Direction is No Place at All: An Intimate Evening With Colleen Brown

19 11 2012

On Sunday night, I had the opportunity to attend a house concert. I’d never heard the performer before: all I knew about her was her name (Colleen Brown) and that she came highly recommended by a friend of mine who is endowed with wonderful musical instincts. I braved the elements, walking down Dallas Road in the midst of the year’s most powerful storm. I saw octopi washed up dead on the concrete, I saw whitecaps consume a horizon that only reluctantly comes to rest at the foot of the Olympic mountain range. And then I saw Colleen Brown sing, an experience every bit as powerful and inspiring as my journey to the small, seaside duplex where she played.

Brown’s songs are a fortunate fusion of complex chord progressions and thoughtful, meditative lyrical play. While I hate to draw comparisons, Brown often reminded me of Laura Marling, Joanna Newsom and Joni Mitchell. But Brown’s is ultimately a musical style, most singular. No doubt, future generations will mould themselves in Brown’s musical image; they will be fortunate to have her as a reference point.

The highlight of the evening, for me, was Brown’s original composition, “Direction”. The song showcases Brown’s subtle graces on piano, which provide a hesitating, beautiful backdrop to poetic turns of phrase from the voice of Brown, our restless wanderer. She confesses that “Direction is no place at all”, and on Sunday night, the fortunate few who were lucky enough to be in the friendly confines of that duplex were instantly transported us a sacred place: a place in between places—not here, not there, as the wind outside blew wild.


Get Your Tickets Early: An Evening with Bahamas and Jason Collett

25 10 2012

The fortunate few who gathered at St. Anne’s Auditorium on Tuesday night couldn’t help but feel pretty lucky. The auditorium, while beautiful, is incredibly small; last minute fans were left to scour the Internet, and the park surrounding St. Anne’s where Bahamas hid the two remaining tickets, for their chance to see the show. Unfortunately many were left out in the cold, but those who got their tickets early were generously rewarded to an intimate performance courtesy of not one but two of Canada’s premier acts without the drunken distractions that inevitably detract from any given show at any given bar. St. Anne’s Auditorium was the perfect venue for Bahamas and Collett because of, not in spite of, its size.

The evening began early with Jason Collett taking the marqueed stage all by his lonesome. Collett looks and sounds much different than he did last time he came through town. His quaffed curls have given way to long hair, and the themes of his beautifully melodic songs have changed rather drastically. While Collett played some older songs, most of his set consisted of selections from this year’s _Reckon_, whose direct and austere tracks seemed even more urgent in their live skin. Yes, the subject matter of many of Collett’s new songs is bleak, but the tone of his performance was impossibly light as Collett was obviously thrilled to join his old pal and former bandmate, Afie Jurvanen, on his tour across Canada. If Bahamas’ set was any indication, the thrill was mutual.

Bahamas’ live set is perfect: maybe it’s because the band has been touring for so long, maybe it’s because of the obvious chemistry between all four of the band’s member’s, or maybe its because they draw from such rich material; whatever it is, it would be impossible to conceive of a more refined and awe-inspiring live set. Though Jurvanen constantly reminded us that he and his band has only two albums of material to draw from, and while he was well aware that he paid us a visit a mere three months ago, his band’s performance was pitch-perfect. And keep in mind that this was the first show of their cross-Canada trek, by the time Bahamas reaches Winnipeg, much less Ontario, I’m willing to bet that they’ll prove the old axiom obsolete: Bahamas will improve upon perfection… with their Victoria show, they already have.

Barchords is as perfect an album can hope to be. A precious mixture of melancholy and joy, the album refuses a passive listen. The play count on my digital version of Barchords verges on triple digits, yet I still feel compelled to revisit it often. And still, Barchords’ songs are better live. If the studio versions of the songs lay elaborate blueprint well worth consideration and reconsideration, their live counterparts are a numinous finished product: precise gives way to even more precise while excitement steps aside to make room for an unparalleled spontaneous passion.

While it’s unfortunate that more people weren’t able to witness the fine mix of Collett coupled with Bahamas, perhaps that’s what made it even more special. Without the ambient noise and chatter generated by those who might have heard “Lost in the Light” on Much Music a couple of times, the songs of two future Canadian icons has room grow, leaving their silenced crowd utterly and completely captivated. For better or for worse, it is likely the last time we’ll be able to hear either act in a venue so small; get your tickets now.

–Nick Lyons


CALENDAR: Bhoy, Toys, Sweets and Beats

28 03 2012

This week enjoy family-friendly events and make a difference for local charities at the toy fair or while eating out. Gear up early for Easter and indulge your sweet tooth at the Greek bake sale. Then take in one of the most popular comics touring today or experience a true hip-hop legend at Lucky Bar. Plus…

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Win tickets to the Ultimate Hobby and Toy Fair this SUNDAY at Pearkes! Just comment below or email (subject WIN) and tell us why you should win.

DINING OUT FOR LIFE – 65 restaurants and pubs on the island will donate 25% of your food bill to AIDS Vancouver Island this THURSDAY. Reservations are suggested and tell them you’re “Dining Out For Life”. 250-384-2366,,

MASTA ACE – With Marco Polo and Stricklin. This rap veteran was one of Eminem’s biggest influences. Hip hop. FRIDAY 9pm at Lucky.  $16.

DANNY BHOY – Just For Laughs is thrilled to bring back the Scottish comedy sensation. FRIDAY 7:30pm at the McPherson (3 Centennial Square). $39.50.

10th ANNUAL GREEK EASTER BAKE SALE AND SNACK BAR – Featuring numerous yummy home-made Greek Easter desserts, pastries and freshly made Loukoumades.  Souvlaki, Gyros, spanakopita and refreshments will be available at the Snack Bar. Proceeds support the Victoria and Vancouver Island Greek Community Society cultural programs and charity purposes. 10am at the Greek Community Centre (4648 Elk Lake). SATURDAY and  SUNDAY. 250-479-9391,

VICTORIA’S ULTIMATE HOBBY & TOY FAIR – You never know what you might find with almost 200 tables of fun. Door prizes, silent auction for the MS Society and special charity carnival with all proceeds going to BC Children’s Hospital. Plus, a Superhero Creation Station with Superheroes of Victoria. SUNDAY 9am at Pearkes Arena (3100 Tillicum). $3 adult, kids free. 250-385-8697,

Into the Abyss With Nasstasia Yard

22 01 2012

It comes as a mixed blessing that Nasstasia Yard’s debut EP “For Someone Else” occupies a mere centimeter or so of spooled analogue tape. While the beatific beauty manifest in each of these four songs leaves us craving more, the most casual listen also confronts us with a distilled, monstrous form of melancholy that few dare to observe, much less confront. But with “For Someone Else” Yard stares at her monster’s bared, bloody teeth and proceeds to embrace him with broken arms; lucky listeners are the beneficiaries of her enormous bravery.

The darkness Yard confronts on “For Someone Else” is mirrored by its cover. A child’s face is shrouded by darkness; a silent scream bursts from open lips. The look in the child’s eyes, a disturbing alloy of terror and rage, does not extend a glimmer of comfort or hope. We don’t simply observe her pain; we are responsible for it. These songs were composed for someone else, after-all.

Yard channels the child’s silent cry with “Generate”, the album’s tiny first track, which recalls Elliot Smith’s earliest lo-fi recordings. While completely devoid of hope, Yard’s voice is strikingly beautiful in its vulnerability. Yard promises that if she “could keep generating more to give” she’d keep going; just as the song comes to premature halt. We are forced to follow Yard into the abyss.

For the rest of the album, Yard’s weary voice somehow summons the necessary strength to plod through a haunting territory of textures which include dropped pennies, shattered wine glasses and wire brushes. When the play button pops up at the end of side two, we are relieved though undoubtedly our instinct is to turn the tape over for another go.

A musical equivalent to a Lars von Trier film, Yard tastefully conveys a darkness that is tragically ignored in our cheap and shallow North American culture. The album is not intended to the weak of heart. But I urge you to summon the necessary courage, listen, and listen often. You will be rewarded.

To read more of Nick Lyons’ writing, check out his blog here.


Do you feel lucky?

30 09 2010

There’s something for everyone this week. Get outside and learn about slugs or save a turkey, or stay in and enjoy the beauty of art and fashion.

You could also be lucky enough to win stuff! Email (SUBJECT:SANTANA) to win Santana’s hologram emblazoned glory, “Guitar Heaven: Deluxe Edition.”

Ugh! a Slug! – Nature walk presented by CRD Regional Parks. SATURDAY 1-2:30pm at Mill Hill Regional Park. Free. 250-478-3344,

Live Painting Demonstration – With our resident artists Keith Hiscock and his daughter Sarah Lang. SATURDAY 2-4pm at the Morris Gallery (428 Burnside E).

Oktoberfest – Edelweiss Club’s October celebration. Featuring the Silver Stars. SATURDAY 6pm at the Victoria Edelweiss Club (108 Niagara). $23/17. 250-477-7665.

Butterfly Places & Pumpkin Faces – Tours, pumpkin carving, face painting and petting zoo. Fundraiser for the Victoria Hospital Association. Activities by donation. SUNDAY 3pm at Victoria Butterfly Gardens. $10/$5. 250-414-6688.

Save-A-Turkey Trot – A vegan-themed 5k run/walk. SUNDAY 11am at Clover Point. $2.

Random Acts of Poetry Week – Poets across Canada visit juvenile detention centres, alternative schools and youth centres MONDAY to October 9. 250-642-3542.

All About Girlfriends – A History of Leading Through Style charity fundraiser. Fashion show proceeds go to the Minerva Foundation for B.C  Women.  WEDNESDAY 4pm at Alix Goolden Hall (907 Pandora). $35. 250-588-1119.

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