Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Plants and Animals, The Media Club, Vancouver

This blog has been a little neglected of late (though not as comprehensively neglected as my two other blogs, ayearinsex.blogspot.com and ayearinnutritiousbreakfasts.blogspot.com (and you can keep your idle speculation about which one of those gets updated most often to yourself, thankyou very much), mostly due to a nasty case of the end-of-winter lurgy. If it weren't for antipodean folk going to outstanding shows, this would be a paltry exercise in web-publishing (and don't think I don't expect a review of the Kiss/Alice Cooper/Wilco weekender - you know who you are).

So, in between watching Caddyshack (awesome), Caddyshack 2 (stick to the original) and the Breakfast Club (and practising my Emilio Estevez dance), and groaning on my deathbed, I've been nurturing the seeds of a desperate yearning to get out of the house and see some shows. And it's weeks like this one that make Vancouver a fantastic place to be - there's 5 shows I could conceivably see myself at over the next four nights, and I think I'll end up at least 3 of them for sure (and I'm so very very excited for YACHT on Thursday night - and the so-called-"Buzz" band he's playing with).

But all that enthusiasm was very nearly rent asunder by my first can of Colt 45. While I may have waxed lyrical in these very pages about the joys of said beverage previously, my initial excitement was tempered by the immediate realization that it is nigh on undrinkable. Even the faintest taste makes me gag, and I'm beginning to realize why the last time I drank it, they were giving it away for free in a Chicago nightclub (in other news, somehow I'm on Colt 45's mailing list, and they keep sending me mail asking me to submit stories of nights I've been retarded on their product, to be turned into comic format, a la this. I've definitely got a couple for them.). So after two cans (I could throw it away, but I'm yet to sink to the level where I can happily throw away alcohol), I was feeling sick to the stomach, but I washed it down with some whiskey, and merrily stepped out to the Media Club.

Support for the night was billed as No Gold, although I'm not sure if the band that showed up actually were - I swear I heard them introduce themselves as something else involving an acronym. I could have misheard, as the young man delivering the banter was mumbling, and while I got the impression that what he was saying was quite witty, and he'd been working on it for weeks, but I couldn't understand a word. Enunciate, young sir, enunciate. Anyway, what I can tell you about the mystery possibly-no-gold is that they sported at least one cardigan (my father called me (in an international toll-call, no less) to tell me there'd been a feature on the NZ national news about cardigans are hip again, only to hang up. My mother then called back ten minutes later to tell me that they'd actually won the lottery, and that my father was supposed to relate that information, but he was too excited about the cardigan thing, and forgot), engaged in plenty of instrument swapping, and belted out six or seven country-tinged shambling rock and roll numbers of varying degrees of quality. They employed one of my top 5 stage moves, of having the singer grab a drumstick and lock down a beat on the splash cymbal while the drummer played, so points need to be awarded there, but they also let some of the rhythm section wigouts play out a little too long, which saw those same points being removed.

I'll admit, as I often do, that I wasn't paying much attention to the support, as I was belting out conversational gold/previous untold levels of obnoxiousness. There's something about the media club that leads me to crystalline perception of the human condition, which I then relate to the unfortunate folk in my immediate vicinity. I decided this evening that the reason that tall men have much better taste in music than short men (I was one of the shorter folk at the MC, and I'm well above the national average - compared with being at the Bourbon a couple of weeks prior, where I stood head and shoulders above the other gentlemen (if you can call them that) in attendance) is that the short man's desire for acceptedness sees him jumping on any bandwagon that comes past, while the tall man's greater confidence means he has more inclination to go out on a limb and enjoy something a little riskier, but eventually more fulfilling. Or something like that.

I also decided that dying at 27 could be my ticket to rocknroll superstardom, a piece of news that any short folk reading this will be applauding heartily. Having said that, I do need to finish the two songs that may or may not become as universal as I Wanna Hold Your Hand, but I've got six months left to work that out. Incidentally, any ladies out there who have been holding yourselves back, you may also have only six months, so I'd go for it if I were you.

So after probably unknowingly making a dozen conversational faux-pas, as Plants and Animals came out, I was mentally sharpening my literary knives. I've been waiting to see a band that I definitively hate, or at the very least have bad facial hair, so I can rip them mercilessly to shreds. Everyone knows it's a thousand times more fun to write a rippingly bad review than a good one - for instance, this is still the best record review of all time.

And things were looking good for me. The band sport the kind of patchy facial hair beloved of French-Canadians everywhere, and the lead singer's plaintive Kings of Leon-esque wail had me eagerly thumbing my thesaurus for synonyms for 'apocryphal'.

But alas, my enthusiasm was short lived. As I was prepared to write them off as yet another country-rock MOR 3-piece, these Montreal natives showed me up. The KOL wail softened into a soulful tenor, and was joined in charming 3-part harmony by the other two members of the band. Some of the rowdier songs dispensed with the bass entirely, running a guitar-guitar-drums lineup to great effect, and at times the sheer noise being produced belies the limited lineup - at times it sounded like the Polyphonic Spree were up there, but the softer songs were executed with tenderness, thoughfulness and care, and provided both a neat contrast and a chance for a breather.

The encore came and went, and was enthusiastically requested, and they finished up with Bye Bye Bye, a song so good it deserves repeated listens from everyone reading this. The live version posted above differs considerably from the recorded version I've heard previously, which can get a little too Coldplay in parts. Firstly there's no piano, everything runs a little bit faster, and the harmonies are more shouted than sung. It sounds like a bastard child of the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Beach Boys, only to break down halfway through into Exile-era Stones, with the Flying Burrito Brothers loitering somewhere in the background. Seriously, it's that good, and everyone in the crowd left into the wintry (1 degree in March? are you serious?) night with a spring in the step. Good work, young sirs.

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