Mint Records' 20th Anniversary Party featuring the Evaporators, the Gay, Hot Panda, Kellarissa, Fanshaw Waldorf, Vancouver BC November 25

Mint Records' 20th Anniversary Party featuring the Evaporators, the Gay, Hot Panda, Kellarissa, Fanshaw Waldorf, Vancouver BC November 25
Helping kick off Mint Records' 20th anniversary celebrations, former Choir Practice members Fanshaw and Kellarissa showed what you can do with a minimal set-up. Armed with an electric guitar and a Prophet '08 synthesizer, Olivia Fetherstonhaugh (aka Fanshaw) performed several stripped-down selections from her critically lauded solo debut Dark Eyes, including a particularly stirring version of the title track that employed all eight voices on her synth for deep, oscillating bed on which she laid her breathy vocals. Where her album had a wistful yet patient feel, her set here was far more ominous, with certain tracks sounding very much like lost horror movie themes.

Dressed in black head to toe, Kellarissa (aka Larissa Loyva) presented a strength on stage of which few are capable. Her voice was haunting, drenched in reverb that added an icy quality to its timbre, and set against minimal electronic beats with choice melodic flourishes. The opening track from her most recent LP Moon of Neptune, "Passages," put her inner demons on naked display. Yet there was a certain glint of happiness in her eye, curling the corners of her mouth upward, when she allowed her powerful voice to soar.

Marking one the night's several reunion sets, the Gay proved they were not named in the pejorative sense with their skewed, accordion-laced power pop set, playing selections from their 2003 album You Know the Rules. Their vocals weren't the strongest, but they gained speed and confidence as their set progressed. Dressed largely in white, just like on their album cover, they let loose strings of frank and forward banter between their cheekily written songs, saying this was probably their last show for ten years. Even if it was their last, they made it a gooder.

Nardwuar's interviews are practically a Canadian institution, but there is often, if not always, the sense that he is playing the character of Nardwuar in those interviews. When he hit the stage with the Evaporators this evening, all pretenses went out the window. He smiled more genuinely than this critic has ever seen him, slipping his sweaters off several times to put on different ones, and ripping through his absurdist pop punk with his trio hammering out the instrumentals behind him. At one point, Nardwuar was hoisted up over the crowd along with his keyboard, his wide smile sparking just below the rafters. Music is obviously this man's first love.

The long-absent Operation Makeout played their first show in nine years, but the hiatus was not apparent. They jammed through their uptempo indie punk as if it was 2002 all over again. Although, truth be told, they were never passable vocalists in their prime, and that has not changed either.

Hot Panda showed why they are one of Mint's hottest bands, panda or no panda, with their action-packed rock'n'roll set. Frontman Chris Connelly proclaimed tonight as a night for everyone to give it their all, and the quartet did just that. They parlayed their youthful exuberance into more swagger than most bands were able to achieve this evening, playing with more abandon than on their 2010 live-off-the-floor record How Come I'm Dead? to great effect. They made lots of loose, playful movements up front as they devolved their pop rock compositions into bluesy, psychedelic jams, able to snap back on chorus in a heartbeat.