Thursday, July 01, 2010

Friends, Thai Thi and a free bike

My first show of the night (after I pried myself away from old Big Bang Theory episodes on my computer) was Deerhoof at Central United Church. My friend Jordie showed up from a barbecue he attending with a new free bike that had been given to him. Apparently he has really good bike karma. We tasked him with leaving the bike unlocked as much as possible to see how long it takes before his new wheels are stolen. I'm not sure if he believes that he will still have it by the end of the weekend, but I have faith in Calgary and I want to prove it's safer for bikes than Vancouver. I didn't catch local veteran Lorrie Matheson opening the show, although it would have been neat to see him play the church, especially since he had Scott Munro and Chris Dadge of Bug Incision as part of his backing band - seriously how awesome are those guys. Lorrie is one of those musicians who has been playing forever and has earned people's respect because he's really good and also, very kind. But I have never seen him live because whenever he's playing a show, I always think that I will catch him the next time. I really need to see him play very soon.

Deerhoof were their usual charming and quirky selves. Having seen Deerhoof before, I knew what to expect. Satomi Matsuzaki has boundless energy and does some weird dancing, Greg Saunier is his crazy drummer self and the band puts on a great show. This time was a little different as Ed Rodriguez joined the band since I saw them last. I'm not sure how much the dynamic of the band has changed, but for the most part, it seemed like they were four separate entities that happened to be onstage with each other, barring a few short moments of interaction. There wasn't as much Satomi dancing as I've seen in the past, maybe because she played bass for most of the band's tight set. And the set seemed to have a lot more interesting instrumental work than I've seen them do in the past. Greg stepped out from behind the drums and made a point to mention that this is the band's first time in Calgary, a statement that was preceded by a long and awkwardly paused bit of talking wherein he claimed to have stage fright while talking to the crowd. It was tough to tell if it was a put-on or if he really is that awkward. it was kind of endearing.

Hunger pangs were calling and some of my festival mates were in dire need of nutrition so I took them to Thai Tai. Being Vietnamese sub experts, they were quick to inform me that Calgary prices are double those of Vancouver Vietnamese subs, but apparently what we lack in cheapness, we make up for in size. Calgary subs are double the size of Vancouver's - take that former hometown!
When we got to Broken City, I was surprised to see how few people were there. I guess I thought that since the owner of the club put on the festival, his home show would be packed. We arrived in time to catch Vancouver band B-Lines play their noisy energetic punk. Apparently the Dyck brothers (vocalist Ryan and drummer Bruce) have a bit of a reputation in Vancouver, and not just for being really tall. Ryan is a great frontman, engaging the crowd and stalking the stage. And he's really tall. The band's set began to fill up as it went on and I think they won the crowd over, but I had to run so I could catch Chain and the Gang at the Legion.
One thing I've noticed about Sled Island is that it seems like everyone is riding bikes to the shows. Good work Calgarians - you go with your environmentally friendly selves.

Chain's set was delayed by an extra 15 minutes, which meant I was able to catch a bit of Brooklyn's Golden Triangle. This might be one of my new favourite band's - thanks Sled Island. With elements of surf, garage and other types of awesome from decades of music past, Golden Triangle was a really fun band to watch. I described them to a friend as being like Alison Mosshart of The Kills and The Dead Weather cloning herself so there are three of her and they all sang in harmony together and are badass. Depending on how you feel about her, this may make you think the band is either really rad, or really annoying. I choose AWESOME!
Have I mentioned yet that it was INSANELY hot inside the Legion? Because it was/is.
Chain and the Gang was sweet. The set was packed and most of my friends were there so I'm guessing that while his name may not mean much to the general public, Svenonius is a mega-celebrity to intelligent music fans. So much so that when he was wooing my friend's girlfriend during the set with some erstwhile serenades, he thought it was cool and a badge of honour.
And now a word from Whitney: For those lucky enough to catch Ian Svenonius and his newest funky garage group Chain and the Gang at the packed Legion upstairs lounge should consider themselves fortunate. Svenonius made it a theme to remind his audience that he, and implicitly, his audience is “privileged”. This is true not only because the former Nation of Ulysses and Make-Up singer Svenonius and his gang put on a stellar audience-participation-required set but as in past projects, political and sociological themes have tended to be a central theme. This was again the case last night at the legion. All of us are privileged to be able to go to a festival and see great bands all week long! Svenonius made sure we didn’t forget it and made us dance all at the same time.

People crowded around the band in the cozy atmosphere that is the upstairs legion. Some on top of tables and chairs and even some of the opening bands’ guitar amplifiers (watch where you stash your stuff bands!) Everyone in the room found a dance surface to get down on – whether it was people shimmying on table tops or even Svenonius climbing up top of the PA system and onto the bar itself (for this he apologized to those that might end up eating off the bar, but claimed he has really clean shoes – Svenonius only walks on the cleanest parts of the sidewalks, never the cracks.)

For a lot of festival goers, Chain and the Gang is a huge draw. Svenonius has been keeping it real in the music scene since the late 80s. His bands have been incredibly successful as far as independent punky garage acts go. Sled Island was smart to book the band for three shows during the festival’s four days. Those that missed the band last night hopefully caught them at the Republik this afternoon or will see them at Broken City at around 1 am (Broken City standard time). Missing Chain and the Gang would be a definite Sled Island faux pas.

I took a little break after the Chain set, mainly because how do you top that?I caught most of The Duchess and the Duke's set. This band seemed to be very popular with other bands, who showed up in sort-of droves. Their songs were slow and melancholic and a good soundtrack for a conversation about sexy musicians and South by Southwest. They sounded like basement music, the kind of stuff that you would put on while lounging around and daydreaming, but bittersweetly. It was a nice palate cleanser, but a little too slow for a night that still had some steam left in it.

The night finished with a muggy experience at the Beat Route office party, and a walk to my car at 3am. Yay for Day 1. Day 2 will be a long one.

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