Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Los Campesinos, You Say Party! We Say Die!, The Parenthetical Girls, The Plaza, Vancouver, June 1, 2008

gareth!Things are getting kinda ridiculous - it's been exactly a month since I updated this blog, and I've got a backlog of 11 shows to write about, all of which I have incredibly charming and wonderful things to write about (or not - does anyone really wanna read a clumsily assembled argument about why baseball is better than basketball, and therefore, rocknroll is better than dance music?).

But because I've run out of excuses, and because I've already seen the episode of Beauty and the Geek that I'm currently sitting in front of (and that is a show I could totally excel on), I should probably get the feet wet again. And you'll be pleased to know that democracy is, in fact dead, because despite asking for submissions on which show review to write first, I've gone with something completely different entirely.

Sunday night began with an excursion to see my favourite band of the past 9 months, Los Campesinos!. I've had a little bit of a Los Camps! problem since someone pointed my to their Myspace page in January 2007, and while I can see how you could find the male singer's voice annoying, and the glockenspiel-fueled wall of noise is a matter of personal taste, their boy/girl charm, lyrical wit, punctuational appropriateness and Pavement-referencing awesomeness had me hooked from the first, well, hook.

The attraction soon turned into an obsession, which this year saw me purchase two copies of their debut LP, Hold On Now, Youngster, one downloaded from iTunes, and another physical copy, just because I wanted the artwork (downloaded music is so aesthetically unsatisfying, even with the fancy graphics on my iPod). The record has been keeping me in oh-so-witty facebook statuses for the last 3 months (example - "G-there were conversations about which Breakfast Club you'd be - I'd be the one that dies A- no one dies G- well then what's the point?.”) and accompanying me on late night walks home, much to the chagrin of the unfortunate folk who live close enough to the granville street bridge to hear me singing as I walk across it at 4 in the morning.

So, like a 14-year old girl going to a Fall Out Boy show, I was lined up outside the Plaza just a tick after 7pm, with the other 14-year old girls, who probably also like Fall Out Boy (on that point I'm guessing, but the two bands aren't that far apart). Being an all ages show, I'd come prepared, by getting drunk much much earlier in the afternoon, which was a worthwhile endeavour, as there was nary a drink to be had in the Plaza (surely they could open the upstairs bar and just keep the kids out - not that I want to seem like a crotchety old drunk).

Supporting this evening, and on the rest of the tour (and who I suspect were unceremoniously bumped to a ridiculous 7.30pm time slot by the other support band) were The Parenthetical Girls, out of Portland, Or. Featuring a lead singer that resembled the guy from Criminal Minds that dresses nerdy on the show, but that you know is probably a male model in real life (IMDB check - turns out I was right), a moustachioed gentleman in a vaudevillian striped jacket, and a pretty wee thing playing keyboard, they kicked off with the singer wending his way through the crowd to sing the opening number. Like a less dancy Of Montreal (the comparison could possibly attributed to the singer's effeminate stage presence), they shimmied through a series of tunes, that I wish I'd been paying more attention to (there seemed to be an outstanding amount of instrument swapping), and had the audacity to claim that this was "the most punctuationally outstanding bill they'd been on", but I was slightly distracted by the fact that Gareth Campesinos was standing in front of me.

Like the aforementioned 14 year old girl, I was desperately wracking my brain for something, witty, charming, and knowledgeable to drop in to casual conversation, eliciting an invitation to come backstage and drink their contraband alcohol (part of me wanted to meet the band, but most of me was just getting really thirsty by this point). So, after 3 songs of such deliberation, the Parenthetical Girls finished, and it was my time. So I stepped up, and delivered my line:

"So, what time do you guys go on?"
"About 9.30"

After which he gave me a look that said "I pity you for being a clumsy fan-boy, but I also understand, because I've done that too".

After that, it was time to drink, so we nipped across the road for a quick pint, stopping first to purchase a t-shirt from the drummer, and then do a complete about face as I walked outside and the bassist was standing out there alone smoking. Did I stop, and invite her across the road for a drink, or say something witty? Nope. Instead I decided to stare at her for a couple of seconds, before turning around again to continue crossing the road.

After the interlude, we returned to the second headliner, You Say Party! We Say Die!, who are a Vancouver live staple, that I'm yet to have the pleasure of experiencing.

They began with a quick warm up stretch, and a quick bout of call and response (you say! we say!) and launched into a multi-instrument, high energy spree of pop songs. The dude with the emo haircut danced angularly, and I found myself shaking along, but I again found myself distracted. For the rest of Los Campesinos! had decided that next to me would be a great place to stand and watch the band. LC! and YSP!WSD! toured Europe together last year, and the two bands obviously hit it off, as the kids from Los Campesinos! had set up shop not far from the front of stage. Also, they had alcohol, although they weren't sharing. I stood on Aleksandra Campesinos' toe at one point, during a bout of overenthusiastic shimmying, and she apologized to me, which I thought was a nice touch.

Los Camps! were invited up on stage to play and sing along during one of YSP!'s final numbers, and between the two bands, there were about 12 people on stage, clapping hands and singing songs, and it looked and sounded pretty good. Next time I see You Say Party! We Say Die!, I'm going to have to make a point of paying more attention.

Los Campesinos! proper hit the stage next, and by this point I'd worked myself into a fairly feverish fit of anticipation. The drummer, who looks like a 16 year old child, stripped off his shirt within 15 seconds of being on stage, to reveal a 16 year old's body (not that I'm in any position to be casting aspersions on others' pectoral physique), and the other 6 members assumed their positions.They kicked off with the shouted 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 intro to "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats", and a sizeable portion (which in vancouver, translates to roughly 30%) of the crowd start jiggling and pogoing in time. The primary strengths of the LC! sound are all quite nicely encapsulated in this one tune - from the off-key shout-singing of Gareth's verses, the sugary cooing of Aleksandra's choruses, and the wall of guitar/glockenspiel/violin sound in betwee, coupled with some wtf lyrics that sound much too intelligent for a 3 minute dance pop song ("Singing I see songs in shapes and colours/Like nuclear physics or pottery ovens").

After a few songs it became apparent that things weren't going too well on the sound front - half the stage couldn't hear anything through their monitors, which means they were pretty much playing blind, and there were a couple of mis-steps that were probably due to this. The singer quipped "when you go home and blog about this, make sure you mention that we couldn't hear ourselves". Consider it done.
Otherwise, pretty much every song on "Hold On Now, Youngster", got a showing, along with the International Tweexcore Underground. Their outstanding rendition of Pavement's Frontwards was prefaced with "hi we're Los Campesinos!, and this next song isn't one of ours, which is probably a good thing - it's by a band called Pavement". I wanted to grab the 14 year old kids by their collars and shout "Pavement are the best band in the universe, look them up, appreciate them, and then appreciate the fact that LC! took a middling EP b-side and turned it into an anthemic call to arms. So much style that it's wasted, indeed.

The main set finished up with a stirring rendition of "You Throw Parties! We Throw Knives!", featuring another on stage appearance from You Say Party! We Say Die!, before disappearing backstage. They got called back for an encore, and I thought they were going to rise to the occasion and forgo the obligatory, but they popped back for the bonus track off the record, "2007, the year punk rock broke my heart", which ends in a satisfying fortress of noise, which was an appopriate way to go out.
And then I was turfed onto the street, to find it was only 10pm, and I could still get home and to bed at a reasonable hour. Maybe all ages shows aren't that bad, after all.

I'm heading to Music Waste tomorrow, and I'm excited. I actually ended up at the opening night at Fake Jazz at the Cobalt, "Vancouver's Hardcore Bar". It was the weekly Fake Jazz, which is an experimental music showcase, and while Ejaculation Death Rattle is an outstanding name, detuned saxophones, violins, and miscellaneous knob twiddling from a dude in a cop moustache is not my cup of tea, at least not on a wednesday. At least there was a full house, and I knocked out a high score on the PacMan machine (crushing the hopes and dreams of the young man who highscored before me, who was pretty happy with his performance).