Sex With Strangers, Guilty About Girls, and Combine The Victorious At The Biltmore

Photos courtesy of Dominic Cho

Well this night was very interesting to say the least. I wasn’t 100% sure if I was going to come out to this show at The Biltmore, mainly because I was heading up early in the morning (when I say early… I mean 6 AM!) to cover the Whistler Music Festival. But I’m not a person that worries too much about sleep deprivation, so I ended up going and now you all have an article to read. So this is solely for your reading pleasure and just to let you know, I’m dead tired and still recovering. The things I do for you guys…

Combine The Victorious

Combine The VictoriousSo where should I start with this group. Well first off, the group consists of two very talented individuals in Mark Henning and Isabelle Dunlop. Mark, a record producer and engineer, goes way back to the 90’s (can you believe it’s 2008!) when he was keyboardist for a band called “Pure” and later a member of the power pop band “Blisterene.” The band didn’t last very long, and Mark soon shrunk back into his work as studio engineer. Isabelle is a talented musician, as well as a sought after fashion designer, came over from Scotland in 1990. She then used her fashion knowledge and became a successful co-owner of a fashion boutique called “The Block.” With producing and fashion put aside, Mark and Isabelle began recording their own material, something they could put in their own collection of music, which has gotten praise from a very wide audience. With songs featured on CTV’s (also coincidentally the abbreviations for the band name) show “Whistler” and Global Television’s show “About a Girl,” this band is sure to make a splash in the near future.

I had an opportunity to catch them at The Biltmore, which is probably one of my favourite local music spots. After hearing the beautiful tracks they posted on their myspace, I was expecting to hear something amazing. I guess Mark really is a great producer if he could mix something so serene from the comfort of his own home. It might have been because they were the first to play that night, or maybe it was because there were so many festivals happening this weekend, such as the Vancouver Folk Fest as well as The Whistler Music Festival, but not many people were at the beginning of the show. But that didn’t seem to faze them, and with a backing band as support, they were true professionals and rocked hard on stage. Isabelle and Mark had really good chemistry together, with their harmonies echoing throughout the venue. However, there were a few points where they were off key, but I could hardly tell because I was focused too much on Mark bouncing off the walls. They have to work a little more on their live performance, but all in all, Combine The Victorious is definitely a band to watch out for and I’m really excited to see what they come out with next. Maybe a featured song on the new 90210 series?

Guilty About Girls

Guilty About GirlsThis band for me symbolizes the 90’s music genre perfectly. The line-up includes Jordy Birch on vocals/guitar, Mark Henning (this guy is just a work horse!) on keyboards, and Lucas T. Poth on drums/programming. Jordy was part of that 90’s rock band “Pure” with Mark and in 2007 they hooked up once again to form Guilty About Girls (GAG), a band that is solely making music for the fun and light hearted individuals that we know we all are.

Throughout their set, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to two very successful 90’s bands in “Weezer” and “Limblifter.” With their catchy melodies and memorable hooks, GAG was a sure crowd pleaser. People were finally storming into the Biltmore and everyone on the floor was dancing away and singing a long to the simple lyrics that make GAG so much fun to watch. Mark once again provided the necessary energy on stage and for a minute, I thought he was going to break his neck or have whiplash from all the head banging he was doing. Jordy was equal to the task, and fed off the energy from the crowd and performed each song with the intensity a front-man should have. The only bad thing I could say about them, which isn’t a bad thing really, was that their set was too short. Maybe it was just me, but I was having so much fun watching them that I didn’t want them to stop. I guess for them, their mission was accomplished.

Sex With Strangers

Sex With StrangersThe night was capped off with a nice electro-rock band by the name of Sex With Strangers (SWS). By this point in the night, I was getting really tired and wanted to head home to a nice comfy bed before waking up and starting the day all over again. But when this band stepped on stage, I knew I was in for a ride. SWS consists of Hatch Benedict, enigmatic front-man/keyboardist, Magnus Magnum (Is that really his name? Because if it is, I think I have to step it up and notch and change my name to Max Powers) on bass/keyboards, Cory Price on guitar/bass, Isabelle Dunlop (I guess she doesn’t have a day off either?) on vocals, Luna Comebacktobed (Ok now it’s just getting ridiculous…but I like it…) on vocals/keyboard, and Dan Walker on drums. In 2007, they recorded their first EP titled “A Future Tragedy” and this was followed up by their 2008 full album release of “The Modern Seduction.” With producer Mark Henning on board (This guy sure is popular eh!) this concept album of a dystopian future is unique in its own respect.

A while back at the Media Club, and when I say a while I mean one year, I saw SWS leave it all on the dance floor to a crowd of maybe 15 max. Things sure have changed for these guys as The Biltmore finally started to fill up when SWS came on stage. They were accompanied by two wooden cut skulls with red lighted eyeballs on both sides of the stage, which was a perfect set up for what we were all going to experience. Throughout the night, there was a theme going on of Jack Daniels and Robots. I don’t know how drunk Hatch was, but he sure was pounding that bottle back pretty hard. But that didn’t hurt him whatsoever. His vocal chops are very impressive and unique, and he is probably one of the most animated front-man I have seen in a while. I’m surprised the speakers didn’t blow up, because my ear drums were throbbing after this show. I haven’t had that experience since the “Hey Rosetta” concert at The Media Club, and I was beside the speakers the entire night. With that said, the electro-rock genre (and a heavy emphasis on the electro) is going to get a kick in the face with this powerful band and it looks like they are building up quite a strong following. A word of advice, bring ear plugs and a bottle of JD to their shows.