New Music West 2008 – Day Two

So I was originally supposed to review five bands again tonight, but I totally effed up the time and missed the seven o’clock show put on by The Fury at the Blarney Stone in Gastown. This is the second time since the festival started that I’ve missed a gig at that spot, so come hell or high-water I’m going to make it there sooner or later. The second band I missed was called Smoosh who were up from Seattle. By the time they were scheduled to hit the stage, I was honestly just too tired to see another show. I’m starting to see how classic rock writers like Lester Bangs and Nick Kent ended up in unholy relationships with amphetamines. Not that I would advocate those shenanigans. Anyway, onto tonight’s reviews!

Maria in the Shower

The Penthouse – 8pm
Jesus Murphy I don’t know what to say about the set I witnessed by this band tonight, so here’s a few run-on sentences where I attempt to fill you in on what went down at The Penthouse strip club by Vancouver locals, Maria in the Shower. First off everyone was greeted at the door by lead singer Jack Garton, dressed up in all-black ringmaster clothes and full black and white make-up like Eric Draven from The Crow, who was all the while playing an accordion. Then, once the crowd was more or less seated, Garton walked through the room (still playing) and up onto the stage where he was joined by his three bandmates Martin Reisle, Brendon Hartley, and Todd Biffard – all of which were also dressed like the mimes from hell. Meanwhile, the side of the stage filled up with a group of eight people with broom handles, dressed like they’d just gotten off a shift in a mine. What followed was one of the most amazing and innovative shows I’ve ever seen performed by a small and virtually unknown band. A beautiful blend of American roots-rock with flourishes of Garton’s trumpet, accordion, and stellar guitar playing by Reisle that would be right at home on some of the earliest Sun recordings. I could write a huge article about this band (and I likely will at some point), however I will take what little wakefulness I still have and write a bit about the closing number “Trail of Pounding Tears” . This amazing track which can also be heard on their website, featured unorthodox percussion by Biffard that involved the clanking of hammer on rail, and the repetitive dropping of heavy chain in a bucket at which point the “˜miners’ came to life and threw down one of the coolest dance routines of all time. Kind of like Cirque du Soleil mixed with an old song-and-dance musical, but if you took out the professional dancers and contortionists and put in everyday workers instead. Wonderful music, an incredible stage presence by all members of the band; not just Garton, who is himself an expressive showman along the same line as (dare I say it?) Freddy Mercury himself. All of this combined make Maria in the Shower one of the bands to watch. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this band is completely amazing and is exactly the kind of vibrant expression of art that this city so badly needs right now. Let’s hope they’re around for the long haul.

Good Morning Maxfield

The Yale – 9pm
Good Morning Maxfield There are two points I should mention before starting my review on Good Morning Maxfield. The first is that I didn’t go to The Yale to see them at all. In fact, I was only really there to see a band from the Netherlands called Do the Undo because I absolutely adore bands from that part of the world and pretty much anything that sounds like the Shout Out Louds. Do the Undo, of course, didn’t show for some reason and Good Morning Maxfield were fortunate enough to get their spot. The second thing I should mention is that I don’t like jam bands. Like, at all really. I never have. So what do either of these points have to do with tonight’s Good Morning Maxfield set? Well firstly, I consider it an act of extreme good luck that I got to see this band because they’re pretty amazing. Knowing now how good they are live, I think I would have really kicked myself if I hadn’t made a point of seeing their show. And secondly, I consider them to be amazing despite the fact that they are also a no-bones-about-it jam band. The guys hail from Salt Lake City, Utah and are hands-down the most clean cut crew I’ve seen all festival which is interesting only insofar as they give a false first impression that they’re going to be little more than another college-rock band along the same lines as Sloan and 54-40. The real kicker, however, comes when they launch into their set, which includes several songs that swirl into a six-man psychedelic blow-out evocative of Oasis five minutes into Champagne Supernova. “We’re from Utah,” stated Stuart Maxfield, “where the tumbleweeds are!and the sagebrush.” No shit, Utah! Your Mormon grandparents hymns these songs ain’t! It’s great to see a band so comfortable with each other that they can play at various speeds (often within the same song) all the while keeping the set tight and never leaving the listener wondering whether or not the train has come off the rails. Even when rhythm guitarist Brandon Kitterman’s guitar gave up the ghost during an entire song, the band soldiered on and no one would have known if not for Kitterman’s scramble to correct the situation. Despite these little mishaps that beset almost every band in a no-soundcheck festival situation, luck has really been on their side so far this week in terms of getting to play two gigs instead of one and hopefully a third set tomorrow night if someone cancels. If they keep touring and playing as well as they do, there’s really no end to what they could accomplish because they have the basic requirements to be a great band. And all this from a guy who can’t stand jam bands!

P.S. Their merch table girl Caitlin is as sweet as apple pie and can tell you more about the great State of Utah than you ever even thought to ask. Did you know you can ski your ass off there? I didn’t until I talked to Caitlin.

C.R. Avery

The Yale – 10pm
CR AveryHave you ever heard music that’s a hybrid of blues and hip-hop? I never had until I caught C.R. Avery’s set at The Yale tonight. Opening with a Leadbelly cover remixed and performed acapella with a combination of singing, beatboxing, and harmonica playing, it would be safe to say that the crowd was pleasantly shocked as hell. The band itself is a four-piece comprised of Avery on beatbox, harp, and keys, Noah Walker on guitar, David “Doc” Herbert on drums, and Paul Surjadinata on bass. Everyone sings, although Avery is the lead and put together the gang of four are simply electric. Imagine the most spazzy kids you knew in junior high, age them twenty years, put them in early 1970’s clothes and toss them on stage with some instruments and you’d be in the ballpark with what this band looks like. Doc Herbert is an extremely versatile drummer and he absolutely has to be to keep time with music this eccentric. Likewise, Noah Walker must have a sixth sense to know what Avery is going to do next. And Paul Surjadinata? Well if he isn’t the funkiest bass player I’ve ever seen EVER, I don’t know who is. Seriously, until the day I get to see Flea from the Chili Peppers with my own eyes, Surjadinata is going to remain the champ in my books. C.R. Avery is every bit as comfortable at throwing down a poetry jam reminiscent of the Beats as he is at straight-out singing. So how do you describe his vocal styling? After much discussion it was decided that he was most often a blend of both Tom Waits and Canadian singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman, although Avery’s music is so eclectic that it’s very difficult to pin down. For instance “German Computer” at times channels James Brown’s guttural “Hoo! Haw!” funk call with a berserk robotic voice singing “Oooh! Tel-e-vision!” He’s a good singer, and a fast rapper who stay’s fluent even in staccato, as Mos Def would say. Simply put, they’re an amazing band and I’m glad they’re from Vancouver because that means I’ll be able to see them again soon. Check “˜em out! You won’t be disappointed.