Archive for October, 2011


Arriving at the festival.

Finding a breakfast joint in town with less than an hour wait on the morning of Live At Squamish Day 2 proved to be a bit of a challenge and my group arrived just outside the festival grounds right as Brasstronaut took the stage. I could hear the opening song, Slow Knots, finish right as we made it through security. I was a little annoyed that I missed that song (which happens to be my favourite Brasstronaut song). Watching Bryan play trumpet and bells at the same time at the end of Slow Knots blows my mind every time. It had been a while since I had last seen the band play (almost a year, in fact), and they had written some new material since then. The band mentioned that they were heading to the studio soon to start recording their next album (I’m really looking forward to that release), and they played a couple of these new songs in their set. Two of these new songs, “Opportunity” and “Hollow Trees”, were released on EP just last month. You can get the Opportunity EP for free on the band’s website.

Up next on the Main Stage was Bend Sinister. This band needs to make it over to Vancouver Island again soon. They are one of the best live acts I’ve seen. Now that I think about it, I can’t even pinpoint what makes their shows so great. It’s not like they rely on any gimmicks (other than maybe Dan Moxon’s love of tie dye). They just have so much energy and the group is incredibly polished. I quickly learned from this set and Brasstronaut’s set that the theme of Live At Squamish Day 2 would be “we are working on new material, and here’s some of it”. The last update on the Bend Sinister website was back in July and it said that the band hopes to have some advance tracks from the new album out by the end of summer. Now that we’re halfway through fall, I can only hope that those tracks will appear any day now. I managed to get a couple of videos from Bend Sinister’s set, one is a new song (or at least, I think it’s new) that I don’t know the name of and the other is the song “CT” from their album Stories Of Brothers, Tales Of Lovers. (If you know the name of the mystery song, or can confirm that it’s a new one, please let me know!)

I left Bend Sinister’s set a bit early to catch the “mystery band” in the Live At Squamish lineup. Billed simply as “Panda Watch – a band from Vancouver”, this group drew quite the crowd. The members walked out on stage wearing panda heads, concealing their identities for as long as they could. OK, truth be told, with Twitter it wasn’t too much of a secret who this band was. Panda Watch turned out to be Said The Whale performing a set solely of new songs from their upcoming album. I really enjoyed what I heard from the group that day. The new songs show an evolution to their sound and I don’t know if it was because I was hearing them for the first time or what, but I think that the songs sounded more complex musically than what we’re used to hearing from Said The Whale. I wish I knew the names of the songs they performed, there was a couple that really stood out for me. One in particular that I liked was heavy with drums and seemed to have a bit of a prog rock influence. The new Said The Whale album is set to be released in March 2012, and it can’t come soon enough.

Panda Watch / Said The Whale

After Said The Whale earned thunderous cheers from the audience for their new material, I headed back to the Main Stage to see The Zolas. I’ve met Zach of the Zolas before and I’ve seen him perform with the Vancouver band Henry And The Nightcrawlers, but up until Live At Squamish I had always missed seeing the Zolas when they came to town. This is another band that needs to come to Victoria more often. (Fact: I say that about all bands I like, it just somehow seems like more opportunities are missed when the band is from somewhere as close as Vancouver.) The Zolas really brought their A game to their set. For the last song the band brought out their parents to join them singing backup and playing percussion. And of course it wouldn’t be a festival without members of We Are The City jumping on stage, and they were there too. (Seriously, who haven’t I seen We Are The City perform with?) The set closed with Zach pulling an epic rock star move by leaping off the bass drum (pictured below).

At this point in the festival I hit the wall. The Dudes always bring so much energy to their shows, but it was no match for my tiredness. I spent most of their set charging my phone and sitting down, but I did catch the last few songs. The most important thing I have to say about their set is “that’s a lot of beard”.

The Dudes

It’s a good thing I got a rest before Black Mountain. Otherwise, they might have destroyed me with their amazing rock and roll. Here’s how loud their set was: I could feel my sinus cavities vibrate. I’m always so torn when I see Black Mountain live. I love their music and watching Stephen McBean’s hair fly around is mesmerizing, but Amber Webber has the most subdued stage presence ever. The best part of their set for me, hands down, was “Let Spirits Ride”. It’s one of their strongest tracks on their latest release Wilderness Heart. Other than me internally yelling at Amber “why are you just standing there?!”, this was my favourite set from the entire festival.

As I mentioned before, I’m not the biggest fan of Metric. (I was obsessed with them ages ago, but it appears that I’ve moved on.) Metric’s sound is definitely suited to the large stage though and their hits sounded right at home over the huge speakers with an enormous crowd singing along. It was neat to see them play on both days of the festival. To see a stripped down set one day followed by the full Metric band the next was pretty cool. I’m glad they brought this unique experience to Squamish.

Like many people my age, one of the first CDs I bought was Weezer’s The Blue Album. While I haven’t enjoyed anything of theirs past The Green Album (OK, I might have also liked Maladroit, but that was where it stopped), I was still pretty excited to see Weezer perform. I saw Weezer in concert once before, way back in 2002 for the tour supporting Maladroit. The image I had in my head of the band performing live was frozen back at that concert so my initial reaction to their Live At Squamish set was “Holy crap! Since when did Rivers become such a rock star?!” There was such a difference between the shy awkward front man I saw almost ten years ago and the guy now who was running around on stage, jumping in the crowd to sing. I was relieved to see that their set heavily favoured their earlier material (excluding Pinkerton, of course) mixed with singles from their last few albums, and some really cool covers. One cover was Foster The People’s summer hit “Pumped Up Kicks”. The other cover they threw into their set was the one that really impressed me though – Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”. Yes, they performed that six and a half minute epic and they totally pulled it off. (In my head I interpreted it as the band saying “Yes, we know we now write really horrible pop songs, but look at this – we still play difficult cool music!”. Well played Weezer, well played.) The set ended with all the members of the band gathered around the drum set wailing away.

Live At Squamish 2011 proved to be a lot of fun. My biggest complaints would be the few occasions that set start times deviated from the schedule and the generic festival food choices. The other annoyance was the video camera arm and stage hands on the main stage. They interfered with my sightlines more often than not, and I found that it really distracted from the performances. Those are all things I can deal with though, and Live At Squamish is definitely heading in the direction of doing more good than bad. I love that they book so many local acts, and the addition of the Green Couch stage this year was great. I also liked that the festival was moved away from the Labour Day long weekend. Travel (especially from Vancouver Island) is always a nightmare on a summer long weekend, and having the festival in the middle of August not only alleviated that travel stress, it provided another excuse to get out of the city during the summer. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Live At Squamish organizers have up their sleeves next year!

More of my photos from Day 2 can be found on my Flickr page.

Leaving the festival grounds.

Advertisements

As I mentioned in the previous post, I travelled back to Victoria on the night of Day 2 of the Vancouver Folk Fest as my band had a show. The show went swimmingly, and I was on the 8am ferry back to Vancouver to catch the last day of Folk Fest action. The weather was similar to the day before, but the rain mostly held off and we were just left having to deal with being a little damp and a little cold. I was afraid that my festival experience had peaked on Day 1, what with the great Joel Plaskett set to kick it all off and with Day 2 being only so-so for me. Boy was I wrong.

Imaginary Cities

After a car ride, a ferry, a bus broken down on the highway (yes, the bus I happened to be on), a SkyTrain, dropping my bag off at a friend’s place, and one more bus, I made it to the festival grounds once again.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0H1lG8DBZI]

I started the day off with the All Fired Up workshop which featured the Burning Hell, Danny Michel, the Jason Wilson Band, and Imaginary Cities. This workshop might have been the best thing I saw all weekend; there were so many highlights in this short time. First off (in case I haven’t raved about them enough already), let’s talk about Imaginary Cities. I think they might take the crown for the best group I’ve discovered this year. The full band was here for this workshop, and they were joined by the other musicians on stage for most of their songs. The best for sure was their great, great cover of Cake’s song “Mexico”. The addition of the beautiful strings and baritone sax to Marti’s voice just pushed this version over the top for me. Luckily, I caught most of the song on video so you can hear it for yourself. This set was a great example of what a workshop should be like: you get the musicians from the other groups to join you and make a new version of what you’d normally play.

The Burning Hell

The Burning Hell is a band that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, and they did not disappoint. The band has somewhat of a ragtag instrumentation with guitar, ukulele, strings, baritone sax, clarinet, bass, and drums. Most of their songs contain a bit of humour to them, and the song from the workshop that I have here, “Pirates”, is no exception. I hope this Peterborough-born, St. John’s-based band makes their way out west again soon.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh864OUM2Pk]

Besides being known as a great guitar player, Danny Michel has gained notoriety as a lover of the environment. His song “Feather, Fur, and Fin” is a prime example of this. The workshop group had a lot of fun with this song, with Danny challenging the other musicians to make animal sounds on their instruments. Danny closed out the workshop with a Los Lobos cover where he got the whole audience to sing the band out. With no defined ending to the song, the large crowd just kept on going long after all the musicians had left the stage. If you go to Danny Michel’s Facebook page and dig back a bit, he has a video of this moment posted.

Danny Michel

Next up, my group decided to pay the beer gardens a visit. Here we were able to catch the From Sudan to East Van Workshop with Emmanuel Jal, the Fugitives, and C.R. Avery. In all honesty I didn’t pay too much attention to this set, but I do remember that the Fugitives and C.R. Avery joined forces on one song that had the crowd up and dancing like mad.

After spending enough time drinking we decided to procure some food stuffs from the amazing food court. I’ve been to my share of festivals and, hands down, the Vancouver Folk Fest wins for having the best selection of eats. Usually you’re stuck deciding between the lesser of the evils with burgers, fries, pizza, and hot dogs. Here it was crepes, dim sum, fresh roasted corn, tacos, Mediterranean BBQ, flatbread, Thai food, Indian food, and African delicacies. It was awesome to eat festival food and not feel gross afterwards.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMgOXGZYmrU]

Our bellies full, we headed over to Stage 3 in anticipation of the Kathryn Calder set. We were treated to a workshop that wasn’t listed in the programs that featured Elliott Brood and Pokey Lafarge & the South City Three. Having missed Elliott Brood’s concert set the night before as well as their early morning workshop, I was glad that I got the chance to see the group play. Back in July the band was prepping for the release of their new album (which was released on September 27th, 2011) and they played the old stand by favourites as well as a few new tracks. Rest assured there was lots of hand clapping and “hey! hey! hey!”s. Apologies for the crummy sound quality on the Elliott Brood video there – I was sitting right next to the speakers and I ended up muting the mic on my camera a bit too much to compensate. Pokey Lafarge & the South City Three was a great surprise. Maybe I was turned off by the somewhat hokey name, but the group was a lot of fun. Pokey Lafarge has the role of front man mastered and the band was tight. Plus, they had a guy that played the washboard – folk festival experience complete!

Pokey Lafarge & The South City Three

Up next on Stage 3 was the Kathryn Calder concert set. For some reason, she doesn’t play in Victoria too often, so this was actually the first time I had the chance to see her play her solo work. I was glad to finally see her perform. I may ruin some friendships for what I’m about to say next, but: I never really fell in love with Kathryn Calder’s solo work. I was a big fan of Immaculate Machine, and so many of my friends (boys, mostly) rave about her album Are You My Mother?, but I for some reason still haven’t given the album a good listen. Her set at the Vancouver Folk Festival was great though and I was totally won over by the fact that members of Meatdraw were in her backing band. I promise I’ll listen to Are You My Mother? a few times before I see her again (which just so happens to be on November 26th at Lucky Bar in Victoria).

Kathryn Calder

The last set I saw at the festival was the Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans Band concert. I saw Jim and the Weakerthans play in Victoria back in February. The attendance at that concert was not the greatest, and I was glad to see so many people turn up for their set at the Folk Fest. Unfortunately, I thought the Folk Fest crowd was horrible. First, maybe some background information will be useful to set the scene. Back in October 2010 Jim Bryson released an excellent album called The Falcon Lake Incident. His backing band on this album was the Weakerthans (minus John K. Samson). The performance at the Folk Fest was advertised as Jim Bryson and the Weakertans Band playing songs off of The Falcon Lake Incident as well as some older Jim Bryson tracks. Having a full rock and roll band backing him up meant that the songs from The Falcon Lake Incident were maybe a bit more upbeat than Jim’s back catalogue, and so I don’t think the crowd knew quite what to expect. There was a group of people standing up at the front of the crowd (who may or may not have been myself and my friends) who right as the band came on stage got yelled at by the crowd behind them to sit down. Normally I’m one to complain about an audience being too rowdy, but this was the exact opposite extreme of that. Here was a group pulling some rock star moves on stage and everyone was perfectly happy to nap on the lawn. No one wanted to get up and dance. Imagine that – no dancers at a folk festival!! The second strike the crowd earned against them was when between songs some guy at the back yelled out “Play “Tournament Of Hearts!””. (“Tournament Of Hearts” is a song by the Weakerthans – not Jim Bryson – from their latest album Reunion Tour.) Given the information I wrote about how this set was advertised, this was almost the equivalent of being the jerk who yells out “Freebird!” at a show. I was starting to get grumpy about people ruining the experience, but fortunately Jim asked everyone to get up for the last couple of songs (thank you!) and that changed everything. It ended up being a grand ol’ time. The Weakerthans have been playing together for more than ten years and it’s not much of an understatement to say that they’re at the top of their game right now. The band mixes well with Jim Bryson, and while I can see him going a different direction on his next album, I would not complain if we saw another collaboration between Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans. The set ended with each member slowly dropping out of the last song and walking off. It was an excellent way to end my 2011 Vancouver Folk Fest experience.

My photos of Day 3 at the Vancouver Folk Fest can be found here.

Vancouver Folk Fest 2011 – Day 2

Day 2 was a short day at the Vancouver Folk Fest for me due to having a gig with my band Versa back in Victoria that night. My friends and I arrived at the festival grounds that day just in time to see the Grit and Wisdom workshop. This grouping included the crowd favourite Justin Townes Earle and, one of my favourites, Jim Bryson. The weather took a turn for the worse on the morning of Van Folk Fest Day 2 and we were greeted by a soggy crowd. Fortunately, the rain had stopped by the time we arrived and we were perfectly happy to sit on the damp grass using our makeshift plastic bag mats. (Incidentally, garbage bags are a great thing to bring to a rainy festival!)

Justin Townes Earle

After a nice relaxing acoustic workshop to start the day, we decided to hit the beer gardens. Unlike all too many of the large festivals, the gardens at the Vancouver Folk Fest came with a great view of the stage and prices were kept reasonable. From our camp in the drinking area we saw the Changes in Latitude workshop which featured Joel Plaskett, Elliott Brood, and the Fugitives. It was great to hang out at the tables while still having clear sound and sightlines to the musical action still going on.

Jim Bryson

I had time to see one last thing on Day 2 before I needed to catch the ferry home, so I left my friends to enjoy their malted and hopped beverages and I headed over to Stage 3. Here I saw Imaginary Cities play the last two songs in their concert set with the full band. The group sounded great and I was glad I’d get another chance to see them on Day 3.

Imaginary Cities

Unfortunately I missed the rest of the action for the day which included a workshop with Dustin Bentall, and the entire lineup on the Peak Stage that night (Danny Michel, The Burning Hell, Buck 65, and Elliott Brood). I was particularly choked about having to miss Buck 65 as I also didn’t get the chance to see his one other appearance at the festival, and it has been far too long since I’ve seen him perform. The word from my friends is that I missed out on a most excellent evening.

Imaginary Cities

My photos of Day 2 at the Vancouver Folk Fest can be found here.

Imaginary Cities

I arrived at Jericho Beach Park for the 2011 Vancouver Folk Fest at the tail end of Gillian Welch’s set. I wasn’t familiar with her Americana folk, but the large crowd already gathered at the Festival seemed to LOVE her. (Now that I’m home and reading a bit on Gillian Welch, I see that she had a hand in putting together the amazing soundtrack for the movie O Brother Where Art Thou – cool!)

MCs Lana Gay and Tariq Hussain

Next we were treated to a tweener set by Imaginary Cities. (For those unaware, a tweener is an act that plays between larger acts. They serve as the entertainment during gear changeovers. They are usually lesser known acts and are usually performed as stripped down sets with easy to set up acoustic instruments.) Though the band usually performs as a five piece, the songwriting duties in Imaginary Cities are shared by Rusty Matyas and Marti Sorbit. True to the tweener form, this set was just Marti and Rusty and an acoustic guitar. The duo played selections from their Polaris Long Listed self-titled album Imaginary Cities, and sneaked in a great cover of the song “Mexico” by Cake.

Joel Plaskett

Closing out the first night of the festival was Joel Plaskett. Ever-changing his lineup of backing musicians, this time the group was billed as the Joel Plaskett Emergency. I was excited for this, I hadn’t seen the Emergency configuration (which usually plays more of the rock songs in Joel’s massive catalog) in years. The Vancouver Folk Fest version of the Joel Plaskett Emergency was a trio: Joel on guitar with a bass and drums backing him. The group played a mixture of new and old songs, which was fitting given his recently released greatest hits and b-sides collection called Emergencys, False Alarms, Shipwrecks, Castaways, Fragile Creatures, Special Features, Demons and Demonstrations: 1999-2010. The highlight of the evening for me was the closing song “Extraordinary”. I have a great video of the performance from that night that looks amazing, but sounds horrible due to some off-key singing from the crowd ringing loud and clear over everything else. I’ll spare the internet from having to hear that, and you’ll just have to trust me on how great the song was. (OK fine, it was my off-key singing. Still, no one wants to hear that.)

Joel Plaskett

My photos of Day 1 at the Vancouver Folk Fest can be found here.

To kick off the new school year, the University of Victoria held the President’s Welcome Back BBQ on September 6th 2011. A great new tradition to this event is that the day is closed with a free outdoor performance by a (somewhat) local band. Last year we got Said the Whale and this year it was the lovely Hannah Georgas who came to perform. I think it’s really great that the school brings in bands that have ties to the university – Hannah and members of Said the Whale have all attended UVic.

The backing band was looking sharp in their matching white shirts, skinny ties, and grey pants. The group played a mixture of new and old songs, and Hannah mentioned that her next order of business was to head off to Toronto to record her next album. (She’s been giving updates on Facebook and Twitter over the past few weeks on the album’s progress. Check in there if you’d like to keep up to date.) The crowd seemed to be pretty shy and sat on the grass for most of the set. I don’t know if this was because most of them seemed to fall into the category of “awkward overwhelmed first year student”, but people seemed to perk up and even dance for the catchier favourites like “Bang Bang You’re Dead” and “Dancefloor”.

My photos from the day can be found here. Also, I managed to catch the closing song “All I Need” on video. Check it out below… NOW!

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WINV9F4r0J4]

 

Here’s the setlist from that afternoon: