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

Wrapup: Angus & Julia Stone @ L’Astral 5/30/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Tuesday June 1, 2010

Sunday was marathon day in Burlington, so to avoid the crowds I headed up to Montreal to catch Angus & Julia Stone. I wrote about their latest album, Down The Way, a couple of weeks ago. Read about it and listen to one of their tunes here.

This was my first time to L’Astral – in fact, the first time I’d heard of it. That’s a bit of a rarity, especially given the size of the venue and the fact that I’d passed it several times before when in the neighborhood (Metropolis and Club Soda are both within blocks). It’s a pretty cool venue, minus the two huge deadspots created by giant pillars just off the front corners of the stage. They list capacity at 600 standing, and though last night’s show sold out, I have a hard time believing there were nearly that many people. That made for a decent spot by the side of the stage and room to walk around if I felt like it.

The balcony level is really cool, especially for the folks who get there early enough to have a chair at the very front. I wasn’t one of those people, but I did snap a photo from in between two of them:

Angus & Julia Stone @ L'Astral - May 30, 2010

Anyhow, to the music. Jeff Robataille (sp?), a local, opened with a few songs with an acoustic guitar. A few of the teen girls up front seemed to find him quite special, but I didn’t particularly care for it.

After fixing a snafu with the haze machine (apparently it had hazed the backstage area quite effectively, but hadn’t made it through the curtains to the stage area), Angus & Julia Stone took the stage. To describe their onstage presence as meek isn’t really fair, because it doesn’t capture their earnest and obvious tenderness, but they are both very, very quiet. They played a couple of songs alone, then were joined by a bassist and a drummer for nearly the rest of the set.

Angus & Julia Stone @ L'Astral - May 30, 2010

The music was as ethereal and delightful as I had expected – a very impressive performance by this clearly talented sibling duo. Julia’s voice definitely stole the show in my eyes. Her sweet, breathy vocals also showed flashes of a stunningly powerful and rich sound, leaving me thinking her range as a singer isn’t even partially captured by their catalog. And her Dorothy-red high-heeled shoes definitely added to her impressive aura. Angus & Julia played a wide selection from both of their albums, and were about to play a new one when someone yelled a suggestion from the audience which they played instead (I wish I had shouted words of encouragement for them to try the new one – they were obviously hesitant and easily overwhelmed).

Julia is also an impressive musician – playing both acoustic & electric guitars as well as harmonica, trumpet and piano.

My favorites were “Yellow Brick Road” and “I’m Not Yours” from their latest release. Neil Young, an inspiration and a subject of “Yellow Brick Road,” was definitely well represented and honored with their tribute. I’d actually pay really good money to see that collaboration.

For all their shyness, both Angus and Julia managed to share some quite endearing and entertaining yarns about the subject or the impetus for a particular song. Honestly, I just don’t get why a person would respond to a love-song manifesto from Julia Stone with a hip-hop ballad (one of the stories she told), but then I also don’t get why Emily Haines or Amy Millan have sad love songs to sing. Who are the morons that are screwing these people over? I guess it’s hard to complain when it results in such emotionally charged goodness for my ears.

Angus & Julia Stone @ L'Astral - May 30, 2010

Although I love Angus’ voice on their latest record, I think that he certainly has the most room for growth in terms of the band. He has a pretty voice, and when sung softly, his lyrics are incredibly compelling and touching, but I definitely found myself wishing he’d step out of his shell and really wow the audience with something more.

Angus & Julia Stone is a show I highly recommend seeing if they are in your area. And if they aren’t, I’d still recommend picking up their latest album. I’m glad I made the haul to Montreal last night, even though the U.S. customs agent gave me an unnecessarily hard time on the way back in (which the Canadian border guard correctly forewarned me about on the way to Canada), and clearly had his facts wrong when it comes to “proper documentation” and the legalities of making photocopies of one’s passport.

p.s. Julia covered the tune “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. Need I say more?

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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.

More artists added to Osheaga lineup

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Wednesday May 26, 2010

Well, two months after picking up tickets to this summer’s Osheaga Music & Arts Festival in a dizzied state of excitement, the good news just keeps on coming. Osheaga just announced another dozen or so artists, including Ra Ra Riot and Still Life Still.

I think actually we’re now getting into the situation where there might be too many bands that I want to see, such that I’ll end up having to miss some sets. I guess in the grand scheme of things, that’s a pretty good problem to have.

So far, my ideal schedule would include the following artists:

Arcade Fire
Ra Ra Riot
Still Life Still
The National
The Black Keys
Beach House
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Blitzen Trapper
The Morning Benders
Horse Feathers

and if it works out, I’d also be interested in checking out:
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Seu Jorge (of Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou fame)
Sonic Youth
Cage the Elephant

p.s. Osheaga folks, if you’re reading this, I’ve applied for a media pass (hint, hint…)

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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.

Strikes and gutters

Filed Under: Live Shows, Random Thought
Written by Brendan
Wednesday April 14, 2010

I often end up in discussion leading up to and after shows at the Higher Ground about the relative values of the music scene in Burlington.

On one hand, I get to stand up front with room to move comfortably at 90% of the shows I go to there. I’ve been to many shows in the Showcase Lounge (the smaller of the two stages) where a band that easily sells out the Black Cat or even 9:30 Club in DC doesn’t even have 50 people in the audience (see Band of Horses, Ra Ra Riot, Rural Alberta Advantage, Princeton…). So there’s a real intimacy that is more difficult to obtain in a bigger city.

I also rarely have to worry about obsessively following the web sites, twitter feeds and facebook profiles of bands I like and venues that are close by. Not that I don’t still do that, but I don’t have to, because even if I stop paying attention for a week or two, there’s still very little chance anything comes up that sells out that quickly.

On the other hand, bands like Band of Horses, Ra Ra Riot and Rural Alberta Advantage have to play to half- to quarter-sold shows. There always seems to be enough really engaged people in the audience at those shows, so the numbers don’t feel as meager as they could; but there’s also definitely something missing. Something like seeing Metric at Metropolis in Montreal amidst a crowd of Canadians who’d driven 3 times as long as we had to get there.

And of course the money for these bands has to be an issue, which makes me all the more gracious to the bands who do choose to make Burlington a stop on their tours (and the labels who support them).

To summarize: I’m glad that I got to stand comfortably, 15 feet from the stage at the Hold Steady show last week. And I’m glad that I didn’t miss them like some poor souls in the many cities they sold out before and continue to since. And I hope they and bands like them continue to come back.

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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.

Holy exciting shit!

Filed Under: Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Thursday March 25, 2010

Just bought tickets for Osheaga. We’ve wanted to go for the past couple of years, but it always seemed like the lineup was missing that one extra special band that would make the trip worth it. So what did the good folks at Osheaga do? Well they got LOTS of extra special bands.

Seriously, this is ridiculous. Arcade Fire, Stars, Metric, The National and Black Keys all in one place! And just a short 90 minute drive from Burlington. I went to a wedding last summer on the same island where they hold Osheaga, and it was absolutely beautiful. If the bands above weren’t good enough incentive, Blitzen Trapper. Pavement, Jimmy Cliff and Beach House are all going to be there.

Holy exciting shit. I’m now counting down the days…

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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.