Young Galaxy @ Venue -- 04/04/18

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It's been nearly five years since the last time Young Galaxy has played Vancouver, and there have been a few changes since. For one, the band has slimmed down to the two core members, Catherine McCandless and Stephen Ramsay. They were also just about to self-release a brand new album, Down Time, as they began their tour at Venue. 

First up, though, was Vancouver's own Leisure Club. Their beachy, sunny indie pop drew people in on a raining night, as the crowd slowly amassed during their set. Kicking the set off with "Hold On", they played from their recently released self titled album, including the upbeat and catchy "Still Young", and the slightly frantic sounding "Entertainment". Their upbeat vibes were a good choice for opener, but the set really made me want to see them in a sunny outdoor festival (preferrably near a beach) rather than a dimly lit, smokey club. 

Not long after, Young Galaxy took the stage, the two of them in front of a projection screen, flashing with colours, images, and lyrics from the songs playing. The duo was mostly backlit the entire night, the silhouettes of Catherine singing and dancing or Stephen doing, well, literally everything else on his keyboard & laptop.

They started the set with "Frontier" off the new album, and focused a lot on the newer material from the upcoming album, including the pulsing "Stay For Real" and the haunting "Elusive Dreams". Other highlights of the set included older songs, "Blown Minded" from their Shapeshifting album, Stephen taking over vocals for "Cover Your Tracks", and the great one-two combo to end off the set, the intensely passionate "Pretty Boy" and a big disco-esque intro for "Crying My Heart Out". 

While I enjoyed their set, I did feel a little like it lacked the same impact as the last time I saw them live, with a full band. But it definitely fit the more ambient & chilled electronic sound of the new album, and even mostly in dark silhouette, McCandless remains one of the most compelling singers out there. 

setlist
Frontier
We Have Everything
Seeing Eye Dog
Blown Minded
Under My Wing
Show You The Valley
Devotion
Cover Your Tracks (Stephen)
Stay For Real
Eluaide Dream
River
Pretty Boy
Crying My Heart Out

Limblifter @ Venue -- 09/27/12

Despite being a fan of the bands since the late 90s, I never got a chance to see Limblifter live before they disbanded, and for various reasons I always managed to miss Ryan Dahle's solo shows. Even when they announced their reunion and a show at NXNE, the weekend was just too hectic to see them. I thought maybe I was fated to never see the band live, but my luck turned around with the announcement of a Vancouver show. And it's not just a series of reunion dates; Dahle recently hinted that the band might just be releasing some new material.

It was also an added bonus to see Acres of Lions open up the show. The Victoria band isn't breaking down any barriers with their pop-rock sound, but they are ridiculously fun to watch live. The whole band is highly energetic, especially frontman Jeff Kalesnikoff, who got the growing crowd singing and clapping along throughout the set. Starting off with "Set Me On Fire" and "Kids" from their latest album, Collections, the band drawing the slowly-growing crowd towards the stage. They threw in a new song -- which I didn't catch the name of-- and wrapped up with the infinitely catchy "Reaction" and the much softer "Collections", both of which once again got the crowd involved.

Not too long, Limblifter hit the stage, with Ryan Dahle joined by Megan Bradfield and Brent Follett -- both of which were in the last incarnation of Limblifter -- and Sloan's Greg MacDonald. They started off with a bang, opening the show with "Vicious" and going on to play about an hour of material spanning the entire Limblifter catalogue.
While I can't compare them to their first incarnation, they sounded great; the four of them meshed well together and the songs were familiar, but didn't feel dated. Like they never missed a step.
There was lots of songs got 'recognition applause' -- a big bout of cheering one or two notes in -- throughout the night, like the soaring "Wake Up To The Sun" and staccato "Screwed It Up". Other highlights included "Fiercely Co-Dependant" from the last Limblifter album, I/O, and the earworm inducing "Chop Chop" from Dahle's solo Irrational Anthems.
They wrapped up the set with their biggest hit, "Ariel vs Lotus" and after being met with chants of "ten more songs", were back for the obvious encore. Starting with the soft and beautiful "Alarm Bells", they exploded into "Dominant Monkey" and "Tinfoil" to end off the night.

It was great to finally see them, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what comes out of the reunion.

setlist
Vicious, Cordova, Cellophane, Count To 9, Jumbo Jet Headache, Chop Chop, Wake Up To The Sun, Fiercely Co-Dependant, In/Out, Hotel Knife, Screwed It Up, I Wonder If, On The Moon, Perfect Day To Disappear, Ariel v Lotus.
[encore] Alarm Bells, Dominant Monkey, Tinfoil.


Bend Sinister @ Venue -- 07/19/12

It's been four years since the last full length album from Bend Sinister -- 2008's Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers -- and while there has been a couple of EPs to tide us over since then, the wait for their third full length is finally over with the release of Small Fame last week on File Under: Music. And to celebrate, they threw a hometown album release party at Venue.

The first band of the night was Young Pacific, who I unfortunately missed, getting there just as the second band, Fields of Green took the stage.
When I saw them in the Peak Performance Project last year, I thought they had loads of potential, but they were still young and needed some time to grow as a band, to become more cohesive, and in the past year they've made huge strides; not only earning a spot in the PPP again, but they also scoring top three of this year's Fox Seeds competition.
Their sinthy, prog-rock-ish sound comes with great energy from the whole band, especially drummer Johnny who is insanely animated, and their live show has definitely gotten tighter. My favourite of the set was a song which I missed the name, but included a fantastic instrumental section that started slow and soft and then grew to a huge climax of swirling guitars and intense drumming. I am definitely looking forward to see how they fare in this year’s Peak Performance Project.

And then it was time for Bend Sinister who hit the stage and immediately launched in to “She Don’t Give It Up”, as they played the whole new album front to back. The piano driven prog rock evoked sounds from some of the classics from the 70s, but never in a derivative way; they aren’t stuck in the past, but have made the sound their very own.
The band also has an unparalleled energy; Dan Moxon is a monster on the keys, and both guitarist Joseph Blood and bass player Matt Rhode were rocking out in power stances, and coming right up to the front of the stage to get people clapping along.
Highlights included the catchy “Got You On My Mind”, the intense “My Lady” with a great instrumental breakdown, and especially the back to back combo of “Hot Blooded Man” and “Black Magic Woman”; the former being an explosive and insanely high energy rocker, and the latter a slower and more sultry jam.
After wrapping up with the psychedelic “Quest for Love” they were back for an encore of a few older songs, including the anthemic and uplifting “Things Will Get Better”, a fantastic cover of Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” and ending the night with an old favourite, “Time Breaks Down”.

Bend Sinister was one of the first Vancouver bands I really got into when I first started exploring the local music scene, and they remain one of my favourite. Especially with shows, and albums, like this. There are few bands -- local or otherwise -- that can match the energy and intensity from the band, and their live show is hard to top.

setlist
She Don't Give It Up, 
Don't You Know, 
Man of Faith and Virtue, 
One Shot, 
Got You on My Mind, 
My Lady, 
We Know Better, 
Give It a Rest, 
Hot Blooded Man, 
Black Magic Woman, 
She Lost Her Rock and Roll, 
Quest for Love.
(encore) The News, Things Will Get Better, The Logical Song [Supertramp cover], Time Breaks Down.

The Matinée @ Venue -- 02/18/12

One of my favourite things to come out of last year's Peak Performance Project was the discovery of The Matinée. I've always had a soft sport for roots-rock and alt-country -- which is odd, since I don't really like "actual" country music -- and I was won over by The Matinée two songs into the first time I saw them live. So there was no way I was going to miss their first show of the year, that was apparently also their first headlining show in Vancouver (which seems surprising).

Starting off the night was current Vancouver buzz band Good for Grapes. With over a half dozen members on stage, they had a rich, lush sound that was folky, with a little bit of a maritime edge to it.
Though there wasn't too much banter between songs, but they had a great dynamic and enthusiasm, especially the incredibly animated accordion player.
Their set seemed too short (also because I missed the first little bit of it) and I will definitely be looking out for them again, hopefully soon.

Washboard Union was up next, who, full disclosure, I had seen years ago as Run GMC and didn't really care for, so I had a bit of a bias going in. Their sound could almost be described as "shit-kicker country", with a very down-south and almost bluegrass feel. And true to their name, they had a washboard out for a few songs to accompany the banjo, fiddle and the rest. While it was a little bit too two-stepping-country for my tastes, they definitely were not bad, as they were all good musicians with great energy. And if the crowd stomping along was any indication, I may have been in the minority.

Not long after -- curfewed shows always run like clockwork -- The Matinée took the stage, kicking it off with "L'Absinthe", with the charismatic Matt Layzell giving us the back story mid-song to get the crowd riled up before "Sweetwater", which had everyone stomping and clapping along. They definitely know how to work a crowd, and they had most of the room in the palm of their collective hands from the beginning.
There were a few new songs throughout the set, including a soft one that had everyone gathered around one mic for group vocals, and one called "Scooterfruit" which was the exact opposite; a huge, rocking song that exploded into an amazing ending that sounded like the band was channelling The Who -- especially drummer Pete Lemon. That led into a pretty spot-on cover of The Tragically Hip's "Grace, Too" and they brought it all to a head with "The Road", with the usual insane drum breakdown seeing every member on drums, and ended with Matt Rose putting on a guitar clinic.
But of course, that wasn't the real end and they were back for one more, just for good measure to cap off the night before Venue was turned over to the shiny shirts for the night.

And the final tally at the end of their set was: three bras thrown on stage, and two pairs of comically oversized underpants.