At the ANZA Club on Friday, February 15
For the Shilohs, this night had been years in the making. The local four-piece recorded its debut album, So Wild, back in the summer of 2010, but it wasn’t until earlier this month that it was finally released on Light Organ Records. The sense of delayed gratification meant that there was a cheerful excitement in the ANZA Club, something that even a Canucks loss earlier in the evening couldn’t spoil.
Openers the High Drops took the stage in front of a near-full room at a little after 10:30 and got the night off to a fuzzy start with a selection of reverb-doused garage-rock scorchers. Frontman Alexi Baris spent the 30-minute set slashing away at a guitar that was slung up around his armpits, while drummer Jen Smyth pounded out rhythms that relied heavily on cymbal-bashing. The punk-inspired clang of “Part of the Brigade” made for an early highlight.
The quartet didn’t offer much in the way of showmanship, but the players projected a certain detached cool. This served them well when they capped off the set with a couple of extended, surging psych jams.
Between sets, a white-suit-wearing MC showed up at the front of the room to crack awkward jokes and introduce the next act. Second on the bill was the Rodney Graham Band, and the outfit’s namesake introduced himself as belonging to the Shilohs’ fan club. Before he even played a note, he encouraged onlookers to head to the back of the room to spend money at the merch table—a classy move, considering that he was the only artist of the night without any items on display.
Graham is a respected visual artist and a veteran in the Vancouver scene, and his backing band included New Pornographers bassist John Collins. The tunes were pedal-steel-flecked folk-rock numbers, some of which carried a faint undercurrent of dissonant tension. These were tight and tuneful, but the crowd appeared to be divided between enraptured fans and those who were politely killing time until the night’s main event.
By the time the Shilohs’ set began, at close to 12:30, the club was at capacity and the bouncer was turning away latecomers at the door. Singer-guitarist Johnny Payne got the proceedings off to a mellow start with an unaccompanied rendition of “This Is Vancouver Music”, and his bandmates joined in when the song segued into the sweetly love-struck “You Don’t Call Me Darling Anymore”. The musicians were smartly dressed in button-down shirts, and it wasn’t long before they picked up the energy, playing a series of brisk tunes that introduced a strain of jagged rock into their Kinks-meet-Americana sound.
Throughout the set, Payne shared frontman duties with fellow guitarist Mike Komaszczuk, and the two singers’ expressive drawls sounded almost identical. Bassist Daniel Colussi and drummer Ben Frey provided solid, largely unobtrusive accompaniment throughout, although the former briefly took a turn on lead vocals.
The energy continued to rise as the clock ticked past 1 a.m., and the band closed out the night with a string of upbeat cuts from So Wild. “The Place Where Nobody Knows I Go” was a breezy folk-rock jangler, while “Little Valentine” was peppered with ’60s-style pop harmonies and bluesy guitar licks. The bubblegum-blues influence returned during an encore performance of “International Appeal”, which was filled with guitar solos and sparked shimmying and hair-tossing from the invigorated fans.
In the end, the show’s only disappointment was that the vinyl copies of So Wild didn’t ship in time, meaning that only CDs were available at the merch table, and Payne joked that the records probably wouldn’t arrive for another 20 years. Considering the delays that the Shilohs experienced while preparing their debut album, it’s only natural that they should have to wait a little longer.