October 9, 2010 – It was a drizzly night as we arrived at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The weather had only just turned sour, but Vancouverites seemed to have already resigned themselves to their rain-filled fate for the next several months. I for one was okay with that, because the change in the weather signalled a move from backyards, BBQs, and beaches into the indoor spaces of the city. The bill for the evening captured this sentiment pretty well, a kind of anger-tinged celebration of fall’s arrival. Or was it a celebratory-tinged protest of fall’s arrival? Either way this three-way between acts on the avant-garde of Canadian (post-)rock – Japandroids, Ladyhawk and PS I Love You – gave us good reason to let off a little steam, even if it was just the moisture in our damp clothes evaporating.

The Rickshaw Theatre really was a theatre at one point, although unfortunately not in any grand sense of the word, a more recent victim of the rise of the cineplex, or perhaps the unfortunate circumstances of its infamous environs. The seats at the front of the theatre have been removed, making room for both a large stage and a decently-sized standing area which was not even half full when PS I Love You took the stage. The set seemed like the perfect prelude to Vancouver-natives, Japandroids. Both acts rock a similar brand of loud, yet thoughtfully soundscaped rock. Both acts are meat and potatoes combinations of drums and distorted guitar that manage to sound like so much more. And both acts are relatively recent additions to the Canadian musical landscape, with Japandroids debut album being a little over a year old, and PS I Love You dropping theirs earlier this month.

PS I Love You – Breadends

Ladyhawk was actually the question mark for me in this line-up. I had their latest album, 2008’s Shots, on heavy rotation when it came out, but with no records released since, and the bulk of their catalogue leaning a lot more towards a Dinosaur Jr. sound than the two edgier acts they were sandwiched between, I was not sure how it would turn out. In the end, they used their two-man advantage so that their set packed a lot more punch than I expected. They rose to the occasion, but despite being one of two local acts on stage that night, it never really seemed like this was their audience.

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— , October 15, 2010    2 Comments

Attack in Black

Given that I haven’t been out to a show since Mother Mother back in October,  I felt a need to get back out and experience some music. The plan was two shows in two nights at Call the Office, Attack in Black and Ladyhawk on Thursday, Small Sins and the Secret Machines on Friday. Contrary to my usual live experiences, I was not familiar with any of the bands playing outside a couple of songs, minus Small Sins.

Thursday was more of a traditional rock and roll night. The riffs were catchy and the drinks were flowing freely. I saw Attack in Black sometime last year when they were supporting Wintersleep. Of course, not knowing who they were and arriving near the end of their set limited the experience. After listening to Young Leaves many times since then, I decided it was worth a gamble to make the trek out to see them. I don’t usually see bands on the strength of a single song, but I needed some rockin’ in my blood after missing out on the Bronx last week. The band drew quite a rowdy crowd, and delivered a solid set of tunes, heavily loaded with material from their forthcoming album. No, I didn’t get Young Leaves, but that was by no means a dealbreaker. Highlights include someone from opener Shotgun Jimmie (presumably Jimmie) hopping on stage for a song, and the band taking shots offered by the crowd. The experience inspired me to delve further into their catalogue. I even tried to get a T-shirt, but was denied by a lack of sizes. Medium dudes, keep stock of medium!

Attack in Black – Marriage

Ladyhawk took the stage shortly after, and I was even less familiar with them, but they impressed me. The crowd thinned after Attack in Black finished, as it did last time, but those that stayed were treated to some excellent music. Midway through the set, the drummer started calling for shots. One wonders whether he was in need of a drink or promoting their latest album. Either way, drinking and rocking continued. As the set finished, lead singer Duffy Driediger offered the following advice: “Don’t get fat, stay in school, and don’t do drugs.” Were truer words ever spoken?

Ladyhawk – STHD

Toronto readers are advised to attend the show tonight at the Horseshoe Tavern, if you weren’t there last night. Or even if you were.

After recovering from the previous night, Friday brought Small Sins and the Secret Machines. Braving a rainy Friday night, I continued my self-dubbed rock-a-thon.
When I last saw Small Sins a few years ago, they had just changed their name from the Ladies and Gentlemen due to legal reasons. A simple name change really hurt the band, confirmed by resident hand-clapper Kevin Hilliard at the merch table. The band had built a sizeable following that seemingly disappeared after the change. While the crowd was far smaller than the Ladies and Gentlemen days, the band was as tight as ever. The white band uniform is long gone, which was sad to see, but anyone who enjoys well done indie synth rock severely missed out.  This is a band that really should be bigger.

Small Sins – Too Much to Lose

I recall the Secret Machines being hyped up quite a bit years ago, and given that Brooklyn bands rarely play jolly-old London town, I figured they were worth a shot. The Secret Machines must be credited for putting on the best light show I’ve ever seen at a venue like Call the Office. Instead of utilizing the simple floodlights above the stage, the band brought in their own lighting system, with stunning end results. The stage was bathed in dynamic colour and fog for the entire set, adding a visual flourish to the prog-rock stylings of the band. I feel like knowing the band better would’ve really helped the experience of the show. Until the one-two punch finale of Nowhere Again and First Wave Intact, I was hypnotized by the band, and in my tired state I was hardly rocking as much as I should have. But of course, finishing with the two songs I actually knew snapped me back into reality and capped off the night nicely.

Secret Machines – Nowhere Again

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— , November 15, 2008    1 Comment