As well as being in a sort of cultural no-mans land, Five Sixty on Seymour Street (the old A&B Sound, to Vancouverites over 25) is itself a sort of void. Cavernous, multi-leveled, and covered all over with small square tiles and whitewashed brick in a Euro toilet chic, the venue feels like a place you’re more likely to get lost in than discover anything new at.
There to check out the Glass Kites album release show, I was ready to take that feeling to the bank, but instead I ended up pleasantly surprised by the parade of talented young bands that carried on with the night in front of a sparse, but loving crowd. In a huge venue like Five Sixty you really have to feel for the opening act.
Playing to a couple dozen fans and friends in a space that could easily hold two hundred, Bed of Stars did their best to banish the vacuum of empty space. Singer Evan Konrad, backed up by the band’s beautiful, melodic pop, gave an impressive vocal performance reminiscent of Royston Langdon from 90s glam pop band Space Hog. “We’re not disappointing you, are we?” Konrad asked the early evening crowd. “No? That’s good,” he replied to an unclear response from the crowd. “At least, I hope that was a no.” Bed of Stars closed their set with “Nothing left to Lose,” a bouncy crowd pleaser that has been seeing regular airtime on the Peak radio station since the release of their EP I Fell in Love in the City last year in August.
Next, with little ado, following a few choice old school drum and bass and deep house tracks DJed by Wobangs, Facts took the stage. The band seemed determined to give the crowd a primer on their most significant musical influences–a bit of Talking Heads here, some Spoon and the Killers there, at times a Zooropa-era U2 flavour–and so Facts’ set read like a Wikipedia entry on Popular Rock & Roll music of the last 40 years. The homage mélange was surprisingly pleasing, delivered as it was by clearly accomplished and enthusiastic players, making the show more entertaining and less doggedly derivative than it could have been.
After two full sets the crowd size noticeably increased. But, despite the surge in numbers, the energy remained on the mellow side for the third band on the bill, Supercassette. Seemingly immune to the band’s jokes and their exuberant brand of party-fueling synth-rock, folks proceeded to stand at a polite distance from one another and watch Supercassette sweat it out.
“You don’t have to be afraid to dance,” quipped the lead singer, but the crowd didn’t bite. Supercassette played a solid, high-energy set, but ended with a song we were told we may “recognize from TSN.” Titled “Good Company,” the song was a departure from the rest of their playlist and, owing to its more generic radio rock sound, kind of a down note to end on.
Glass Kites, whose first full-length album came out online January 1, served up an ambitious, all-encompassing look-see at the recently pressed material. Playing the album front to back, engulfed in a swirling display of lights–sometimes like snowflakes, sometimes like spinning galaxies, sometimes like lush grassy green hills disintegrating into nothingness–Glass Kites’ set was one part Laser Pink Floyd, one part Sigur Rós junior, and one part make-out room at a 70s high school party.
The crowd at this point had reached peak density, huddling close to the stage and swaying to the band’s layered, heavy, dreamy progressive rock. Between singer Leon Feldman’s acrobatic, Thom Yorke-ish vocals and guitarist Curt Henderson’s knife-sharp Jonny Greenwood profile, the Radiohead parallels are hard not to make. To their credit, the band has meticulously composed their way into territory all their own.
After playing the album’s closing track, “Slowly (Home)”, Glass Kites shut things down with a tonne-of-bricks-heavy medley of two non-album songs, “Apocalypse” and “Redemption,” a howling and relentless jam that broke the dial off at eleven. Satisfying.
DJ Wobangs played the crowd out with an appropriately far-out mix of dance hits, from CeCe Peniston to CSS, but perhaps not surprisingly, still no one was dancing.