Death is a hard subject to prepare for, even when you know it’s a long way away. When Apollo Ghosts frontman Adrian Teacher announced in December that the band weren’t going to be around forever, it never really sunk in that the day when the band wouldn’t play sold-out shows for grinning pop junkies might come. And, even though their final show at the Rickshaw was more wake than funeral, it was still tough to see one of Vancouver’s brightest call it quits.
Diane played a strong collection of post-punk goodness to start the night. Discordant guitar licks and some startlingly crunchy bass tones backed up alternating vocal duties. Drummer Ben Goldberg’s habit of reassuring his band mates between songs was endearing, and the trio found their confidence again towards the end of their set.
Watermelon were a more cohesive ensemble than I remember, and a lot more fun as a result. Songs definitely leaned on the pop side of rock ‘n’ roll, but unique influences and interesting sound choices made for a surprise hit. A little bit shoegaze guitar waves, a little bit ’80s stadium rock, their songs clicked just right on the Rickshaw’s stage.
While some in the crowd were still apprehensive about dancing along to a loud, fast punk band, everyone else started jumping around at the sound of the first power chord coming from B-Lines. With all of the energy of 1980s hardcore, but none of the pessimism, frontman Ryan Dyck flopped around like a human balloon. While Dyck was hardly at his most offensive, B-Lines still managed to pull off a tight and raucously positive performance.
Tides of Saturday night optimism came against pools of quiet introspection and reverence as the crowd prepared themselves for headliners Apollo Ghosts. While smiles adorned every face in the audience, there was an unspoken weight on everyone’s shoulders as they gathered to celebrate one of Vancouver’s most admired bands for the last time. And the group didn’t fail to deliver.
To the theme song from the A-Team, the band—Amanda Panda on drums, Jarrett K. on bass, and Jason Oliver on guitar—triumphantly took the stage like game-show contestants, starting a slow-burn towards the goofy but energetic “Day Of Glory.” When Adrian Teacher finally arrived on stage, waving a makeshift flag and brandishing a cape, the entire venue lit up in joy, and that lightbulb of euphoria didn’t flicker the entire night. The first half of their set leaned heavily on tracks from last year’s Landmark before veering off into the vault to deliver old fan favourites from the criminally under-recognized Mount Benson and Hastings Sunrise. For a band only five years young, the nostalgia factor on songs like “Land Of The Morning Calm” was astounding, and the sound of some 500 people singing along to every tune was beautiful and chilling. Between two extraordinarily enthusiastic encore requests, half the crowd on-stage dancing to “Angel Acres,” and Teacher’s heartfelt and humble goodbye through the words of “Dobermans,” there wasn’t a single dry face in the room at the end of the night.
For a lot of people, Apollo Ghosts weren’t just a band. The quartet were a symbol for everything Vancouver’s music community had to offer. Somehow, a quirky and energetic four-chord pop band fronted by a kindergarten teacher just clicked, bringing together friends, family, and joyously happy memories. While their send-off more than did justice to their legacy of sweaty, packed, crowd-surfing late-night shows, it also marked the end of one of the most entertaining and heartfelt musical projects this city has ever seen. Tears have been shed over far less.