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I was outnumbered at the Imperial on Sunday evening. Standing in a room full of people singing to every word to every song, I was definitely in the minority. But discovering two new bands that I really like was a nice ending to a really strange week.
I feel ashamed to admit it, but I wasn’t all that familiar with the music of Mt Joy, and I knew nothing of the opening band Wilderado, a foursome out of Tulsa Oklahoma. I would now consider myself a fan. Led by magnetic front man Max Rainer, they kind of sound like existential cowboys - a little mournful, a little hopeful, digging a little deeper into the highs and lows life. Totally my jam.
Mt. Joy is a band that needs no introduction. Even I know the song “Astrovan”, the hit single that put them on the indie music star map. The highlight of the evening for me was watching guitarist Sam Cooper. He had a few technical difficulties early in the set and for a few songs it looked like we were going to miss out on his bright, flowy riffs.
What a shame that would have been. Not just because without him Mount Joy is the musical equivalent of a burger without fries, good on it’s own and satisfying in a pinch, but still not a complete meal. Cooper also has a commanding stage presence. Just as Matt Quinn puts all he’s got into his raspy vocals, Cooper puts a healthy dose of emotion into every strum. And it shows. Literally.
So I stood in the middle of this celebratory crowd and fought with the infamously un-photographer friendly lights to get a few decent images. I lost myself somewhere in the collective melancholy of the performance. It was meaningful and connective and sometimes jubilant and often a little rebellious.
Like all shows I cover, it was just what I needed. It pushed me creatively and I found myself thinking about my future in this industry and where I want it to take me. All the avenues I’ve wanted to explore from the beginning and haven’t gotten around to yet.
By the end of the evening I was left sorting through images of musicians soaked in magenta and blue lights. I ended up with my first black and white gallery, something I’ve always shied away from in the past. In all honesty, it wasn’t what I was hoping for, but black and white images force you to focus on composition and exposure.
All in all it was a great night, I’m glad to have two new bands to add to my playlist.
The first time I saw the Trews live was soon after the release of Den of Thieves and the opening band featured a 12 year old guitar virtuoso called Danny Sveinson. But that was then. And this is more than a dozen years later. Now I write reviews for a couple of publications. The Trews show at the Commodore on January 25 was the first time I was also granted access for Earthly Pursuits.
Once again, the opening acts did not disappoint. As I mentioned in my review for Vancouver Weekly, “bands like Chase the Bear are the reason why people should go see the opening acts.” And Edmonton foursome, Altameda were great, too!. In fact, I might have to go out and buy one of their albums. Whichever one had the last song they played on it. Loved that damn song.
There is so much more going on at a live show than simply watching a band play music. And although I love re-living the experience for anyone who might be interested in reading a review, I want this particular site to focus on our connection to music. It’s such a personal and fascinating journey to look into the ways music connects us.
So. I need to ask myself.. Why was I so excited to see the Trews? I’m lucky enough to get opportunities to see a lot of really great bands, but every now and then one rolls into town that I just HAVE to see. This was one of those times and the Trews were one of those bands.
For starters they are an awesome band. I know all the words to all the songs off of House of Ill Fame and Den of Thieves and when I sing along to them I almost always have to dance a little, too. I’m also always drawn to artists or bands with big growly vocals and Colin MacDonald has one of my absolute favorite voices. Husky and powerful and always in tune. When he sings, he really gives it all, and I feel that.
Secondly, I have fond memories of that first concert. I remember that kid from the opening band had the entire room captivated after three songs. I’ve never seen anything quite like that since. Plus, It was the jumping off point for a really cool friendship that I still value today. We played on the same soccer team, but would never have known we shared a passion for live music if we hadn’t been at the same show.
But if I’m really getting to the nitty gritty of why I had to see the Trews this time around I’m not sure I can answer that consciously and honestly.
What I do know is this. When I heard Colin MacDonald belt out the now iconic lines to that first single “I am tired of waiting”, all I really heard was someone else screaming exactly what I was feeling… I AM TIRED. And I connected with that. I barely registered what the rest of the song might have related to.
I was in a different place back then; it was a few years after the death of a relationship that left me angry and isolated and otherwise totally numb. I wasn’t healing because I didn’t want to accept that I was scarred. So I guess music had a kind of cathartic effect on me in those days. A way to connect with uncomfortable emotions without really accepting them as my own.
Perhaps its true what they say. Misery loves company.
Suffice to say I also fell in love the boisterous guitar riffs and the overall sound the lads from Antigonish were putting out. Anthemic, a little throwback, some blues and a lot of hard rock. All things I kind of really love in music.
So on a conscious level, I was looking for a night of great music and on an inner level, I wanted to connect with something painfully nostalgic. Did I get what I was after?
As far as a great night of music - heck yes I did! There was a confidence and an ease the Trews carried with them throughout the night and it showed. The audience was into it, and so was I. They played us all their hits while including several songs of their newest release Vintage Love. The boys are back! Even though they didn’t necessarily leave, this performance kind of felt all shiny and brand new.
Did I connect with that painful nostalgia from the past? Well.. Maybe it’s just not that painful anymore. I do remember singing along at the top of my lungs to the acoustic version of “Ishmael and Maggie” in sheer bliss. But I also remember looking around at the people closest to me and although it was a good vibe, it was the first time since I started covering shows that I really wished I was there with someone I knew really well.
So there’s that.
At the end of the day I had a great time! It’s always fun when the band is cool with photographers shooting the whole show, plus the music was great, and it’s been kind of fun getting the opportunity to dig into my personal journey with music. Hope it’s the first of many.