Real Live Action

Alex Bleeker & the Freaks

with The Shilohs, and The High Drops
August 9th @ The Astoria

The Astoria

Real Live Review by Fraser Dobbs

It’s so easy to underestimate the late start times at the Astoria. In retrospect, there was plenty of time to catch one of the many other shows happening Friday night before coming to see Alex Bleeker and company — a tactic utilized by many latecomers. It was to their detriment, though, as local openers the High Drops and the Shilohs were well worth the price of admission alone.

The High Drops make having fun look cool again. A perfect summer band by any standard, their stage presence was packed full of good energy, even when the assembled crowd was fairly mute to their offerings. The quartet played a tight mash up of ’70s psych-surf with Brit Invasion guitar tones, satiating those looking for sun-drenched pop melodies and adding a healthy dose of jam-band goodness overtop.

Songs tended to stretch on a little longer than most of the band probably anticipated, but the uncertain looks guitarist Alexi Baris kept throwing his bandmates was worth the extra few minutes of run time.

The Shilohs don’t sound like a Vancouver band, though they probably felt the most at home on the Astoria stage. Big Star comparisons be damned, power-pop isn’t a genre that has enjoyed great comfort in town, so getting to see some country-tinged Kinks references was a great surprise. Their chiming guitar hooks and general pleasantness painted a picture of a band dressed in brown disco suits on a TV appearance instead of up on a sweaty bar stage — everything about their performance took cues from the golden age of vinyl without being ironic or tongue-in-cheek.

Pleas from guitar-slinger Johnny Payne to stick around for headliners Alex Bleeker & the Freaks came at the end of their set to the many that were eyeing the clocks and making for the doors.

Those that stayed out past their bedtime instead of making a dash for the exit were well-rewarded. Although not your typical headlining act, Alex Bleeker was a phenomenal sight to behold with his many musicians sharing the stage. To call the ensemble a jam band would be an understatement: if any of the band members knew what was happening a minute ahead of them, they didn’t show it, instead opting to stay on the crowd’s uneven footing. Huge, sprawling psychedelic alt-country jamborees contained every morsel necessary to cap off a good night.

Fans of Real Estate would notice a big membership crossover between the Freaks and the aforementioned (including Bleeker himself), but those expecting something Galaxie 500-themed would be disappointed as Crazy Horse wails and a serious disposition towards classic rock stood out overall.