Wintersleep at The Commodore

Photos by Alex Ramon

When going to a show, people usually skip the opening acts and come right for the headliners. I, on the other hand, come for the entire show, because let’s face it, most bands usually bring some stellar supporting acts that would one day become headliners themselves. I try not to skip out for something I paid for, and usually I get it right. Of course there are those odd times when I’m not satisfied with a band I see, and it turns out when Wintersleep came to Vancouver to play at The Commodore, I was a little disappointed with the two bands that opened up, especially the second one (I won’t mention band names, but what kind of singer chews gum during their set?). I’ll leave the band names out of this article, but I think everyone in attendance would concur, because there was hardly any applause and people seemed listless, waiting in anticipation for one band, and one band only, Wintersleep.

It’s been a whirlwind adventure for this five-piece ensemble, which is comprised of Paul Murphy, Mike Bigelow, Loel Campbell, Tim D’eon, and Jon Samuel. This Juno Award winning rock band from Halifax, Nova Scotia was formed all the way back in 2002 and since then, have gone on to release two studio albums under the Dependent Music label, later signing to Labwork Music, which is an extension of EMI Music Canada, and then releasing their 2007 smash “Welcome to the Night Sky.” With this album they got the recognition they deserve by winning the Juno Award for New Group of the Year in 2008. (On a side-note, some members from Wintersleep also played in a nice little band called Holy Fuck.)

As I mentioned before, the opening acts were not what any of us expected, so when Wintersleep finally hit the stage, all the pent up energy finally exploded from the crowd, who started filing onto the dance floor like cows being herded into the slaughter barn (sorry for being so graphic… but that was the first image that popped into my head).

Wintersleep The band started off with a long instrumental build-up that reminded me a lot of some stadium rock we would expect from the likes of Coldplay. The last time I saw these Nova Scotians (is that even a word?), was back when they played at Pemberton, and even though they had to borrow instruments they still managed to wowed me. Since then, they’ve really matured as performers, becoming a more cohesive unit. They would frequently go into these uncontrolled instrumental jam sessions, which were actually very well organized and executed to perfection. They sure do know how to have fun up on that stage, constantly jumping and moving until sweat started dripping from their foreheads. For me, Wintersleep has that mystical component, where their songs go deep within my soul. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like an eerie creature crawled inside of me, lying dormant until I heard them again (like I said, it’s hard to explain!).

Of course there were many highlights from their set, but I’ll just name a few that stood out for me. “Archaeologists” was one of my favourite songs, especially when they broke out into the “Ah-ah-ah” harmonies at the beginning of the track. And then of course there’s “Weighty Ghost,” where I had a constant whiff of something burning on the dance floor that tickled my nose hairs (puffs of smoke were being blown up towards the ceiling and we all know what that means in our beautiful city). The other song that caught my attention, “Encyclopaedia,” isn’t even released yet. If I’m not mistaken, one of the lines in the chorus stated that “encyclopaedia hurts.” Maybe I’m looking too deep into this, but the band could possibly be stating that information could be dangerous. But alas, it doesn’t matter what I think, because they received a loud ovation after each of those three songs.

At the end of the night, people forgot about those two sub-standard opening acts, and would only remember how wonderful and exquisite the Wintersleep set was. They saved what could have been a potentially disastrous night, and turned it into one that was filled with joy and happiness (and drunkenness for some).

For more information on Wintersleep, feel free to visit their myspace and website.