At the Commodore Ballroom on Friday, November 23
Friday night was a hell of a homecoming for the Pack a.d.'s Becky Black and Maya Miller. The local duo has spent the fall touring across Canada, and this gig represented the end of its 2012 campaign. Given the adoring response they received from the fans in the Commodore Ballroom, the pair must have felt grateful to be back in Vancouver.
The evening boasted an outstanding all-local bill, and openers the Ballantynes got the festivities off to an electrifying start as concertgoers filed into the room. The seven-piece's setup included two drummers and three vocalists, and their full-bodied arrangements gave some rock 'n' roll heft to their vintage soul-pop songs.
Unquestionably, the star of the performance was singer-organist (and occasional guitarist) Jarrod O'Dell, whose vocals found the middle ground between a heartthrob croon and a punk-rock snarl. During one upbeat number, he slung his guitar to his side and dipped his mike stand close to the floor without missing a note. A couple of songs later, he almost clocked singer Vanessa Dandurand over the head with said mike stand as he flailed and thrashed around the stage.
The distinct possibility of injury made his dangerous display all the more thrilling, and the Ballantynes were rightly rewarded with a warm ovation from the audience, which had swelled significantly over the course of the performance.
Next up, No Sinner kept the energy high with a selection of bluesy tunes that encompassed sexy R&B grooves, fuzzy psych riffs, tear-jerking balladry, and booze-soaked rock 'n' roll. Holding it all together was firecracker frontwoman Colleen Rennison, who strutted around the stage wearing a denim vest and a pair of revealing minishorts similar to the ones seen on the cover of this year's Boo Hoo Hoo EP.
She possesses a truly awesome set of pipes, and she proved herself equally adept at bloodcurdling shrieks and precise vocal runs, all of which were executed with note-perfect accuracy.
No Sinner leaned heavily on its influences, and it was sometimes hard to hear much originality amid the well-worn blues tropes. Still, the four-piece had enough badass attitude to get the crowd even more amped up for the headliners.
The floor was mostly full by the time the Pack a.d. took the dimly lit stage and launched into a string of hard-hitting garage-punk cuts that included new single "The Water". Black was clad in a denim jacket, and she howled into the mike while clutching her six-string. Beside her, Miller sat behind her kit and pounded out thundering rhythms on almost every tune.
The energy went into overdrive a few songs in with the chant-filled "Haunt You", which inspired clapping, moshing, and crowd-surfing from the tightly packed punters. Throughout the set, the musicians frequently shared the stage with showgoers who clambered up to the front in order to hurl themselves back into the throng below.
At one point, the stage-divers became so rambunctious that Miller warned them, "Don't get hurt," genuine concern creeping into her voice.
For the most part, however, Miller's between-songs banter was funny and sarcastic, as she facetiously marvelled at Vancouver's rainy weather and introduced the breakneck punk highlight "8", culled from last year's Unpersons, as being "gentle and romantic". She additionally noted that this would be the band's final local show for a year.
Soon after this, Black chided the rowdy fans, who knocked over her microphone and accidentally unplugged her guitar during "Sirens".
This hiccup aside, the Pack a.d. seemed to be having just as much fun as the audience, and the duo repeatedly extended the set by adding songs to the encore. It delved into its back catalogue for the bluesy, slide-laden "Don't Have to Like You" from 2008's Funeral Mixtape, and finished the night with a screech of feedback as Black tossed aside her axe and strode off the stage. If this really does turn out to be the band's last hometown appearance for a year, it certainly departed with a bang.
This was the first all-local Straight Series show. Below, you can see some photos of the crowd. More photos of musicians are available here.