Sneeze into spring at cool Vancouver concerts

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      To be honest, spring isn’t everyone’s favourite time of year. Sure, the flowers are popping out of the ground, the sun is shining more than an hour every two weeks, and you no longer have to leave the house dressed like a cross between Paddington Bear and a Russian babushka. But here’s what spring also brings: seasonal allergies. And some of us get tired of sneezing what’s left of our brains out, not to mention rubbing our perpetually itchy noses like a goddamned ’70s coke addict. With that in mind, the only thing that’s going to get us through the next couple of months are the following concerts. Well, that and snorting enough crushed Reactine to impress Stevie Nicks.


      (March 23 at the Rio Theatre)

      In the spotlight: Cast early on as the most mopey indie troubadour this side of Crooked Fingers’ Eric Bachmann, Hayden’s spent the back half of his career making a good case that some people didn’t get the initial joke. There’s no way a miserable recluse could make anything as beautiful as “Blurry Nights”, a soft-glow folk-rocker off the singer’s latest outing, Us Alone.

      Why you need to go: Hayden isn’t exactly out to unseat Nashville Pussy as the hardest-touring act in show business; two years ago he was so far out of the public eye there was a viral Internet rumour that he was dead. Like solar eclipses and sasquatch sightings, then, his return to Vancouver is rare enough to be a legitimate event.

      Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

      (March 27 at Rogers Arena)

      In the spotlight: Get ready for the original beardo, Bob Seger, who’s famous for making that song that Tom Cruise danced to in his tighty-whities in the star-making 1983 film Risky Business. Admit it: no matter how little time you have for Brother Jake, you can’t help but sing along with “Night Moves” every time it pops up on Classic Rock 101.

      Why you need to go: Considering that the golden years are just over the horizon, it’s a good time to reflect on the fact that you haven’t been out of the house since Kansas last breezed through town. On that note, it’s better to shake it to some old time rock ’n’ roll than to hit a disco where no one’s even going to get you out on the fucking floor.


      (March 28 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

      In the spotlight: After battling in the trenches for a decade, Phoenix was rewarded for its very un-French determination to keep fighting with the global 2009 hit Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Even if this spring’s follow-up, Bankrupt!, doesn’t do business that’s nearly as booming, it’s still guaranteed to be more enjoyable than the thought of Gérard Depardieu in a child-size banana hammock.

      Why you need to go: Normally, the closest we get to enjoying the best France has to offer is a trip to Les Amis du Fromage. Close your eyes at Phoenix, and it will be just like being at a nightclub in France. Or, failing that, a neighbourhood pub in Maillardville.

      The Specials

      (March 29 at the Commodore Ballroom, March 30 at the Vogue)

      In the spotlight: There’s no way it should have made sense, but somehow a bunch of Brits wearing mod suits managed to faithfully recreate the sound of ’60s Jamaica at the height of circa-’77 punk. Don’t blame the Specials for Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish, but instead thank the ska legends for turning you on to Derrick Morgan and Prince Buster.

      Why you need to go: Normally there’s nothing admirable about a band that’s happy to sweat to the oldies. But considering there’s not a less-than-classic track on the band’s self-titled debut, we’ll cut the Specials some slack.

      Metal Alliance Tour

      (March 30 at the Commodore Ballroom)

      In the spotlight: Think of the Metal Alliance tour—featuring hard-rock titans Anthrax, Exodus, Municipal Waste, Holy Grail, and High on Fire—as being like one of those Winter Mingler samplers, only with bourbon replacing the beer. As great as A.H. Hirsch Reserve might be, it’s even better when accompanied by bonus bottles of Gentleman Jack, Maker’s Mark, Basil Hayden’s, and Buffalo Trace. Anthrax might be the main event, but the undercard is pretty great.

      Why you need to go: Until that Headbangers Ball Blu-ray boxed set arrives from Amazon, there’s no better whiplash-inducing event this spring.


      (April 1 at Rogers Arena)

      In the spotlight: Urban pop’s reigning queen, Rihanna has spent the past decade spitting out records the way Irish Catholics pump out kids, which is to say one every 10 months or so. Her latest, Unapologetic, is not, despite all arguments to the contrary, her one-word statement on her decision to get back in the ring with a certain amateur pugilist.

      Why you need to go: RiRi doesn’t exactly take the low-tech approach to live performances, past appearances having featured bubblegum-pink army tanks, mock funeral services, and on-stage Cadillacs. Perverts will also want to note that she has a serious thing for black latex fetishwear.


      (April 2 at the Rickshaw Theatre)

      In the spotlight: To the uninitiated, Soilwork sounds like something that takes place in a construction-site crapper right after that third cup of logger-strength black coffee. Progressive headbangers know, however, that Soilwork is actually one of Sweden’s best metal exports this side of In Flames. And if that’s not endorsement enough, consider this: no less than Devin Townsend has given the septet his stamp of approval.

      Why you need to go: The support acts include the Browning, which, funnily enough, sounds like something that happens to the walls of a construction-site crapper right after that third cup of logger-strength…

      Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

      (April 6 at the Vogue Theatre)

      In the spotlight: Talk about an honest-to-God Renaissance man. Over the course of a storied career, Nick Cave has proven himself an accomplished screenwriter, rule-breaking author, occasional actor, and soundtrack sculptor to rival the likes of Angelo Badalamenti. The alternative icon is also one of those rare artists who’s only gotten better as he’s gotten older, as proven by his chart-topping latest outing, Push the Sky Away.

      Why you need to go: Cave hasn’t played the Lower Mainland with the Bad Seeds since the early ’90s, which explains why this one sold out in about six seconds flat. Well, that and the fact that he’s easily the baddest motherfucker this side of Stagger Lee.

      Joe Bonamassa

      (April 10 at the Orpheum)

      In the spotlight: Normally, to be considered a blues god, you’ve got to be either older than Preservation Hall (B.B. King) or dead (Stevie Ray Vaughan). Mad props, then, to Joe Bonamassa not only for sitting on top of a heap that normally doesn’t have much use for fresh blood, but also for getting there by age 35.

      Why you need to go: There’s no sense making the pilgrimage to Mississippi when an authentic heavyweight is more than happy to bring the blues to you.

      Taj Mahal

      (April 25 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts)

      In the spotlight: As Blues Hammer showed us in Ghost World, anyone can pick up a battered guitar and moan about how life in the fields is rough enough to drive a man to the moonshine still. Taj Mahal deserves your respect for taking the blues to places that Robert Johnson never dreamed of.

      Why you need to go: Most 70-year-olds are sitting around praying for the Grim Reaper to come and end the misery. Never one for wondering why the world done us all wrong, Mahal is more interested in looking on the sunny side, fusing the blues with reggae, calypso, and a half-dozen other genres guaranteed to make you wish you were on a plane to somewhere hot and dry.

      Fleetwood Mac

      (May 19 at Rogers Arena)

      In the spotlight: The coke-blurred, liquor-soaked ’70s well in the past, Fleetwood Mac not only has survived long enough to be considered an institution, but is also arguably more respected than ever. The next time you find yourself talking to a Pitchfork-approved breakout artist, ask them what they think of the production job on Rumours.

      Why you need to go: There aren’t a lot of acts that actually deserve the title of “legend”, which is to say that this is one time when blowing a mortgage payment on a concert is worth it.

      The members of the xx like to pay visits to floral conservatories because that’s their idea of a riotously good time.



      (May 24 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

      In the spotlight: How cool is U.K.–based dream-pop trio the xx, which has graduated to soft-seaters after only three years in the game? Forget the 2013 Brit Awards nomination for best band, the Mercury Prize win, and the invitations to all the mega-festivals that matter. All you need to know is that Matt Groening handpicked the xx when he curated the 2010 U.K. edition of All Tomorrow’s Parties. The man has taste.

      Why you need to go: Sooner or later you’re going to want to eat those pot cookies you’ve been keeping in the freezer since your dealer dropped them off for Christmas. Until My Bloody Valentine rolls through town, the xx gives you all the reason you need to sit back and bliss out. While, of course, snorting lines of ground-up Reactine.