New Music West Day 2 - Read All About It...


Georgia Straight Awards

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In the mid-afternoon, I joined a large number of people at the Commodore Ballroom for the artist keynote speech. This event was open to delegate-pass holders, media, and those who shelled out $99 for a one-day delegate pass and/or the chance to see Marilyn Manson speak for a few minutes. A quick introduction by John Donelly, a brief speech by Michael McCarty, who is the head of EMI Music Publishing, and the Manson thing were on the agenda. McCarty basically talked about what it takes to get anywhere in the music industry, that being "insanely great music" (a term he used too much, making people gag after a while, and also being really the only thing about his speech anyone in the media picked up on…) like our pop queen Nelly Furtado, and a beautiful face, again like Ms. Furtado. Hmm. The crowd in the meantime, stuffed with goth and alterna-kids waiting for Manson to come out, did not look impressed. Manson, on the other hand, came across as a very clever man. He definitely knows what he's doing with his career, and understands the way the industry works. His speech was mostly about censorship, touching on silly things like his being required to take the word 'dead' out of one of his songs. The question-and-answer period afterwards consisted of a lot of awestruck individuals asking some fairly nutbar questions. Certainly the topic of his 'involvement' with violence in schools was brought up, as were requests to come out and see various shows at the festival. He spoke eloquently and thoroughly with everyone, and after about fifteen minutes, was lead from the stage (but not before shaking hands with the sudden rush of fans who dashed from their seats the second he finished talking). Then it was off to work for me for the day.

I was already miffed before I headed out in the evening because I knew I had missed sets by Rich Hope and Alpha Yaya Diallo, both who played too early for me to see them. So, my first stop was Sonar, where electronic artist Handsome Boy Modeling School was pumping out the beats. It was too dark to shoot, and too early for many people to start dancing, so I didn't stay too long. Next up was the Commodore, where the Waifs were onstage at the beginning of the "big show" of the festival. Later in the evening, the Weakerthans and the Lowest of the Low would be taking the stage, and this was the second of what seems to be many gigs in Vancouver for the Waifs. They deserve it; I think they are really worth checking out. After that, I skipped out on the trek to the (from what I hear) unbelievably packed Picadilly Pub, where rockers the New Town Animals were tearing down the walls. Instead, I took up an offer from a friend of mine who I had run into at Jack Tripper the night before. He had introduced me to a small gal named Adrienne Pierce. She played at the diminutive Commodore Café, a room I wasn't even aware existed until NMW came around. I popped in, on the way passing and exchanging brief words with the also-tiny Sean Macdonald, whose set was on my agenda for later in the evening. The small café inside was crammed to its full capacity, the casual and social crowd, seemingly comprised of a very tight and supportive family of people, all clustered close by the performance area. Adrienne was backed by a sparse band, and projected a lot of confidence and spite in her confrontational lyrics. It was a little jewel that I am very happy I managed to drop in and see for a few minutes.

I then dashed down to the Starfish Room to take in some refreshing fun folk from Zubot+Dawson. The room was quite full when I got there, with people jigging away on the floor. The band looked happy on stage, playing a multitude of instruments, and the crowd was drinking along merrily. I wish I could have stayed! Instead, I took off and headed back to the Commodore for the Weakerthans show. I ran into a whole lot of people there. The Weakerthans were engaging and delightful, and it seems like everyone in Canada, no matter what sort of music they play, respect the band's breezy punk. Breezy punk is a bit of an oxymoron I think, but it's really more ballad-y than punky. A large audience had squished right up to stagefront to dance and sing along.

Following that, I jumped back outside to the Commodore Café. Sean Macdonald was already playing, and I have to say, I really enjoyed his set. It was like the male response to Adrienne Pierce's set. The two of them could be siblings (for all I know, maybe they are siblings…). It was sort of creepy, now that I think about it. But he was a pretty astounding vocalist. I can never get over how these tiny people have the most powerful and well-projected voices.

I sprinted back over to the Penthouse for John Ford's 11:00 show. I caught the tail end of their set, but they were just plain out kickin' it when I got there. The crowd was loving their rockabilly madness. This is one energetic bunch of kids. It was good to at least be able to take this in after missing Rich Hope's solo set, as Rich also fronts this band. The members rotate instruments now and again, and everyone takes part in singing duties. They share microphones, they leap in the air, they get right down on their knees. It's what rock is all about, baby! I then backtracked to the Commodore, where the Lowest of the Low were finishing off the night in that room. The crowd had visibly diminished since the Weakerthans set, but those who were still around seemed attentive. Nothing hooked me about the performance, but neither was I totally disappointed in them. Average, but pretty good for what it is. And so I jetted back again to the Penthouse, where Following Horus was thankfully finishing up. All my past indifferences with the band aside, they really don't do much for me musically, and how they managed to snag a spot so late in the night at the Penthouse still astounds me. Their signature seems to be vocalist Denny's upright bass. They've changed their appearance quite a bit since last I saw them, but I still don't understand how they get pegged as a 'hard-rock band'. They're pretty tame as far as I'm concerned. And Denny still tries to get me to buy a copy of their album, despite the fact that they brutally scrapped me as that album's designer in the middle of the process, which still pisses me off. I'm glad I don't have to deal with them often.

Soon enough, Flash Bastard took the stage there and thoroughly ripped up the house. Vocalist Donal Finn sort of reminded me of a video game character the way he hopped around the stage flinging his legs up behind him, but he's just so darn pretty that we can forgive him for that little misgiving. While I have never been introduced to the other band members (and their industrial-style website has no bio on it) and consequently don't know their names, they all participated in the madness. In particular, their big, Dolf Lundgren-like guitarist is amusing. He doesn't look like the normal waif-like member of some glammy rock band, instead looking like a beefy wrestler that got stuck in his little sister's closet. He looks a little too crammed into his leather pants and zebra-print tank, and the cap of smooth, platinum-blond hair looks slightly unnatural for him. But he's always at the front of the stage (or on the catwalk, as it were), egging on the crowd or whipping his guitar about in a frenzy. In the meantime, Donal Finn is more or less making out with the microphone and sneeeeering in glorious haughty rock fashion.

That ended the evening (sort of) for me. Well, as far as concerts are concerned anyhow. Knowing I wouldn't be able to make it all the way across town to see Exit This Side, I hooked up with 69 Duster after that show, and ran all over town with them trying to find food and more drinks before engaging in a (*ahem*) exclusive photo shoot in the band's hotel room. But that's another story.