Thursday, December 12, 2013
I think Peace are one of the most wildly overrated Vancouver bands. The praise they garner mystifies me: Much of it comes from their close friends - other local bands, whom I love, including White Lung and Nü Sensae - but I'm still perplexed because none of them praise their other friends' bands as much as they praise Peace. Apathy and politely loose post-punk has never felt less inspired or genuine.
Combating Peace's blackhole charisma were the hyper-charged Thermals. They weren't bad live - they weren't sloppy, they played a standard-lengthed set, they appeased the crowd with encores - it just turned out I wasn't as big a fan of them as I thought. Even though I knew their reputation for generic power-pop, I expected their live energy to compensate. But for whatever reason, it just didn't. Even the hits, which are often worth all the duds, felt depressed in the homogenous mire.
If I was a diehard fan, I'd have eaten up the Thermals' set just like... everyone else at the club: Again, the ticket stub should have come with a "HIGH VOLTAGE" warning. But as the show turned out, I can see why The Body, the Blood, the Machine is really the only Thermals album casual fans may gave a shit about.
Read my full review at Vancouver Weekly, and maybe tell me I was wrong about having been tactful.
My first time seeing Angel Olsen, one of my favourite musicians of 2012. She lived up to all of my expectations and was the first good show I saw at the Media Club. It was also the first time I saw people sit on the floor during a headliner, but because they were in a focused hush.
The following excerpt is taken from my review of this show for Vancouver Weekly:
Up until Angel Olsen, I was starting to think the Media Club was cursed for me. My first time there was the only time I walked out of a show. I nearly had to leave during Chelsea Wolfe and King Dude because my mildly sore throat from the night before blossomed into a full-on fever during the show; simply standing still was painful, especially as I fought off the chills while wearing two layers and a jacket indoors. And Terry Malts, one of my favourite bands in 2012, only managed to pull off a lukewarm set at the Media Club despite their Ramones-ripping pop-punk.
“Luck” would have it that I walked into the Media Club this past Sunday with a killer chest cold, the same one that forced me to skip Nervous Talk and Crystal Swells on Record Store Day (if you were at Neptoon Records, you know how suffocatingly hot the store got during and after the Evaporators). But the St. Louis-born, Chicago-based Angel Olsen’s debut full-length album Half Way Home was one of my favourite releases of 2012, so there was no way I was letting anything stop me from seeing her live.
Angel Olsen kicked off week three of her current tour at the Media Club. It’s her first West Coast tour, but more significantly, it’s her first tour with a backing band. And though she’s expressed uncertainty as to where her writing and performing will go now that she’s working with a band, that was part of the excitement as much for me as I’m sure it is for her.
I don’t know how long Olsen’s been playing with drummer Joshua Jaeger, bassist Stewart Bronaugh and cellist Danah Olivetree, but they sounded so right together that I never would have thought they formed just for this tour. By the second song, “Drunk and with Dreams”, Olsen showed that with this new outfit, she could rock. The hardest rocking of all (and most altered from the recorded version) was “The Sky Opened Up”, my surprise hit of the night.
There’s always a question of whether or not voices that are usually only heard in intimate settings, especially voices as humanly fragile as Olsen’s, can be sustained when belted out. I was happy to hear that as loud and distinct as the bass, drums and cello were, Olsen’s voice rose above them all. The strength of her voice really showed when she sang acoustic over her own electric guitar and by how loudly her voice took over the room even when she stood a fair distance from her mic.
Olsen’s only mildly unimpressive moments were actually the two songs I’d looked forward to the most, the more uptempo “The Waiting” and “Sweet Dreams”. But they were only the slightest bit unimpressive because they were the only songs she didn’t give a unique, live band spin.
Half Way Home marked the beginning of a breakthrough year for Angel Olsen in 2012. Her rise only continues in 2013 with the January release of her new Sleepwalker 7” and her recent signing to Indiana label Jagjaguwar. If you hadn’t heard of Angel Olsen before, you surely will soon. And there’s a good chance when that happens that one of Olsen’s final lines of the night will resonate with you the way it resonated with me: as I left the Media Club, although I didn’t couldn’t identify the song, I found myself repeating her last words in my head: “I’ll never forget you all of my life.”
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I shouldn’t complain about free shows, but Half Chinese at the Astoria wasn’t even worth the $2.10 I spent on transit or the ~hour-and-a-half I spent in transit and enduring a shitty opener (form of dude at a laptop).
Half Chinese’s We Were Pretending To Be was one of my favourite albums of 2012. I’d missed them multiple times, so I was stoked to finally see them. But they played for about fifteen minutes, and most of it sounded like they were tuning. There was scarcely a string of recognizable notes.
Half Chinese still play often enough, but their fifteen-minute sound-check that cost me time and very little money was enough of a rip-off to strongly dissuade me from ever seeing them again.
Visit their Bandcamp page to listen to ALL the sounds I expected to hear at the Astoria.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
That Chelsea Wolfe with King Dude was one of the worst shows I saw this year was no fault of theirs. The sorts of black magical forces they tamper with were exactly the ones that seemed to have been at work against them. She was sick. Members of King Dude were sick. I was sick. A full-on flu hit me at the show. My joints ached. It hurt to even stand still. I fluctuated wildly between suffocatingly hot and shiveringly cold, even though I wore two layers and a jacket. All of that befell me on top of usual cold symptoms. No way was I able to focus on Wolfe's or Dude's cauldron-brewed doom-folk. Still, I didn't have it as badly as one person in the audience who passed out and had to be taken away in an ambulance.
Chelsea Wolfe with King Dude continued my Media Club Curse (see paragraph three of my Angel Olsen review). In hindsight, the show was no big loss: Despite heavily getting into Nick Cave and back into Swans and Michael Gira this past week, I'm mostly past Gothic music, these days.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Surely enough, her voice was as huge as I expected, and she had a personality to match. One of the best parts of this show was that Andrew Whiteman, one of the core members of Broken Social Scene, who plays under the solo moniker Apostle of Hustle, filled in on lead guitar (his band with his wife, AroarA, opened). But it wasn’t great just because Whiteman played with Martha; it was great because his lightly ocean spray, lightly Latin-influenced guitaring came through in her songs, and being the underrated guitarist he is, his style totally worked.
This show was also my first published music review. Read the entire piece at Vancouver Weekly.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
From André Alexis' newest novella A (BookThug, September 2013). I really like this idea, but unfortunately, under no circumstance can I endure people who talk about themselves incessantly. Perhaps my troubles aren't great enough.
Read an excerpt from A at BookThug.