Tender Forever and Mirah Rock Richard’s on RichardsPhotos by Alex Ramon
Vancouver is a metropolitan in its own right, with huge businesses and skyscrapers (sort of…). And this goes for our music scene as well. So I have to ask this question, because there have been rumours for as long as I can remember, why tear down “Richard’s on Richards” and build a condo? If we value our music scene, there should be no reason to tear down a great live venue such as “Dicks on Dicks.” Sure condos are great (actually they’re not…) but what about the Vancouver culture we are trying to build? Music and art are the ones who suffer from this lack of respect and it’s sad when you see great venues shut down. I remember a few years ago, the Buffalo Club got shut down and I nearly cried (OK maybe I didn’t…). But this rant of mine wouldn’t have even happened if it wasn’t for the sudden change of venue. I went to catch Tender Forever and Mirah at “The Biltmore,” but as soon as I got there, there was a sign saying that they were closed for “undisclosed reasons” and “sorry for the inconvenience” but the show was moved to “ROR.” That was fine by me, but I was more concerned about “The Biltmore” than I was about missing the show, and you’ll know why in just a second. But let’s start off with Tender Forever.
Now who is Tender Forever? Well this “group” is actually just one person, and that’s all it really needs! Melanie Valera comes from Bordeaux, France and is just a ball of energy. She started her musical career bussing for money covering sixties girl band standards as part of a group called “The Bonnies.” She later formed a group called “Garrison Rocks” with a friend she met during her travels in San Francisco. They toured extensively and played with other acts such as Little Wings and Ted Leo, but this wasn’t enough for Melanie. Her creative juices kept flowing and she created a solo project known as “Tender Forever.” Formed in 2005, this electro lo-fi R&B emo pop has toured all over France and did some summer-camp touring in the US. Her first album was released on K records and she is definitely someone to watch out for.
When she came by Vancouver to play a show, I knew at once I had to check her out. She was scheduled to play at “The Biltmore,” but unfortunately it burnt down (I think that sounds worse than it really it is…it was just a fire…) and the show was re-located to “Richard’s on Richards.” On the way down to the venue, I couldn’t believe how many hipsters were riding there speed bikes on the road. I was getting a little pissed because they would always dodge out on the road as I was passing them by in my car. Little did I know they were all headed down to catch “Tender Forever.” I got into “ROR” and these hipsters all congregated onto the dance floor to watch Melanie do her thing. I don’t think I’ve seen that many skinny jeans wearing people shake their asses, so it was really a sight to see. Peering through the crowd, I witnessed something on stage that I did not expect. Melanie, the sole member of “Tender Forever,” danced and rocked out on stage as if she had a huge band behind her. Her voice is like a blend of Serena Ryder and Regina Spektor with a splash of CoCo Rosie, so she’s definitely someone you don’t normally hear on the radio, but she has the potential to be. When I saw her rock out with her metaphorical cock out, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Buck 65’s set at Pemberton. They both had laptops, they both were solo performers, and they both danced like they choreographed every single move. This multi-talented musician brought out the guitar for a few songs (in which I just walked into because of the stupid venue change… damn fire!), the keyboard for a few more, but when she rocked out on the tambourine for her song “How Many,” she clearly defined herself as unique brand of electro-pop. I wouldn’t be surprised if she one day will be featured in an iPod commercial (or in my case, a Zune commercial!).
Mirah was born to be a musician. Quite literally because she wrote her first song when she was 4. Now when I was 4 years old, I believe I was still pooping my pants, so I was definitely not meant to be a musician (maybe I was meant to work in the sanitation industry…). But let’s fast forward a little and pass her “Double Dare” game show experience and onto her music, which is what we all care about anyways. So at the tender age of 18, she attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia and began singing and writing music. In 1997, Mirah released her first solo album titled “Storageland” on Yoyo Records. After a brief stint with this label, she moved her talents onto K Records in 1999 and released two fantastic albums, “You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This” and “Advisory Committee.” You know you’ve made an impact when other artists from your label put out an entire album just covering your songs, and that’s just what happened when K records released “Joyride: Remixes.” And on a side-note, one of Mirah’s songs titled “The Garden,” was featured on So You Think You Can Dance (Season 4… 4 Real!!!!… I am a not so closet SYTYCD lover).
So when I realized she was coming into town with Tender Forever, I knew I was in for a treat. She is the quintessential singer/songwriter. When she was up on that “ROR” stage, she demanded the attention from everyone in the audience. Her voice was tender and serene, but when she wanted to she could belt with the best of them. But it wasn’t just her powerful voice that drew everyone in, it was also her charm and stage presence. In between songs, she would talk to the crowd as if they we were all long time friends. And it just so happened that there were some long time friends in the audience supporting her. For a few songs, these friends came up on stage and played alongside her, which totally blew my mind away. It seemed like a tribal dance was going on, when everyone was playing some sort of percussion instrument and the only melody you heard was Mirah’s voice. At first, I thought she sounded a lot like Jewel, but as the night went on I would have to say that Jewel sounds a lot like Mirah. She is no doubt a musician and as much as we wanted her to continue playing, the dicks at “Richard’s on Richards” (pun intended…) had to kick us all out for what they call “club night.”
I sure hope this isn’t the last show I’ll go to at “Richard’s on Richards” before it gets torn down into a condo, but if it is, what a way to go out! Make sure you check out Tender Forever’s myspace as well as Mirah’s myspace. Also make sure you check out the contest page for details about winning a signed copy of Tender Forever’s CD, as well as a poster and sticker! See, I do hook up my loyal readers.