Mint Records decked out the Cambrian Hall with lights, tinsel and one delightful spread of appetizers to welcome us all to the second night of their Ridiculously Early Xmas Party. Combine the above with copious amounts of Giant Pocky (which lives up to its name) and the crowd was set for the best ridiculously early Xmas they’d ever seen, courtesy of the fine bands of this fine homegrown label.
Sadly, I missed Vancougar, so the first band I caught was Bella. They did a great job getting the crowd moving with exuberant synth pop and a couple of lineup switches. After one of several power outages, the Awkward Stage rocked the stage, and completely did not live up to their name. Their delightful indie rock and witty lyricism filled up the Cambrian, and a stunning rendition of “Heaven Is for Easy Girls” had the crowd clamouring for more. Young & Sexy was up next, with a far noisier sound than I remembered, with such tracks as “Turn on Your Weakness” moving from a delicate waltz to a feedback-laden rock song.
Edmonton’s Hot Panda took the stage after a short break, and stole the show. Combining deft lyricism and tight musicianship with starry-eyed charm, the out-of-towners took the crowd by surprise, and the news of an upcoming album only left us wanting more. The Ramblin’ Ambassadors’ first act once getting onstage was to get everyone in the audience to take one big step forward, all the better to hear their spaghetti western surf rock. Novillero launched into a cover of the Peanuts theme song and didn’t let up, closing out the night with a strong set.
As Novillero finished up their last song, the lights came up but the crowd kept wanting an encore that the venue’s curfew just couldn’t allow. The crowd exited into a rainy December night, ready to face weeks of stodgy fruitcakes and dull seasonal music, buoyed by the memories of an Xmas party worth revisiting.