Real Live Action

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Sled Island: Mint Records Showcase

w/ Lié, Dumb, Peach Kelli Pop, Faith Healer, Supermoon, Bridal Party

author
Melanie Woods
photography
Pat Valade

You know a show is certainly going to be something when you start the afternoon holding your camera bag under bathroom hairdryer in the basement of a nightclub in the middle of the afternoon. And that is where I found myself to kick off Sled Island’s Mint Records showcase.

Calgary felt a little more like Vancouver thanks a torrential downpour that kicked off early in the day and did not let up. It also felt a little like Vancouver due to the stacked lineup Mint brought to showcase.  

The Mint Records showcase is a great annual cleanser at Sled Island. Coming at the midpoint of the festival, it’s a free, all-ages event that highlights a broad spectrum of bands all signed to the Mint label. And running for almost five hours, the showcase offers up plenty of time to step in and out of the party.

Bridal Party kicked things off with a high-energy set. Vocalists Suzannah Raudaschl and Joseph Leroux weaved breezily in between jangling guitars and easy beats. Supermoon followed up with their signature brand of sugary sweet pop — perfect afternoon music.

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Faith Healer||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

Things really started to get going as the rain let up a little leading up to Faith Healer’s set. The trio filled Commonwealth’s cavernous space with their light and breezy energy. It was easy to listen to the music while also navigating the room, running into friends the whole time. I ended up spending a good section of the set lounging on one of the couches, bobbing my head along to the tunes.

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Peach Kelli Pop||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

By the time Peach Kelli Pop took the stage though, the crowd had coalesced around the front to absorb the band’s saccharine energy. The California-based band is a fresh addition to Mint’s line-up in the past few months, and has spent the past few weeks touring across Canada and the United States. For the Mint showcase, they brought a high-energy set filled with classic tracks — “Hello Kitty Knife” is always a favourite — as well as songs from newer releases.

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Dumb||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

Speaking of new releases, Vancouver favourites Dumb held their unofficial album launch party as part of the showcase. Playing the day your album drops brings a special spark to the performance and it was easy to see the joy on each of the band members’ faces as they brought those new songs to a new crowd. It was fast, it was joyous and it was a delight to take in.

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Lié||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine

The mood shifted slightly with final act lié, who took the airy pop of the earlier and sunk it down, down, down into a chilling and resonate heaviness. Sporting leather bondage attire, the group brought pounding guitars and vocals to the stage. As if by sheer force of will, they seemed to clear away the rain. After they concluded, I emerged from the venue bleary-eyed at the sudden sun — it felt like a Sled Island miracle.

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Dumb||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Faith Healer||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Lié||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Peach Kelli Pop||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
SuperMoon1
Supermoon||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Dumb||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Faith Healer||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Lié||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Peach Kelli Pop||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
SuperMoon2
Supermoon||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Dumb||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Faith Healer||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Lié||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Peach Kelli Pop||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
SuperMoon3
Supermoon||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
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Lié||Photography by Pat Valade for Discorder Magazine
Sam Tudor by Ray Maichin (PRP)

Sam Tudor

w/ Devours, My Sister Maria

author
Matthew Horrigan
Photo Courtesy of
Ray Maichin (The Permanent Rain Press)

Photograph Courtesy of Ray Maichin for The Permanent Rain Press

 

Sam Tudor and band came home to a rapt audience. The final show of their Quotidian Dream tour demonstrated vanloads of professional talent that folk-pop fans across the country ought to keep their ears on.

Red Gate Revue Stage is an awkward venue. Despite theatrical amenities like a thrust stage and enclosed tech booth, the house feels like a cross between a dive bar and an ice rink, with a sterile, fluorescently-lit lobby that resists all efforts to make it look clean or, indeed, like part of the building, which itself sits uneasily at the periphery of Granville Island’s bourgeois glitter. But Red Gate’s new venue has a redeeming feature: its sound system. And on Friday night, the tech team did a classy job, lighting the instruments before the show in a way that fomented mystery and anticipation, and then, once in the thick of things, bringing out the performers’ voices with a clarity rare even on the fanciest stages around. The audience was able to transcend its location. Phones were put away without anyone asking. The venue choice was vindicated.

First up, singer-songwriter My Sister Maria delivered a set marked by both extraordinary potential and questionable judgement. At the guitar, My Sister Maria is a competent performer with an amazingly smooth voice. (Alas, the guitar half of her set suffered because its songs, by MSM’s own admission, had been written just days prior to the set.) At the keyboard, though, My Sister Maria is a brilliant musician whose idiosyncratic time feel—which manages to combine a jazz drummer’s deliberate consistency with a fin-de-siècle salon pianist’s affinity for rubato—is the product of genius, and whose voice and presence befit any size of stage. If she focuses her act around her strengths, I think My Sister Maria will reach a very large audience.

The middle act was Devours, an affable, sparkly-costumed performer with an outstanding ability to integrate keyboards with DJ material. Devours makes synth-wave pop, whose grooviness clashed with Revue’s lack of standing area, although some audience members (including yours truly) danced in the wings anyway. The strongest part of the act was the song “Friday Night Fur,” a rant about Tinder culture, whose lyrics leapt from the boring (“Have fun / Swing by your house / Because I need the release”) to the startlingly on-point (“Can you imagine a life without this tragedy? / Follow the script, read back your lines to me / If we get hurt it was the only way”).

In contrast to the bittersweet catharsis Devours offered, Sam Tudor’s performance initially kept its tension coiled. Drummer Harry Tudor was rock-solid if never relaxed, guitarist Craig Aalders was precise but quiet, and bassist Jasper Wrinch was understatedly tasteful. Violinist and backing vocalist Tegan Wahlgren is a virtuoso in her own right, sounding at times like a more aggressive Garnet Rogers circa 1982, but her solos never cashed out more than a fraction of the foreboding twisted up in the band’s arrangements.

The programmed set was eminently respectable. But Tudor’s encore, a solo version of “Joseph in the Bathroom,” burned its way into my memory like no performance has for a long time. Tudor used the microphone only for the banter and the first verse, then stepped away, realizing that his clear, bright voice was enough to fill the venue on its own and that its un-amplified tone complemented the song’s subject matter.

I think Tudor’s lyrics are sometimes imprisoned by their quotidian-ness — in stories about songwriting, for example, or of being depressed in one’s room — which produces a tendency to string metaphors together until they don’t add up. Things change when Tudor steps outside of himself, applying his introspective exactitude to another person’s point of view. “Joseph in the Bathroom” is the account of his experience as a bystander observing the bullied among his high school peers. The song reveals a depth of consideration so devastatingly on-the-head that it feels exhausting to consider at length. When Tudor sang of wanting to “pull out all the circus pegs” of the absurdity that was his high school, the sentiment impacted the audience not because it is positive or pretty, but because it is true — and, as Tudor knows, all the more haunting given that it can be expressed only now, so far removed from the time, place and people who needed it most.

Although the main set didn’t get a standing ovation, the encore sure as hell did.