Partying hard while you were home studying
//JJ Brewis

Fall concert season is well underway! With several choices for musical entertainment each night, it's hard to squeeze in all of the shows you want to see. Here is a round-up of some of the best shows I've seen recently. Special thanks to everyone at Timbre Productions for giving me access to all these great shows.

Diamond Rings / Twin Shadow

September 28
Biltmore Cabaret

Two of the hottest up-and-coming electronic musicians both endorsed by Spin magazine in their Fall New Artists issue – performed a double bill at The Biltmore on Sept. 28. First up was Toronto native Diamond Rings, one-man band John O’Regan, hit the stage in a Vancouver Grizzlies ball cap and sunglasses. Opening his set with “Play By Heart,” a lovesick banger heavy on the synth, O’Regan quickly had the crowd entranced.

“This is not the Vancouver I remember,” he announced. “I think they wanna get nasty, but they’re gonna need some help.” On occasion, O’Regan would leave his keyboard station and strap on his guitar, instantly comfortable and reassured. Back behind his keys, he periodically pounded one fist in the air, mid chord, as if an act of solidarity with his own songs. In response, the crowd reacted in large form, taking a break from singing along to every word. In red face blush and with tribal drum-machine in tow, Diamond Rings rocked out in fashion before abruptly ending his performance, and promptly deconstructing his own set.

Up next was George Lewis Jr., better known by his stage name Twin Shadow, a Dominican Republic-via-Florida synth-pop artist steeped heavily in 80s gloom. On his album Forget Twin Shadow pulls off the musical equivalent of a soft-focus daguerreotype photograph: hazy, yet self aware.

In a live setting, as a four-piece rock band, Lewis carries himself with full swagger. The songs more layered and heavy, the atmosphere charmed with the crowd into full dancing order. Lewis offered a half-cocked smile, saying, “You're all very pretty, by the way. We've been playing for ugly Americans for a while. We got uglier being in America, actually." Though many of the tracks benefited from an upbeat and charged delivery, the set highlight may have actually been the fittingly titled “Slow,” during which Lewis appeared to be delivering something of a musical eulogy to the ghosts of his past. And just like that, they swung right back into the heavy side with their banger “Castles In The Snow,” Lewis capping it off by telling the crowd, “I shouldn't fuck with you guys. You're the one who throw cars through pharmacy windows!"

CSS / Men
October 1

For most bands, having the crowd chanting the word “sucks” would be an insult, but for CSS, hearing “CSS Sucks” is an homage to a track off their debut, and a fitting reason to hurry to the stage. After a long hiatus, Brazilian electro-punk pioneers CSS returned to Vancouver on the tip of releasing their newest effort La Liberacion.

Like a mixed-race, mixed-gender Motley Crue, CSS is like a girly cock-rock bonanza that can’t be touched in terms of performance appeal. With a stage set decorated in pink paper Valentine heart cut-outs, the band looked right at home, particularly vocalist Lovefoxxx, complete with wild pink hair and tear-away pants that she ripped off midset. Iggy Pop would certainly be proud.

CSS, with all their cowbell slamming and guitar solos, is certainly one of the most compelling bands to watch, a feat based mostly on their catalogue, but also on their dynamic stage presence. Despite the 10 PM curfew of the show, the group, especially Lovefoxxx and her stage tricks, had the crowd at their every whim, from donning a sparkled cat mask and cape, to dangerously twirling her microphone in figure eights. And as she saucily made her way to the splits during “Alala”, the furiously catchy encore, the crowd’s enthusiasm overpowered the band itself – a true testimony of approval.

Opener MEN, fronted by former Le Tigre band member JD Samson, had an early hold on the crowd, with a set filled with songs about gender issues and empowerment. The last song of the set, “Who Am I To Feel So Free,” was a scatterbrained dance-off with the band’s three members each pounding hard at their corresponding instruments. The band also charmed the crowd with their stage banter, particularly when discussing last-minute changes to the setlist. “We didn’t really get a sound check, we were gonna practice this song!” Samson announced as the group cut one of their songs a minute in. “We’re gonna start again,” guitarist Michael O’Neill stated. “That kinda sounds like a bunch of farts!"

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
October 3
The Biltmore

NYC indie-pop outfit The Pains of Being Pure At Heart made a big splash at the Biltmore on Oct. 3, performing almost their entire discography, with a focus on their newest album Belong. Opening their set with the title track, lead vocalist and guitarist Kip Berman wasted no time showing his guitar skills, dramatically wailing about as if slaying a dragon within the neck of his axe.

Berman clearly feels his songs to the core: every time he finished a vocal phrase, he immediately ejected himself away from the microphone stand, caught up in the frenzy of his playing. Each song was a standout, filled with guitar riffs and choruses catchy enough for even the most disenchanted record store employee to be right up front shouting along.

Berman did not own the stage by himself, however. Keyboardist Peggy Wang, in her oversized knit sweater and 90s platform runners, had all the charm of charms master Professor Flitwick. She grinned with full gusto as she thanked the opening act Big Troubles (a band of matching firstyear art school students playing what sounded like Jesus and the Mary Chain b-sides) and the crowd before thanking East Van hangout Sushi- Yama: “Thanks for keeping your prices low!”

Before launching into the encore “Contender,” equally enthusiastic Berman paid homage to BC’s “beautiful mountains” and then went on to over-use the word “exceptional” to describe the entire crowd, particularly those who took the time to paint their faces for the event. And as soon as the set ended, he blasted back off to the merchandise booth to excitedly sell his own records, also handing out rock pins by the handful. “They’re free! How many do you want?” he asked, with the cutest, goofiest grin on his face.

// JJ Brewis, Writer
// Illustration by Shannon Elliott

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