Archive for show

Handsome Furs at the Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, July 22 2011

Posted in journal, music journalism, rock & roll, writing with tags , , , , on July 22, 2011 by bex0r

On Friday night, Handsome Furs made their much-anticipated return to Vancouver on a shared bill with Brooklyn post-hardcore band Les Savy Fav.

Originally slated for the larger Commodore Ballroom, the show was moved to the Rickshaw Theatre on East Hastings at the last minute. While Montreal-via-Vancouver husband/wife duo Handsome Furs did draw a big enough crowd to fill the Rickshaw adequately, it seemed that perhaps Les Savy Fav’s fan base was a little thin and the venue shuffle was probably a smart move.

Handsome Furs took the stage at about 10 o’clock to much anticipation and an overly aggressive smoke machine pumping out clouds of smelly dry ice. Through the haze came Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry, the sexy, married couple-turned-international-indie-dance sensation, complete with multicolored lasers (they must have known I was coming).

Boeckner, formerly of Wolf Parade, truly shines as the musical backbone of this group. He played an amazing lead and rhythm guitar, in addition to intricate synth melodies and lead vocals reminiscent of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. Partner Alexei Perry provided much of the energy and punchy back-up vocals along with cuing their drum and synth loops and playing some simpler synth lines. While Boeckner stands out for his musicality, Perry equally shines for sheer enthusiasm and stage presence.

The move from more traditional guitar-based indie-rock to electronic-based dance is a successful one for Handsome Furs. Although initial spins of their new album Sound Kapital left this reviewer underwhelmed, their live performance adds a dimension that is often missed on recordings. Performed live, the tunes highlighted their strong songwriting and arranging talents. While the album mostly feels flat and robotic, lacking the sonic texture, emotion and grit we’ve come to associate with Handsome Furs’ sound, their live performance truly is a robust and energizing spectacle with all the guts, balls and heart missing on the record.

The addition of two percussionists and back-up vocals/off-stage antics of Vancouver indie-folksters Basketball on “Serve The People” reinvigorated the crowd, and also tested the bouncer who tried to keep the band from climbing over the barricade onto the stage. Although not a totally spontaneous moment (Basketball had provided opening support for the Furs’ previous Canadian tour dates), it was nonetheless one of musical serendipity.

Dessa, Sims & Lazerbeak @ the Biltmore

Posted in music journalism, reviews, writing with tags , , , , , on May 1, 2011 by bex0r

Wednesday evening the Biltmore Cabaret hosted three acts from the Doomtree hip-hop crew of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their lone female MC, Dessa, is headlining her first solo international tour with support from MC Sims and DJ/producer Lazerbeak. Lazerbeak opened with a DJ set of downtempo and hip hop inspired tracks, providing a chill opening to the night. Second up was Sims, who got the crowd hyped with his high-energy vocal-based hip hop tunes and rowdy crowd-pleasing stage antics.Around 11:30 pm Dessa took the stage looking casual in a white button-down shirt, jeans and sneakers. Her relaxed demeanor stood in stark contrast to the screaming drunk girls in the front row, who had perhaps gotten lost on their way home from the Lil Wayne show happening earlier that night. Dessa took the borderline inappropriate fangrrls in stride and commenced to give what is probably one of the best performances by a female MC the Biltmore has even witnessed.

Although the crowd was small, (about 70 folks all told) those present were engaged, enthusiastic and obviously knowledgeable Doomtree fans, singing Dessa’s lyrics along with her and shouting out the hooks at all the drops. Lazerbeak provided deadly beats live from his drum machine, which he played more like a real drumset than a preprogrammed computer, and provided a lively counterpart for Dessa’s onstage banter. She jokingly elbowed her way in and repeatedly pushed what she defiantly proclaimed was “her button” on the drum machine.

Dessa’s vocal skills are akin to a cross between the hip hop flavor of Lauryn Hill, the smooth smoky soul of Eryka Badu, and the slick slam poet style of Ursula Rucker. She brought all this, plus her inimitably cheeky sense of humor and humble sense of self. While the women in the audience kept remarking on her stunning looks, I heard many of the men talking about her skill as an MC and performer. While she is definitely beautiful, what is really most striking about Dessa is her ability, both as a performer, MC and songwriter.

dessa – “children’s work”