Novillero / Falconhawk / Field & Stream / Paper Moon Sidetrack Café, Edmonton AB — August 13, 2005

To call any group a "bar band" would usually be an insult, but after watching Winnipeg rockers Novillero stomp and scream their way through an hour-and-a-half of the most jubilant and unashamedly catchy, high-energy bar pop the Sidetrack stage has likely seen in years, one can't help but think these guys would consider it a compliment. Before that revelation, however, it was starting to look like the headliner might be in danger of being showed up by its opening act, Calgary three-piece Falconhawk. Fronted by the vulnerable yet smoky voiced Kara Keith on keyboards, the trio hammered out an infectious set of bright, angular synth pop that evoked all that's good about Metric (as in everything, minus Emily Haines's cringingly goony stage posturing), and that would have made for a satisfying night on its own. Not to be outdone though, Novillero responded with a stage show that was nothing short of explosive. Drawing mostly from this year's Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives, the five-piece (led by the songwriting duo of Grant Johnson and former Duotang bassist Rod Slaughter on piano) spent the next hour roughly approximating what the Beatles might sound like if you stapled them to the Band, shot them full of adrenaline and made them fight. Proving themselves incapable of starting a tune that didn't culminate in some swirling, exultant climax of multi-part harmonies and repeating piano choruses, Novillero got the kids out on the floor and showed that they write the kind of music that people will be playing 30 years from now in the way that bar bands play tunes like "Gloria" to this day. Is that a bad thing? Well, depends how you feel about Van Morrison, I guess.