It’s a heartening sight in Vancouver’s music scene: a plucky young local act gives their fellow bands a helping hand and their fledgling fanbase something they’ll love, year after year. On July 8, Anthropology of Love’s annual Summer’S In concert, now in its second year, took place at the Backstage Lounge on Granville Island, overlooking False Creek during a beautiful sunset. It was a fitting setting for the bands that played that night.
First on stage was singer-songwriter Blake Acoustic, long-time friend of Vaughn Swenson, Anthropology of Love’s frontman and Summer’sIn organizer and MC. He played a mix of original songs and a diverse selection of covers, which ranged from acoustic interpretations of Jack White and Alice in Chains songs to a haunting, downbeat instrumental rendition of the Beatles‘ folk-pop masterpiece “Blackbird.” Backup guitarist Justin Beaudry provided dissonant counterpoint to the main melody.
Next, the Ponderosas, were a sharp departure from the act preceding them, with a lively sound equally indebted to reggae, dub and funk. There’s a more than a bit of soul thrown in, too — not just in their cover of Amy Winehouse‘s “Back in Black,” but in the vocals of the band’s frontwomen, Janette King and Kristie McCracken. Strangely enough, the band seemed to have more fun on stage that the audience, though there was a bit of dancing toward the end of the set.
Mercy Years played the next set, one of energetic indie rock, the statuesque lead’s vocals sounding much like Ben Gibbard’s. The band’s trio of guitarists piled on impressive layers of pedal-effected guitars after Explosions in the Sky, almost to a fault. The dense, collective soloing nearly overpowered the backup vocals. Mystifyingly, Mercy Years brought a keyboard on stage, but it went unplayed by the backup singer placed behind it. One of The Ponderosas’ leads started dancing to Mercy Years’ anthemic strains, seemingly unable to get the funk out of her system from the previous set.
Anthropology of Love, a British Invasion-inspired retro-pop act, capped the night with their brand of classic pop and epic showmanship. Once an acoustic three-piece, featuring Swenson, Joe Gibson and Ryan Faliszewski sharing guitars and vocals, the band has livened up their sound a notch, switching to electrics and adding a jazz drummer, Jacob McGill, to their lineup. As the band’s leader, Swenson’s stage presence was strong but not domineering, something exemplified in the band’s lively banter and Swenson’s polite off-stage guitar solo at one point in the set.
Anthropology of Love’s songs are themselves well-crafted and earnest—sometimes too earnest, but well-crafted nonetheless. Maybe it’s Swenson’s love of ‘60s and ‘70s pop and his discerning yet inclusive and exploratory musical tastes. True to their name, Anthropology of Love made copious expressions of appreciation to their friends, fans and mentors, even playing a “medley” of new songs dedicated to all the other bands that played that night toward the end of their set.
As I left the Backstage Lounge, I could still hear the last few songs in Anthropology of Love’s set, still going strong. Here’s to bigger and better things for Anthropology of Love. With their attitude alone, they deserve all the success they get.