A Big Machine Lifts Off In Victoria: Swain at St. Andrew’s

9 02 2011

“The Lord is in this Holy Temple, let all the earth keep silence”: thus sayeth the gold-emblazoned banner high above St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church’s small stage.  But on Saturday night, the Lord’s holy temple was anything but quiet.  Oliver Swain’s Big Machine pulled to play a homecoming show with a little help from some friends in support of Swain’s first solo CD, “In a Big Machine”; and on this night, all of the earth rejoiced.

Swain is no stranger to Victoria’s bustling music scene.  Having played with bands such as the Bill Hilly Band (now known as The Bills), Scruj MacDuhk (whose name has also been abbreviated, since Swain’s departure, to The Duhks) and Outlaw Social, Swain is virtually omnipresent in Victoria.  If Saturday night is any indication, Swain’s most recent project, aptly called “The Big Machine”, is his most adventurous and rewarding incarnation yet.

The evening began with a taste of things to come as Big Machine guitarist Quinn Bachand took the stage with his big sister to play a short set of traditional songs.  The younger Bachand impressed us all with his undeniably preternatural guitar talent.  Several members of the crowd whispered to the person next to them that the lad’s licks, were ‘finger picking good’; good God!

When the Bachands left the stage to a rousing applause, they were quickly replaced by Victoria music veteran Lily Fawn and her Brightest Darkest Lullaby Band, who rounded off the first half of the show.  Fawn lulled those gathered before her into an adrenaline soaked derangement of the senses with her sugar-sweet, horrific tales of baby-stealing and mermaids. Drummer Matt Skillings (also a member of Chet) was especially impressive with his refreshing approach to percussion, a style less rhythmic, more melodic— Skillings paints pictures of horrors and beauties heretofore inconceivable with his brushes, sticks and tom-toms, lending to Lily and co.’s evocative set, which left us all enraptured and ready for a brief intermission.

When we finally reconvened on predestined pews, and the Big Machine took the stage, it became instantly clear that this was a machine most immaculately oiled.  The band’s homecoming was the centerpiece of their tour: having already played shows in Cumberland, Powell River and Vancouver, the band plans to roll across the mainland, through the mountains, and onto the frozen prairies of Alberta before flying to Memphis to complete their tour.

The Big Machine’s set was as varied as it was entertaining.  Swain’s band played songs in honour of the long-belated John Henry, but they also played songs in the key of alien abduction.  We in Victoria were particularly fortunate as the band’s stop in our town was the only show on the tour to feature The Marlborough String Quartet, who launched Swain’s band from blue grass to shining stars with their heavenly flourishes.

Swain has made an important step with “In a Big Machine”.  His is an undeniable talent, but on this disc, Swain is surrounded by musicians and composers capable of taking his songs to a higher level.  All who gathered at St. Andrews on Saturday night left with a smile, and a hope that Swain will stick around for a while on his newest project: for it is one most heavenly.



2 responses

2 03 2011
Mod May Promotions » Blog Archive » RECAP: Oliver Swain’s “In a Big Machine” Debut

[…] Monday Magazine Georgia Straight The LA Beat (Lethbridge AB) VanMusic Blog Victoria News Comox Valley Record […]

13 07 2011
Mod May Promotions » Blog Archive » July 23-25, 2011: OLIVER SWAIN’S BIG MACHINE Rolls Into Vancouver, CBC, Urban Rush and More!

[…] / CONTACT OLIVER SWAIN DOWNLOAD HI-RES PHOTO (Color) DOWNLOAD HI-RES PHOTO (Black & White) Live Review from Monday Magazine (Victoria, BC) LA Beat article (Lethbridge, […]

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