Published Sep 07, 2010Mother Nature granted a one-day reprieve from a week's worth of forecasted rain, giving Vancouverites a final day of summer sun to help them enjoy the return of the Victory Square Block Party. The formerly annual Labour Day weekend event was back after a year hiatus to celebrate some of the best of the city's music and comedy scenes.
Fittingly, since the festival was moved from Monday to Sunday this year, things got started with a set from Sex Church. Their music ― dark, noisy, and, at times, droning ― was a contrast to the bright Vancouver afternoon, but it was still a great way to kick of the day's proceedings, as the squall of guitars and the crash of drums ushered the first wave of attendees down to Victory Square.
Ora Cogan took to the stage next, and while she and her band did their best to overcome some technical issues, the semi-regular bursts of feedback from the effects unit her vocals were running through seemed to be getting the best of the songstress. When they did manage to tame their gear into submission, her dreamy vocals floating over the folky instrumentation was a perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday in the park.
The lo-fi sounds of Makeout Videotape followed. Musically, the band was in fine form, punctuating some memorable pop melodies with fuzzy guitars, though singer Mac DeMarco's insistence for addressing the audience in a Mexican accent throughout the set was a bit of an odd touch. Still, it wasn't enough to distract from one of the city's brightest bands.
At the point in the afternoon when Lord Beginner started playing, their brand of country-rock was a bit of a departure ― they were the first performance to play things fairly straight. That's not a slag on the band though. While they aren't attempting to reinvent the wheel with their sound, they do the familiar with a master's touch. Guitars and voices intertwined to evoke some of the best of '70s radio, as the group combined their bluegrass roots with big choruses and rock solid songwriting.
With all due respect to the night's headliners, the highlight of the event came in the early evening, with a set by Apollo Ghosts. Showing why they're one of Vancouver's favourite live acts, the trio (who were joined by Chris-a-riffic on a handful of numbers) tore through a set of Modern Lovers-like pop that was punctuated by always animated front man, Adrian Teacher, riding a ten-speed through the crowd.
Tranzmitors followed and kept the energy level high. They blasted out a collection of tight, mod-punk (think the Paul Weller leading the Buzzocks) at a time when the crowd had loosened up enough to bring a little truth to the catchy refrain that "all the boys and girls are dancing in the front row."
The evening ended as darkness started to fall with a performance by the Pack AD. You can't go far these days without running into a two-piece blues-punk act, but the celebrated duo set themselves apart from their contemporaries on the strength of singer Becky Black's voice. The combination of her wailing vocals, band mate Maya Miller's thumping drums, and chugging guitar was a great way to send the assembled throng off into the night.