Olio Festival featuring the Besnard Lakes, Glass Candy, the Cave Singers, J Mascis
Vancouver BC September 22-25
Similar to Victoria's Rifflandia and Calgary's Sled Island, Olio is a festival that takes place across its host city's many venues. While Vancouver's standing as "No Fun City" remains in the eyes of the public, Olio hints at the city's artistic possibilities, which proved themselves easily capable of overcoming its reputation if given just a little more encouragement by higher-ups.
Olio's Thursday kick-off saw Vancouver-based anachronism the Junebugs at Venue, taking Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" and R. Kelly's "Ignition" to the turn-of-the-century folk roots they never had. The group had fun with it all, but covers of the Band and the Kinks did reveal some deficits in their harmonies and precision. Though the Cave Singers frontman Pete Quirk admitted the Seattle trio were more accustomed to playing at 3 p.m. than 12 a.m., they squashed the Junebugs as soon as they hit the stage with their spirited set of folk-infused indie rock.
Portland duo Glass Candy put a cap on Thursday at Republic with their brand of squarewave-laced Italo disco and electro pop. Ida No is a natural performer, making up for vocal deficiencies with a heavily treated mic and an absorbing energy, while Johnny Jewel had much of the duo's infectious instrumentals on a CDJ run through an EQ, adding melodic touches on a keyboard.
Looking more like a misanthropic projectionist at the Rio Theatre rather than a performer there, the demeanour of J Mascis was painfully nonchalant for how complex his semi-acoustic guitar work was on Friday night, becoming far more subtle and compelling than the alt-rock output of Dinosaur Jr. on which he built his name. He wasn't flawless, missing the odd note here and beat there while his broken voice struggled for certain pitches, but he was perfect in his own way.
Toronto's Bonjay made up for having to miss Braids with their booty-shaking set of booty-shaking dancehall and downtempo-tinged R&Bass, turning Fortune Sound Club into a sweaty mess. Soulful vocalist Alanna Stuart shined like Santigold, her voice standing strong on a fairly dry mic, while producer Pho had his laptop beats lovingly fleshed out by a live drummer.
Early on Saturday at the Electric Owl, Warp Records' Babe Rainbow (aka Vancity's own Cam Reed) presented a sluggish set of reverb-laden downtempo, tweaked with an MPC through a MacBook. His stage presence was minimal, yet it suited the hazy, ethereal nature of his flowing beats.
On the same night, Malajube put expectations to the breeze at Wise Hall. The Montreal quartet took the soft, synth pop heard in their most recent album La Caverne back to the more power pop realm explored on their earlier work, with a little stoner rock in the halftime breakdowns. Unfortunately, Julien Mineau had troubles on vocals and was a little off-key as he expressed distaste for his mic, which brought the mood down a touch.
Though the Besnard Lakes were relatively humble in appearance, comparing the grey trench coat of bassist Olga Goreas to the glittery hoodie of Malajube's Mineau, they were a sight to behold, blowing out Wise Hall with an unpretentious yet epic '70s rock vibe. Lead vocalist Jace Lasek joked that their name was "Breaking New Sound" because of the prominent CBC banner behind them, while the band were unable to hide the joy in their collective aural expression. With life experience showing on all their faces and in their determined play, the Besnard Lakes truly performed as a team rather than a collection of individuals, which is a rare thing.
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