Feeling it Break: Austra at Sugar Nightclub

14 10 2013

Austra’s early show at Sugar Nightclub on Saturday night came as a blessing.  Even with two encores, the show wrapped up at 10:00 PM sharp.  The show’s early curfew allowed those scheduled to run in The Goodlife Fitness Marathon on Sunday morning to go home, carb-load and get some rest, while other, more thrill seeking concert-goers, were able to make it down to Lucky Bar to catch Fucked Up; unfortunately, this reviewer was part of the carb-loading tribe, though I heard Fucked Up played a hell of a show at Lucky.

The night began with an impassioned opening set by Moon King.  Led by parka-clad singer, Daniel Benjamin, Moon King did an excellent job of warming up the non-parka clad crowd (Sugar Nightclub has a mandatory coat check*—I’m still unsure how Benjamin managed to sneak past the eagle-eyed security staff) with a rousing and energetic set.  Along with guitarist/harmonist, Maddy Wilde, Benjamin cavorted his way through an engaging set of songs ranging from beautiful pop-induced harmonies to gritty punk rock songs.  Moon King is strikingly young, and on Saturday night they proved themselves to be a band worth watching: I picked up their debut 12”, Obession, and it is most excellent.

Sugar was near capacity by the time Austra took the stage.  The first thing that struck me, aside from the band’s beautiful, and aptly fitting umbrella light display on stage, was how tiny lead singer Katie Stelmanis is.  One would never guess, from listening to Austra’s powerful and operatic vocals, that Stelmanis incredibly short in stature.  Even with platform shoes on, Stelmanis essentially peered over the monitors lining the front of the stage for most of the band’s set.

Flanked by a band clad in some similarly interesting apparel, including the keyboardist’s spandex onesie, Stelmanis gave an energetic and delightful performance to wrap up the band’s long North American tour.  The show, mostly comprised of material from Austra’s newest album, Olympia, which was released earlier this year, fully displayed how far Austra’s come since their debut, Polaris-Nominated release, Feel It Break.

While the crowd was more responsive to material from Austra’s first album, particularly standout track, “Lose It” which most of us sang along to with full vibrato, the band’s darker new tracks were every bit as stunning, proving that Austra wasn’t the slightest bit affected by the sophomore slump.  While Olympia is indeed a grower, the songs performed live on Saturday night were undoubtedly more raw and engaging in their live skin.  As we walked down Sugar’s massive staircase, and out into the early evening air, we did so with massive smiles slapped upon pink cheeks.

*I heard many-a complaint about Sugar’s mandatory coat check policy on Saturday night.  While I fully understand the safety logistics motivating the coat check, I agree with other patrons that the three dollar charge for each checked item is a bit steep (one person I talked to was charged $9, as she had to check three items).  I think it would be great if Sugar lowered their charge, or donated all monies collected from their mandatory coat check to deserving local charities.Image

 

 

 





Reinventing Song: Blackout Beach’s Blues Trip

14 03 2013

Upon its release in 2011, Blackout Beach’s Fuck Death took a lot of people by surprise. The album’s tight weave of synthesizers and sonic soundscapes, which provide a rich, multifaceted backdrop to Carey Mercer’s often hushed words on war, sharply contrasts with the guitar driven fury that defines much Mercer’s back catalogue. Fuck Death marked radical departure for Mercer, one that had taken him a long time to create.

“I recorded Fuck Death over the space of two or three years,” says Mercer “I wasn’t working on it every day but I would work intensely for weeks at a time. I wrote all the music and then I sat on it for about a year waiting for the right words to come. As I listened, I often asked myself ‘What does this sound like?'”

Mercer eventually found his answer in an unlikely place. While reading Michael Herr’s Dispatches, a first person account of the Vietnam war, something clicked.

“I read Dispatches and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, my record!’ Vietnam couldn’t be further away from my own experience, but it’s one of those things that keeps resonating: I feel kind of haunted by it. I thought this record could be not just about war, but how war is represented, how it’s fictionalized and how disgusting that is, but also how I get kind of giddy reading about it.”

With a renewed sense of direction, the words came quickly to Mercer. He discovered that the elements of war were hiding in the music all along.

“I just had to listen for a really long time. I noticed that there was a lot of static, a lot of helicopter sounds and short wave radio, which could be interpreted in several ways but because of what I was reading and thinking about at the time, I heard those sounds in the context of war. I wondered what it would be like to have an aggressive helicopter flying over me.”

After thousands of hours of work, mostly spent in solitude, Mercer had finally completed Fuck Death. Released in 2011, the album was met with much critical acclaim but, in hindsight, Mercer is largely ambivalent to his experience recording it. What began as Mercer’s labour of love ended as a war of attrition.

“I don’t ever want to make that kind of record again,” says Mercer “It represents thousands of hours of looking at a computer screen. There’s a kind of singularity to the album because it’s all me playing. I guess it’s kind of neat that you can do that now– you can hole up with your computer and synthesizers, become insular and after a few days you’re like, ‘Wow, I worked on this so much, it’s so neat, what a wonderful way to spend time!’ . But after a while you start to go a bit nutty: it becomes a toxic experience and actually starts to poison you a bit.”

Mercer’s remedy to the toxic experience of recording Fuck Death came last summer when he, along with drummer Melanie Campbell and bassist Dante DeCaro, stole away to DeCaro’s remote studio to radically reinterpret many of the songs on Fuck Death. Ironically, the three piece band ended up stripping down Mercer’s solitary constructions.

The session ultimately resulted in Blues Trip, which was released on Bandcamp in February and will available on limited edition vinyl later this year. As Mercer confides, the album brings new life to the material.

Blues Trip appeals to me because it was tracked in a day with friends. We thought it was kind of funny that we started off with this electronic record and reduced it to what a lot of people would call one of the more mundane forms–the blues. But we were so invigorated and excited by what we were doing, much more than if we had faithfully recreated Fuck Death. Doing that wouldn’t have been much fun for me.”

On Friday night, Victorians will have a chance to see songs transformed. Mercer, along with the three piece incarnation of Blackout Beach is set to take the stage Victoria’s newest venue, the Copper Owl. The evening promises to be a culmination of thousands of solitary, introspective hours in front of the computer and one fateful summer afternoon rocking out with friends. It shouldn’t be missed.

Nick Lyons

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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.

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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

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CALENDAR: Peace and Pink Shirts

22 02 2012

Whether you represent the West or East Coast, take in some good music this week. Down With Webster is repping T.O. and the Folk West show brags many local musicians. Or start the day with health at the Holistic Wellness Fair and move on to the Beer Fest – there really is something for everyone! Of course remember to wear pink this Wednesday to take a stand against bullying.

Plus, we have tickets to the Beer Fest, Wellness Fair and the Spoken Word Fest to get you started this weekend! Just email calendar@mondaymag.com (Subject WIN) , or comment below and tell us why you should win!

DOWN WITH WEBSTER – Not easily classifiable, DWW employs elements of rock, hip-hop, funk music and just about everything in between in their recordings and high-energy live shows. THURSDAY 7:30pm at the McPherson (3 Centennial Square). $45. rmts.bc.ca. See article in this week’s issue of Monday.

THE VICTORIA SPOKEN WORD FEST – The most exciting, entertaining, out-there poetry you’ve ever heard at the second annual Victoria Spoken Word Festival. To SUNDAY at Intrepid Theatre and Solstice Cafe. $5-25. victoriaspokenwordfestival.com.

INSPIRED WELLNESS HOLISTIC FAIR – Psychic readings, massage, energy healing, holistic services and more. SATURDAY 11am at 111 Superior. $5. 778-433-7334, redgatehealingstudio.com.

THE ISLAND BEER FESTIVAL – Hosted by DJ Pat Shade. All your favourite local breweries. Live acoustic duo Mike Hann & Tyler Harvey. SATURDAY 1pm at 9one9. $20. 250-383-7137, strath.info@strathconahotel.com.

FOLK WEST FUNDRAISER – Mae Moore, Lola Parks, Crikey, Paul O’Brien and more. SATURDAY 7pm at Upstairs. $10/$12.

5th ANNUAL PINK SHIRT DAY – Anti-bullying campaign. Proceeds from t-shirts sold at London Drugs go to Boys and Girls Clubs. WEDNESDAY. pinkshirtday.ca.





Ubiquitous Synergy Seekers Are Swimming in a Giant Bowl of Jelly Beans

20 02 2012

If the name of this Toronto-based band doesn’t give you a hint about Ash Boo-Schultz’s intellectual mindspace, these answers will. A glimpse into the thoughts of the USS vocalist/producer when he had a day off from touring the country with Down With Webster. Plus, an unexpected cooking tip!

On Rifflandia 2011:

When we were walking from our hotel to the show it was really cool because there were all these fans with signs for USS.

On touring vs. recording:

I’m more productive on the road, so there’s really no separation of the two.

On his biggest accomplishment:

It’s less of one specific isolated event and more of the realization, especially in the last three months, that I’ve just written hundreds and hundreds of songs and pieces of music and I’ve always been shackled by not totally having the confidence to venture outside of a band. Almost needing the confidence of working with other people. So in that three months my entire psychological equilibrium has taken this quantum leap and I’ve been putting together all kinds of these projects and bands that are going to be able to channel all this creativity. One thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t use your mind it drives you insane. So I have to especially keep concentrated and focused. I’m feeling really successful about finally hitting my stride; it just clicked finally and I’m just loving the click!

On their new sound and new drummer:

Our music as a band is also taking a quantum leap because we’ve added a drummer into our band. Also, Human Kebab, over the course of our evolution as a band, evolving and improving, he started singing more, and he has a really low voice.  So you’ll hear me and him doing harmonies more. We got to know [our drummer] more when his band would open for us in Ontario. So when the time was right, and we knew we wanted to add that final dimension to our live sound, he was the first person we thought of. Because when you’re on the road with people 24 hours a day, in the hotel room, in the van, at the library, at the bowling alley, it’s gotta be about the person first and then their ability

On life outside of music:

I go home and I work as a carpenter and I have to use the logical side of my brain. Cause I can live in the total emotional whirlwind of life, and you can lose touch with that logic that’s especially important for decision-making. I love it, so I’m doing both at the same time. And all of the houses that we work at are in my neighbourhood so I can always go home and have grilled cheese for lunch – with really cold ketchup. Put the ketchup in the freezer while you’re making it. And you use one piece of white bread and one piece of brown bread. So, it’s like, grilled cheese on white bread is like the best thing ever but you wanna still get your whole grains in there. It’s all about balance. Life is a grilled cheese with one piece of white bread and one piece of brown bread.

On an upcoming solo project:

I have this whole series of four-song EPs and I’ll be partnering up with people that I feel is appropriate. I’m this abnormal psychologist, I basically study all these cases of music savants and all these abnormal music cases all over the world. So each cover song is a back-story of the patients; it revolves around the songs that the musicians in the psych ward wrote. It’s called Lab Rats.

Most surprising thing about the music industry:

How much love there is out there, it’s incredible. We have our love magnet turned on full blast all the time.

On Down With Webster:

I was having this huge conversation with Pat (Down With Webster vocalist/guitarist) last night because Pat is a huge documentary freak and so am I. It [touring together] just has this natural ease to it. I played with those guys when they were still in high school. I was between bands playing mid-90s hip hop covers on my acoustic guitar, and I’d open for them at some little chicken-wing restaurant outside of Toronto. I said to Bucky (Down With Webster vocalist) the other night, ‘We’re not flowers we’re roots.’ We’re not something that comes and goes with the seasons, it’s a solid foundation.

On the future of USS?

We have a couple of shoeboxes full of songs, I’m not even sure at this point how we’re gonna choose what songs we’re gonna put out, and we just keep adding more. Tons of songs are in various stages of production that will become our next album…We’re just swimming around in a giant bowl of jelly beans!

USS opens for Down With Webster, THURSDAY 7:30pm at the McPherson. Tickets at rmts.bc.ca.

– Reyhana Heatherington





Calendar: Happy New Year’s!

28 12 2011

May the coming year be everything you’ve been hoping for. Happy New Year’s from everyone here at Monday Magazine!

Peninsula New Year’s Celebration – Ring in the New Year with fun, food, music and dancing. SATURDAY 5pm at the Panorama Rec Centre (1885 Forst Park). Free-$15. peninsulacelebrations.ca/events.

New Year’s Eve Party – Dinner and dance. SATURDAY 7pm at the Da Vinci Centre (195 Bay). $80. davincicentre.ca.

New Year’s Eve – Dinner and dance with Spirit of the Moment. SATURDAY 7:30pm at Murph’s Place (3020 Douglas). Free. 250-418-1000.

Latin Dance New Years Eve – Dance the New Year in with Proyecto Latino and Ganas. SATUDAY 8pm at St. Andrew’s Hall (680 Courtney). $15. 250-888-5314.

Dance Dance Resolution – Rennie Foster hosts this New Years dance party. Dress to impress. SATURDAY 9pm in the Sunset Room (401 Herald). $20. 250-532-6892.

New Year’s Day Levée – Enjoy light refreshments and the music of the Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific and the Canadian Scottish Regiment Pipes and Drums. SUNDAY 10am-noon at Government House (1401 Rockland). Free. 250-387-2080, ltgov.bc.ca.








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