Archive for September, 2011


And here’s the breakdown on where I’ll probably be at Rifflandia on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be tweeting throughout the festival, check there if you’re looking for up to date information on all the action.

SATURDAY

Royal Athletic Park

1:00 Sunhawk – Another Victoria group playing the festival, and another I’ve been told that has a killer live act.

1:30 Vince Vaccaro – You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Vince Vaccaro on stage doing just a set of his work. I’ve seen him tons of times in the audience at shows around town, and just as many times I’ve seen him jump on stage to sing or play guitar or do percussion to back up a friend. Huh.

2:40 Jets Overhead – It’s been ages since I’ve seen Jets Overhead, and it will be great to finally hear songs off their latest album.

3:20 Library Voices – Again, a great live band. They’ll bring lots of energy.

4:00 Awolnation – SAIL! Joking aside, people with varying tastes in music have all told me that they like this band and that they put on one heck of a show.

4:45 Hollerado – I know for a fact that these guys put on a killer live show. Be prepared to be showered in confetti.

5:25 Cold War Kids – They do that song Audience that you probably heard on the radio a bajillion times last year. Great, now that song is stuck in my head. Guess I’ll have to go to the set to hear it and get it out of there.

7:10 City and Colour – There’s something that falls a bit flat for me with Dallas Green’s records, but I saw City and Colour at Sasquatch this year and really enjoyed the live show.

Night Stages

8:30 Beekeeper @ VEC – Beekeeperuses rhythms a bit more quirky than what your average indie band uses. If you like your music a little weird, go to this show. Oh, and Beekeeper is fronted by the flippy haired guitar player of Hey Ocean, so that’s a bonus.

9:30 The Belle Game @ VEC – Big things are in the future for this band. In fact, just this week they opened up for the 2010 Polaris Prize winners, Karkwa. The group is just wrapping up putting together their first album and they’re in the Top 20 for the Peak Performance Project this year.

9:30 Olenka @ Metro Theatre – My Ontario friends have raved to me about this act. They tend to have good taste in music, so I’ll believe them on this one.

10:30 Suuns @ Metro Theatre – Admittedly I’ve heard mixed reviews of their live show but their album, Zeroes QC, is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard in the past year.

10:30 Hawk and Steel @ Wood Hall – A new Victoria group, composed of five guys who are no strangers to the scene. This is one of their first shows, get in on the ground level.

11:30 Acres of Lions @ VEC – Hopefully Acres of Lions will get a reaction (a reaction!) from the crowd. Seriously though, their song “Reaction” has got to be the catchiest thing I’ve heard all summer.

11:30 Old Man Luedecke @ Wood Hall – Banjo pickin’, knee slappin’ times. Even if you’re currently employed, singing along to the song “I Quit My Job” is a lot of fun.

12:30 J Mascis @ Alix Goolden – It’s J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. Need I say more?

12:30 The Pack AD @ Metro Theatre – I was disappointed in the turnout for their last show in Victoria. Hopefully the success of their new single “Sirens” will help improve the turnout for this one.

12:30 Royal Wood @ Wood Hall – Another handsome singer-songwriter. This one plays the piano though and wears a suit. Royal Wood recorded an album of cover songs, including a cover of Foster The People’s hit “Pumped Up Kicks”, and the album is only available for purchase at stops on the tour.

SUNDAY

Royal Athletic Park

1:30 Kuba Oms – I knew that Kuba Oms was in the Top 20 of the Peak Performance Project in 2009 and 2010. What I didn’t know is that he’s from Victoria and years ago he used to hang in the same circles as then unknown Nelly Furtado. For some reason I’m intrigued by this.

2:40 Gomez – You may best know this English band from having provided songs for TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and House.

4:00 Blackalicious – The highlight of my weekend would be if I could hear Blackalicious perform “Alphabet Aerobics”.

7:10 De La Soul – Some old school hip hop sounds like a good way to wrap up the weekend.

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I still have a few decisions to make on what I’ll be seeing at Rifflandia this weekend, and I thought that some of you might be in the same boat. If you’re completely lost on what to see, here’s some acts I recommend checking out:

THURSDAY

Night Stages

8:30 Circadian Kingdom @ VEC – I looked up this band because I was interested in some groups playing later at the venue. I like what I hear.

9:30 Kim Churchill @ Wood Hall – I saw Kim Churchill at the Live at Squamish festival a few weeks ago. He’s an amazing guitar player, I highly recommend seeing this set.

9:30 Wool On Wolves @ VEC – They’ve got that alt country thing going on and have drawn comparisons to the likes of the Band, Ryan Adams, and Wilco.

10:30 The Archers @ Wood Hall – The Victoria group was recently crowned BC’s Best Teen Band, worth a listen!

10:30 Man Made Lake @ VEC – Another Victoria band, I haven’t had the chance to see them live yet.

11:30 We Are the City @ Wood Hall – One of my favourite groups. The band just released their Mourning Song / Morning Song EP the other day. I think I have to go just to pick up a copy.

11:30 Young Rival @ VEC – Some good Canadian rock and roll.

11:30 Braids @ Metro Theatre – Braids played a fantastic set at the Polaris Prize Gala the other night.

FRIDAY

Royal Athletic Park

1:30 Dinosaur Bones – They just passed through town back in April opening for Tokyo Police Club. I missed most of their set, so it’s nice to have a second chance.

2:00 Mike Edel – One of my favourite musical discoveries of the past year, and is an act from Victoria!

2:40 Cave Singers – I don’t know much about this band, but a lot of my friends seem to like this indie folk group.

4:00 Ra Ra Riot – I missed their last show in Victoria, looks like I get two second chances today.

4:45 The Besnard Lakes – Does anyone else think that 4:45pm outdoors at a baseball diamond must be the weirdest time and place to see the Besnard Lakes? They play again Friday night at 12:30am at the Metro Theatre. (OK, technically that’s 12:30am on Saturday, but you know what I mean.)

5:25 Mother Mother – Always a crowd pleaser.

6:30 Jakarta – The band recently signed with the Arts and Crafts label and this is one of the group’s first shows after changing their name from The Racoons to Jakarta.

7:10 Broken Social Scene – BSS recently announced that they will soon go on an indefinite touring hiatus. This is one of their last shows in North America and for me is one of the must-see shows of the festival!

Night Stages

8:30 Redbird @ VEC – I’ve been waiting for Redbird to come to Victoria after hearing my Vancouver friends rave about them so much.

9:00 Jeremy & Boitano @ Phillip’s Brewery – Word is that an act had to cancel and so local DJs from the 91.3 The Zone are jumping in to fill the spot. This could be interesting as I have no idea what to expect out of them.

9:30 Provincial Archive @ Alix Goolden – This band from Edmonton passed through town recently, unfortunately I wasn’t in town at the same time so I missed them.

9:30 Rococode @ Metro Theatre – One of my favourite new groups from the past year. They opened for Mother Mother’s two sold out shows a few months ago.

10:00 Michael Rault @ Phillip’s Brewery – A young musician who makes music that sounds like it came straight out of the 50s.

11:30 Library Voices @ VEC – A great live act. I’m glad they’re playing somewhere where all the band members stand a chance of fitting on the same stage.

11:30 Malajube @ Metro Theatre – It’s too bad that Malajube is playing at the same time as Library Voices. It’s been a while since they’ve passed through town, so this one might win between the two.

12:30 The Cave Singers @ Alix Goolden Hall – Like I said, I don’t know much about this group, but from what I’ve heard this seems like the perfect venue for them.

12:30 The Besnard Lakes @ Metro Theatre – A small, dark theatre? Yep, I’ll be there!

12:30 Matthew Barber @ Wood Hall – If handsome singer-songwriters are your thing, you should be at this show.

Well, the big day has come. The 2011 Polaris Prize will be handed out later tonight. You can catch the broadcast streaming on the Much Music website (video) and CBC Radio 3 (audio only, but with a running commentary from hosts) starting at 5pm PST.

To me, The Suburbs by Arcade Fire is the standout album to win. Native Speaker by Braids, Feel It Break by Austra, Kaputt by Destroyer, and New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges by Colin Stetson are all close behind and any one of these four could take the prize if the jury opts for something other than The Suburbs.

And now, a quick recap on the 10 Short List albums along with my thoughts on each:

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

In my books, front to back this is the best crafted album of all on the Short List. The musical and lyrical echos used throughout tie it all together. It’s hard to find artistic fault with this one (and being “too popular” and having won the Grammy for Album of the Year totally doesn’t count).

Feel It Break by Austra

I might not have given this a second listen had it not made the Short List, but it has grown on me. The critics seem to love this album. I think it has some great singles but it’s a bit rough around the edges as a complete collection of work.

Native Speaker by Braids

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this album reminds me of something. I think it’s that I hear a bit in the drumming that makes me draw comparisons to the Acorn. Hailing from Calgary, Braids has put together an album that sounds more like it has roots in the scene of Montreal or Toronto. While I wasn’t blown away by the album, I wasn’t disappointed in it either; overall I rather enjoyed it. Native Speaker (or Austra’s Feel It Break) might just be the happy compromise that the jury will settle on this year.

Kaputt by Destroyer

People seem to be divided by Destroyer; either you love it or hate it. I think Kaputt sounds like a cruise boat stuck in the 80s while simultaneously floating through space, and I love it. (Truth be told, I’m a longtime fan of the eccentric Dan Bejar.) The album’s closing track, “Bay Of Pigs”, is an 11 minute album unto itself. Since the divide on this album seems to be so great, it may be difficult to sway enough jurors to vote for this one.

Tigre et Diesel by Galaxie

This album is the reason the Polaris Prize is so great. Being situated on the west coast, I find it extremely difficult to discover the albums coming out of Quebec each year. Even specifically hunting down this album (or even Karkwa’s album Les Chemins De Verre, even after it won the 2010 Polaris Prize) was a next to impossible task. Without Polaris, artists like Galaxie, Karkwa, and Malajube might otherwise fall through the cracks and go unnoticed to a large portion of this country.

I find the rest of the 2011 Short List t0 be sonically “dark” and Galaxie’s bright poppy Tigre et Diesel is a a real standout from that. (The same can be said for Hey Rosetta’s nominated album Seeds). Unfortunately I don’t see the jury voting for this one, but it was a great listen.

Seeds by Hey Rosetta!

As much as I love the album Seeds, I don’t think it’s going to take home the Polaris Prize this year. While the album shows some steps ahead for the band, I think it still sounds like the album you’d expect from Hey Rosetta! and there’s nothing really groundbreaking here. The track “Yer Spring” is amazing though, and “Bricks” is greatly under appreciated. Got take a listen to these.

Long Player Late Bloomer by Ron Sexsmith

Long Player Late Bloomer is a pretty harmless album, and it sounds like something my mom might like. I have a great respect for Ron Sexsmith, and it would be nice to see someone as hardworking as him have a major success like winning the Polaris Prize, but there’s nothing here that grabs me musically.

New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges by Colin Stetson

This is another polarizing album on the Short List (har har, see what I did there?) with reviews ranging from heralding it as a masterpiece of technical genius to saying that it’s hard to “get” what people like about the sound of “mechanical whales humping”. (Yes, someone actually said that.) This is another album I wouldn’t have discovered had it not been nominated for the Polaris Prize, and I think it’s just spectacular. I can see that there is a bit of a learning curve the average listener might have to scale in order to fully appreciate this album though, and this might sway the jury to vote for something a bit more accessible.

Creep On Creepin’ On by Timber Timbre

Most seem to have brushed this album off as not having any chance to win the prize, which is too bad. I suggest that everyone goes and takes a few more listens to this one; the opening track “Bad Ritual” is kind of amazing.

House Of Balloons by The Weeknd

There’s something I don’t quite get about Abel Tesfaye, the 21 year old behind the album House Of Balloons. This album was only released online, only as a free download, and seems to have made it on the Polaris Short list largely due to influential buzz from blogs. Prior to this (Tesfaye’s debut album), he had never performed a live show. House Of Balloons actually even made it to the Short List still without seeing anything live out of Tesfaye. When he did announce his debut concert (he has performed only once more since then) it was asked that no press be in attendance and that concert goers not bring any sort of cameras or recording devices. (Clearly, people didn’t listen.) On top of that Tesfaye has declined to perform at the Polaris Prize Gala tonight. I have two theories: either this is all a childish game of playing hard to get to build hype around the release, or Tesfaye has absolutely no interest in being involved in the music scene.  Either way, the Weeknd has pretty much lost me as a potential fan. Oh, and I did (surprisingly) enjoy the album after I forced myself to listen to it, particularly the tracks “What You Need” and “Wicked Games”.

Live At Squamish 2011 – Day 1

After a bit of a blogging hiatus (but by no means a music hiatus) I figure I better get writing about what I’ve been up to this summer.

Hey Ocean

My adventures at the Live At Squamish festival started off with a secret show for the Green Couch Sessions by Vancouver band Hey Ocean. They played a quick three song set of things that wouldn’t be in their act on the main stage later that night. It was a lot of fun and the band ended with a cover of the oldie “Be My Baby“. (Turns out that some people really liked the band… or more specifically they really liked guitarist Devon Lougheed.) Green Couch Sessions sponsored a series of secret shows throughout the weekend, including short sets by: Top Less Gay Love Teckno Party, Rococode, Redbird and Portage & Main, Woolworm, and Rich Hope and Black Mountain. Keep an eye on their website for these sessions to be posted (and in the meantime, check out some of the other awesome things they have up there). Unfortunately Hey Ocean’s set was the only Green Couch Session I was able to see this weekend, but I hope the festival keeps this feature.

Kim Churchill

Next I headed over to the Garibaldi Stage. This side stage was situated on a baseball diamond, with the stands converted into a beer garden. This was a great place to camp out for the day, especially since most of the seats were in the shade and it was pretty hot out that weekend. I arrived in time to see most of Kim Churchill’s performance – what an amazing guitar player he is. When we first arrived I was standing beside the stage and remarked something like “the bass player and the drummer are turned up way too loud”. Turns out that there was no bass player nor was there a drummer, it was just Kim on stage with a single acoustic guitar and a bass drum. This was probably my best find of the festival.

Emily Haines and James Shaw of Metric

Emily Haines and James Shaw of Metric were on the Garibaldi Stage after Kim Churchill. It was announced late in the planning process that Metric would actually play two sets at Live At Squamish – an acoustic set on the Saturday and a full out electric traditional Metric set on the main stage on Sunday. I’m not the biggest Metric fan, but it was neat to see something different from them. The set was mostly Emily on piano and vocals and James on guitar, with them playing favourites like “Help I’m Alive” and “Combat Baby” as well as playing a few cover songs.

At this point the Garibaldi Stage was running a bit behind, so when I headed over to the Main Stage to see Hey Ocean it turns out that I had missed most of their set. I managed to catch the last two songs though, and it sounded like I missed a good one.

Stars

Stars

I spent the remainder of the evening with the amazing lineup on the Main Stage. Stars were up next. I don’t know if the band has ever played a show on Vancouver Island, they certainly haven’t in the past five years, so I was really excited to see them play. The set was heavy with songs from their latest release The Five Ghosts, with some old favourites sprinkled in. Before launching into the haunting “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”, Torquil Campbell asked us to “take a moment to think of the ones we hate most”. The set was closed out with the song “Elevator Love Letter”. Grant Lawrence will be pleased to know that the crowd started cheering only a couple bars in with some “recognition applause”. It had been a while since I had seen any video of the band, and let me say they were looking HOT. I mean that literally. You would never guess that lead Amy Millan just became a mother five short months ago. Torquil Campbell was looking pretty good himself, sporting a deep summer tan.

Stars

While we waited for the evening’s big headliners to set up, we were treated to a short performance by everyone’s favourite slam poet Shane Koyczan. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Shane perform a few times. The first time was at the Vancouver Island Music Festival back in 2008, before anyone knew him as the guy with the Canada poem from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics Closing Ceremony, and even before people knew him as the guy who did the poem in that Dan Mangan song (the song is called “Tragic Turn Of Events / Move Pen Move“, I dare you to listen to it without crying). While the novelty of “holy crap, there’s a guy on stage reciting poetry!” has worn off for me, the thing that continues to impress me with Shane’s performances is the dynamics. The build that he shows from simply saying words to full on screaming his heart out on stage is the best factor of his live shows and is what I think makes his performances fit so well when put into a music festival.

I spent most of the John Butler Trio set in the beer garden. It was an… interesting experience. I don’t know if I heard much of the music above the party going on there, but friends tell me that I missed out on one of the best performances of the weekend. One particular highlight that many people agreed on was the performance of “Ocean“.

Girl Talk

Day 1 of Live At Squamish was closed out by Girl Talk. Of all the acts I would see this weekend, I was most intrigued by this one. On one hand I knew what to expect – I had listened to the latest album, I knew that Gregg Gillis did the mixing of songs from his massive collection of samples live at his shows, and I knew I should expect one hell of a party – and on the other hand I had no idea what exactly the live show would be like. The set started out with Gillis alone on stage behind a table with two laptops. No sooner had I thought “wow, this is going to get old fast” that throngs of festival attendees were allowed on the stage to dance the night away. Then when I thought that had gotten old, two guys with rolls of toilet paper attached to leaf blowers appeared. Then when that got old, the confetti guns were brought out. Then when that got old, balloons were released. Then… you get the idea, the man knows how to entertain a crowd. I was impressed with the breadth of samples used, it wasn’t all just top 40 and hip hop from the past five years. It’s clear that this is the appeal of Girl Talk’s act: a field full of people was able to party out and bond over the likes of The Isley Brothers, Black Sabbath, ELO, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. (Let it be noted that the biggest cheers were awarded to Michael Jackson and Beyonce.) While I’m not sure that I would ever attend a concert just for the sake of seeing Girl Talk, I’m really glad I got to witness this at Live At Squamish, and it ended up being one of my favourite sets of the weekend.

More of my photos from Day 1 can be found on my Flickr page.

Check out some other coverage from Live At Squamish: