While East Vancouver celebrated the demise of a beloved venue with abandon, a smaller gathering in the West End launched an unexpected new haven for fun-having. Though it certainly wasn’t the first show hosted by Googly Eyes Collective, Elsethings Arts Festival—a collage of performance, film, art, and cozy hangouts—was charged with expectation, light, and new beginnings.
At a sold-out Wednesday night show, whilst a snowstorm swirled outside, it was obvious just how much frontman Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother enjoys the drama associated with a perceived apocalypse. Forces both natural and amplified came together in theatrical tension on the Orpheum stage, beginning with a foreboding opener (and new album title) “The Sticks.”
If you’ve ever caught yourself flipping through reruns of MTV Cribs wishing authors and designers got the same treatment, Coast Modern is likely a refreshing way to spend an hour of your life.
Trippiness is a strange musical currency; value is so often predicated on the mind-altering substances consumed by its listeners. Having arrived stone sober at W2 to see Oneohtrix Point Never (Brooklyn-based Daniel Lopatin), this reviewer admits she was only adequately captivated by the synaptic soundscapes on offer Wednesday night. But as someone’s grandma might say: better to be challenged than bored.
Nguzunguzu – The Perfect Lullaby. A labyrinth of stripped-down loops and beats referencing ’90s R&B chart-toppers and Angolan kizomba & zouk in equal measures. Truly the only possible way to enjoy eight hours trapped in a Mozambican airport.
MYTHS – MYTHS. Supercharged electro-noise with a semi-psychotic swagger. First caught them opening for HEALTH and they’ve been terrifying me ever since. “Deadlights” is basically Alice Glass squared.
Crafted by a pair of local boy/girl two-pieces, this split seven-inch pressed on white vinyl has a dark side and a goofy side—both of which may cause you to unwittingly sing in public.
First up is Lightning Dust, one of the many successful side projects spawned by hometown stoner-rockers Black Mountain. Amber Webber and Joshua Wells explore their ‘80s goth-pop side in the moody, half-whispered affirmation “Never Again.” With quiet beginnings, the track swells into several timpani and thunderclap-accompanied moments fit for a particularly tragic scene of a John Hughes flick.
It’s no surprise to last year’s Fringegoers: Martin Dockery is neurotic and hilarious.
Following his Pick of the Fringe win for the monologue Wanderlust, Dockery delivers a new barroom tale of travel, relationships, and the occasional experiment with hallucinogenic drugs. This time he’s adventuring through the ancient Cambodian temple Angkor Wat with his German girlfriend, and visiting his stiff but successful father in Vietnam.
Like a true Brooklynite, Dockery quavers with anxiety, flaps his hands wildly and raises his voice in excited crescendo as he delivers each morsel of acute observation. Dockery is searching for meaning in every sentence – giving the impression he’s conquering inner turmoil in real time.
Monster Theatre’s latest biographical production recounts the life of the King of Vaudeville. Equal parts illusions, melodrama and gags, Houdini’s Last Escape reveals that behind every great man is a great woman—not to mention some seriously awkward mommy issues.
Tara Travis plays Houdini’s loving wife Bess, along with a dozen or more cartoonish side characters. Travis steals the show and gets the crowd roaring with well-placed eye rolls, while Christopher Bange tries out his cache of card tricks as the show’s protagonist. Written and directed by Fringe favourite Ryan Gladstone, the script is dense and surprisingly dark.
Occasionally Jayson McDonald takes a moment to breathe, but it’s pretty rare.
In his imaginative one-man show Giant Invisible Robot, McDonald seamlessly weaves through an arsenal of fun-to-watch characters, beginning with a neglected kid named Russell.
Russell’s BFF is the play’s namesake—an oversized tin can of destruction, capable of flattening Chicago during a particularly boring afternoon. McDonald jumps forward and backward in time and across storylines to build up their lifelong relationship.
“OMG let’s go ride BIKES!”
It’s a familiar refrain for anyone who has grown up with Attention Deficit Disorder. Performer and co-writer Ingrid Hansen makes it an actual ukulele-accompanied chorus in the inventive tragicomedy Little Orange Man.
Hansen plays Kitt, an over-stimulated schoolyard loner with a wild imagination. Having won over a team of impressionable “kinders” with grampa’s gory fairytales, Kitt is poised to take on the dream world (with a little help from her audience).
A crash-landed spaceman and beached whale named Martha make sensible companions under the glow of golden Christmas lights.
This oddball participatory comedy crafted by Seth Soulstein is a two-hander, although the crane makes three.
Clad in silver spandex, a wide-eyed Soulstein proves his improvising chops. Never does he break character—even when a wayward space egg nicks a nearby car. (In the universe of public drama, one has to be prepared for anything).
Strange Weather, Isn’t It? Is basically a 40-minute I-told-you-so to all those stubborn, rock-centric music snobs who insisted disco had died for good. Although the band has been crafting reverb-soaked funky danceathons since their inception in 1996, !!!’s newest effort feels particularly rife with self-confirmation.
If a university class in concert reviewing existed, I likely would have failed it on Tuesday, Oct. 5. I arrived at the Biltmore at 10:30 p.m.—okay, maybe closer to 11 p.m.—just in time to see more than a handful of blissed-out Drums fans skipping stairs on their way out of the venue. Not a good sign . . .
The Magician is a far cry from the balding “illusionist” that probably showed up at your eighth birthday party. Though he has been known to bust out a card trick or two at his live shows, Nathan Moes (and his new backing band the Gates of Love) are the real deal.
Drawing noticeable influence from Belle & Sebastian, the Unicorns, Ben Folds and the Flaming Lips, the Langley quintet’s follow-up to Moes’ debut EP Who Will Cut the Grass When I’m Gone? is a work of honest showmanship, sans smoke and mirrors . . .
Ryan Gladstone is Sigmund Freud, and so is his co-star Bruce Horak.
The pair of local Fringe vets are flawlessly synched as Self and Ego in a lively journey through the subconscious mind of the cigar-chewing father of modern psychology. With only an hour left to live, Freud and his embodied id embark on a hilarious quest of self-analysis . . .
Creative spellers and Milwaukee four-piece Jaill sound like the type of band that “practices” rather than “jams.” Every song on their big label debut That’s How We Burn fits into a cohesive garage-pop aesthetic; the riffs are watertight, the drum licks indestructible. Never mind improvising — everything from lead singer Vincent Kircher’s conversational melodies to the subdued hints of Wisconsin twang — feel polished and calculated . . .
Katie Jarvis never intended to appear in movies.
The now 18-year-old highschool dropout was discovered on a scummy East London subway platform while embroiled in a venomous spat with her boyfriend. With that in mind, it is no surprise the unlikely star bursts with raw teenage malice in the role of Mia, a young and underprivileged outcast living in a disheartening British slum . . .
At the risk of sounding like a Kool-Aid sipping bandwagoner, it must be said that rumours of this album’s party potential have not been greatly exaggerated. The critically untouchable new release from James Murphy’s electro-punk brainchild is only partially overblown, but probably for good reason . . .
Pop Touched Me is a self-conscious reflection upon artist Rob Pruitt’s implausible journey through fame and failure. From gallery-hosted flea markets to 101 test-driven art ideas, it seems oddly fitting that Pruitt’s playful and often participatory exhibitions have been immortalized in glossy coffee table reading. Now celebrated for painting shimmering panda bears, Pruitt was once excommunicated from New York’s art scene for a supposed racist homage to black American culture. (Evidently he and partner-in-crime Jack Early were terrible rappers) . . .
The third single to follow up last year’s full-length album Humbug, My Propeller solidifies the band’s departure from its faster, more furious roots. Gone are the days of upbeat, angular party songs about scummy men. Instead, the Arctic Monkeys have crafted a croony collection of melancholic commentary on shitty bars, wasted evenings and arguably frontman Alex Turner’s penis . . .
You would think winning the prestigious Canadian Polaris Prize in 2008 might have caused a certain performance anxiety in bedroom composer Dan Snaith—known to his fans as Caribou. Following up a glistening and critically-acclaimed album like 2007’s Andorra stands as no easy feat . . .
Much like its title suggests, Remorsecapade is a portmanteau: a frantic blend of equal parts euphoria and despair, excitement and heartbreak. Hailing from Toronto, the drum and synth duo have injected an unexpected amount of emotional honesty (and intensity) into their sophomore release . . .
Innovation and artistry are often touted as the ultimate pillars of indie achievement—which is probably why it’s difficult (at first) to get excited about a standard, well-executed pop record like Yukon Blonde’s eponymous debut. Like a vintage flannel shirt, the sound and aesthetic are consciously derivative. But the Vancouver-based indie poppers have conjured enough reflection and polish to make their ’60s rock-inspired album a worthwhile listen.
This is not really a Sufjan Stevens album. And it’s not really new, either. Run Rabbit Run is a sometimes-epic classical reworking of Stevens’ 2001 release Year of the Rabbit, composed and performed by Osso: a New York-based string quartet. Like the original, Osso’s interpretation offers an entirely instrumental take on each year of the Chinese zodiac calendar . . .
Red lipstick. Ace of Base. Foam parties in Cancun. These are the things that XXXX is made of. With their latest album, Abbotsford quintet You Say Party! We Say Die! make it abundantly clear they know how to have a good time. Like we didn’t know already.