Tuesday, June 26th, 2007
It was a little infusion of Montreal at the Whippersnapper Gallery on Saturday night with an art exhibition from poster designer Jack Dylan, soundtracked by Montag and Miracle Fortress. The bill originally had the latter opening and the former headlining, but the running order was wisely flipped before showtime – putting aside the fact that the Miracle Fortress record is currently riding a not insignificant amount of buzz, following up a loud band with a not loud solo synth-pop artist just doesn’t make for the best dynamic.
And that’s not to take anything away from Antoine Bedard, he who is Montag and who has his own shiny new record in Going Places to promote. Though one-man synth bands as live performers tend to start off with a couple strikes against them what with being trapped behind a wall of keyboards, Montag did quite well for himself. For starters, Bedard seemed almost unnaturally happy to be playing, all pep and smiles, and that fit in well with the vibe of his music, which was also heavy on the pep and smiliness. Bedard’s decision to include lots of live percussion as well as violin to the live arrangements also added a very welcome organic and physical dimension to the show. Short and sugary-sweet.
I saw Miracle Fortress last October at Pop Montreal and was impressed with how the strength of the songs transcended the novelty and limitations of seeing Graham Van Pelt perform them solo, simultaneously working a drum kit, playing guitar and triggering keyboards and samples. But since the release of Five Roses last month and the acclaim that’s followed, it’s not only forced Van Pelt to transform Miracle Fortress from a pseudonym into a proper band but to step out from behind the figurative and literal shelter of the drum kit and play frontman.
I can’t imagine it’s an easy task to expand one man’s creative vision to three others, so even though the new additions were all fine players with terrific musical pedigrees, the inevitable growing pains were in evidence. It wasn’t anything especially specific, just a general feeling of the band getting used to playing the songs and with each other. It’s almost a shame that the record is so good as a whole because it makes reproducing it onstage, with all its soft and swirling textures, so much more daunting. Most notable was the odd, bleat-like quality that Van Pelt’s live vocals had when compared to the wonderful, Wilson-esque layered voices of the record and the individual songs, but I’ll chalk that up to nerves in transitioning from a studio project to a touring one and also the fact that the Whippersnapper’s PA system isn’t anything to write home about (unless it’s to complain).
But despite these complaints, the strength of Van Pelt’s compositions rose above it all and ensured a good time was had – the man has written some undeniably superb pop songs that can definitely translate in a live setting with the right arrangements, more confidence and experience. And as I heard that this show was a big improvement on the one they played a month ago at The Boat, I can only expect that they’re getting it all together and the next time through they’ll sound even better.
Photos: Miracle Fortress, Montag @ The Whippersnapper Gallery – June 23, 2007
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
MP3: Montag – “Best Boy Electric”
MP3: Montag – “Going Places”
The full itinerary for Okkervil River’s Fall tour is now up – Pitchfork has the full itinerary – and I note that after their Friday show in Toronto on September 21 is a Saturday show just down the QEW at the Pepper Jack Cafe in Hamilton. I think this calls for a rock’n’roll road trip to the Hammer. Who’s with me? I’m serious. It’s in the calendar and everything. Donuts and Okkervil double header = the awesome. Support for the Hamilton show and presumably the Toronto one as well is Damien Jurado.
Joseph Arthur has been added to the day one of V Fest. Those hoping for more acts to make or break their decision to attend will probably be disappointed – as far as big names go, things are pretty much set. There’s some more smaller acts still to be named but Radiohead is NOT going to be an 11th hour addition. But come on, look at the lineup – it’s pretty damn good on both days. So says I.
Other random announcements – Cary Brothers is a the El Mocambo on July 29 with the ever-present Stars Of Track & Field. Don’t these guys have homes? Also Girl Talk is at the Phoenix on September 12, Akron/Family at Lee’s on September 23 (full tour dates at Tiny Mix Tapes) and Earlimart is in town at the El Mocambo October 5. Their show at Main Hall in Montreal the following evening is almost certainly a Pop Montreal showcase.
Grok the first official cast photo from the Iron Man film, complete with Robert Downey Jr in dubious facial hair and a folically-challenged Jeff Bridges.
I finished season three of The Wire. I… I have no idea what to do with myself now.