As an avid enthusiast of Club 23 West, the Hindenburg’s predecessor, I was keen to see what a change in ownership and a revamped stage could do for crowd morale at a place where guests were already distinctly passionate about musical talent and engaging stage theatrics. Inside, the crowd was dispersed and the drinks were cheap. Though the space was split across several levels, it was the final night for the first round of Shindig and the stage commanded attention, even before the opening act.
The offbeat Calgary-bred, Vancouver-based band The Plodes took the stage first with a self-deprecating greeting: “Please don’t throw stuff at us.” Drummer Gemma Goletski described their first song as a musical interpretation of eating a pizza pop — and so the hilarity unfolded. The Plodes set was as fast paced and disorienting as five coffees after a sleepless night but their youthful exuberance was an amusing opening to the night. Off-kilter lyrics and song titles (example: “High Five Every Animal”) could have been the result of the eccentric trio holing up in their garage to daydreams of beer and big city trouble or just the product of an intense creative streak.
They immersed the crowd in a quick succession of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it songs and when they departed the stage what resounded longer than their clashing guitars and clanging drums was their irreverence.
Next up was Purple Hearts Social Club, a sassy R&B act with evident debt to ‘90s girl power rap acts; think TLC or early Destiny’s Child. There is, however, more to a band than meets the eye; underneath their energetic stage presence is an emotional story and an inspiring message. One of the members of the quartet, Mimi Danger, lost her 4 year old daughter to leukemia and the band intends to spread her message of bravery, strength, and hope through their empowering lyrics. While technical problems and nerves appeared to almost get the best of the quartet at times, they maintained an optimism and grace that carried them through the set. While rapping was a large component of their offerings, Purple Hearts Social Club were at their strongest tackling harmonic R&B — which proved a better platform for showcasing the versatility of their voices.
While the crowd grew throughout the night, the first signs of life occurred with the commencement of Raised On DJs’ set, sending the crowd into a frenzied dance. It was a late night climax as the clock crept past midnight. Vocalists Kevin Gau and Brooke Torrie captivated the audience with the confidence of a seasoned stage act. Deep drums and spiraling synth beats pulsed and drew the crowd into the center. The band’s sound was at the intersection of modern indie-pop and Sixteen Candles prom electronica and I felt like I was being shuttled back and forth in a time machine between 1984 and 2014 throughout the set.
The night saw an unusual, but pleasant, arc from scrappy punk to R&B to a synthy conglomerate of eras, and in the end Purple Hearts Social Club took the prize for the night. Though I enjoyed their performance, I was rather surprised; I thought that Raised On DJs were a sure bet for top prize that night due to the originality of their sound and the complexity of their instrumentals. Purple Hearts Social Club certainly have a niche and an infectious energy, but in terms of creating a compelling and rousing stage act I felt they lagged behind both Raised On DJs and The Plodes, both whom offered something more whimsical and out of the box.