It was a humid September night as we biked along Main street, eventually replacing the lit-condo nightscape with the neon lights of the Electric Owl. Tonight, the venue featured Terror Bird, Painted Palms and Braids as part of the Olio Festival.
Despite the over-priced drinks and piss-poor beer selection, the large, open room and wide, raised stage have made this venue one of my favourites. The lighting is bright enough for people-watching and the layout allows easy movement for that run to the loo before the next band starts.
Vancouver’s Terror Bird was mid-set when we walked into the bar. Framed by the brightly lit stage, the local band played a series of synth pop tunes featuring the same two-four beat (the embodiment of an ‘80s motif). Lead singer Nikki Nevver has a rich voice and sang minimalist melodies overtop two angular synthesizers and poppy drum beats. A grey curtain swept across the stage at the end of the performance to shield our eyes from the disarray of set-up and take-down. The Electric Owl is truly a classy joint.
Painted Palms was a fabulous surprise, with a sound built around the clear and compelling vocals of Reese Donahue; I imagined the piano lessons and children’s choirs Donahue was subjected to as a tot. The San Francisco three-piece reminded me of Local Natives and No Gold, with dance guitar stylings making our shoes step in time. The echoey vocals and soaring melodies took centre stage, while the layered clicks and sound effects didn’t overwhelm. Painted Palms’ music pulled me to the front of the crowd, joining in with the existing sashay of hips and knee socks.
The headliner of the evening was Montreal quartet Braids. More complex than the previous groups, Braids less-accessible but far more interesting. They created washes of sounds with layered vocals, sound effects and thunderous toms. The songs were built on extended loops, repeated with variation and resolving to the next with great satisfaction. Lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston projected a calm innocence not synonymous with the dark and sensuous lyrics. With whimsical melodies and a clear, high register, she executed perfectly-pitched intervals that wove into the percussive fabric. In rare moments, Standell-Preston let loose a satisfying upper register howl. The voices of all band members, meanwhile, created echoes and chordal textures leaving me with an intense desire to see the Dirty Projectors. In the post-midnight afterglow of a great show, we meandered back to our bikes and went in search of breakfast.