When St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday, there are usually two options for the night — get sloshed on shitty green-dyed lagers, or stay at home and avoid the whole mess. Luckily for Edmonton, there was a third option, as the Courtneys brought their fuzzy pop tunes to downtown basement venue Brixx and gave the indie crowd refuge from the drunk faux-Irish bros just a few blocks away on Jasper Avenue.
The Vancouver-based trio is about to start a jam-packed month-long tour across North America with Jay Som, who sadly wasn't included on the Western Canadian dates. Instead, fast food-loving garage rockers Gender Poutine started off the night. The popular local trio jammed a sweltering set with all three members shouting about wanting hangover pizza in the morning, holding hands with friends and wasting time. Gender Poutine's grin-inducing humour and rowdiness brought the crowd's energy level up to a healthy simmer.
Next was psych-pop group Faith Healer, led by Edmonton icon Jessica Jalbert. Bringing the pace of the night down a slight notch, the five-piece played from 2015's mesmerizing Cosmic Troubles. While Jalbert's reassuring vocals and subtle melodies were a bit of a contrast to the opening act, it was a nice segue into the Courtneys' pop hooks.
The full room was teetering with excitement to see the Courtneys play the new cuts from their just released second album, aptly called The Courtneys II. And while many of the songs have been in the group's live arsenal for the past few years, it's clear the Courtneys have tightened up their show in anticipation for larger crowds coming out this time around. Thankfully, though, the band's laid-back, witty attitude and DIY-sensibility hasn't changed.
The set started with the propulsive "Silver Velvet," led by the cries and peppy percussion of singer-drummer Jen Twynn Payne. Payne's simple, carefree style of drumming allowed her to take the lead vocals with ease, delivering the ecstatic mantra of: "Nothing you say and nothing you do could stop me from thinking about you."
Fan favourites like "Manion" and "Nu Sundae" from their self-titled debut continued the theme of self-reflection and brought the longtime fans to the forefront of the sold out crowd, as they embraced the song about bittersweet struggle and personal discovery.
On II standouts "Minnesota" and "Tour," meanwhile, guitarist Courtney Loove played buzzing riffs with a chilled-out authority, but still left space to be filled by Sydney Koke's sweet bass and Payne's gleeful melodies.
The Courtneys are a plug-in-and-go type of band, offering no fussy or unnecessary extras, opting instead to dart through reliably blissful pop with the just enough grit and noise to keep it refreshing; you know you're going to get a set of lustful power pop, and they're not going to try to stray too far from that.
Rather than expanding their basic and beloved formula of scuzzy guitars, rollicking drums and sun-soaked harmonies with their new material, the Courtneys' 45-minute set hung out in the comfort zone of what they do best — and that's not a bad thing.