At Brockton Oval in Stanley Park on Saturday, August 23
The SeaWheeze Sunset Festival in Stanley Park was a post-race party following a half-marathon, so it would have been reasonable to expect attendees to show up looking sweaty and dishevelled. Almost without exception, however, everyone looked perky and refreshed, with many folks wearing stretchy athletic clothing and clutching yoga mats.
In keeping with the morning’s activities, this lululemon-sponsored concert was all about health and well-being. Before the first band, the evening began with a massive group yoga session, and several hundred participants lay out their mats on the sun-browned lawn to perform stretches at the behest of leader Eoin Finn.
Meanwhile, a selection of songs played quietly over the speakers, and during Nirvana’s “Come as You Are”, Finn gushed, “Kurt Cobain would be proud of us right now.” Who the hell knows what the grunge god would have actually thought of all this, since he could never have predicted that his music would become the soundtrack for so many people wearing Spandex and doing the downward dog.
The August sun had dipped behind the trees by the time opening act the Colourist arrived on a stage that was framed with massive lululemon logos. Singer-guitarist Adam Castilla was wearing a gloriously gaudy shirt with a pattern of pink flamingos, but it soon became apparent that the true star of the show was drummer Maya Tuttle, who handled roughly half of the vocals while bashing away behind the kit.
The Orange County four-piece’s pop-rock tunes were accessible and upbeat, with lightly distorted licks and harmonized hooks. Unfortunately, the audience didn’t return the band’s energy, and most onlookers lazed on their yoga mats and placidly soaked in the beautiful view of Vancouver’s skyline.
The Zen-like atmosphere seemed to make Castilla uncomfortable, since he chuckled awkwardly between songs and paid the crowd a backhanded compliment when he observed, “You guys look really relaxed. This is the most relaxed show we’ve ever played.” The mood picked up somewhat by the end of the 40-minute set, and a few dozen enthusiasts were bobbing their heads up at the front by the time the Colourist finished with the breezy anthem “Little Games”.
Between bands, some ticket-holders turned their attention to the back of the field, where brave go-getters lined up for a chance to swing on a towering trapeze. It was nerve-racking to watch total amateurs attempt circus stunts while swinging 30 feet above the ground, although the harness meant that no one was in danger.
Other punters waited in line for beers and food; evidently not everyone in attendance was overly health-conscious, since the salad vendor had by far the smallest lineup.
As night descended on Stanley Park, Capital Cities shimmied out to the strains of Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E”. The members wore matching embroidered varsity jackets—black for sunglasses-sporting vocalists Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, and white for their three backing players—and they got things off to a banging start with the blippy electro-funk of “Kangaroo Court”.
Merchant strummed a choppy rhythm on his Stratocaster, while the massively bearded Simonian manned the laptop and keyboards, and the pair frequently sang in unison. The arrangement also featured extended solos from outstanding trumpet player Spencer Ludwig, who spent much of the next hour delivering jazzy, soulful improvisations.
A few tunes in, during “Center Stage”, the musicians instructed the crowd to join them in performing a simple routine of sidesteps, claps, and spins that they dubbed the “Capital Cities Shuffle”. The fans had already proved that they were good at following directions during the earlier yoga session, and the simple choreography transformed this mellow night in the park into an electrified dance party.
Capital Cities padded its original material with a handful of covers, including a hazily slowed down rendition of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”. This was curiously interpolated with the chorus of Weezer’s “Undone—The Sweater Song,” which came complete with a skanking reggae breakdown. There was also a groove-laced reworking of Sinéad O’Connor’s signature-song “Nothing Compares 2 U” that culminated in a dramatic halftime final chorus.
Luckily, these time-tested classics didn’t overshadow the band’s own hits, and life-affirming late-set highlights “One Minute More” and “Safe and Sound” had the yogis in the crowd jumping and reaching for the sky. After that, there was time for one more cover, with the band telling the masses to “act silly” during a faithful rendition of Madonna’s “Holiday”.
Everyone would have gone home happy had the night ended there, but instead, Capitol Cities put aside their instruments and instructed fans to wave items of clothing over their heads while a remix of “Safe and Sound” played over the speakers.
This transitioned into a Simonian-led DJ set during which many female audience members were invited up to the front to dance. This only appeared to be interesting to the few dozen people on-stage, and the audience gradually dwindled for close to an hour until the performance finally petered out.
Still, considering that many attendees had run 21 kilometres earlier in the day, can you blame them for wanting to head home a little early?