Not that we’re biased or anything, but we’ve long argued that the West Coast has always been, and always will be, the true spiritual centre of the Canadian music scene. Sorry Toronto, but you keep doing you.
This week features three shows spotlighting acts we’re proud to call our own, an LA-via-El Paso upstart, and a veteran who understands that sometimes the best way through a rough patch is to keep the faith.
At the Biltmore Cabaret tonight (November 30)
As life philosophies go, it’s one that almost all of us might do well to embrace. When talking about the creation of last year’s dark-garden pop triumph “cult leader”, KiNG MALA made the following revelation: “I decided that instead of being sad I was just gonna be delusionally confident.” That she still came across as someone happiest when everything seems totally hopeless was perhaps to be expected. If a string of singles—”martyr”, “mercy”, “funeral”, “i hope you know what you’re doing”—has proven one thing, it’s that the El Paso-born alt-soul artist also known as Areli Castro understands that life is a confusing mess for even the best of us. So if you relate more than you care to admit to KiNG MALA lines like “If I wasn’t a narcissist, I wouldn’t like me, either”, we’ll see you in the front row. (Tickets: MRG Live)
At the Rickshaw on Friday (December 1)
In a 2018 Straight interview for Vancouver darkwave darlings ACTORS, singer Jason Corbett made an astute observation: “Change is hard.” But it can also sometimes be rewarding. After fronting various projects over the year—including cowpunkers the Saddlesores and rock revivalists TV Heart Attack—Corbett locked onto something special with ACTORS, hooking up with multi-talented synth player Shannon Hemmett and fellow scene vet Adam Fink. (Bassist Kendall Wooding completes the band today). Mixing black-hearted postpunk and doom-generation synthpop, the quartet has at times seemed like it’s on the road more than at home, tour highlights this year including the Death Disco Festival in Greece and Castle Party Festival at Bolków Castle in Poland. This Friday marks something of a homecoming, with ACTORS—who just might be the most stylin’ band in Vancouver at this point in history—back in black on home soil and headlining the mighty Rickshaw. Hang in there and sometimes good things happen. (Tickets: Rickshaw Theatre)
At The Pearl on Friday (December 1)
With Dead Bob, it’s impossible to talk about the present without at least mentioning the past. Once upon a time, drummer John Wright was known as the drummer for NoMeansNo, a band so legendary that anyone who truly cares about technically dazzling prog-punk still wears a black armband every time they cue up “Rag ’n Bones”. After retiring from music in the middle of last decade to focus on his other long-running passion—craft brewing—Wright is back in action with the solo project Dead Bob, which has just released its first album Life Like.
As one would expect from a boundary-smashing Canadian titan (and that term is not used lightly), the sound is best described as indescribable, but you can start with protogrunge, turbo-charged jazz, post-everything punk, death country, and spiky synthpop. The real gift here is that Wright is not only once again showcasing his drumming skills live, but doing so with a touring band that includes heavyweights like Ford Pier and Colin MacRae. Come for the songs you know—yes, some NoMeansNo faves will sprinkle into the set. Stay for Dead Bob killers like “One of You” and “Party of One”. Welcome back. (Tickets: Modo-Live)
At the Orpheum on Saturday (December 2)
Not to suggest that anyone has to play favourites, but it’s a valid question—namely, at what point does one’s main allegiance switch when two projects are in play? Or, put another way, what do you suppose Dallas Green loves more: Alexisonfire or City and Colour? Where that’s relevant for the folk duo known as Ocie Elliott is that, for the past 20 years, singer Jon Middleton’s full-time gig has been as half of prolific Victoria stalwarts Jon and Roy. Since Middleton formed Ocie Elliott with Sierra Lundy a half-decade ago, the beautifully downbeat side project has gradually become a serious thing, helped by high-profile accolades (a Breakthrough Group of the Year nomination at last year’s JUNO Awards) and even-higher profile exposure (“Run to You” was featured prominently in a 2019 Grey’s Anatomy episode).
The attraction? Look no further than the sunset-in-heaven harmonies on “Thinking About You”, a song off 2020’s In That Room where muted piano and chamber-folk strings serve as a backdrop for lyrics like, “And I don’t know when you got in my head/But I’m not gonna let you fade.” The power of a song that transports you back to that time you first fell in love with the person you still can’t get enough of? That would be the way that Middleton and Lundy sound like they mean every beautifully melancholy word. (Tickets: Live Nation)
Hiss Golden Messenger
At the Rickshaw on Thursday (December 7)
One only has to spend a little time on MC Taylor’s Reddit AMA a few years back to have it reconfirmed that Hiss Golden Messenger has always been complicated. Over the past decade, the North Carolina-spawned project has been an endless blessing for fans whose idea of folk also includes scruffed-up indie rock, deep-desert blues, Southern gospel, and peyote-dipped psych. As for Taylor, it’s been both a source of, and an outlet for, dealing with anxiety, depression, and the endless other challenges that come with the gift known as life. Suggesting thing are pretty great at this point in the journey, Hiss Golden Messenger’s latest is titled Jump For Joy, the sun-faded first track starting out with the lyrics, “No such thing as a simple song/I’m convinced, oh, I should know/Words can mean different things.” What better way to prepare oneself for the holiday season, where reflection and introspection are the first steps to survival? (Tickets: Live Nation)