New Music West 2008 – Day One

Surrey locals Versus the Nothing are a really nice bunch of guys. In what would become a stark contrast to the opening remarks of Southern Death Threat, Versus the Nothing chose to open their set by modestly thanking everyone for coming to the less-than-ideal gig before rocking as hard as they could at 7pm to an empty room (I counted thirty people, including the bartender and waitress). The highlight of their set was the first single from their new album ‘Let It All Come Down’ , which goes juh-juh-juh-juh-juh, haha, you get the picture. It’s a tried and true formula for the lads, but they play with a lot of heart and while they’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done, they do give it their best and they’re entertaining as all hell. The members of the band formerly known as Elixir are capable musicians, their set was tight, and their lead singer is able to shred vocals with the best of them. Is this a band destined for greatness though? Probably not. However every city needs a couple of these solid alt-rock bands in order to maintain a base of decent live music.

Versus the Nothing

The Roxy – 7pm

Danielle Duval

The Cellar – 8pm
Danielle Duval Also performing tonight, and just in from a Toronto to Vancouver flight, was Danielle Duval, a singer/songwriter (and sometimes back-up singer for the likes of the Sam Roberts Band) based out of Montreal. One of the main things you immediately notice about Duval is that she doesn’t accompany her songs with an acoustic guitar. Rather, she plays a GODDAMNED RED GIBSON SG (cue Jack Black ‘Mint condish!’ ) and she plays it very, very well in a super interesting folk/blues/rock hybrid style that is far from ordinary. Truth be told, I tried as hard as I could to think of a comparison to help describe her sound, but it’s so unique that really no one out there is doing anything like it right now. For instance, one of the tracks played ‘I Will Wait’ really showcased what this performer is all about; a very small girl with big booming keyboard chord progressions and an even bigger voice to match. The highlight of the set, for me at least, was when she performed ‘Bright Galactic’ , an amazing song which she said was written on an airplane. Her playing style is a great start-then-stop-then-start, strum-then-pick-then-strum in the same vein as Leslie Feist, however unlike Feist Duval sings with a level of honesty and soul that would be useless in a perfume commercial. Thank goodness for that! I would highly recommend checking out the songs she has posted on her MySpace, and then hope like I do that she comes back soon for a proper concert.

Southern Death Threat

The Roxy – 9pm
Southern Death Threat As mentioned earlier, Southern Death Threat opened their set with “Come on you motherfuckers! Come up to the front of the stage! Don’t make me fucking disappointed!” Obviously by this time the crowd at the Roxy had swelled to a mighty hundred-and-fifty or so rowdy-ass thrash metal lovers. About five seconds into the first song, I determined that this review would be best written in a checklist style. So here goes!

1) psychotic frontman (check)
2) lead guitarist with a guitar that looks like a murder weapon (check)
3) jarhead bass-player with army pants (check)
4) cowboy drummer who’s kick you can feel in your soul, already sold to Satan (check)
5) full throttle microphone twirling (check)
6) hair whirling (check)
7) evil banner written in even eviler writing (check)
8) gong show theatrics, including simulated amplifier electrocution (check)

Seriously though kids. If you don’t find metal asinine, or if you’re just in for ultra loud music and a good time, this is probably the band for you. I know dick all about metal, but I really got a kick out of Southern Death Threat’s set. At times the lead singer almost channels Kurt Cobain at Kurt’s absolute most furious and the band is not opposed to backing up their sonic mayhem with some good old fashioned power stances. Good times!

The Mighty Regis

The Yale – 10pm
The Mighty Regis Hailing from Ireland (via Los Angeles) the Mighty Regis are an anomaly in this year’s festival being that, as far as I know, they’re the only band from the Emerald Isle. Never mind the malarkey! Living in America definitely hasn’t changed this band or their thick accents. Make no mistake, this is a band that’s as Irish as Guinness stout. At one point lead singer Franky McNorman introduced his bandmate, saying “Dat’s Gavin on da mandolin over dere, workin’ his fookin’ fingers to da bone!” Singing many of the old traditional songs with a more amped up intensity, this seven-piece unit made the Yale feel like Saint Paddy’s Day either kinda late or very, very early. Alternate singer and rhythm guitarist Ryan O’Neil is an awesome singer in her own right, and, as Franky said best “Brings some fookin’ class to the place!” Reminiscent of the Dropkick Murphys, this band is not punk-rock per se, but they do work the crowd (and themselves!) in to a frenzy with their high energy jigs, reels, and straight-out awesome songs. I would undoubtedly go see this band again and I really hope they come back someday soon.

Adaline

The Railway Club – 11pm
Adaline I think when all is said and done with this festival, Vancouver’s own Adaline is going to come out as one of the best (if not the best) female vocalists we’ve seen. Describing herself as Indie / Electroacoustic / Folk Rock, she is another example of a young artist breaking barriers and producing songs that do not easily fit into any set musical genre. In her opening remarks to the obviously-enamored Railway crowd, Adaline mentioned that at some point in the past Thom Yorke had sat on the very same stage. It’s fitting that she would mention him, as her own music seems to be heavily influenced by bands like Yorke’s Radiohead, Cat Power, and most especially Canadian acts like Sarah Slean and Hawksley Workman. This is not to say that her style is a mimic of these influences, but the inspiration is obvious. Although not a fine-polished set, Adaline and her band reacted to audible mistakes well. At one point in a song the band’s iPod went off early and she simply stated “it’s reckless, but it works in a sonic kind of way!” They have the raw energy of a newer band and there is every reason to believe that they have the potential to do really well with a little tightening of the screws. Also, they play the xylophone, and who doesn’t love that? Really!