Vancouver indie fans got lucky on freaky Friday at the Biltmore
At the Biltmore Cabaret on Friday, August 13
Even if GG Allin, Gwar, and shock-rock icon Alice Cooper had been on the bill for the Biltmore’s Friday the 13th show, they might not have captured the spirit of the pseudo holiday as successfully as this four-band blowout did. Although none of the acts were anything you’d liken to a goalie-masked murderer, they definitely picked up on something eerie—eerily good.
Right off the bat, White Rock’s Walter TV caught on to the Halloween-esque vibe, with stand-in bassist Jordan Wilson in a “Monster Mash”–inspired lab coat and vocalist-guitarist Pierce McGarry in a ghoulish white hooded poncho. At this point the crowd was sparse, with only four movers and shakers on the dance floor. Still, Walter TV’s five-song set—with songs like “Alaskan Cruisin”—featuredlots of effected guitar and a tropical tone à la El Guincho, and that was enough to suggest that Vancouver will be drooling all over the trio’s chipper, lo-fi garage sounds again in the near future.
Luckily for Junior Major, the audience members had multiplied by the time the band hit the stage after 11 p.m. Kicking off with the up-tempo “Runaway”, which showcased the vocal talents of frontwoman Suzy Sabla (who at times sounds like Gwen Stefani if she’d just smoked a pack of Marlboros), the group wasted no time in proving exactly how charming its members really are. Between the songs “Dead Ringer” and “Hunger Baby”, bassist Adam Sabla and sister Suzy gave shout-outs to their pen pals, best friends, and even their parents, who braved the Biltmore on the unluckiest of dates. An ironic version of Guns N’ Roses’ “My Michelle” capped a set that made Junior Major more than a few new fans.
If there was any doubt about which of the four bands would steal the show, it ended when Small Fame lit up the room with the melodic and freaky “Thunder n Light”. The band can’t shed the label of “Bend Sinister’s side project”, but only for lack of trying. See, while the foursome is fierce and unforgettable on-stage, it doesn’t have a single studio-recorded song available on the Internet (or anywhere else, for that matter). In any event, with a lead singer like Dan Moxon, whose appearance is as large and loud as his stage presence (not to mention his incomparable wail), Small Fame hasn’t needed a record to build a following.
At first, many in the crowd were paralyzed in awe of the band, leading Moxon to joke that “this is hard music to dance to.” Au contraire! Audience members seemed to respond by making a point of writhing or shaking a limb for the rest of the set. Here’s hoping for a recording, though. A song like “Has Anyone Seen My Lady”, with its soul-driven guitar riffs, funk-inspired drums, and menacing keyboards, demands no fewer than 10 listens. Small Fame’s penchant for sounding bone-chillingly electric and wicked didn’t come as a surprise, either, as “Black Magic Woman” suggested some kind of affair with the occult.
Gracing the stage at 1 a.m., Vancouver two-piece Humans wasn’t about to lose the crowd. The electronic duo has come up with some seriously inventive shit, which one can only assume is hard to do with nothing but a sampler and a guitar—so bravo, boys. Somewhere between the chilled-out “Always Around” and the danceable “Locker Room”, singer-guitarist Robbie Slade and sample jockey Peter Ricq had half of the audience up on the stage dancing and howling as if it were a full moon, while those left on the dance floor were being choreographed by an intoxicated fellow wearing what looked like a polar-bear-fur coat.
The lack of variety in Humans’ songs suggests the duo hasn’t totally found its niche, but its boogying fans didn’t seem to mind as they chanted “One more song! One more song!” at the end of the set.
Humans happily obliged, twice, before finally bidding adieu to their own dance party, and the crowd was pushed out of the Biltmore’s superstition-squashing night and into Saturday morning.