Showing up to the Astoria early and alone, here was no one there to hide behind. The crowd that would later arrive hadn’t yet, but I was there to see all the acts: Mr. Merlot, Future Star, Adrian Teacher and the Subs, and of course Devours, who was celebrating the release of two cassettes, Late Bloomer and Avalon.
As I sat on the edge of the dance floor the internal arches of the room felt much bigger than normal. There was an air of nervous solemnity, maybe because most of the audience was made up of the bands waiting to play later. This was a variety show, unusual in Vancouver, where genres only occasionally mix to this extent. Tonight however, it was the crowd that was linking the bands together, supporters meandering through the venue attracted to the bar, and the shiny blinking lights of the pinball machines.
The first act, Mr. Merlot, cautiously stepped onto the stage and began his smooth, experimental lounge music. Sweeping onto the checkered dance floor, and leaving his tech behind, Mr. Merlot performed hard to his six person audience. Committed, he pushed past the curse of being the first act at a midweek early show. I wanted to dance with him but instead, let a swing dancing couple set the tone of the night. The songs had highs and lows — every time he started a new song he had to warm up again and lose himself. Eventually he seemed to burst with confidence and showcased his laid back beats and crooning voice.
The soundcheck between sets thickened the air in which I loitered, and I found myself eavesdropping in on unimpressive conversations about conservative music education, dubstep and Christmas carols come too early. Future Star moved from her spot hiding behind a pillar and tinkered on her keyboard, which was centred on the dance floor.
I was hoping to hear Future Star’s song “Karaoke,” and my wish was granted by her beautiful, melodic voice. Future Star radiated. Her songs of sweet nothings were perfectly sad and her screaming fans and loud friends surrounded her with their support. Future Star was, without a doubt, successful without her drummer, tapping her hip and clicking her fingers to keep the beat. The set felt too short — quick songs in quick succession.
Next on were Adrian Teacher and the Subs who were, as expected, brilliant. Playing a range of material from their extensive discography, their newest songs were surprisingly funky. Adrian’s face scanned the crowd, while he stood on the corner of the stage, non-verbally threatening to crowd surf. The Subs made me understand why some people claim that bands are like marriages — they were so in sync, it was like they didn’t have to think about what was next. It was impossible not to dance, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
After a break just long enough to get a beer in my hand, Devours appeared on stage like a mystical beast. He was a bright mirror ball engulfed in a galaxy of glitter eyebrows, a patchwork lamé shirt and a silver quilted suit jacket that looked like it would melt from being set on fire by the stage lights. I had never seriously danced at the Astoria before, but in a small group of people we moved our bodies to what can only be described as experimental spring break anthems. In the end we asked for more, which Devours was unprepared for; but with a little switch up to the programming, he was able to give us two more songs. Devours’ candy flavoured beats were a wild and empowering ride.