Archive for June, 2009


Malajube photo essay

June 22, 2009

I went to the Festival d’été francophone de Vancouver for the first time, and this is what I enjoyed (in order):

  • Malajube – I’ve very enamoured with this Québécois alternative rock band. I have no idea what they’re singing about, as their lyrics are completely in French, but I just know they make a beautiful noise.
  • Karkwa – I thought this band would be quieter than Malajube, based on only having heard one tune by them, the delicate “Oublie Pas”. But it turned out that the song is an anomaly. Karkwa can be as noisy as Malajube, especially with two drummers. They make interesting music.
  • Eating & drinking: Poutine, merguez, Belgian waffles, Madeleines, and Granville Island beer. It was liberating to drink beer in the street (on 7th, between Granville and Fir, which was blocked off, street festival style).

This is what I didn’t enjoy:

  • The headliner Pierre Lapointe – He’s a huge star in Québec, who’s supposed to be the second coming of Serge Gainsbourg, but Lapointe came across as arrogant and overwrought. Apparently the arrogance is just an act, according to this piece in the Montreal Mirror, but musically he and his band laid it on way too thick.

Malajube’s Julien Mineau, with his gorgeous Gibson SG:

Malajube 1

Malajube 2

Malajube 3

Malajube 4

Malajube’s Mathieu Cournoyer – a beautiful rock ‘n roll creature:

Malajube 9

Malajube 6

Malajube 7

Malajube 8

That’s Julien’s brother Francis on drums (not pictured – keyboardist/vocalist Thomas Augustin):

Malajube 5

The roadie:

Malajube roadie

Future rockers, with their plastic guitars, at the foot of the stage:

Malajube boys


1 Wong, 5 Concerts

June 8, 2009

I’ve been to five concerts in the last two weeks. In the old days, that would have been below average for me. These days, that feels like a lot of going out and getting my ears blasted. But I still love going to shows, and hopefully I’ll keep doing it when I’m a grandfather (Note: this makes two blog posts in a row where I’ve referred to the potential of being a grandfather/having grandchildren. What’s the meaning of this recurring theme? Midlife crisis anyone?)

Animal Collective (May 24, the Commodore): I’m an Animal Collective neophyte. In fact I only ended up at the sold-out concert because a friend had a spare ticket to sell. It was an interesting show: the trio built up experimental, tribal grooves that engaged the youngish crowd and kind of got them going on the dancefloor. But if it felt like post-modern dance music at times, the songs never seemed to climax or resolve, which was frustrating. I also found myself wondering if what Animal Collective does is true art or BS. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I left before they came back out for the encore – something I never do.

Bunklelife’s video of “Summertime Clothes” from the AC show:

Grizzly Bear (May 26, the Commodore): Two weeks after it happened, I’m still thinking about this show. Grizzly Bear is also a new discovery for me, but I’ve quickly fallen for the band, and fallen hard. It was one of those shows where you’re completely in the moment, fully absorbing and enjoying every texture and nuance. When that happens, you know you’re experiencing something special, and you just want it to keep going. Excuse my gushing, but this is what it felt like, especially when the group’s immaculate vocal harmonies washed over the music.

Grizzly Bear’s new album, Veckatimest, was released the day of the show. Repeatedly listening to the album has confirmed what I thought immediately after the show: Grizzly Bear is going to be as big as Radiohead someday. You heard it here first!

Bunklelife’s video of “Two Weeks” from the GB show:

New York Dolls (May 28, Richard’s on Richards): This is how I described the Dolls’ gig to a friend: “a good old rock ‘n roll show” … “loud and greasy”. Not much more needs to be said about this, other than the fact that frontman David Johansen still has that rock sex appeal (or what my friend Janice calls the “sexy-hideous” look – think of the preternaturally skinny Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler), and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain looks old but he can still rock out. Even though I’m not a huge NY Dolls fan, I respect their status as punk pioneers, and I’m glad I finally saw them.

Neko Case (June 3, Vogue Theatre): This was one of the louder Neko shows I’ve been to, and I’ve been to about six of them. The loudness was a good thing – Neko and her ace band sounded extra electric and impactful. I don’t think Neko is capable of singing a wrong note – her voice soared. There’s always amusing banter between Case and back-up singer Kelly Hogan, and they were at the top of their bantering game at the Vogue. Speaking of the Vogue, it was sweltering in there, but the great acoustics made up for it. I’ll gladly see Neko a seventh time.

Jens Lekman (June 7, Richard’s on Richards): I wasn’t sure what to expect with this concert, as my only knowledge of Sweden’s Lekman was from a few listens of his Night Falls Over Kortedela album, which struck me as being attractively ironic but excessively kitschy and retro. Still, I was curious enough to go to the show, which turned out to be a blast. I loved the old school pop-soul vibe that Lekman and his vibrant band worked up in their one-hour set. I was initially turned off by the fact that the laptop man at the back of the stage was providing keyboard sounds and other parts. But as the show went along it made total sense to do it this way – Mr. Laptop helped keep the strong momentum going.

Lekman was the focal point, of course. He has great stage presence, which Lekman used to orchestrate one of the best sing-alongs I’ve ever heard. Despite suffering from what he jokingly called “swine flu”, he sang like a dreamy, slightly nerdy 80s pop star. So all told, the show was an unexpected, nostalgia-inducing pleasure.