Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Holy Fuck, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Clips, Richards on Richards, Vancouver, February 25

Everything was coming up 'me' on Monday. For some reason I was in an unfathomably good mood, I had a relatively gentle day at work, and I'd newly discovered the joys of hypemachine (thanks for the assist, sis), which lets me listen to new Stephen Malkmus songs in a neverending loop, and around lunchtime the Sasquatch lineup was posted, and it was of supreme quality (The Cure, the Malk, Destroyer, Flight of the Conchords and Christmas on Mars, the most eagerly awaited piece of bad cinema this side of the next Rocky or Rambo remake).

Actually, I'm gonna digress here. If I was ever asked to compete on the television quiz show Mastermind, I think my area of specialist knowledge would probably be "Charming anecdotes about how nuts the Flaming Lips are" (that or "Jarvis Cocker's haircuts"). And one of my favourite Lips moments is from the Fearless Freaks movie, where they admit they had to halt scriptwriting for the film because they weren't sure if Stephen Drozd was going to kill himself with his heroin addiction or not - and as he played the lead character, that would have been a problem.

My other favourite thing about the Flaming Lips is that at special shows, they have a goddamn UFO, and they're bringing said UFO to Sasquatch. Given that the last time they played out there it was the most surreal experience of my life (doing a karaoke singalong of "War Pigs" at 2 in the morning after a torrential hailstorm while pouring fake blood on yourself is exactly why I wish Wayne Coyne was my dad (I don't really mean that, dad)).

But anyway, enough digression. It should be relatively clear that I was in a pretty good mood. So I returned home from work, and was contemplating my evening, when I decided on the spur of the moment that I was gonna go to the Holy Fuck/A Place to Bury Strangers show that I'd been loosely contemplating. And I'm remarkably glad I did.

I was surprised to note that I haven't actually been to Richards yet this year, which is a shame, because it's my favourite venue in town, and I normally end up sneaking along there about once every two weeks. It's got a pretty sweet upstairs area, where if you're early enough and smart enough, you can stand behind and above the band, and I've never waited more than 3 minutes for a drink at the little bar tucked in the back corner. It is a happy place.

I rolled in at 9.30ish to a surprisingly full Richards - I'm not hyperfamiliar with either of the headliners, but the venue was a good 2/3 full. I walked in to a band playing, so I ended up playing the good old-fashioned guessing game to deduce how far through the bill they were (tips for new players - see how many drum kits are still stored at the back of stage). In this case, there were two, which meant that I was watching the last half of the set by the Clips, who seemed a competent little shoegazey/stomp-pop - the one song that sticks in the memory had a neat little ooey-ooey-oo refrain. As I normally do during support bands (and lets face it, during headliners as well) I started scanning the faces of those around me - and noticed two things - that they were undeniably attentive (for a support band) and almost exclusively male, and in their late 20s or early 30s. I made a mental note to suggest that shows by art-noise bands were awesome places to meet your future husband, until I moved across the room, and found that the other side of the room was predominantly female. I don't really know where this anecdote is going, but for some reason (i.e. alcohol) I thought it was a fascinating point last night).

A Place To Bury Strangers (henceforth aPtBs - I love bands that you can acronymise) were not nearly as much like Joy Division as I had prepared myself for- all the stuff I've heard from them thus far has been characterized by the singers deep voice and clipped delivery, a la Mr Curtis (and possibly the fact that nearly everyone in the world seems to have a Joy Division obsession right about now). They sounded a little more like a more interesting, faster Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (and note that I'm a child of the mainstream (as much as I don't like to admit it), so while I imagine there's a bunch of bands that are much better comparisons, I'm gonna have to stick with what I know).

I believe there was dancing, and plenty of toe-tapping, the bassist had one of the prettiest Thunderbird basses I've seen in a while (actually, is there such a thing as a non-pretty thunderbird bass? It could quite possibly be one of the most aesthetically pleasing pieces of machinery ever) and aPtBS were a whole bunch of fun. But they had nothing on Holy Fuck, who are from Toronto and play instrumental electronic music, but there's nary a computer in sight. There was a sizeable delay while one of their mixers caught fire, and was replaced with a different one. The band were most apologetic, but once they got started, it was worth the wait.

With a stage setup that features a keyboard set up across from a mixing desk, with a drummer and bassist in the middle, the band play off each other right throughout, and they're obviously pretty excited to be up there playing, the smile doesn't leave their faces. There's a rotating cast of quirky assorted noisemaking devices, from a child's microphone, which delivered some incredibly distorted vocals reminiscent of the otherworldly squeaks in that Battles single that gets posted everywhere, to one of those keyboards with a tube that you blow into to generate the noise (which I last saw in the Los Campesinos! video for the International Tweexcore Underground.

All this enthusiasm and quirkiness can obscure the fact that they play hip, danceable, electronic music, and after a couple of tracks the toe-tapping metamorphosed into full scale dancing - unheard of for Vancouver on a Monday night. For a moment, it felt like a Girl Talk show without the frat boys and retro samples. So after an hour of this, a dig at how bad their Calgary show was the previous evening (the second best way to endear yourself to a Vancouver crowd, is to tell them they're better than the crowd in Calgary - the best way? - compare it to Toronto) a delightfully brief, and enthustiastically filled pre-encore break, and you had one fucking good time. Nice work, sirs.

show of the year thus far. But they'll face some stiff competition from the Lips in May)

I had about a thousand things I wanted to add to this in my head last night, but I'm pretty sure that the drunk fairy came and took all my original thoughts away, and didn't even have the decency to leave me a quarter in return. bitch.

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