Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Shows of 2013: Waxahatchee and Swearin’ at the Biltmore Cabaret, November 29

The night before Swearin's and Waxahatchee's co-headlining show at the Biltmore, the sister-bands played in Langley, of all places. "Where [in Langley]?" I asked in immediate disbelief. The late (to me) news made more sense when I learned that the Langley show was at Twin Towers, a frequent spot for house shows. As great as Swearin' and Waxahatchee were at the Biltmore, the house show - within the bands' DIY comfort zone - would have been the one to have seen.

Swearin' and Waxahatchee alternated headlining slots during their fall tour. At the Biltmore, it was Swearin's turn to open. They discharged their hyper-fast, straight-out-of-the-90s rippers, including "Kenosha", "Here To Hear", "Crashing", and "Kill 'Em with Kindness", with some of the greatest clarity I ever heard. Or at least it seemed like some of the greatest clarity I ever heard because I didn't expect Swearin' to have been so tight and hard-hitting. Maybe the disparity between expectation and reality is why typical adjectives such as "sharp", "dense", and "crunchy" somehow feel inadequate in describing the power of their riffs and solos.

Waxahatchee's breakthrough album, this year's Cerulean Salt, has been my go-to album for pretty much any occasion that doesn't involve other people. It soundtracks countless comatose walks to work at five- and six-in-the-morning. In addition to all of the times I want to listen to it, it fills the many quiet voids when I don't know what to listen to.

Waxahatchee was great, as expected, but I actually preferred Swearin'. I never thought that would have been the case. I didn't fully get into Swearin' until pretty close to showtime, and I'm still lukewarm on their second album, the much slower Surfing Strange. Swearin' were just that good. They didn't deplete the night's energy and leave Waxahatchee in a tough spot either; if anything, the crowd was still amped on Swearin'. But Waxahatchee's bedroom pop offered no release. You could feel the restless energy linger in the air, especially as the crowd chattered amongst itself, infiltrating - overtaking - what should have been extremely intimate moments.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Shows of 2013: Pere Ubu at the Biltmore Cabaret, December 15

Seeing a decrepit David Thomas, his gigantic frame slouched on a chair, ratty in suspenders, boots, and a trench coat, eyes mostly closed and slit-thin behind equally thin spectacles (could he even see anything through them?), reading from a lyric book whenever he required a prompt, characteristically (caricaturistically) spouting essentially sexist in 2013 in 2003 in well any time comments and stories and half-truths and bold- read: scrunch-faced lies, flanked by percussion and a single guitar that bent around, stabbed through, knotted, seesawed, played sonic tug-of-war with each other within the radioactive sphere of charged Theremin sounds, each note an atom on a collision course, until it was show's over get the fuck out of here fuck the opening band whatever they were called I don't give a shit, Ford Pier Vengeance Trio happily eat it with smiles only because it's David Thomas, who struggles to stand, achingly limps, surprised there was an immediate encore, mere feet in front of my eyes, was one of the most powerful musical experiences of my life.

Sunny Side of Angel Olsen

Who says Angel Olsen never smiles? ^_^

Angles, Shadows, Geometry

Couldn't you just draw Blixa Bargeld all day?

Best Shows of 2013: Martha Wainwright Tribute To Edith Piaf at the Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, November 2

Two Martha Wainwright sets for the price of one. During the first half of the night, Wainwright exclusively covered "rarer" songs by French national icon Edith Piaf. The second half featured Wainwright's own songs, mixed with some old family songs by her mother and aunt, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and a few more Piaf songs. Although Andrew Whiteman didn't join Martha this time, Thomas Bartlett, one of the best pianists I've seen, did.

Full review at Vancouver Weekly.

Best Shows of 2013: Rae Spoon at the Rickshaw Theatre, October 27

A frustrating tangle of miscommunication ended in one of the most surprisingly good shows I've seen. Based on a few songs, I thought Rae Spoon was an unadventurous electronic pop artist. There are plenty of electronic sounds on Spoon's latest album, My Prairie Home, and they are pretty adventurous for Spoon, but I was bright with glee to hear a majority of songs that leaned more towards drum-and-guitar indie pop. The Kingsgate Chorus, who joined Spoon for one of the night's final songs, made me wish I had the foresight to book off work that night. I still need to watch Chelsea McMullan's documentary My Prairie Home.

Full review at Vancouver Weekly.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Best Shows of 2013: Loretta Lynn at the Red Robinson Show Theatre, October 18

Given country legend Loretta Lynn’s age (81), she was probably at the top of my bucket list. She was everything I expected, from her glamourous dress to the way she talked, even to how early her show ended (at approx. 9:20, after fifty minutes).

Exhaustion forced Lynn to reschedule some shows halfway through her three-week tour. Considering her health (within the past two years, she had knee replacement surgery and was hospitalized with pneumonia), this not only could have been my last chance to see her, but it also could have been one of her last shows ever.

Full review at Vancouver Weekly.