Dear Rouge / Modern Space

Capitol Ballroom, Victoria BC, November 10

Photo: Amus Osaurus

BY Alan RantaPublished Nov 11, 2018

As a music nerd, you end up seeing a lot of bands that make music that isn't really up your alley, but if you're lucky and open to the experience, you may find other things to appreciate about them. This was one of those nights.
On the eve of Remembrance Day, Victoria was treated to the last Canadian date of a two-month long tour featuring Toronto-based modern rock outfit Modern Space, opening for Vancouver-based synth-pop duo Dear Rouge. Following a set from dream-pop quintet Blonde Diamond, Modern Space took the stage with an unusual setup.
Typically, a drummer sits in the back on a riser, and the lead guitarist is up front, but Modern Space had it reversed. While six-stringer Sammy Nyberg settled into the shadows, drummer James Reid (filling in for regular Tay Ewart) was positioned at the front corner of the stage, right next to frontman Sean Graham, but given that the band was stripped down to just Graham and Ewart after the release of their debut EP before being rebuilt, they were the senior members of the group, so it made sense. Ewart earned it too, putting a ton of snap on his rhythm that was complemented by bassist Alex Hicks, while Graham Queen added keys and guitar.
Granted, Modern Space's brand of radio-friendly indie rock was as bland as a manila envelope, most of it running together despite little stabs of feedback sprinkled in through much of their set, but they performed enthusiastically enough to be endearing. Sean Graham had the rugged good looks of Sam Rockwell, with a similar voice and stage presence you might expect from the great actor. About halfway through, a human banana came out with a guitar, with which it grandstanded even though it wasn't plugged in, while Queen came centre stage and got down on his knees with it in a complementary solo. That's good stuff.
Dear Rouge kept the momentum going, and took it to another level. With the husband and wife team of Drew and Danielle McTaggart joined by a drummer and journeyman bassist/keyboardist, they wasted no time in proving their 2016 Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year was well-earned.
With all due respect to Drew, it was difficult to take your eyes off Danielle. Drew was a rather stoic presence; his vocals were much quieter in the mix, as he let his guitar do most of his talking. Danielle, on the other hand, was like an anime character come to life.
Wearing pants made of tassels throughout their set, Danielle came out in this weird, deconstructed leather jacket, with only the zipper, seams and part of the sleeves remaining, adding something like trails to accentuate her rave-friendly dance moves. She sure didn't act like it was the tail end of a long tour. She bounced all over the place, her big eyes like spotlights in the dark as she directly connected with just about everyone in the ballroom, beaming ceaseless and seemingly genuine smiles. During "Stolen Days," she got a little too exuberant, and ended up knocking her keyboard off the stand behind her, but she rolled with it, a consummate professional.
Later on, during "Wanna Wanna," Danielle wrapped herself up in her thick, white mic cable. Before "Black to Gold," she donned a jacket made of shiny streamers, which looked exceptionally epic when she stood over a fan centre stage. At the climax of "Boys & Blondes," she wore her tambourine like a crown, its blue tassels draped down over her hair, subsequently diving backwards into the crowd with brave little warning onto the heaving drunkards therein.
Roughly two-thirds of the set was taken from their sophomore album, PHASES, while the rest was drawn from their 2015 debut Black to Gold, save a cover of Stevie Nicks' iconic "Edge of Seventeen." I still have little desire to listen to their music at home, but I would go see them live again in a heartbeat.

*Editor's note: Our initial review misidentified the drummer for Modern Space.

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