The Month in (Alt) Rock: VERONICA FALLS, WAMPIRE/FOXYGEN/UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA, WIDOWSPEAK, ENGLISH BEAT, DIAMOND RINGS/OMD…and relax

It’s been an insane March (and beginning of April).

Nevermind the gigs last month that got the full-feature treatment: hanging out with Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould,  Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen and Django Django (exclusive interview coming soon)  in Toronto, Efterklang, Iceage and two amazing nights doing the dog with The Specials back in Vancouver. But there was so, so much more.  Yep, much more. Here’s a round up of the rest of the last month and a bit, BSR-stylee.

Boy-girl British indie pop from London-town, hit the poorly-lit Media Club stage on March 22nd. A thoroughly enjoyable set recallng 90s post-shoegaze, pre-Britpop with Roxanne, Marion, Patrick and James (below) playing through much of their new album Waiting for Something to Happen, and highlight “Found Love in a Graveyard” from their self-titled debut. And the graveyard was exactly where I wanted to be the next morning, however…

…after drinking wayyyyy too much at Vancouver’s Cobalt club, which is where I, Veronica Falls and a smattering of other messy patrons finished the night at their after-party. I blame the gin for everything except having a really rad conversation with Parisienne bassist Marion, whom ended up tripping the light fantastic with San Fran openers Brilliant Colors and her bandmates on the dance floor while I furnished everyone with whiskeys, beers or vodka tonics.

Once I got over the mortifying hangover and other Friday night shenanigans, I made my way back…to the exact same Media Club on Saturday, March 23rd. BECAUSE WHY NOT. FOXYGEN AND UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA again! This time, I was nudged to come early. Back in Toronto, Ruban from UMO had wanted to know if I’d seen their first-band opener (and Portland buddies) Wampire, and I hadn’t. So this time, I trekked early to check ‘em out.

Glad I did; Wampire kicked off what would eventually evolve into a triple-threat full-on party night. Being the last night of the tour for the three bands together, vodka flowed, pot wafted, and everyone hung ’round to see each others’ sets. Yay family vibes!

Ruban was right about Wampire; their twisted psychy classic rock was ace. But acest was their cover of Kraftwerk’s “Das Modell”. Core members Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps had a full band out with them, but the band got bigger, messier and more funnerer when they were joined by members of Foxygen and UMO by the end of the set.  Hear more Das Wampire on Soundcloud.

But soon…Foxygen next! Hmmmm. Back in Toronto, theirs was a messy, slightly annoying set. Too much buzz on the buzzband, not enough sting.  So…did they fare any better in Vancouver?

Yeah, actually, have to give it to them. Maybe it was the fact that the last night of tour also happened to be Sam France’s birthday, but Foxygen got loose in  YVR. Mugging per usual, France flounced about like a baby Jaggernaut while cohort Jonathan Rado kept the pace. By the end, with their three other bandmates, members of Wampire on stage and Ruban drunkenly playing the tambourine, it was like a pretty hipster houseparty. Alas, the party was soon over. A week or so later, the band would cancel its European festival dates over the “creative health” of the band.

“I’m drunk” said Ruban UMO partway into their set, and he was. And it was good. Joined by new, sweatband-wearing madman drummer Riley Geare, the band’s new album II has been sounding increasingly more epic with each show. On this night it reached a kind of enormous sozzled zenith. Drum solos, fucking around with amp feedback, thick delicious guitars are the norm now for UMO, here, Jacob Portrait’s basslines were super rich. “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” and “Monki” plus the smooth “So Good At Being In Trouble” are fantastic but the always-winner is the punishing “No Need For a Leader”. I’ve played this album more than any others this year. GO BUY.

And in keeping with the spirit of caring and sharing, Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado was invited on stage to play, too. But sorta failed at that and instead tried playing Ruban. It’s was a dorky moment but everyone else was playing with everyone else so why not them too?

“You’re the triumvirate tonight, Vancouver,” Ruban sayid, grinning and drunkenly, adorably chatty. “You’re crazy, sexy AND cool.” And he was right; we’re cool enough – rather, I’m cool/drunk enough – to shout out for a cover I’d seen them do in Toronto: Jay Reatard’s “My Shadow”, which turned into an ecstatic punk purge. BLISS. Afterwards, the bands all hung out in the empty bar; Foxygen’s drummer Sean made out with a girl at the bar while everyone Vine’d it and Ruban introduced me to a young lo-fi singer-songwritery guy I later fall (musically) hard for: Tobias Jesso Jr. Tobias is about to be produced by JR from Girls and we all end up talking about mutual connects. Listen out for him, folks. He’s making music that the next day, after hearing his demo, Foxygen called “the best we’ve heard” in ages, and Ruban UMO dubbed as “incredible.” I end up playing a demo he sends me about 9 times in a day.

So that was Saturday. Sunday, I needed recuperate. By Monday…

…I’m BACK at the same club for the third time in four nights. On Monday, March 25, the Media Club played home to Brooklyn’s latest Americana output: Widowspeak. Earnest, sweet, perfectly lovely – Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas (plus additional touring musicians) filled out the thin crowd with warm indie vibes.

Later that week? Oh nothing. I just hung out with UK ska legends the Specials for two days. And danced with Lynval while the band played “You’re Wondering Now.” No biggie. And so while we’re in the ska sorta mood, we may as well check out…

…The English Beat. And by “The English Beat” I really mean Dave Wakeling, no Ranking Roger, and a group of  dead-eyed rent-a-session-musicians really trying their best in a half-filled venue (called VENUE) on April 2nd. Note: I LOVED THE BEAT.

Yes I know Wakeling is a dude, and yes he was trying really hard with the half-filled, half-assed crowd but The Beat aka “Just Dave Wakeling”, sorta crapped on my memories a bit. I know they didn’t MEAN to, but they just did. “Hands Off She’s Mine” sounded like wedding band slosh and one of their best songs “Twist & Crawl” was reduced to a puddle of meh. Sure I sang loud to the General Public version of “Tenderness” and YES I danced my arse off to “Mirror in the Bathroom” but ultimately, all I got from that gig (aside from the accidental backstage pass that I passed on using) was a case of the “wow, the Specials were so much betters”. Sorry, Dave, I did love you. But you cannot do “Ranking Full Stop” without Ranking, full stop.

So while we’re talking about love, let’s talk about a friend: Diamond Rings, aka John Gregory O’Regan opening for – since we’re on the revivalist track – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on April 5th at the Commodore Ballroom. Playing to a sold-out crowd, you could tell the guy was knackered out, but still plowed through with all his spiky, angular moves. And new album Free Dimensional is sounding better with every live outing.  And you know what else is awesome about Diamond Rings?

The fact that he looks like Max Headroom circa 1:53. Which is awesome. Because Max Headroom was awesome.

And look! It’s Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark! Starting the first show of their tour in a city that loved them last time, they kicked off with a new track from their latest album English Electric, called “Decimal”. But in typical warm Midlands fashion, Andy McCluskey cracked after: “Don’t worry, they won’t all be new songs.” In fact, the set was as you’d expect, filled with hits like “Forever Live & Die”, “If You Leave”, “Joan of Arc”, “So in Love”, “Locomotion” and on. It was like being back in a John Hughes film with the soundtrack on stage, and dancing like your dad.

It’s nice that some things don’t change. Including the encore: “Electricity”‘ – the same last song in the encore from the last show  in Vancouver – and it was still electric. As was a  month of gig-going. Good thing I had, what, a night to recuperate before the next one? Better go take a nap. Rock and roll, friends. ROCK AND ROLL.\m/

Posted by Mikala   @   12 April 2013

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