Let’s face it, coming off a gorgeous sunny day with a temperature of about 23 degrees, the first night of Canadian Music Week wasn’t going to have to try hard to make me happy. Any CMW evening that doesn’t include rain, freezing rain, or snow is alright by me. Having said that, the quality of artists I had the pleasure of seeing last night would have made me happy (or at least willing) to trudge through a foot of snow.
Revelstoke – Rancho Relaxo, 8 pm
Earlier this week our own Dan Wolovick previewed some of his picks for bands playing Rancho during the festival and based on his post I was excited to check out Toronto’s Andrew Seale. Performing under the name Revelstoke, Seale brings a whimsical perspective to the traditional lo-fi experimental pop genre. Utilizing looping effects on stage, Seale blends deceptively simple melodies to create a rich, layered experience that might make one think that they’re listening to a full band. At one point during the show, Seale jumped down from the stage and coached the audience into singing a chorus, which was then looped throughout the song. With a steady and enthusiastic stage presence, the crowd was more than happy to sing along.
The Unquiet Dead – Rancho Relaxo, 9 pm
Another band that was previewed on the site by Dan, The Unquiet Dead put on a show that will be tough to beat for me. Having never heard their music before, or read Dan’s preview, oops, I had no idea what I was in for when I made my way to the front of the room for their set. First of all, I couldn’t believe how many band members were crowded onto that stage. A Windsor collective of 12 musicians, The Unquiet Dead would have been remarkable if only for how seamlessly they performed together, always in tune and on time with various harmonies, notes and percussion. Dan described their sound as a blues-twinged country-folk-gospel blend and he was not kidding around. Quite frankly, if the vocals and percussion on the track Lord Loves A Workin Man doesn’t give you chills you might need to get your ears checked.
The Washboard Union – The Silver Dollar, 10 pm
For the only venue change of the night I headed to The Silver Dollar for The Washboard Union to keep up the bluegrass country vibe. Another ensemble group, Union is a seven piece from Vancouver that features a blend of percussion, fiddle, guitar, banjo, harmonica and yes, a washboard. These guys gave a high energy performance that made me feel like I was seven beers into a good night at a Legion dance back home, a damn good time for those who didn’t have a rural upbringing.
Traveller and Fortune – Rancho Relaxo, 11 pm
Back at Rancho I was intrigued to see a double bass on stage as Traveller and Fortune were setting up. A four piece from Australia, Traveller and Fortune are a folk band with a pleasant sound and an endearing stage presence, but ultimately it failed to hold my attention and after three songs I gravitated to the back of the bar. Perhaps it was just too much of a tempo change after the heady country-bluegrass acts of earlier, or maybe it was the lure of my favourite sci-fi horror flick playing at the bar (Event Horizon, if you’re curious) but Traveller and Fortunate didn’t make much of an impression on me.
Armen at the Bazaar – Rancho Relaxo, 12 am
I would hope that anyone reading this is familiar with the music of Montreal’s Armen Bazarian. As Armen at the Bazaar he is a slim wizard behind a table steeped with electronics. Utilizing a MacBook, a loopstation and his own voice, Armen provides an electro-pop experience that is like no other. Beyond just being wildly danceable, his beats and loops and lyrics will make you think. A man who can build a haunting and beautiful song with the lyrics of I’se the B’y is one to be reckoned with.