La Sera makes magic at the Biltmore
At the Biltmore Cabaret on Saturday, July 28
With the Celebration of Light getting under way downtown, the Olympics on TiVo, and Beirut performing at the Orpheum, Vancouverites had plenty of excellent options for how to spend their Saturday evening. It was hardly surprising, then, that the turnout at the Biltmore was well below what you’d expect for a stacked weekend bill, with only a few dozen onlookers scattered around the venue.
When opener Foxygen took the stage just after 8:30, the five-piece almost outnumbered the audience. The band’s retro tunes ranged from Kinks-esque folk pop to swaggering Stones-influenced rockers, but these failed to make much of an impression; the songs were far less memorable than singer Sam France’s garishly mismatched outfit, which consisted of brightly patterned pants and a shirt that looked straight from the original Woodstock.
The crowd had swelled somewhat by the time Magic Trick’s Tim Cohen introduced his backing band by commenting, “We’re from San Francisco, as you can see”. That was probably in reference to his ill-fitting tie-dye T-shirt and scruffy beard. The singer is best known as the leader of the Fresh & Onlys, and this performance by his side project found him venturing into more mellow terrain without straying too far from his usual psychedelic pop sound.
The four-piece didn’t offer much in the way in charisma, and the musicians spent almost the entire set rooted to the spot while bathed deep red lights. Still, this wasn’t too much of a problem, since the rock-solid rhythm section and sunny three-part harmonies helped to make up for the lack of eye candy. Cohen’s only mistake was waiting until the final song to ask the low-energy audience to move to up to the front.
The mood in the room lifted considerably when La Sera hit the stage and opened with the surging “Break My Heart”. Principal member Katy Goodman’s breathy voice was in fine form, and it was refreshing to hear it without the thick blanket of fuzz and reverb that typically characterizes her work with Vivian Girls.
The singer-bassist announced happily that this was the final stop on the band’s North American tour, and it was impossible not to be charmed by her sunny demeanour. She downed several shots in the course of the set, and led the crowd in chanting the refrain of “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers while beaming from behind her red locks.
During the dark and stormy “Behind Your Eyes”, the affable frontwoman stepped off the stage and wandered out among the fans while firing off a jagged, surf-tinged tremolo solo. The energy rose even further during the recent single “Please Be My Third Eye,” a joyous pop-punk number that inspired the punters at the front to shake their shoulders and toss their hair.
With a few minutes to go before the 11 o’clock curfew, the singer gushed, “This is a magical night.” She then capped off her set with the doo-wop-influenced “Never Come Around”, followed by “You’re Going to Cry”. As her bandmates brought the latter tune to a noisy end, Goodman grabbed the microphone one last time to exclaim, “I just got really drunk!” If there’s a better end to a rock show than that, I’d like to hear it.