Updated October 27, 2014, at 10:53 p.m.
Free /frē/ adj. Not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.
adv. Without cost or payment.
On October 23, Vancouverites packed the Biltmore for the release party of A Dada Plan Is Free, the debut album from newly formed avant-popsters, Dada Plan. Fronted by seasoned local musician Malcolm Biddle (Sun Wizard, Capitol 6), the album, a co-release between the band and established local upstart Kingfisher Bluez, is not, as you might hope, monetarily free, but instead a sonically liberated vision of a past and present pitted against each other.
As the bodies trickled into the venue, Aboriginal archivist Kevin “Sipreano” Howes took to the decks to spin from his verbose collection of largely unheard Native American rock music. Directly opposite, the silhouette of long-time local noisemaker Brody McKnight sat hunched over his guitar in anticipation. The lights faded to an incandescent green and the night’s performances began.
Having most notably worked with Nu Sensae and V. Vecker Ensemble, McKnight’s solo endeavour, dubbed Gretchen Snakes, was a slurry of looping feedback peppered with Middle Eastern motifs. The mid-sized group stood motionless in transfixed loyalty as McKnight hammered away on both guitar and loop station for more than half an hour. As the reverb settled, the crowd was released from his trance and electro-pop duo Mesa Luna took the stage.
The pair’s hazy 808-driven hooks were sadly muffled to the point of being indistinguishable, but got a few determined bodies moving nevertheless. The anticipation was building for the headliners, Dada Plan, and Mesa Luna’s set rushed to a close.
As the curtains were drawn, the quintet had an obvious addition on this night: a skyped-in saxophone video that rested on a mannequin’s shoulders where her head once would have. It was a clever projection of Dave Biddle’s airy saxophone work. Meanwhile Colin Cowan’s upright bass resonated particularly well on the sun-drenched space out of “Over When You Die” and Justin Williams’ conga rhythms were similarly striking on “The Hanging Mirror of Life-Skype,” which Biddle had cheekily dedicated to his old pal Jesus.
As Dada Plan’s set progressed local musician Johnny de Courcy, casually sporting hoop earring accents and bug eye sunglasses, would occasionally join the five-piece for some shirtless stage presence, and eventually picked up a guitar for the closer, “Mr. Window.”
The performance left the crowd reeling, an encore was granted, and a sea of white A Dada Plan Is Free covers, clutched in the hands of fans young and old, illuminated the dimly lit basement of the Biltmore. It was clear that Dada Plan’s message of a dystopian future had arrived. Borne of the 21st century, and steeped in two decades of internet culture, The Plan gleefully smirked at Web 2.0 technologies through a visage of simpler times. And although it sarcastically relied on the technology it rejected, The Plan was, in its finer moments, truly an emancipation of humanity from technology; it was, in a word, free.