A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Yeasayer @ Club Soda, 6/8/2011 – Wrapup & Photos

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Thursday June 9, 2011

I made the drive up to Montreal last night to see Yeasayer at Club Soda and left impressed by both the band and the venue. It was my first show at Club Soda, and I hope to see another there soon. The two-tiered balcony and narrow, long shape provide for great viewing areas and great sound.

The show was opened by Hush Hush. I’d rather you find out for yourself what that set was like, but let’s just say it was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in a while. If you get the chance, catch Hush Hush live. Bring your sense of humor, and leave your political correctness at home. Smith Westerns were up next, and while I had heard really good things, their set was pretty forgettable to me.

Yeasayer @ Club Soda, Montreal

The general atmosphere of the Yeasayer set felt slightly subdued. It was tough to say if it was the energy of the crowd, the energy of the band or the combination of both, but I definitely expected a much more raucous, face melting show. Not that I’m complaining – the music was fantastic, and I’m way more into Yeasayer as a band than I was before seeing them. It just wasn’t as out of control crazy as I’d expected.

Yeasayer @ Club Soda, June 8, 2011

Their music is remarkably more instrumental than I’d previously thought – ODD BLOOD (their most recent album) sounds more electronic-driven. While there were several keyboards and a drum machine or two on stage, it was definitely the drummer who creates much of their sound, accompanied by some impressive (though not quite loud enough) electric guitar work and thick, thumping, rapid basslines.

What’s more, their two (and sometimes three) part vocal harmonies were literally perfect. Having more than one voice adds such depth to the sound, especially when they all sound so good on their own and together.

Yeasayer in Montreal at Club Soda

I’d absolutely see Yeasayer again. The songs they played off of their two albums were all mesmerizing, as were the couple of new tunes. I’m already looking forward to their next release, and hope they consider Burlington as a stop on a future tour. The trips up to Montreal definitely take a toll, and I’d be hard pressed to do it twice for the same band.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Stars @ Metropolis 12/4/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Monday December 6, 2010

The last time I saw Stars was this past summer at Osheaga, and I was so disappointed by their performance that I was all but ready to give up on seeing them live again (this was my 4th Stars show). Thankfully, I was encouraged to give them another shot, as they definitely earned redemption on Saturday night.

The show was opened by Montreal’s Young Galaxy who put on a good performance, albeit a little bland. I think their energy would have translated better at a smaller venue. Interestingly, vocalist Catherine McCandless was the first of two pregnant women to perform (Amy Millan, Stars’ lead singer, is also pregnant). Not everyday you see that…

I got there early and scored an amazing spot – directly behind the sound board, elevated at least a foot above the rest of the crowd. Pretty much dead center, and with a clear view of the entire stage. It’s become a little cumbersome to carry an SLR camera to every show I go to, so I just took my Lumix LX-3, with which I managed some decent shots:

Stars played a good portion of both their most recent release The Five Ghosts and their 2005 album Set Yourself On Fire, as well as a few songs from 2007′s In Our Bedroom After the War and 2003′s Heart. They even delved a little deeper, including the title track from their 2001 EP The Comeback and one from the 2008 EP Sad Robots. Needless to say, it was a wide-ranging setlist, impressive in the range and particularly in the performance.

Vocalist Torquil Campbell was back to his usual self, full of emotional energy, and theatrical without being cheesy. Towards the end of the show, he got so carried away with a bear hug that he tackled Young Galaxy’s Stephen Ramsay (out to perform a song with Stars) into the wings off stage. He seemed to be riding a pretty fierce high for most of the show, returned and enhanced by the enthusiastic crowd.

I had forgotten how Amy Millan’s voice is able to sound sweet and whispered at one moment and crisp and penetrating the next. I wish she were the lead singer of more rock bands so I could hear her sing more often. While she has released a couple of much softer solo albums, it’s the range she displays in Stars that really shines. Even through the densest bass, most piercing keys and distorted guitar, Amy’s voice is always there. Kudos to the sound guys on that too…

I have to assume that along with being their last show of 2010, this also might be their last show for a bit longer than that. As I mentioned, Amy Millan is pregnant, due in the spring of next year, and bassist Evan Cranley is the father. I’m sure it’s been done, but I don’t see them touring again for quite a while, at least with the same lineup. So I’m thankful I can say I was there for this one, and hope it wasn’t the last.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

7 Questions for Hey Rosetta!

Filed Under: 7 Questions, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Monday November 8, 2010

Hey Rosetta!

Photo credit: Jule Malet-Veale

Canadian rockers Hey Rosetta! are playing the Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground tonight (opening for Sarah Harmer), and bass guitarist Josh Ward was kind enough to answer a few questions for me in advance of their set. If you’re in town tonight, definitely check these guys out.

BB: Montreal and Toronto have been real incubators of quality indie rock over the past decade. Though it’s a smaller city, is there any such music scene in St. Johns, or are you pioneering the way? Do you think bands like BSS, Metric, Stars, etc have helped pave the way to a larger audience for other Canadian bands?

JW: It’s a funny thing, the St. John’s music scene. It has one of the most impressive amateur music scenes that I think I’ve ever seen, in terms of creative and talented people. With that, though, there are few bands from there who do it professionally, or go out and tour. It seems like music is always just something on the side. Your dentist might also be your favourite singer/songwriter. I think we’re lucky that we still have a small town kinda vibe. Chances are you know most of the people in the “scene” and as a result, there’s a lot of support.

There have been a lot of really amazing Canadian bands over the years who have certainly helped to make it possible for bands like us to do what we do. The bands you mentioned are great, and successful, proving that there is something to this “Canadian music.” We see it a lot when we’re out on the road. There’s a great respect all over for bands from Canada these days.

BB: I read on your tour blog that you’ll be bringing a smaller lineup on the next leg of your tour — who’s staying behind, and who makes that call?

JW: Well, on this leg we’re opening for Sarah Harmer, and her management wanted something a little lighter, and specifically smaller than we usually are. We had a discussion about it, and our guitarist, Adam, decided to sit this one out.

BB: I see that you’re working on a new album for early next year — did you write much of it while on the road, or did you take a break and make a more concerted effort to put together an album?

JW: Sometimes it is kind of difficult to find the time to really sit down and focus on writing an album while touring so much. A lot of these songs took a long time to develop. We would get together and bash out the tunes wherever we could find a little break, and do what we could (often forgetting most of the work we had done on them since the previous time we got together). There was no real extended break to strictly work on writing this album though. In fact, some of the tunes really only came together finally in the studio.

BB: You won several awards for Into Your Lungs – how has that success affected the creation of your upcoming effort? Did it create pressure, inspiration, something else?

JW: I’m not sure that success has affected the creation of the new album so much. Certainly we all feel a little anxious about it, though. There will likely be expectations from people of what it should be. I just hope this album can stand on its own. We really worked hard on it, and are proud of it as it is. Hopefully it won’t have to live in some shadow.

BB: Your band profiles have stayed pretty busy on Facebook and Twitter — who’s managing that stuff, and has the connection with your fans on those networks changed your experience as a band?

JW: We all kinda take part in that stuff. Our manager does some of the quick updates, but the rest is directly from one of us (usually Tim with the blogs, or Phil). It would be hard to imagine where this band would be without those types of networks. In the beginning, especially, we had a really strong internet community of fans and friends who helped us out immeasurably on our early tours. Not to mention getting hooked up with other bands and venues from abroad. It’s a great way to stay in touch with all those familiar faces we see on the road.

Thanks to Josh for taking the time out of a busy schedule. Here’s Hey Rosetta! playing A Thousand Suns (at a venue quite a bit larger than the one they’ll be playing tonight, but you get the point…):

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus 11/4/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Friday November 5, 2010

Rachel and I drove up to Montreal last night to see The Joy Formidable, who we’ve both been dying to see since their EP A Balloon Called Moaning came out this past summer. I wrote about the haunting vocals, driving guitar riffs and frantic drumming in a post in June.

We left Burlington early to try and beat the traffic and get in dinner up there. It was a miserable, rainy drive both ways which definitely took a little more out of both of us than the trip up and back usually does. We ended up getting to the club early which was cool because we got to really check out the space, and wasn’t cool because we had to both wait for and then listen to the opening band, who I definitely didn’t care for. Seems like they had all the right pieces, but their sound was boring at best.

The next band, The Dig, definitely brought me back to life a bit. They were an energetic 4-piece (drums, bass, guitar and guitar/keys), out on a brief swing with The Joy Formidable. The bassist Emile Mosseri and the guitarist David Baldwin shared singing duties, and both held their own, though Mosseri’s parts were definitely the highlight. The bouncing bass got the crowd moving and psyched up for the main act. I’d definitely see these guys again.

The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus 11/4/2010

Rhydian Dafydd, Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas of The Joy Formidable

There were about 60 people there when The Joy Formidable took the stage, about 2/3 standing right up in front, and 1/3 in the back of the room sitting at tables, which must have felt a bit odd from the stage. They started with “Cradle”, and we were quickly introduced to lead singer Ritzy Bryan’s crazy eyes (exactly as it sounds), which definitely added an edge to their performance throughout. It was a great song to start with, and definitely got the crowd pumped. Bryan and drummer Matt Thomas were full of energy, with her thrashing her guitar around stage, and him with a face full of hair and arms that moved so fast you could barely see them. They had a great rock vibe.

There were three songs that I can think of that I loved, “Cradle, The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade,” and their final number “Whirring”, which they extended into a massive writhing, sweating ear-bursting freak out (glad I had my EarLove hi-fi earplugs with me). That performance definitely made the show for me.

Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas

Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas

Unfortunately, the rest of the songs, mostly a mix of new material including their recently released single “Popinjay” fell a little flat with me. It’s often really tough to hear a song live for the first time, especially at a club with fairly poor acoustics, because I find myself trying to hear things, instead of just listening and feeling. So I don’t want to say that their new material was necessarily not as good, but I definitely felt a lack of connection. I also found myself thinking how nice it’d be if they added some keys to their lineup (there were at least 2 songs which included pre-recorded sounds that could have been played by an actual person).

The set lasted barely an hour, which on most nights might have disappointed me, but I was so exhausted and really wanted to get the drive home over so I could be back in bed. I’d see The Joy Formidable again if they came to Burlington, and would definitely make it a point to hear more of their new stuff before I did. They put on a good — though not great — show, and could definitely benefit from a room with clearer acoustics. I recommend seeing them if they come to your town, with the caveat that their show is a bit of a mixed bag of fantastic and fair.

Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus, Montreal 11/4/2010

Ritzy Bryan

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Upcoming shows in Burlington & Montreal

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Tuesday November 2, 2010

There is a lot of good music over the next couple of weeks in this area, and I wanted to bring some of it to your attention (though you can always check for good upcoming shows in Burlington and Montreal using the calendar to the right). You can listen to any of the bands using the links below. I highly recommend any and all of these shows, and will be making it to several myself.

The Joy Formidable @ Petit Campus, Montreal
Thursday, Nov. 4

Morning Benders @ Higher Ground, Burlington
Sunday, Nov. 7

Hey Rosetta! (opening for Sarah Harmer) @ Higher Ground, Burlington
Monday, Nov. 8

Clinic @ La Sala Rossa, Montreal
Tuesday, Nov. 9

Glasser @ Il Motore, Montreal
Wednesday, Nov. 10

Horse Feathers & Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground, Burlington
Wednesday, Nov. 10

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti @ Le National, Montreal
Tuesday, Nov. 16

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: The xx @ Salle Wilifred-Pellitier 10/1/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Saturday October 2, 2010

Being that I stalk the live music scene in both Burlington and Montreal (and sometimes Boston and D.C. as well), I was able to act quickly enough to score 2nd row seats to last night’s performance by The xx at Salle Wilifred-Pelletier at the Place des Arts in Montreal. The lighting was amazing, the venue was a top-notch theater, and the sound quality was spot on.

All in all, I enjoyed myself at the show, but I also felt a little disappointed. Although I went into the show knowing full well that a good portion of the sound created by the band is electronic, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the guy on the drum machine. Frankly, it’s really distracting and takes away from the show to have the person at the center of the stage essentially be pushing buttons with his index fingers. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some seriously impressive drum-machine work, but this was pretty standard stuff. Honestly, if they had kept the drum machine off stage, I would have enjoyed the show so much more.

The xx @ Salle Wilifred-Pelletier, Montreal - Oct 1, 2010

Female vocalist and guitar player Romy Madley Croft sang wonderfully, though her guitar work seemed even more sparse and simplistic than on their album. She also had absolutely zero stage presence, only uttering a couple of thank yous to the audience. I definitely could have gone for a bit more engagement. Bassist Oliver Sim was more engaging and talked with the audience on a few occasions, though not enough to compensate for the silent Croft. Their music is so personal, sexualized and sultry that I definitely expected more.

The xx @ Salle Wilifred-Pelletier, Montreal - Oct 1, 2010

Like I said, I did enjoy myself, and I think that The xx performed their music fairly well, but I don’t think I’d see them in concert again until they incorporate some more actual instruments (I think a drummer and an additional percussionist could handle most of the work of the drum machine) and create a little more rapport with their audiences.

The xx @ Salle Wilifred-Pelletier, Montreal - Oct 1, 2010

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Less than 7 questions for Still Life Still

Filed Under: 7 Questions
Written by Brendan
Thursday July 29, 2010
Still Life Still plays Osheaga on August 1, 2010

Photo: Norman Wong

What can I say…7 is a hard number to write sometimes. This has become a pretty expensive hobby in terms of time spent…anyhow.

Drummer Aaron Romaniuk of Still Life Still was kind enough to answer a few questions for me in advance of the band’s upcoming set at Osheaga. Their set is from 2:00-2:40pm on the Scene Verte.

BB: It’s not often that one comes across of band of mid-twenty-year-olds who have been playing together for over 10 years. As 13-year-olds, did you ever imagine you’d be playing festivals like Osheaga and playing residencies at venues like Mercury Lounge?

AR: as 13 year olds we had no clue where this band would take us . as we got older and became closer friends we started to have the same visions . the picture got clearer in our minds

BB: You’ve said that your goal is to make enough money as a band to buy a farm off the grid, grow your own food, etc. You sound like you’d fit in very well in Vermont – have you spent any time here? If not, where do you envision your farm?

AR: we haven’t spent much time in Vermont , only driving threw while on tour , but that would be a great spot .i like to picture the farm somewhere tropical close to mountains and rivers .

BB: The lyrics of your song “T-Shirts” surprised me the first time I heard it. Care to elaborate on the meaning of that song?

AR: t-shirts is just real talk . about being really in love with someone . in love enough to do anything for them .go threw anything with them . its also about using logos on shirts to clean up blood .

BB: Girls Come Too is an impressive debut album. Is there a followup in the works?

AR: we are working on our next record right now actually . we have about 15 new songs written . were recording it at a home studio we have set up with our friend and sometimes band member Markus

BB: With a presumably large collection of unreleased material, do you find that you are more likely to write new songs, or revisit and rework material that you’ve already written?

AR: most of the songs for our next record have all been written in the last year . new songs happen so spontaneously ..we try to just go with the flow .

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

What you’re missing if you won’t be at Osheaga

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Wednesday July 28, 2010

I’ve only seen The Black Keys once before — at Lollapalooza in 2007 — and I was as far away from the stage as you could have been and still heard the music, trying to squeeze in a meal. So I’m psyched at another chance to see them, and this time to be a bit closer to the action. The Black Keys — a drummer and a guitarist — make more sound than many 4- or 5-piece bands. Check them out live in Chicago below (there’s some muffled show talking in the middle, but I think this gives a great perspective of what they are like live):

The Black Keys released a new album called Brothers this year, another in a long series of impressive studio work. They manage to sound just like themselves without ever sounding stale or repetitive, with each album having it’s own distinct sound. If you’re a fan of rock ‘n roll, I highly suggest you give Brothers a listen.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ Higher Ground 7/26/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews
Written by Brendan
Tuesday July 27, 2010

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros played a sold out show last night at Higher Ground — the first sold out show I’ve been to in a long while, and despite the small inconveniences (shoving fights, etc) of such a crowd, it was definitely nice to see Burlington turn out to support a band who isn’t a washed up rapper and isn’t known for their jamming.

Security was incredibly intense – I’m not sure if it was in response to an incident or incidents, but I’ve never seen things like this before. There were cops in the parking lot with breathalyzers, cops in uniform patrolling inside and out, and burly plainclothes cops with incredibly conspicuous firearms at the door. A youngish looking kid in front of us who definitely looked like he’d had too much of something got a field sobriety test before they’d take his ticket. Not normally what I’d expect at a ES&MZ show, but like I said, maybe it was in response to something else.

We got a good spot stage-left where there are generally less people (farthest spot from the bars). I came to this show ready to dance, so it was nice to have a little bit more room. I was definitely expecting some craziness based on what I’ve read about their shows and seen on YouTube. But I have to say, this show lacked the crazy.

Edward Sharpe @ HigherGround July 26, 2010

Besides the lead singer, Alex Ebert, forgetting the words to a couple of songs (which he played off well enough), the music was really good. I particularly liked Jade Castrinos’ vocals and loved the sporadic trumpet playing. And Alex certainly put on a performance — bouncing, dancing, jumping and interacting with the people right up front. But his energy didn’t seem to spread, and I was left feeling that the band seemed a little fractured, or at the very least just a bit tired.

In a bit of a revolt against the standard practice of pretending to leave only to come back out for an encore after some applause, most of the band just stayed on stage after their “final” song, which I thought was a nice touch. That whole routine definitely gets tiresome. And for their final number, they invited people up on the stage until it was completely full, then went down to the floor and asked everyone to sit with them for the campfire-style “Brother.”

Edward Sharpe @ HigherGround July 26, 2010

Most of the tunes were off of their 2009 release Up From Below, though they definitely played a few that I hadn’t heard and enjoyed. For their bigger “singles” like “Janglin” (popular from being featured on a Ford Fiesta commercial) and “Home” which has apparently been on heavy radio rotation, it was very apparent that the band was sick of playing them. They seemed much more animated and energetic on some of their more low-key or lesser known songs like “Up From Below” and “Desert Song.”

All in all, this was a very good show. But I was (maybe wrongly) expecting something a bit more. Unfortunately, the band doesn’t have a day off between now and their set at Osheaga. I think they could really use it based on what I perceived to be a lack of energy. Here’s to hoping that the atmosphere at Osheaga provides them with a little extra spark.

Edward Sharpe @ HigherGround July 26, 2010

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Osheaga Preview: Ra Ra Riot

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Monday July 26, 2010
Ra Ra Riot

Photo: Doron Gild

Ra Ra Riot is due out with a new album, The Orchard, on August 24. If their 3-song EP Boy is any indication, then I am certain that Ra Ra Riot has most definitely NOT fallen into the sophomore slump. I caught Ra Ra Riot at the Higher Ground in December of 2008, and was incredibly impressed with their live sound. Though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how terrible one of their opening acts that night sounded (So Many Dynamos). I have friends who still remember the Ra Ra Riot show as being one of the worst they’ve ever been to, until I remind them that Ra Ra Riot was actually amazing…

It’s quite hard to grasp how powerful the cello and violin are in Ra Ra Riot’s music until you’ve seen the lovely ladies of the band play the strings live. Not to mention I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen instruments as cool looking as some of theirs (electric violin in particular). And vocalist Wesley Miles’ voice, which I feared might be too meek to stand out at a live show, was powerful, robust and crisp.

Anyhow, Ra Ra Riot is one of my most anticipated shows at Osheaga, and as a preview I wanted you to hear “Boy” – the first single from their upcoming album. You can download it at their site here. Though I love this song, I love “Keep It Quiet” even more. It’s not much of a festival song though, so I’m not sure I’ll get to hear it this weekend.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.