Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Currente calamo: The ALL CAPS! Island Festival 2013 (Saturday)

The ALL CAPS! Island Festival 2013 — Artscape Gibraltar Point

Day 1 — feat. Unfinished Business / Most People / ev ree wuhn / beekeeper / Shotgun Jimmie / Bizzarh / Hooded Fang / The Blow

While it's all fresh in my mind, a few notes from this year's ALL CAPS! Festival. Longer, more comprehensive reviews will follow down the road a piece.

Over each of the past four years, Wavelength has thrown an Island festival that has gotten bigger and more ambitious in scope — and become for some folks a tentpole summer event. When word of the fifth iteration came with the adjective "final" in its title, there was certainly cause for consternation. And yet, that "final" also fit right into the Wavelength ethos: on the one hand, it served as a focusing device, a reminder to be alive to this moment, because this is it. It also served as a reminder of WL's playful self-rejuvenation, as if the organizers were saying, "All right, we've finally really figured out how to do this, so let's start something new from scratch and make some more mistakes again."

And indeed, at a logistical level, this went off without a hitch. It helped that that ever-mercurial weather co-operated beyond all expectations, with pleasantly warm days turning to gorgeously cool evenings, and no threat of rain. But beyond that, the festival went off like clockwork — having nearly all the music on the roomy outdoor stage meant that the next band up could be gathering their gear together and getting ready to set up even before the band ahead of them finished playing. In fact, for the diligent music-listener, the main stage operated so efficiently that there was hardly time to check out the rest of the festival, from the game zone with ping-pong table and a giant Jenga set, to the open art studios, to — ah! — the beautiful beach. That also meant that people could customize their experience: for some, the music was merely the background to the camping, hanging around, beach-going, etc, and that's cool too.

I was mostly sticking around by the stage, mind, and I made a point of being there early enough to see the lightning-fast set from festival openers Unfinished Business. I'd seen the teenaged trio a few times already, and they always play with refreshingly unjaded joy. The youngest band at the festival (now savvy veterans at thirteen and fourteen years old!), they also helped to reinforce ALL CAPS' all-ages ethos, playing songs they've written about superpowers and #epicfails. Their music also brought some of the crowd's younger members right up front, so hopefully the we can do it/you can do it message is being passed along. The confetti cannon blast at the end came after only about ten minutes of playing, but the band packed in a full set of quick songs. [By the way, if you act fast, you can still get in on the rewards of the band's crowd-funded vinyl release plans.]

Listen to a couple quick songs from this set here.

"Incubator" band Most People have played the anniversary festival and celebrated their album release with Wavelength, but outside on a sunny afternoon seemed like their ideal environment. Although the songs' electronic spines feel like they were laptop-crafted in the bedroom, they have an expansive languidness that opens up underneath the sky. The echo-y atmospheres recall Dusted at a few points, but without the glumness. Employing guitar and bass on top of backing tracks, Brandon Gibson-DeGroote and Paul McEachern also take care to craft a concert experience that feels "live", whether joining in on a dual-drum breakdown or in striking a winking rock-star pose during closing statement of purpose "Young and Wild".

Listen to a song from this set here.

Name-wise, ev ree wuhn [sic] might sound more expansively ambitious than "Most People", and indeed, there's more reach in their post-bedroom breakbeat-informed wooze. That's not always to their credit, as that widescreen ambition sometimes led to a blockbuster-esque generic-ness. For example "Turquoise", featuring an over-emoting Devin Wilson (of local "apocalypse pop" unit Bravestation), sounded like the band was imagining themselves playing an arena show and reaching for the cheap seats. Some of the more textured material, such as "Paper Tokyo" came off better, and closer "Colours" seemed like an appropriate soundtrack to lean back and watch the clouds drifting overhead.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Taking the stage to the pre-recorded voice of a "bad advice hotline" would be the first sign that Vancouver's beekeeper is leavening their pop-punk-y tunes with a fair bit of whimsy. To put it another way: it was not a shock when the drummer punctuated a song by pulling out a kazoo. Usually, a little of this goes a long way, but I was actually surprised that I enjoyed the band's goofiness more than the music. When they broke into a (gleep) Alanis Morissette cover, at least Devon Lougheed had the decency to run down to the ground in front of the stage to solo among the first row of spectators. But there were some hints (such as the power pop of "It's The Blood") that the band's music might yet become as inneresting as their antics.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Hopefully they stuck around, as they could have no better guide to integrating whimsy and strong songwriting than Jim Kilpatrick, who operates under the nom de guerre Shotgun Jimmie. Often (such as at his Wavelength-abetted album release show) playing as a one-man band, Kilpatrick was backed here by a rhythm section of Jay Baird and the Cannon Bros.' Cole Woods. Having musical support behind him gave Kilpatrick a chance to untether himself from the songs a bit, leading to some pleasingly goofy "jazz" excursions and lounge versions of some of the tunes. The pair rolled with the sudden shifts, laughing along, and could also provide a powerful new wave crunch when the band attacked the songs head-on, such as on Transistor Sister's "Suzy". And more than at that album-release show, Kilpatrick was tossing out songs from throughout his career.

On the surface, these are simple songs presented in an uncomplicated way, but Kilpatrick's wit and presence elevates the material quite a lot. Maybe not so much that I'd want to join the trio of sing-all-the-words superfans who spent the show at the lip of the stage, but this was still pretty great stuff and one of the festival's highlights.

Listen to a couple songs from this set here.

Had I not seen Bizzarh just a couple weeks ago, I might have been dubious about the pair, as their hip-hop/R&B style is not the sort of music that I usually gravitate towards. But that Regent Park gig was a good reminder that talent trumps genre every time, and I left totally impressed with the duo.

Charli Champ and Dollar Paris play off each other with the ease of telepathic twins, spitting rhymes and singing hooks with a natural ease. That said, as they took the bigger festival stage, they looked a bit more nervous than at that last time 'round and it took a couple songs for them to really find their groove. But as they moved along, it seemed as if they realized the crowd was really into this, and they got back to their confident swagger. If we didn't get the front-porch a capella the pair threw off at Regent Park, we did get a string of rapid-fire hits, and there was so much packed into the quick songs that I was surprised that the set was done in twenty minutes.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Relative veterans, Hooded Fang showed how to keep the show moving forward even when there's some bumps in the road. After easing in with instrumental "Big Blue", the band leaped into their Gravez-garage-gloom, only to have both April Aliermo's bass and vocalist Daniel Lee's microphone come unplugged. The rest of the band plunged on, Lee gave a smile and a shrug and all at once they took off. As the band careened into "Ode to Subterrania", a small (and fairly gentle) moshpit formed up front as Lee and fellow guitarist Lane Halley threw in some fresh licks and noise-twists into the songs. Spreading the banter around also let the band's personalities shine, with the crowd getting to hear from an erudite hobo perfessor (drummer D. Alex Meeks) and sassy activist Aliermo. Even in the moments where things were falling apart a bit — or especially? — the set was a superb mix of technicolor slop and motorvatin' gusto.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Given that I had never heard of The Blow before, I simply had to trust in the curatorial skills of the Wavelength crew. But it didn't take long for Khaela Maricich to establish her headliner bona fides. All of the rock'n'roll gear stripped away, Maricich entered to a stage that was empty, save for her microphone stand, and proceeded to fill up the whole thing with her goofy/manic/sexy energy. Collaborator Melissa Dyne worked from a platform behind the audience, and as she'd start tracks and drop in skittering rhythmic complications, Maricich moved like one of the pied piper's rats, twitching and suddenly possessed by the music. (And if that makes it sound like a disagreeable experience for Maricich, do note that she'd frequently implore Dyne to never, ever let the rhythm stop.) It's a bit too bad that "Step Into My Wiggle Room", which would be an entirely apt album title, is already taken.

There was an element of performance art at play here, but it was never at the expense of the music or having fun. Debuting a set of almost entirely new material, there were some rough edges, but the anything-could-happen sensibility was a thousand times more fun than over-polished professionalism. Maricich got the crowd on side (demonstrations such as "Six Things My Butt Never Does" were a big winner) and even enlisted volunteers to operate the smoke machine at the edge of the stage. She also solicited ideas from the crowd, doing a cartwheel when one was called for and all-but-daring the crowd to command her to take off her pants. By the end of the set she spent most of one song singing while crowd surfing ("don't put me back! I don't want to stand!") — and eventually, the pants came off. That's always a satisfying way to end an evening.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Addendum: I have more photos from the weekend posted in an album over at the MFS Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment