Richard Brown was left.

Next up was The Never Surprise,  the duo of David Gaudet and Nick Eakins joined by a few familiar faces; Niko Friesen on drums, Robbie Driscoll on bass and Andrew Braun on keys. Starting off with the catchy "Sun Goes Down", the set was full of their smooth, indie-folk sound. I have seen them a few times before, but this was the first time where they added keys to the mix, and it helped flesh out their sound exponentially. The band also had a great presence, though there wasn't much between songs -- though David did joke at one point they were working on their banter.

And finally, The Mocking Bird hit the stage, a little after midnight. Joining Bob Kemmis -- all in matching shirts -- was a great assembly of talent, including Erik P.H. Nielsen on bass (who also played with Ali earlier), Pat Steward on drums and Shaun Verreault on guitar. There was also a small horn section on a few songs, packing the small stage at the Media Club with nearly a dozen musicians.
The set started off with "Grace", the first song off of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, which immediately set the tone for the ridiculously catchy, roots-rock, with great and clever lyrics. Other highlights were the insanely catchy "Where's Your Get Up?" and the dark "Love You Hated Him" which built to a huge ending.
Once again, Kemmis was a great stage presence, with a charm and sense of humour that was evident in both the songs and banter, and the combined talent and experience on stage came together for a fantastic band.

Unfortunately, due to the set starting after midnight and transit cutting off at 1, I had to run and miss the tail end of the set, which I hate, but aside from my pet peeve of shows where the headliner ends up going on at almost 12:30, it was a pretty great show; a night full of excellent local musicians.

The Mocking Bird CD Release @ Roundhouse -- 01/20/12

It was a show that almost literally snuck up on me. I had all but dismissed it in favour of a different show, until mere hours before, I realised that The Mocking Bird was the new project from Vancouver musician Bob Kemmis. And then when I heard some of the people that would be backing him in the band for their CD release show, well, my decision was made.

Opening the night was Vancouver's Nat Jay armed with just her guitar and lovely voice for an acoustic set. With her folky, singer-songwriter sound, there were a few times where the songs sounded a little similar, but they were all very heartfelt and raw with emotion. The heartbreaking "Some of You" was a great example of this, with the longing lyrics and Nat Jay's warm stage presence drawing in the slowly-growing audience. Her catchy songs, emotional lyrics and intimacy all came together for a very enjoyable set.

Shortly after, The Mocking Bird hit the stage with a band of over a dozen musicians -- all in matching shirts --  joining Bob Kemmis, including a string quartet, horn section, Matt Kelly (Treelines) and Shaun Verreault (Wide Mouth Mason) both on guitar, Pat Steward on drums and his Odds bandmate Craig Northey on percussion. And the set definitely lived up to the pedigree of musicians on stage.
Kicking off with the opening track to the album, "Grace", the set went from upbeat and catchy rock to slower numbers, having almost an alt-country twang with Matt Kelly on pedal steel for a few songs. The strings and horns added an incredible depth to the song without feeling out of place, with the whole thing coming together beautifully for an incredible set.
Highlights were "Where's Your Get Up", "Quitting You", "Loved You Hated Him" and the song they finished off with, the last song off the album, "What A Difference". The usual encore first saw just Bob playing a brand new acoustic song -- with Matt, Shaun, and Pat providing backup vocals -- and then the rest of the band came back for a great cover of The Replacement's "Can't Hardly Wait" to wrap up the night with a bang.

Kemmis is a fantastic frontman with great energy, effortless charm, and funny banter between songs. And that charm and wit definitely seeps into his the songs as well, with some very well written and clever lyrics, and the occasional wordplay (which I am always a fan of). Everything meshed together amazingly for one heck of a show that will not soon be forgotten, and a damn good way to kick off the year.