Review: Arek Hautaluoma Photos: Trevor Ball Photography
Friday, March 4th, 2016. I get off work, scurry home via trail, pedal, pedal, faster.
Gotta get home, better be prepared for the show. I'm seeing Ye Ye Umbra, Sure, Did You Die and The Pretty's at Lucky Bar. I decided to delve into some joints with my new roommates upon arriving home, in addition to a strong cup of coffee: caffeine fuel me, gone out in recent memory I have not.
I enter Lucky late. Luckily, lateness is being lauded as good ol' 'island time' by visiting Vancouverites. I grab a beer, bounce around a bit. I joke a lil' with Kyle and Justin of Sure: they're the only band I'm somewhat familiar with and have seen before. They tell me it's their last show for a while, so far as they know. They're tired of playing the same songs over and over. This excites me, I expect their set to be tight, and it means these dudes are gonna write more music. Sick! I settle down with my notebook and beer, way in the back, to observe. Ye Ye Umbra is going on. They're playing their 2nd show (1st show, depending who you asked), and I want a good vantage point. The place is decently filled with folks ready for a night of fun fulled by locals new and old, and bands making major headway in their respective Vancouver scenes.
Ye Ye Umbra is composed of members of Jons, Formidable Liquorice and Schoolgirl. It's nice to hear songs from a new group playing their first show together. Their sound is fresh yet familiar, blending the sensibilities of all three individuals into a sound as unique and nice as saying 'Ye Ye Umbra'. I immediately thought of certain Sebadoh (co-fronted by Lou Barlow of Dino Jr. fame) tracks; these songs sounded careful and crafted so as to allow emotional resonance in the lyrics and subtle reflections on rhythm. Moreso than what the music reminded me of, I heard interesting chords steering the transitions between verses, and drumming that pulsed with the emotive qualities of all aspects of the song. Oh, and the bass, the bass! Give it to me heavy, yes!
Three to four songs in, I heard what seemed to echo the drum intro to David Bowie's '5 Years'. The song veered elsewhere, but the beat persisted on, like a pulse. A sticker on the head of the bass-amp beamed 'WHERES MY FORESKIN' to the minds of onlookers. Lyrics maintained the fine balance of personal experience, wrapped in personal smokescreen. I look forward to catching Ye Ye Umbra again, let's hope soon.
The floor was getting crowded during Ye Ye Umbra, but Victoria was sleepy this Friday. Heads bobbed, and bits of dancing fizzed, but this was maintained for now. Perhaps at this point, everyone was simply as keen on listening as I. Sure took the stage and opened with 'Probably', a perfect intro to anyone new to the group. "Yeah you said it to me you wanna just feel alive, from what I can tell it seems like you just wanna die"... is the best fucking line I've heard from nearly anyone, ever. The drum fills swerve through quickened tempos, something their pop-punk contemporaries, Sum-41, are sorely lacking in. Vocal lines follow melodic guitar lines, or float alone among the rhythmic tide, as in 'Fuck Forever' (I'm told by observers, this is a favourite). The bass does a beautiful job of anchoring the riffs and providing harmonic stylings. Most importantly, see Sure live. The sound guy'll usually take a dig at Kyle's cranked guitar, but fuck the levels; these guys are tighter than ever, so I'll take the crashing volumes, thanks! It really sounds as though Sure's nailed down a new and definitively Victoria-branded form of pop-punk anthems that seem to dwell in equal parts reminiscence, apathy, and frustration, albeit delivered with a cheery no-fucks-given demeanour (I accidentally stole 'cheery no-fucks-given' from a previous SMOKES review; let's embrace it). What'll be next from Sure is anyone's guess! Let's keep our fingers crossed.
It's at this point in the night that I wade into unfamiliar territory. I'm talking to people I don't know too well, I'm sharing the mixed nuts I've got in my pocket, I'm receiving sips of coffee in exchange.
'Everyone's way better dressed here', Did You Die's frontman observes. It takes Victoria some time to ruffle their duds, but it finally begins during DYD's blazing set (ok, maybe I started the dancing, along with an older dude from Duncan who encouraged us into getting some moshing started). My initial observations were the J. Mascis stance of frontman Richie Alexander, along with the similarly blistering tones. This is great, I can get lost in the swells of tone...I feel it rise and fall. The tones are unmistakeably shoegaze, but the solos moreso in that lovely brand of heavier 90s alternative. The bass and drums drive a beat that's punk and primal as hell, so if you don't wanna get lost in the heady sounds...you can bang that head of yours to your hearts' content. I catch grasps of repeated lyrics through my frenzied dancing; now my brain is lost in the swells, but my body continues to move. I pound my head to 'Hard on Me'. Rhythmic devices shift my focus back to observe the band's actions at many points in the set, and in many cases these shifts lead to giant noisy builds and interludes. Things have become a sweaty blur by the end of the set, and the party's in full swing. It's still before 10:30pm! Bless these early shows. I hear Did You Die is playing Levitation, which is absolutely stellar for them, and all the other folks who vibe with this well gelled array of 90s noises crafted into perfectly danceable radio-length songs. I like dancing, and I'm always stoked as all hell when my favourite genres get this much more danceable.
Next up are The Prettys. These guys look like down-home Vancouver, beer-drinkin' dudes - not that everyone else didn't have a bit of that flavour present. I'm brought back to driving with dad, with an uncle...this has a definitive taste of classic rock, a la Led Zep. I salute my saxophone brother playing onstage, who wails along with the melodic riffs traipsing along just behind the beat...wait, now it's right on the beat...now we're just down 'n dirty rockin' at breakneck speeds! The guitars shred, and they shred hard. This is real, dirty, party-rock for the messed up kids of today. Groove after groove hits, and they're all different, and all extremely danceable. Beautiful and heavy drum fills beat through the 'silence' between grooves and riffs (y'know, Black Sabbath, Fuzz, etc), and claps fill the irresponsibly catchy 'Dirty Knickers'. I honestly wish I could think of more buzzwords, but somebody has cast aside my notebook at this point, and I cast aside my anxiety. The dancing is unstoppable, as are The Pretty's. These guys play hard, sing hard, and sweat hard. When TVC 15 (David Bowie) is covered, whoever is present at the mic claims it'll be butchered. I quite honestly disagree. Was 'Seduction Blues' near the end of the set? That song really ripped like a hot damn, yeah? After the 'last song' is played, I see the bassist (I love his bangs) suggest a song into a bandmates' ear. The tenor sax busts out some upper harmony during some of the final builds, and I'm left immensely satisfied by the seemingly impromptu ending. The Pretty's were a perfect way to cap off a show of overdriven rock, punk, and alternatively styled riffage that I'm sure touched on many a memory of musical discovery for all in the crowd. Not to sell any of the musicians short though, each and every band that night demonstrated that they had that extra injection of something special to really get you moving, shaking, dwelling or reminiscing.
I danced until the end, I made it through the gauntlet of grooves and driving basslines that all the bands delivered in full force. Exhausted and sweaty I take my trail back home. Here's looking forward to more SMOKES shows to get our bones rustlin' and rattlin'.