Magik Markers / Sic Alps / Shearing Pinx Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, BC December 18

Magik Markers / Sic Alps / Shearing Pinx Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, BC December 18
It takes a decent number of people to make Vancouver's hangar-like Rickshaw Theatre look well-attended. But this show pulled it off and managed it despite competing with the Mental Beast party across town, where every Vancouver band other than show opener Shearing Pinx seemed to be playing.

To kick things off, Shearing Pinx opened the night in their own inimitable style, with punishingly heavy guitars and lead singer Nic Hughes's characteristic yelp periodically giving way to sheets of free-form noise, and then, just when your eyes were starting to glaze over, hitting the riffs again.

Next up were San Francisco's Sic Alps, whose psych/garage star is on the rise, but this performance did little to explain why. At times, their languid jams - something like the Stooges if they'd been more into quaaludes than speed - were so lethargic that you felt like you might pass out. Maybe it was the effect of following an act as brutally energetic as Shearing Pinx, but aside from a few notable moments (standout track "Message From the Law" among them), Sic Alps fell a little flat, especially compared to their admirable recorded output.

Hartford, CT's Magik Markers' latest album (and first for Drag City), this year's Balf Quarry, is a worthy follow-up to 2007's Lee Ranaldo-produced Boss, and confirms them as a minor noise rock institution. But their long discography of self-released CD-Rs and singles frees them from relying on these two most recent and critically acclaimed LPs. Boss favourite "Taste" was absent from the setlist, and they played several excellent songs that only their most devoted fans would recognize, showcasing the depth of their work.

Playing as a trio for this tour, Magik Markers have mastered the controlled sloppiness that is so difficult for most bands to pull off. Singer and guitarist Elisa Ambrogio keeps her instrument tuned to an open chord, barring the strings over the top of the neck with her thumb, like when a child first picks up a guitar. Any suspicions you might have had about her skills, though, were destroyed by the first squeal of noise from one of her frequent guitar solos - believe it, the lady can play.

A short, psych-heavy set rescued the night from the mild stupor that had settled after Sic Alps' set, sending the audience air-guitaring into the east Vancouver night.