Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007
Hello from Montreal. Before shifting things entirely to matters Pop Montreal, a bit of business from Monday night to take care of, namely John Vanderslice’s show at the El Mocambo. It was supposed to be a sort of super-bill, with the ‘Slice’s tour intersecting with that of fellow San Fransicans Two Gallants but they were felled by a busted-down van, leaving Vanderslice and Two Gallants tourmates Blitzen Trapper to carry the night.
Blitzen Trapper were a complete unknown to me before Monday so it’s not overstating to say that they came out of nowhere and totally impressed. To describe the six-piece Portland outfit as “roots rockers” wouldn’t be inaccuarte, but it’d also be a huge disservice. Yeah, at the core of it they play raw and rambunctious old-school rock, but they sound like they’ve traveled the (musical) world and seen the sights before settling in on the farm. Their songs were deceptively complex and ambitiously structured – there may have been more synths on stage than guitars – but never at the cost of the killer pop hook. Though the audience wasn’t more than a few dozen people deep, they were loud and enthusiastic and called them back for an encore and deservedly so. Their new album is Wild Mountain Nation and is worth checking out. And definitely seeing live.
With such a high energy act to follow, Vanderslice – a terrific songsmith and producer and all-around nice chap but not one you’d call a rock monster – and his band had their work cut out for them. And as far as putting on a great show, they were up to the task though they did it through personality and astonishing musicianship. Vanderslice always assembles great backing bands and this outfit was no exception, reproducing the songs from Emerald City and further back into his catalog wonderfully. They maintained the sonic quirks and flourishes that are a hallmark of Vanderslice’s recorded work but also gave them the oomph and spontaneity necessary for translating live. And you don’t get more spontaneous than Vanderslice trading his per diem ($10!) to his bassist in exchange for having him cover Hendrix’s “Little Wing” as Michael McDonald. You had to be there, just as you had to be there to see them close their set not with an encore, but by playing out in the middle of the audience accompanied by a local fan on harp. Yeah. Not something you see everyday.
Photos: John Vanderslice, Blitzen Trapper @ The El Mocambo – October 1, 2007
MP3: John Vanderslice – “White Dove”
Video: John Vanderslice – “Time To Go” (MOV)
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Devil’s A-Go-Go” (YouTube)
MySpace: John Vanderslice
MySpace: Blitzen Trapper
…And back to Montreal. The Columbia Spectator talks to Patrick Wolf, playing The Caberet in Montreal Friday night and Lee’s Palace in Toronto Saturday night (congrats to Kat and Damon who won passes, btw). JAM! meets Harmonica, who may well be your new favourite band. They’re at Le Divan Orange Thursday at 2PM then at Le Gymnase on Friday at 8:30PM as well as the Bovine Sex Club in Toronto on the 7th. And Ted Leo, playing Le Gymnase Friday night at midnight and then heading to Toronto for a show at Mod on Sunday night, talks to The Cleveland Free Times and The Cornell Sun.
Stereogum has curated another indie-anniversary tribute album to follow up the one for 10th anniversary of Radiohead’s OK Computer – this one for the 15th birthday of R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People. Hey, interesting – John Vanderslice appeared on the first one, Blitzen Trapper appear on this one.