I wish I could tell you I’ve been really busy but, truth be told, I’ve just been sluffing off, watching TV, and gaining weight. Joy. The last two weeks have actually brought a few things that I should have been writing about so I will do that now.
Thursday before last (June 3rd), I was at the Railway Club for the opening party of Femke van Delft’s exhibit, “The F-Stops Here”. If you couldn’t figure it out from the clever title, it’s a photography exhibit, specifically concert/live shots.
Femke is the first to say hello when I get there. We take a moment to remind each other where we know each other from (standing too close to the Railway Club stage on a few occasions) and she thanks me for coming. Femke works the room, saying hello to anyone and everyone who doesn’t say hello first, with the self-deprecating yet strangely confident air of an artist. Later on, she sits with me (while her salmon burger gets cold), flipping through a portfolio of her work. Her photos require little or no explanation but the little stories behind the photos are great. These are the pictures I want to take. They are not just a case of access; she certainly has an eye for this. Paparazzi in LA get paid for badly framed pictures of Jennifer Aniston buying sandals whereas photogs like Femke don’t get paid for taking amazing shots of not-so-famous people doing what they do best. It is a real shame. That’s why it is so good to see local talent have nights like this. It’s a chance for friends, acquaintances, and strangers to get a first hand look at how good they really are. A friend had gone to see Ricky Powell at the Fortune Sound Club the night before and said he was a drunken, stuck up mess. Femke is by no means sober; this is her party and she enjoys it. Unlike Powell, however, when she gets up to address the crowd, she is funny, welcoming, and above all gracious.
Femke introduces the first musical act for the evening, Alexa Bardach (who also plays guitar for the East Vamps). I have no idea what to expect when the music starts and my first reaction is, “Oh… Okay.” To me it’s not so much music in the “record store section” sense; it’s more of a sound poem or picture. It’s about choices: why this sound with that effect. If you surrender to it, and just let it be what it’s going to be, it washes over you like a warm wave and is nearly trance inducing. I would be very interested to watch (hear) the process of putting this piece together. I assume it might be like my afternoon sessions in my kitchen, playing with tastes in a dress rehearsal, a week or so before the dinner party, finding what does or doesn’t fit together. It’s cool stuff.
Friday (June 4) finds me sucking back cheap cans of PBR at The Biltmore Cabaret waiting for The Pack AD to take the stage. The Biltmore is sold out tonight and slowly begins to fill. For those of you who still haven’t made it out to The Biltmore for a show, for gawd’s sake, go! It’s still dark and downstairs but by no means the cesspool dungeon it used to be. It is a venue with a bar, not a bar with a stage.
The Pack AD start their set around 9:45. They’re awesome, okay? I’ve seen them play a few times and they keep getting better, closer, tighter. I know what you’re thinking but your wrong. The more a band plays is not always a guarantee that they’ll get better. I’ve actually seen bands that get worse the longer they play. I once said before that where most people eat, sleep, and drink, “The Pack AD tour.” It’s true and their stage act has been honed into a well-oiled but thunderous Rock ‘n’ Roll machine. They have a new album out, We Kill Computers, and the new songs are awesome.
Watching these ladies play live is something of a marathon. Maya’s kick drum and snare work alternately as artillery and infantry and get right into your skull. And I’m still trying to imagine how such a large sound (guitar & vocals) manages to erupt from such a slight package as Becky Black. Becky, I’m certain, is the reason sound guys/gals bolt their gear into racks. Every compressor in the room wants to run for cover when Becky leans into the mic and gets ready to let loose. The Pack AD slay and there are no two ways about it.
Again, I have to ditch before The Sadies play. It’s nothing personal of course. If it weren’t for my ongoing battle with North Shore buses, I’d of stayed to catch what I’m assured would be an awesome set.
After a less-than-entertaining downtown footrace, I manage to catch my bus at the last possible stop because a couple of tourists don’t take the driver’s word for it that the fair box doesn’t accept bills. My favourite part of the night? Sprinting, two steps at a time, up the immobile centre escalator at the Granville Skytrain station (yeah, that one) and still missing my freakin’ bus by 30 damned seconds.
The next few days pass uneventfully except for painting a bar one night. Let me tell you: beers, shots, and wood stain make for one hell of a hangover.
Eldorado kicks off the evening with a great set. I’ve missed seeing them by five minutes a few times. Tonight I arrive early enough to make sure I see the whole thing. I’m glad I did. The music is fun. Now, I don’t mean “fun” in the “church groups wearing matching shirts singing Jesus camp songs” fun. I mean put a smile on your face and enjoy your life fun. The bass player is so relaxed he reclines on a stool. That’s what it looks like until I kick myself for not noticing he’s got a broken foot. Yay me. By the end of the set I have convinced myself I’m in love with Angela Fama.
SWANK! takes the stage as The Swank String Band. Kirk Douglas makes his way out from behind the drum kit and joins the rest of the boys of the front line. It’s a loose but energy packed set. Swank are incapable of “phoning in” a set; they’re too good to be bad. But with all the smiling and impromptu banter going on, one soon gets the impression that The Swank String Band are here tonight to have a great time with their friend Shiloh on her big night. If you’re looking for one hell of a party, make sure SWANK! rsvp’s. If you’re looking for the best damn campfire sing-a-long known to human existence, invite The Swank String Band. Also, for the record, Bone Rattle Music is not the place to go to swipe sunglasses if you’re so inclined.
Earlier in the evening, I hear Shiloh discussing “the dress” and whether or not she’s going to wear it tonight. She wears it. It’s a beauty and a throwback to the days when Country & Western music had royalty, unlike the jesters that seem to be holding court these days. Shiloh’s set is the best I’ve heard from her, and that is saying something. Shiloh’s voice has always been able to cut through me and tonight is no exception, but there is a point in “Figurines of Faith” where her voice takes a tone I haven’t heard before. One name jumps to mind: Melanie Safka. Yes, she’s the one who sang that ridiculous “Rollerskates” song, but I’m thinking more of the deep tones of “Candles in the Rain” here.
Up until tonight, I would never heckle Shiloh onstage, but after watching how a rowdy “fan” was wrestled into submission by The Switchblade Sisters (burlesque performers Villainy Loveless and Lola Frost), I’m seriously considering it. Shiloh uses the comedic interlude to change into the more recognizable jeans and western dress shirt. She apologizes that the costume change took longer than expected and explains, “There’s boys in there,” with a nod over the shoulder to the backstage area.
The rest of the set is pure Western romp. James Wood and Graham Myrfield join Shiloh on stage to sing background on “Tired of Drinking” and Chad Taylor lends his trumpet (which any Ennio Morricone fan can tell you most certainly is a western instrument) to add the ghosts to “Head In My Grave”.
The Switchblade Sisters make another appearance and I can’t figure out why, as I look at the rear display on my camera adjusting the settings, my auto-focus servo continually whines as it locks and unlocks, until I look up and see two sets of pasties swirling in front of the stage. I can understand why the camera can’t focus as I seem to have the same problem at the moment. I think I just fell in love again. Sorry Angela.
I hit the road after Shiloh’s set (apologies to Rich Hope). Us West Vancouver boys don’t turn into pumpkins at midnight but our buses sure as shit do. As I walk down Main Street towards the Skytrain station, I ask myself the same question I always ask on this particular and all too familiar walk: Why the hell don’t I just bite the bullet and move out here?
It is certainly food for thought.
Read more music related posts HERE.