At the Rickshaw Theatre on February 26
Considering the bargain-basement ticket price of $25, it was no surprise the Rickshaw Theatre was packed with people to see five bands on the Desert Daze Caravan Tour last Sunday. While Night Beats was turned back at Peace Arch, Temples, Deap Vally, Froth, andJJUUJUU cleared customs, leaving 600 or so fans pretty happy they made their way to the show rather than finding out who got it on The Walking Dead.
The crowd was a mixed bag of psych-rock junkies and rock ’n’ roll hipsters there to get a condensed taste of the annual Desert Daze festival, an upstart California venture that’s been hailed as an adventurous alternative to Coachella. The mood was uplifting as many attendees were super stoked to see these acts in Vancouver, as it’s a bit of a trek south to catch the festival in its full glory.
The backdrop was fantastic throughout the whole night, with multiple overhead projectors creating a psychedelic light show that was like a four-hour Syd Barrett flashback. The effect was brilliant, with red, green, and yellow coloured oils added in real time and then swirled around to give the proceedings a deeply trippy vibe.
Vancouver fans most recently saw JJUUJUU at last year’s Levitation fest. The Los Angeles duo—which featured Desert Daze cofounder Phil Pirrone—played a short dissonant set full of psych-rock laced with tripped-out, reverb-drenched vocals.
Second on the bill was another L.A. outfit called Froth, which sounded somewhere between Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, and the Sonic Youth songs sung by Lee Ranaldo. Singer-songwriter Joo-Joo Ashworth (who should look into joining the band JJUUJUU played a daphne-blue Puresalem Cardinal guitar fed through so many effects it sounded like an F-16 jet taking off. Breathy vocals, driving bass lines, and layered guitars suggested an eternal fondness for the giants of early ’90s shoegaze.
Third on the bill was yet another L.A. band (I know, right?), with Deap Vally touring for its newest release, 2016’s Femejism. The duo of Lindsey Troy (guitar and vocals) and Julie Edwards (drums) plays garage blues-rock that would make no less than Jack White proud. Along with Perrone, Edwards cofounded the Desert Daze festival, so it’s pretty cool both of their bands are on the Caravan tour.
Troy’s fuzzed-out guitar riffs coupled with Edwards’ ghost-of-Keith-Moon style of kit bashing definitely brought a grungier and louder flavour to the evening. By the time they were finished, Deap Vally left the stage every bit as sweaty as its wildly roaring fans on the dance floor.
As Temples took the stage at around 10:15 p.m., they were met with rapturous applause. The visuals were also stepped up a notch, with parts of the oil projection pulsating to the beats of the songs.
Opening the show with new track “All Join In”, the English four-piece quickly got the crowd riled up, with a battery of smoke machines augmenting the visuals projected behind the band. Temples then moved into numbers from their debut album, with "Colours to Life" and "A Question Isn’t Answered" attacked with great showmanship and crystal clarity.
Fans got a good taste of the new material with six songs from their anticipated upcoming album Volcano. “Certainty”was a standout with bouncy drums and a funky bass groove. Many of the new songs take a bit of a departure from their previous offerings, with a less direct approach, creating a much more expansive sound.
Compared to when Temples played the Biltmore Cabaret three years ago, the drums and bass were noticeably tighter. Singer-guitarist James Bagshaw’s—he of the MC5-issue fro—has also become more ambitious as a singer, busting out killer howls throughout the set.
About two-thirds through Temples the crowd went batshit crazy when the band launched into its biggest single, “Shelter Song”. Enthusiastic crowd-surfing was part of the entertainment, not what you would expect at a psych-rock show.
The set closer “Strange Or Be Forgotten” sounded like it had been ripped straight from the Kevin Parker songbook, with Bagshaw using falsetto vocals and lots of phase, delay, reverb, and fuzz on the guitars. Temples came back to play a one-song encore, launching into an extended jam of “Mesmerise”that culminated in full acid-drenched goodness as an epic send-off to the fans.
Possibly because people were bagged after four bands on a Sunday night, there were no cheers for a second song after the short encore. On top of being a great way for rock ’n’ roll fans to hear new music, you would be hard pressed to find a better deal than the Desert Daze Caravan tour.