CMW Night #1: Revelstoke, The Unquiet Dead, Crazy Strings & More

My first night of Canadian Music Week — yes I’m one of those people who still can’t bring themselves to call it Canadian Music “Fest” — started out like any other. I eased into the week spending most of my time at Rancho and The Silver Dollar. Luckily, the weather seems to be co-operating with us this year, so I don’t have to worry about getting rained on all week. Let’s haveĀ  a look at what I checked out last night:

Revelstoke (8pm @ Rancho): Performing to a decent-sized crowd for the 8pm slot, Revelstoke (aka Andrew Seale) blended West Coast folk, ambient drones (thanks to his handy loop pedal), and borderline post-rock mini-anthems. During one section of his set he even attempted to loop the audience — to middling results unfortunately. I have to say, Revelstoke played a decent little set but he didn’t blow me away. A part of me almost thinks it fares better on record as opposed to live — where seeing the loops being built actually wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped. That said, it was a pleasant set and a relaxing start to the festivities.

The Unquiet Dead (9pm): Next up were The Unquiet Dead, featuring Jamie Greer of Golden Hands Before God fame. I’m fairly unfamiliar with these guys — other than seeing Greer perform in the past with the 60s psych-rock influenced Golden Hands — so The Unquiet dead threw me for a bit of a loop. They’re much more subdued, playing a blues/country/folk meets indie-collective kind of sound — with a sprinkling of psych and world-music elements. I dug their stuff best when they clicked along at a subtle — almost stoned — groove-like pace, allowing the multiple percussion players to cleverly fill our their sound.

Federal Lights (10pm): Federal Lights followed up with a power-pop influenced set of indie-rock, which I liked just fine. One song had a pretty great moog-riff that reminded me of The Rentals in a very good way. I definitely wasn’t as interested in their more mid-tempo tracks though, which I found couldn’t really hold my attention. When their songs hit though, I quite enjoyed them.

Crazy Strings (11pm @ The Silver Dollar): A quick walk around the corner had me checking out something unexpected for my fourth set of the night: a bluegrass band. Bluegrass is something totally out of my wheelhouse, so I wasn’t sure what to think of it at first. Crazy Strings set up on stage with 2 mics on either side — so any of the 5 performers could walk up and solo — while the center mic was a condenser allowing them to crowd around and sing together. I actually found myself having a really great time during the set, as every band member seemed to be performing at the top of their game. Very impressive stuff.

And lastly, Armen at the Bazaar (12pm @ Rancho Relaxo): Armen’s set was heavily electro-based — which I’m not totally hearing on his bandcamp as I check it out today — but that was fine by me. At times his beats were heady and organic (much like Four Tet or Gold Panda), and other times it became intensely danceable and catchy. His bandcamp is equally enjoyable, but has a much more eclectic and fuller sound. All said, I think it was hands-down my favorite set of the evening. Get over to his bandcamp asap, and check out Armen at the Bazaar’s EP Noor.

As usual, all be running through all the bands and artists I see for CMW, so check back and don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for CMW updates by Terri, Meghan, and Bruce.

Dan Gorman

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