Real Live Action

FrogEyes1

Frog Eyes

w/ Hello Blue Roses

author
Paige Lecoeur
photography
Jessica Johnson

China Cloud is hot and cramped, as if it could be any other way for Frog Eyes’ final Vancouver show. I move a tealight candle to sit on the edge of a table and I awkwardly avoid eye contact with the people whose views I have just obscured. Almost as soon as I am settled, Hello Blue Roses begin. I take out my notepad.

helloblueroses1
Hello Blue Roses||Photography by Jessica Johnson for Discorder Magazine

Hello Blue Roses is Sydney Hermant, for the most part. She starts off the set solo, just her and a guitar. After an initial song, she asks Jason Zumpano and Julia Chirka on stage to round out the band, drums and bass clarinet respectively. A few songs in, they perform “Acid Rain” and every musician slips into their own rhythm, harmonious yet distinct. Adding layers of percussion, the person next to me taps a finger on their chair and a photographer’s shutter clicks loudly out of sync. Lyrics, “I remember / I remember / I remember / Acid rain,” seem to possess transcendental importance. Hermant’s vocals hover somewhere between Joni Mitchell and PJ Harvey. My eyes wander around the room and I spot what looks to be a painting of a mushroom cloud and wonder if I will ever feel acid rain on my skin. For the following song, “Market of Your Own Mind,” Hermant switches seamlessly between vocals and flute, for what is by far the funkiest song on their recently released album, Trade Winds. When the set concludes, Chirka’s raised eyebrows give the slightest indication that the band had fallen off melody, but Hermant wraps it up with a confident smile and a “Thank you.”

Between sets, the audience is aptly nostalgic. Oh, Frog Eyes, why must this be your farewell tour? As I cross the room, I hear fragments of conversations about the band. Frog Eyes is the friend everyone has in common. We reminisce together and we mourn together.

But when Frog Eyes finally begin, the energy of the room is more celebratory than sad. They open with “Little Mothers,” a prophetic slow-burn track from Violet Psalms. Carey Mercer wails, “You shall unlock the door that sets you free,” and though it’s only the beginning, the strength of Mercer’s performance leads me to believe this is the audience’s take-away fortune. Is Frog Eyes ending to set the artists free? I push those thoughts away and get swept up in “Idea Man,” after which Mercer gives the first of many band anecdotes; this one about performing at a campaign rally for former Victoria politician, Dean Fortin. “Fuck Dean Fortin,” says Shyla Seller behind the synth, and Terri Upton responds with a riff of bass guitar. Mercer adds that the social media people live-posting from that rally were “real fucking assholes,” and I quickly look around to see folks slowly tuck their phones away.

FrogEyes2
Frog Eyes||Photography by Jessica Johnson for Discorder Magazine

From then on, the songs seem like filler between stories, albeit excellent filler. Mercer talks about how his father would always shit-talk Jim Pattison and how he was “pissed about Expo ‘86.” Later on, Mercer tries to remember the name of a sci-fi television show set in Vancouver and the audience yells out a dozen suggestions. “It’s like Quantum Leap meets Sliders… put that on the tombstone of the evening,” he says. Before “Two Girls (One for Heaven and the Other One for Rome),” Mercer dedicates the song to all the musicians in the room who have chosen to stick around Vancouver. It is foreshadowing for his valedictory, a comment on Vancouver’s unaffordability, the gentrification of low-income neighbourhoods and the over-policing of the Downtown Eastside: “We’ll fight the pigs, we’ll fight the developer. […] Maybe we should stay and fight, we’ve all been through so much.” He thanks his bandmates, especially his partner, drummer Mel Campbell. The last song is a whirl.

I wipe a bead of sweat from my cheek, or is it a tear?

33766998_2560079664017957_3514494085308088320_n
author
Amy Shandro
Image Courtesy of
Blind Tiger Comedy

Uncle Janes: Crystal Queer Comedy is a brand-new improv show co-produced by Jill Lockley with Blind Tiger Comedy, featuring a fully queer-identifying ensemble of improvisers, including Jordan Wesley, Michael Sousa, Bradley Bergeron, Chris Reed, Cassidy Anhorn, Charlie Cook, Koby Braidek, Briana Rayner, Chloe Willes-Speakman and Jill Lockley, with guest monologist Continental Breakfast. Tucked behind a convenience store, the small and cozy Little Mountain Gallery felt like a fun secret.

In this constantly under construction, bunker-like room, the ensemble began the first half of show with some fun improv games, like innuendo, a game in which they compared their ideal partner to an object. Immediately, the game was more polite than I’ve seen it done prior, with “I like my partner” being the most common way to start. Some spectacular lines come from this, like “I like my men like I like my coffee, I don’t” or “I like my women like I like the moon, going through a phase.”

Next, they played a scene where the performers had to end it by saying the most heartfelt “I love you” that they could. At my suggestion, the scene took place in my dad’s basement, where two men slowly unravelled and expressed their love for each other, which had grown during the decades they spent lounging and writing bad novellas. Refreshingly, the scene never played the idea of two men falling love as the joke, instead making their weird backstory the centre piece.

They finished up the first act with a classic game of freeze, tapping each other in and out of scenes. They played through multiple wild locations, from a liberal arts prison to Jill’s womb, with a recurring theme of having arms that are just made for fishing.

The second half was a long-form set, with scenes being inspired from stories from guest monologist Continental Breakfast, who stole this half of the show wearing a full gold-sequined gown that they had made themselves. They divulged multiple stories from their lives from high school to last weekend, messy details included. They monologued about a high school trip in Austria where they got roofied then made out with their physics teacher, then about their employee / long-term hookup that they discovered was homeless, and finally about their sexcapade in a Reno airport bathroom, 12 minutes before their flight left. The improvisers did well making scenes with the stories given, although I don’t envy the effort they had to make to avoid acting out the raunchier details of the stories (which were most details).

Overall, the whole show was fun, funny, and joyful. The relationship between the audience and performers felt close — the audience wanted to see them succeed, and succeed they did. The laughter that filled the room was enthusiastic and well-earned. Clearly it was a successful premier show, as it will be a recurring show at Little Mountain Gallery. If you come to the next show, you’ll definitely be seeing me there.