a day in the life of ...

Monday, March 30, 2009

03.26-28.09 Wintersleep / An Horse

....And on the Vancouver side of things. Its been a while since I've made a post. Almost 4 months in fact. For anyone who actually reads this blog, it's quite fitting that the first (Vancouver-ish) review of the year is none other than a 3 show Wintersleep run. Winding down their successful run of shows supporting their latest album Welcome to the Night Sky, this leg was primarily a SXSW / Westcoast run with An Horse.

I'm not quite sure if Wintersleep has ever played in Portland before. The venue was double booked. Wintersleep in the smaller room "Lola's" and radio rockers Blue October in the main room, Crystal Ballroom. While the building was quite equipped to handle both shows, there was quite a bit of bleed through from the upstairs room to the downstairs. During many quieter parts, you really could not help but notice the bass coming through. Amusingly, the Blue October seemed to be the running joke throughout much of the night. I actually overheard some of the buildings staff quip during load in:

Guy 1: When is Blue October getting off the stage?
Guy 2: Not soon enough.

The opening band (whose name escapes me) seemed a little out of place. They played a sort of folk/lounge kind of music. I don't remember much, but seem to recall that their bass player was quite good and the singer's voice was good. An Horse, who was playing a co-headlining slot, probably should've taken the headlining slot as about half the crowd left after their set. I'm guessing their buzz can be attributed to their Tegan and Sara vibe as their recent Letterman appearance. But seeing as they only have 1 albums worth of material, I guess it doesn't matter that much. They played quite well, I definitely liked them more than I thought I was going to. Their singer, Kate, even has some amusing stage banter, which I always like.

Wintersleep played quite well considering they just drove 10 hour from San Fransico. The setlist consisted of songs from their last 3 releases. No new songs were played, and no encore was played. The set was about 45 minutes. I didn't actually mind too much. It's nice having long sets, but its also nice having small intimate shows too. This may have happened during An Horse's set, but also of note:

Wintersleep: So do you guys like Blue October?
Crowd: No.
WS: Really why?
Crowd: Because we aren't 12.

Drunk on Aluminium
Weighty Ghost
Search Party
Laser Beams

Seattle was actually somewhat special in that it was one of the only dates that was an all ager. The venue, The Vera Project, was pretty cool. Definitely the best run all ages venue that I've ever been to. If you've ever been to Portland about 5 years ago, it's what the Meow Meow should've been. Clean, decent sound system, with a good lighting system. I've got a feeling that it benefits from grants or some sort of assistance, but still whatever it takes to keep something like this alive is cool.

The first band to hit the stage was an all girl local highschool jazz kind of outfit, Deer Boy. Of their set, 2 things came to mind. The first, they were very good considering how old they were. They were able to hold my interest, which is better than about 1/2 of the opening bands that I've seen in the past. The other was that there was a toddler crawling through the crowd during their set...sigh, comes with the territory I suppose. Deer Boy has some potential. Their stage presence does need some polish however. Their singer appeared distracted/disinterested at times, or maybe just not used to singing and playing the guitar at the same time.

An Horse played another wonderful set with the crowd eating them up.

Wintersleep played a pretty similar set to Seattle. There was one major change. Insomnia was played, which was a nice treat. Miasmal also opened the set, which I always find refreshing. Pretty standard set otherwise, no new songs again.

Drunk on Aluminum
Weighty Ghost
Laser Beams

Finally the last show on my run was Victoria. In some ways, this show played out similar to a hometown show when compared to the last couple of shows on the tour. Indeed the last couple of times, they've been Victoria, the crowds have been pretty wild, tonight was no exception.

An Horse took the stage first. No surprises here, crowd loved them. Doesn't seem to matter whether it's in the States or Canada, the crowd was into it.

Before I get to the Wintersleep portion of the review, possibly the coolest thing happened even before the doors opened. For one of the songs, they actually played a rousing rendition of Neil Young's Words. They also soundchecked the acoustic guitar for Assembly Lines, but alas both didn't make it to the show (Words was on the setlist). The Victoria show had a good vibe, but different than the previous nights. This one definitely had the big time sold out feel to it. The setlist was similar to the previous nights with a few additions. The new songs that they've been road testing last year, "Baltic" and "Encyclopedia" are definitely starting to grow on me. "Baltic" especially, since it's got a cool little jam at the end of it. "Danse Macabre" ended the first set, although it didn't have the extended 10+ minute jam. The only disappointing part was that the set was rather short in comparison to the previous Victoria shows. I was told however, that the fact that they haven't really been playing 90+ minute sets probably factored into things (because they were doing shorter sets in Europe and the US). Also they're probably going to be heading into the studio again to record, which hopefully means a new album soon.


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Monday, March 23, 2009

03.15.2009 Bruce Peninsula / Timber Timbre / Hininder (Waterloo, ON)

Well well well... first show review from Waterloo, ON. I don't think i would even consider Waterloo a secondary concert market, (well maybe a secondary Canadian market) however it does get some somewhat decent shows. For those who don't know, Waterloo is a known for being an hour and a bit away from Toronto and being the home of Waterloo University, one of the better Engineering and Computer Science schools in the country. This is due largely in part to the support that they get from local technology giant Research in Motion (who? they make BlackBerrys, ah....) and probably some other companies.

Anyways, the show was held at the Grist Mill. It's located at south east corner of Waterloo Park. If you picture a log cabin, then you'll know what the Grist Mill looks like. The acoustics inside were pretty good all things considered. If nothing else the venue set a mood for a warm and homely atmosphere.

First up was Hininder, who from what I could see from the back of the room was a singer/songwriter. He sort of reminded me of Rocky Votolato in some respects. I only saw 2 songs, so that's all I can really say.

Next was Timber Timbre. This was apparently the band's first show live. The band consisted of a sax player, a violinist and guitarist who also sung. They had their own stage lighting, which was very minimal, basically just christmas lights laid out on the floor. The first song was a slow number, which fit the lighting of the room. It was almost haunting yet calming at the same, just like sitting around a campfire. Unfortunately, every song seemed to sound like the first, slow and slower. Eventually it wore on my nerves. The last song was performed with members of the Bruce Peninsula.

Prior to moving to Waterloo, I had never heard of Bruce Peninsula. Some of their recent shows around Ontario have garnered them positive reviews. I suppose if i had to describe them to someone, I'd say Sufjan Stevens doing southern gospel, maybe some Arcade Fire in there. They started their set with the song "Steam roller," which is every bit as awesome as it is on album. In fact I'd say that for the most part they are probably better band live than on album. I'll admit that I was pretty in awe of the two lead singers. Both of them are hiding a serious set of pipes. The solo that the female lead sings at the end of "Weave Myself a Dress" was pretty impressive. After about 40 min the band ended their set, only to be brought back for an encore to delight of the 70 or so people in attendance. They ended the night with a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain."


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