Tuck and Pawnshop Diamond at The Media ClubPhotos by Aretha Munro
Over the past few years we have seen a diverse and talented pool of musicians coming out of the East Vancouver music scene, with bands such as Black Mountain, the Pink Mountaintops, Blood Meridian, Japandroids and Pride Tiger, just to name a few, receiving international recognition and praise. On Thursday night I had the treat of enjoying the performances of two talented, up and coming bands out of East Vancouver’s rich musical community. Tuck, a promising new progressive folk rock group, took the stage at the Media Club to celebrate the 2008 release of their first full-length album “Lullabies and other lies.” They were joined by fellow east Van roots rockers Pawnshop Diamond, headed by the grooving and energetic Katie Ormiston, as well as local bands Propolis and Language Arts.
Sharing members with Parlour Steps, the West Coast Symphony and the Phoenix Chamber Choir, Tuck consists of frontman Amos Ashurst (guitars, vocals), Jaime Ashurst (vocals), Jessica Werb (cello), Kim Stewart (bass, vocals), and Rob Linton (drums). Two of Tuck’s members have spent time in the past writing and playing music with Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire, and this impressive musical background shows. With an eccentric and progressive folk rock sound, Tuck’s first full-length album “Lullabies and other lies” is a solid effort, drawing strength from Ashurst’s distinctive vocals (incredibly similar to that of Michael Stipe), Werb’s mood-setting cello, the group’s warm vocal harmonies and the occasional dab of clarinet. Produced by Juno award-winning producer Steve Dawson, the album was released in November of 2008 on Copperspine Records, and on May 21st the group took the stage at the media club to celebrate.
Opening the set with the song “Sunlight,” which does not appear on their debut album, it becomes quickly evident that the small, but friendly and enthusiastic crowd is in for a great show. Taking swigs of a beer that he has placed in a nifty cup-holder attached to his microphone stand, Ashurst immediately proves that he has a voice, and the songwriting capabilities worth remembering. While his voice draws striking comparison to that of REM frontman Michael Stipe, Ashurst is not without originality, finding warm, incredibly moving moments while also injecting a sense of urgency and almost anger into his song at times. Moving on into the evening, the group found a strongpoint with the first track off their album, “Watering Line.” With a cello part that compliments the upbeat ballad perfectly, and moments of clarinet that seem to flutter effortlessly above the enchanting tune, creating a very atmospheric and almost nostalgic feel that leaves you with butterflies in your stomach, it was catchy and moving, and noticeably captured the attention of the audience. One of the last songs of the evening, titled “Until its over” (fondly nicknamed ‘clappy’ by the group) provided for a great end to Tuck’s set. Containing great elements of percussion similar to that often showcased by groups such as The Most Serene Republic, the whole group claps throughout while Ashurst and the other vocalists lay down chilling, melancholic harmonies. Unfortunately Ashurst notified the crowd that it isn’t his favourite, and it would be the last time the group would be performing the song, and he instructs us to “buy the CD if you want to hear it again,” which is a real shame for such a great piece. Overall, Tuck’s performance was a solid and consistent effort, showcasing the great song writing talent of a group of seasoned musicians. It is a real treat when one experiences a new, original sound and Tuck delivered admirably.
Following Tuck, the crowd at the Media Club was treated to an outstanding performance by East Van folk rockers Pawnshop Diamond. Formed just shy of her 30th birthday, Katie Ormiston’s band Pawnshop Diamond is a folky, roots rock group that draws influence from classic songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Lucinda Williams. With Katie Ormiston (vocals, guitar) fronting the band, she is joined by a talented group of musicians with Nina Fleming on piano and vocals, Dave Taylor on electric guitar, Lynn Saffery on bass and Lucas Schuller on drums. Having shared the bill with the likes of Corb Lund, Sarah Harmer and Michael Franti during past performances, Pawnshop Diamond writes undoubtedly timeless music, which is very enjoyable and deemed for longevity.
With Jess Waldman and his fedora sitting in on electric guitar, Pawnshop Diamond’s set was a pleasure. When observing Ormiston groove up on the stage with a big smile on her face, you immediately get the sense that her, and the rest of Pawnshop Diamond truly want to be there for all the right reasons. They seem to simply love playing their music and performing for the welcoming crowd, and as Ormiston opens the set, she instructs the crowd that “it is never too late to start a rock band,” speaking from her experience of starting to write and play music later in life. And I must say, we’re glad she did. Starting with the upbeat “Shape I’m In (talk about it),” the band quickly settles in to the stage comfortably and with a great laid-back energy. Moving through the set list smoothly, the group seemed to have mastered writing and playing songs that provide great atmosphere and a strong sense of nostalgia. Pawnshop Diamond’s final song of the evening, titled “Sweet Music,” holds very true to its name. An ode to her musical influences, Ormiston sings that “sweet music brought [her] home,” and I couldn’t agree more. Pawnshop Diamond seemed very much at home on the tiny Media Club stage, and I can’t wait to watch such a great local act grow and find success in the years to come.